Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Life Critique: A Year in Review

There’s nothing like decking the Christmas tree in baubles and lights for bringing home the reality that another year is nearly at an end. Heard any of these lines lately? - or maybe you’ve uttered them yourself:

“Where on earth has this year gone?”

“The years seem to be speeding up the older I get.”

“It seems like only yesterday we were launching into the new year. The time has just vanished.”

Every year we say the same things to each other with the same tone of surprise. It’s true – the busier we become, and the more responsibilities life heaps onto our plate, the faster our minutes and days and weeks and months fly past. Before we know it, another year is gone. 

The bad news? We won’t ever get it back.

The good news? There’s a brand new one waiting right around the corner. J

We can’t change what’s been. We CAN, however, learn from the year that was. As writers, we’re good at critiquing our own work and that of others. But how many of us take the time to critique our lives?

They say the definition of insanity is doing things the way you’ve always done them and expecting a different result. A lot of us live our lives this way. We have an idea of what we’d like to achieve in life; what we want our lives to look like. But that’s all it ever is. An idea. Intangible. Unreachable. Somewhere, simmering down deep in our spirit, is the knowledge of our full potential. But as the years roll past, we learn to settle for mere survival. Our grip loosens on our dreams. Our vision clouds. It happens so slowly that often we don’t even realise it’s occurred.

That’s why it’s so important, every now and then, to pause.

Take some time out from the seasonal madness; the relentless demands of life, and think back on the year that was.

What did you do to move yourself in the direction of your dreams?

What steps did you take to serve others with the gifts God has given you?

Did you grow in spiritual depth and character, inching closer day by day to being the person you know God wants you to be?

The destination is not the important part here. Life is a journey. We’re never going to “arrive”. But have a look at where you’re standing compared to where you struck out from at the start of the year. And ask yourself:

Do you see progress – however small?

Are you moving forward, or are you walking in circles, doing the same old things and getting the same results?

Do you feel you’re on the right path with your life – or does it seem to you that in certain areas, you’ve lost your way?

These questions are not about condemnation or pointing out your shortcomings. We serve a God of grace. And the fact is that we all go through different seasons in our lives. Perhaps this year you’ve begun a new job, experienced ill-health, or cared for an elderly parent. For me, the year has been full to the brim with messy, exhausting, wonderful life. I’ve given birth to a precious daughter and parented three preschool-age children. I’ve survived sleep-deprivation, tantrums, potty-training, a teaching contract, curriculum development, home improvements and a new blogging schedule. Writing has taken a backseat this year.

And that’s okay.

Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. It’s easy for me to look back at this bewildering blur of a year and measure it merely in terms of what I did or didn’t do. To feel like a failure because of all the ways I didn’t measure up; the goals I didn’t achieve.

But I’m sensing that God wants more from us than an annual checklist of achievements. As always, he’s after our hearts.

And if our hearts are turned toward him, if we’re willing to let him use us, then he will, no matter what season we find ourselves in. The journey might be slow and incremental, but the important thing is that we’re moving forward. Making progress.

Maybe you feel like you haven’t made any progress this year in the areas that are important to you. The days and months have slipped past and you’re still right where you started. In that case, perhaps it’s time to lift your gaze and refresh your vision. God never condemns us, but he does challenge us to grow and change.

As the curtain falls on another year, I’m taking stock. How could I better use my time? How can I more effectively live out the adventure of the everyday as a wife, a mother, a writer, a daughter of destiny? How can I grow into my calling?

Lord, what do you want from us in 2013?

As you evaluate the year that was, what do you feel God impressing on your heart?

Images courtesy of

Karen Schravemade lives in the land of Oz and likes to confuse her American friends by using weird Australian figures of speech. When she's not chasing after two small boys or cuddling her baby girl, she spends her spare minutes daydreaming about the intricate lives of characters who don't actually exist. Find her on her website, on Twitter or getting creative over at her mummy blog.


Sherrinda said...

Oh Karen, this was such a beautiful post and one that I so desperately needed. It really has been a year of standing still for me and even though I made some tough decisions regarding my writing to regain focus, I have felt like a failure. I know in my heart that isn't true, but I tend to keep taking up the burdens that I keep giving to God. What is it they say about being a living sacrifice? We keep crawling off the altar! Yeah...that's me. :)

Karen Schravemade said...

Sherrinda, I can totally relate. So glad this spoke to you. And you're anything but a failure. Us women are so hard on ourselves, aren't we? I'm trying to find the balance of challenging myself where I need to be challenged, without wallowing in self-condemnation. Somewhere in the middle is where I want to be. Growth hand-in-hand with grace. Easier said than done. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! Serving with our talents brings so much joy. I love to work with other writers and kids. There is an amazing sense of energy and peace when we are doing what God has called us to.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Oh, thank you Karen. This is exactly what I needed to hear today. I especially like your question about serving others with your writing. Convicting truth I need to constantly keep in mind.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Wonderful post! I can so easily get focused on my goals that I forget about people. I can get so much tunnel vision that I don't stop to ask God what He wants from me. I'm hoping to change that in 2013, settle things down a bit. less, but make more count, if that makes sense.

Angie said...

Great post, Karen! Our old church handed out Christmas ornaments one year, that simply said, "Pause". It is so important to reflect and reset for the new year ahead. I have moved forward on this writing journey, and have sorted through some things in my personal life this past year...but I see huge room for growth in both areas. And I need to do a better job at the balancing act of life and writing!

Karen Schravemade said...

Thoughtsonplot: yes, energy - that sense of being refreshed through our work rather than depleted. A great gauge of whether we're doing what we're called to do. Thanks for sharing this.

Karen Schravemade said...

Julia, well, me too. :-) It's a little too easy to get self-centred in this journey, but of course it's never all about us. I need to remind myself of this a lot. (And btw, you just happen to be one of the most others-minded people I've ever met...) :-)

Karen Schravemade said...

Linds, I love how you express that. It's quality not quantity, isn't it? We can spread ourselves so thin that we're exhausted and doing nothing well. I've been thinking a lot lately in terms of how "rich" my time is. Whether I'm fully present in each moment, whether it's playing with the kids or sitting down to write without distraction. Making it count - I love that.

Karen Schravemade said...

Angie, I LOVE that - the Christmas ornaments with "pause". What a cool way to remind ourselves to stop, and as you said, reflect and reset. Thanks for sharing.