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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: resolutions

The swagger of January

I wake to the bellowing baritone vibrato of, "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold. . ." I'm not sure to which station our alarm is actually tuned, but apparently, the only people listening and awake at 4:53 a.m. are the grey-haired. I lie there another four minutes before sliding out from night's incubated warmth. My feet find slippers, and I tiptoe down the stairs while the house hums and slumbers deeply. Even the gerbils have burrowed quiet.

I turn on the kettle, grind coffee beans, and scan morning headlines. With every mechanical motion, I make my slow ascent to wakefulness. I catch the kettle in mid-whistle and fill the French press with the boiling water.

Full-throttle coherence is just four minutes away.


There's no magic to the morning, just a steady plodding through the routine. The coffee is finally fully steeped, and I settle into my chair. The liturgy of morning begins with a customary salutation.

Good morning, God.

It's good to be here.

With you.

In the quiet of this moment.

Ezekiel, James, the Psalms. The day's heading in my one-year Bible reads November 17. I'm a full two months behind. Not because I've neglected the chair. More because the work done there isn't something to be hurried or pressured by the demands of efficiency.

Seven days a week: coffee and chair. My heart makes its own ascent into wakefulness. Every morning, a rebirth.

January is the month we mete out resolve, narrate intentions, muster all of our energies for change. Edie, from lifeingraceblog calls it January and her bad self. It take it that she sees, as I do, the swagger of January.

Don't get me wrong. I love January. I love its invitation to reflect, its optimism for change. I fall hard every new year for the hearthrob promises of January.

But I believe something fundamentally important about change.

Change, like life, is incremental. Daily.

The transformation of my soul won't look like an episode from Extreme Home Makeover.

Renovation hangs on a daily commitment to show up, be present with God, and give over more of myself to be gutted. It's slow, painstaking work. Progress is not always evident.

Renovation will not be willed by resolution. It is NOT my work to be done. And yet it solicits my willingness. To attend, to absorb, renovation extending the invitation every day to be small and look up.

Renovation is excavation. Of desire and ambivalence, fear and reluctance.

Renovation hauls to the curb my stubborn refusal to see the goodness of God. It lays new habits of thanksgiving.

Almost three weeks into January, I'm reminded of the poverty of resolution and the promise of renovation.

Lasting change isn't the overhaul of a litany of New Year's resolutions. It's daily and incremental, slow and painstaking. It is never glamorous or microwaved.

But it is sure, and He who builds is good and strong.




A Year of Knees

Is your reflexive action, like mine, to get to work? I am compulsive, I admit. A few days before we leave Toronto for the holidays, I am not doing laundry for our trip. I am not packing suitcases. I am not wrapping presents.

Instead, I am organizing my desk. Dumping out drawers, thumbing through papers, sorting rubber bands and paper clips. I hang a new $20 painting by my desk that I've bought at a local thrift store (when I should have been Christmas shopping). I swap spring-patterned file folders for folders of winter browns and muted golds.

In the overwhelming pant of Christmas, I frantically seize a small, wild corner of my world (this time, my desk) and tame it. I need mastery of something. I want control.

Some people eat when they're worried or fearful.

I vacuum. (Photo Credit)

What is it about motion that soothes me?

The beginning of a new year is raw meat for do-ers like me. We are adept at the list-making, enthralled by our own powers of resolve. We get things done, and you like us for it.

And it's true that not much happens accidentally in life, does it? Who of us falls into change, waking up to newness by surprise? I believe in resolve. I believe that bringing our best efforts and our deliberate intentions to life is necessary and good.

But I know it's never enough.

I want my reflexive action, my first impulse, not to be for work but for prayer.

The getting things done is getting it wrong without that.

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.

I want 2012 to be a year of knees, not hands.

I admit I've already done a bit of list-making. I've written out the books I want to read this year. I've dreamed about building into my marriage and my children. I'm re-committing to the spiritual practices of accountability, confession and scripture memorization.

And I'm also committing to my writing this year: to reading great writers and sitting at the feet of their prose, to sketching out ideas for a book and plunging myself into that. To keep writing here regularly.

But I've set some deliberate limits to the work I'll be doing. I want more margin for relationships and reflection. I've made the new lists with my Bible open, with a willingness to begin by asking, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See where there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in your way everlasting."

Have you gotten alone with Jesus yet to reflect on last year and plan for the coming year?

Here are some tools I've been using and would gladly recommend (from Tsh, at

Reflection Questions for 2011

Goal Setting for 2012

Here's to 2012, to reflexive prayer and relationship, to giving ourselves to what matters most, to authentic living with Jesus and with others.

Here's to 2012, a year for our desires made holy, our courage made real, our commitment made new.

New Year's Resolutions

What do you do when your life, a child bent on its own way, heads for the street? What do you do when your life, an undomesticated bull, paws the ground and charges you?

Photo Credit

What does any of us do when we meet the wild stubbornness of life, and what force can any of our resolutions have for taming it?

These are the questions I ask at the end of one year, the beginning of another.

I know a little about the feral qualities of life.

I have five children. An unexpected grace. A surprise script.

I've lost my confidence that life goes according to plan. I've made my peace with no longer being in charge. I can't even keep the shoes straightened by the front door.

A new year necessitates a nod to the unmanageability of life and children and wild bulls.

But I'm not waving a white flag.

I still stubbornly believe that change is possible, that prayer means something, that I, galvanized with intention and effort and wild confidence in Jesus, can meet life in all of its ferocity.

Desire. Courage. Commitment. They are the ways I stand brave.

A new year can begin with a list of resolutions, our mustered resolve about the ways life finally start heeding our demands. Is it there we meet disappointment? There we lose faith?

Or a new year can begin with faith, not in ourselves, not in our intentions.

But in God. Whose purposes are, have always been, and will forever be good.

Whose power it is to tame lions and domesticate bulls.