Life lessons often come from the most interesting places. I was 35 years old when I took my first college-level writing class and I had an amazing instructor. He really wanted students to learn and gave us plenty of opportunity to hone our writing skills. For example, if we did poorly on a writing assignment, he would correct it, give us suggestions on how to make it better, and allow us to rewrite it for additional credit.
His philosophy for teaching was so positive: he would often refer to his suggestions as “areas of improvement.” Never once did he focus on what we did wrong, but encouraged us to become better writers. He regularly said, “We should always have areas of improvement.”
This stuck with me.
I love this idea because it implies that we should be continually changing. Improving. Becoming better.
While change can sometimes feel overwhelming, developing a positive mindset for change can make a huge difference in the outcome. Over the years, I have adopted this philosophy and find it helpful when making space for change in my life.
When I choose one thing to work on at a time, I’m more likely to be successful. This might sound super shallow and even limiting, but it amazes me how often my one thing overflows into many areas of my life.
I don’t usually set New Year’s resolutions. My failures at this far outweigh my successes. But this year, I’ve given a lot of thought to what my “areas of improvement” should be for 2020.
The older I get the more I’m learning: this life is all about relationships. As I pursue relationship with God, it changes me—especially when it comes to understanding His heart for people.
One of the greatest commands is to love God and love others, which can be easier said than done. I’m an introvert (and a 5 on the Enneagram), so it’s easy for me to disengage and isolate to rejuvenate. The trick is finding balance between what I need to stay healthy and engaging in community—building relationships with the important people in my life.
So, here’s my plan for making space for relationship in 2020:
It’s so easy for me to focus on the task at hand, instead of slowing down and making space for relationship. This is true for me in almost every arena: at home, at work, the grocery store...anywhere.
If I want to be intentional about creating space for relationships, I need to consistently consider others more important than myself (Philippians 2:3). I need to be willing to set aside my on-task agenda and engage in relationship. I need to allow for interruption and be okay with it. I need to make the effort: send a text, engage in conversation, meet for coffee. Whatever it takes to let others know they are valued.
This last year, a couple friend’s parents passed away. My heart grieves for my friends and the challenge they now face, figuring out what life looks like without their parents—without this lifelong relationship. I can’t imagine what losing a parent would feel like. This is probably one of my worst fears.
As I’ve contemplated what losing a parent might look like, its stirred several internal questions. Do I currently have relationships to walk me through something so traumatic? Am I healthy enough to withstand such a great loss? Will I bury my pain deep inside (what I normally do), or will I ask for help? Will I seek counseling and stay in community?
As much as I would like to, I can’t predict the future. However, I can be proactive and continue to create community with my current relationships, as well as being open to new relationships.
Raising my three sons and the relationship we have today continues to be one of my favorite things in this life. As a boy-mom, I often wondered how a future wife would change my relationship with my sons. This has occupied my thought-life off and on for the last 10 years.
Becoming a mother-in-law is a bit scary. I don’t know what it is about this label that seems so negative. Maybe it’s the nightmare mother-in-law stories we’ve all heard.
I have one daughter-in-law and I’m getting another one this summer—they are incredible! I love these new relationships and want to be a good mother-in-law. Since I’ve never had this type of relationship until recently, I’m still learning how to navigate this relational dynamic.
I have a friend, who is new to the area and also a boy-mom, and she has a daughter-in-law. I’ve listened to how she talks about their relationship and they sound close. This is what I'm working toward.
God is so good! He continues to grow and change me; providing others to help me become the person He created me to be. I love that I don’t have to learn how to be a good mother-in-law on my own.
Ultimately, my ability to engage in relationship with others starts with my relationship with God. The more I learn about Him and the way He loves people, the more I will have a heart for any type of relationship. Whether I’m creating new relationships or investing in lifelong relationships, I need to intentionally make space.
God never intended us to live this life on our own. Regardless of where we are in life—struggling with addiction or in recovery, single or married, new or seasoned parents, divorced, empty nesters—we need others. We need relationship.
So much of what we discover through Pure Desire groups is really about learning to live in relational health. Taking a proactive approach to having the support of a strong community. Making space for relationship.
As you think about the year ahead, what are your “areas of improvement” for 2020?
Heather is the Content Manager and Neuroscience Professional on staff at Pure Desire. She has a Bachelor's in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Criminal Behavior. Heather worked several years as a college professor prior to joining Pure Desire. She is an integral part of our speaking team and co-authored Digital Natives: Raising an Online Generation and Unraveled: Managing Love, Sex, and Relationships.