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New Year, Same Me

During the month of January, the general public seems to become better people (or at least individuals who think they’re better people). Many people make resolutions. Some prefer to use the word “goals”. Others choose a word or attribute to make their own and on which to reflect in the following year. Gym memberships sky rocket. Social media has picture after picture of individuals in their workout gear with the caption, “New year, new me”.

But what if that’s a lie?

To figure out if I am a different person this year, I have to examine the person I was last year. 2017 was characterized by change. Zach finished one Master’s degree, started another. We moved out of our first home and into a flat on another continent. I learned how to meal plan, and then how to do it with a tiny kitchen (for more on that adventure, see What Not Having a Stove Taught Me About Myself). In April, I said goodbye to the first of my grandparents to pass away. In November, I came home again. In December, Zach followed. We both continued schoolwork. We cried, and laughed, and walked A LOT. We said goodbye to one church family and were welcomed into another. And through it all we grew as a couple and as individuals.

But does that mean I’m a completely different person in 2018 than 2017?

If my struggles with consistently working out this January are any indicator, the answer is no.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals for myself for this new year. I want to blog more often. I want to drink more water, exercise regularly, and be a more organized individual (I’m looking at you, bullet journal). I want to be serious and devoted in my daily Bible reading in a way that I lacked in 2017. I want to be a better listener, both to others and to the Lord. I want to spend my time wisely and productively.

In all these goals, however, I have to continually remind myself that change doesn’t occur overnight, not even on New Year’s Eve. I will not wake up one day and stop loving chocolate chip cookies or Dr. Pepper. Habits and personality traits take time to form and exhibit consistently. So maybe I am the same person as I was in 2017. But I’m also constantly becoming someone better.

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What Not Having a Stove Taught Me About Myself

Autumn is upon us here in Cambridge. There’s a noticeable chill in the air, the trees are turning the most gorgeous colors, and – my personal favorite part – there’s a satisfying crunch that accompanies each step on the leaf-covered pavement. Being welcomed into our Cambridge life by cooler temperatures and the lovely hues of my favorite season has been such a blessing to me. And I’m enough of a lover of metaphor to appreciate how this change in seasons compares to the changes Zach and I are facing.

About a week and a half ago we were finally allowed to move into our new flat at Magdalene College. This was equal parts exciting and anxiety-inducing, because while we were ready to have a space to call our own, we had no idea what the space would look like! The college had no pictures of the interior of the flat, so we were walking through the door completely blind. And, it’s not awful. It’s very small by American standards, but we were prepared for that. I’m fairly positive our curtains were made from the same fabric as one of my Mom’s go-to 90s dresses, but those can be replaced. What hurt so personally for me was the state of the kitchen. Zach could reach out and touch both sides of the room, there was no oven, and only electric eyes (or what they call induction hobs) by way of a stove.

And I panicked. I am no Pioneer Woman or Paula Dean. My poor husband had to talk me down from a few pseudo-panic attacks the first few weeks of marriage because I was so terrified I would burn the house down or poison him with my lack of culinary abilities. And I had only just begun to really feel confident in the recipes I consistently cooked, even feeling less nervous when it came time to branch out and try new ideas. But I had a stove then!

This new change was not welcome in my mind and heart. But it has revealed to me quite a bit about myself in recent days. I seem to have been equating my culinary skills with my status as a “good wife”. If I ruined a meal, that reflected poorly on my ability to be a proper spouse to my husband. And this is just. not. true. Because I have ruined meals. And forgotten to make the bed, or pick up the dry cleaning. Even today, as I did our weekly grocery trip, I forgot the very first item on our list – bread. But this does not mean I am a bad wife. It means I am an imperfect one. It means I’m human. And that is 100% okay. Because my husband is human, too.

Standards are good. Personal growth is always needed. But when we equate our self-worth with some skill or unattainable, self-imposed standard, we will always feel unworthy. But the beautiful thing about Christian marriage is that, as it reflects Christ’s relationship with us, it is full of grace and truth. The truth that neither I nor my husband am perfect, and the grace to love one another through those imperfections, spurring each other on in good works.

The second thing not having a proper stove revealed to me was that I am a selfish, near-sighted individual. As we prayed over the first home-cooked meal I prepared via induction hob, Zach asked God to give us grateful hearts for even this place and this situation, and to help us be mindful of so many others who were not so fortunate. This prayer shook me. I have friends on my newsfeed and news stories constantly in front of me that should remind me how insignificant my adjusting issues are in the grand scheme of things. But to me, on that night, they had seemed to be the biggest problem in the world.

I was graciously reminded by my husband that this change would not be the end of the world for us, nor should it grant me license to wallow in self-pity. For I have much to be thankful for. We all do. And may we all seek grateful hearts and opened eyes to the blessings we have received from God. May we allow His goodness and grace to move us to help others whose current situations involve a lot more difficulty than the lack of a conventional stove.