Happy New Year! It’s a fresh start, a new calendar (goodbye 2020)! And the world is abuzz with New Year’s Resolutions.
Many of us are inspired to look back, look ahead, and make goals. Some of them are reasonable and realistic, but very few of us will end 2021 by feeling we have upheld every single one of our resolutions. For me, the knowledge that I will not be perfect (I am a recovering perfectionist, after all) makes it very difficult to set resolutions, and I’ve stepped away from that practice completely.
But I have to do something. Juggling a busy family and following our call to holiness through our vocation is hard work. We have to commit to intentional living, to deliberate growth, or it likely won’t happen.
In fact, if I just list everything that needs to get done, it will include things like ordering groceries and emailing paperwork. If instead I pause and force myself to think on more noble goals, I can select specific action items that will have positive long-term effects.
So that’s what I do now. I pause. I take stock. I prayerfully consider what God is calling me to change this year. My reflection can take from a few days up to several weeks and results in baby steps that I can implement throughout the year toward personal growth.
Basically, I think about what’s been working, what’s not been working, and how I could do better. This is based on a three-question examination of conscience that I teach my children to use at bedtime: What did I do well today? What did I not do well today? How can I do better tomorrow?
Obviously when looking over an entire year, it takes more in depth discernment than one day. And as homeschooling moms, we wear many hats. So I have a longer list of questions that I ask myself which cover every aspect of my vocation, and I am excited to share it with you!
My Vocational Review for Catholic Homeschooling Moms is now available on my subscriber gifts page, so be sure to sign up for my email list here to get immediate access! You can unsubscribe at any time; it won’t hurt my feelings.
This tool is flexible enough to be used at any time of the year, at the beginning or end of a calendar or academic year or when a significant family event like moving or a new baby (or pandemic) throws us temporarily off course.
The review will guide you to create a comprehensive list of your strengths, weaknesses, and desires regarding your role in self-care, marriage, homeschooling, homemaking, friendship, and more. Write it all down in detail or just put down some keywords, but definitely take it to prayer. Just like my Personal Reflection Survey (also on the subscriber gifts page), which focuses on the nitty gritty details of homeschooling, the goal here is to provoke contemplation.
Whether you choose to use my Vocational Review (see preview below) or some other form of reflection, you likely will end up with a list of the many things you would like to change about your life. What you do with that list might be even more important than making it!
I love lists! I find pleasure and peace in writing things down. It is as if the act of putting the words on paper validates my thoughts simply by acknowledging them. In fact, we have a saying in our family: If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.
So I’m pretty good at making lists, and my vocational review is no exception. But especially in recent years, as I’m stretched in many directions, I’m not so great about getting the important items accomplished. I end up spending most of my time completing the tasks that have deadlines, all of those urgent duties like doing laundry and calling the doctor, and neglecting the things that should be my priorities, such as reading to my (not-so) littles and taking my teens out for coffee.
Once I feel at peace that I have considered all aspects of my daily life, I take my responses to the third set of questions on the review and make action steps out of as many as I can. Then I choose one to two things to do first. Accomplishing even one thing or setting up even one new habit can take a week or a month or sometimes more, so I don’t try to do it all at once. Having made the list, all of the items are on my mind, and I always have the option to spontaneously do more. But I don’t plan on too much at one time, and that’s the key that makes me feel successful.
I definitely don’t usually get to all the action steps in one year. Often I stop looking at this list after about 3-6 months, because it’s time for another review. In family life seasons change frequently, and after a while, many of the action steps no longer apply. And that’s okay. I can either update my review or start over from scratch (this is what I usually do), and it’s another new beginning!
Before you run off to make your lists and get started, though, for me, there is one crucial step in between choosing which action items to do first and actually doing them.
A New Eve
The Church, in her wisdom, has given us the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God at the start of each calendar year to inspire us to say YES to God, as Mary did. Her fiat was the incarnation of the new covenant, and as the new Eve, she can lead us to new beginnings, as well.
What is it that you would like to change?
Would you like your husband to come home from work earlier?
Would you like your son to learn to read?
Would you like your daughter to sleep through the night?
Would you like your teen to grow in temperance?
Before we take action on these types of goals, we have the opportunity to look to Mary and imitate her fiat:
Lord, help me to have a smile ready for my husband whenever he comes home from work.
Lord, remind me to treasure reading stories to my son as he snuggles on my lap.
Lord, prompt me to pray when my daughter wakes up at two in the morning.
Lord, give me the gift of increased temperance to better model it for my teen.
For I have found that when I want to change certain aspects of my life, all my efforts are worthless until I first embrace the present. I give thanks because this is what God is allowing right now, so there must be grace in all of it. And then He prepares me for the new beginnings.
Growing in holiness requires work. We must make time for introspection. We need to identify areas of growth within our lives. Get your review tool by signing up here, and let's ask Mary, the Mother of God and Our Blessed Mother, to take our desires to her son, Jesus, so we can make the most of this new beginning.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.