Oozing and fasting and jazz like that

Happy New Year!

I love the start of a new year. It’s a chance to imagine for just a moment that all our sins and troubles are behind us, and all that lies before is fresh and simple.

Ours started gloriously, with six friends and food and delight and games and good talks past midnight – but the next morning I ran out of molasses for the New Year’s gingerbread, and after the emergency dash for that (Ryan not me, bless him), I put the batter in too small a pan and ran it over in my oven. And I mean OVER. It kept oozing and oozing, large shlumps of it falling onto the heating element. I scooped a soup bowl full of batter off my oven floor. Also my body was having aches I can’t explain here and so before leaving for my parents’ house for our traditional scrumptious dinner of pork and sauerkraut, I was wailing and leaking tears onto my husband’s shoulder.

I’m always amazed to realize I bring my humanity into the New Year.

Every year this gets me. Every year I am surprised.

But it’s a good year so far, the four days I’ve lived through, and I am filled with hope for at least half an hour each day. This is good.

I’ve spent extensive time planning personal challenges for 2021. I realize I am probably overreacting to my sense of powerlessness in 2020, but ironically, I am also trying to rest in and accept that feeling of powerlessness, which is what they teach in 12-Step Groups and Celebrate Recovery. It’s the first step toward genuine change, because it makes you reach out for the people and resources that can help.

Still, I needed some focus points for the coming year, to hang my hat and hopes on, and give me something to keep getting out of bed for. Lots of change and motivation.

My mom made us hot cocoa bombs for New Years. Yummy.

I chose three focus points for each month of the new year. One book of the Bible to immerse myself in, one area of goodness/growth/delight to focus on, and one item of abstinence, something to fast from.

I’m SUPER excited about this. It makes me feel purposeful.

Here’s what my goal system looks like.

Okay, that’s a little blurry. You can open the document here: 2021 Goals.


What I mean by focusing on one book of the Bible is first and simply – to read it a lot. Psalms I might not be able to get through, but the others I would like to read multiple times, in multiple ways. Yesterday I read Hebrews in one sitting as planned (sore tailbone for sure) and really loved that. I made notes about themes and thoughts. Next, I plan to go through one chapter per day, digging deeper into the text. Then I might read it in a different translation, memorize parts of it, study favorite passages, etc. I need this kind of study worked back into my life. I’ve been missing it.


I know this won’t happen automatically. At the start of each month, I’ll make a plan for how and when I’ll incorporate my activity of choice. If it’s old friends, I might make a phone call to a different one each week, then add an in-person breakfast and a few long-distance letters. If it’s photography, I might watch some YouTube tutorials for getting better at technique, and then spend time playing and practicing.


Every area of abstinence includes a specific “replacement activity.” The fast might be for my mind or my body (giving up worry and replacing it with rest and laughter, or giving up lunch and enjoying a small healthy snack mid-afternoon instead). You notice I am not making you privy to all my replacement activities. That is to preserve a modicum of privacy. But I assure you they are there, and the only tool by which giving up “obsessive people pleasing,” for example, might work.

Only for one month – surely I can do that? I fluctuated between fasts that are a professed “relief” for me (social media) and ones that are “straight up hard” (giving up eating after 8 pm, because that’s my favorite time of day to do it).

I’m giving up these things because I’ve found that chosen abstinence focuses the heart, and because I want to grow in the way I manage myself, and what I rely on, and what I can go without. I’m going for resilience, not divine favor. With a few exceptions, I chose to sacrifice items in my life that are I feel are mostly-positive-but-can-be-overdone. In fact, I thought hard about giving up something excellent that I do every day, like reading. It almost feels wrong to give up reading – but I wonder what would happen to me if I did, and what would happen to that time of day. I imagine I would end up writing a lot more. Hm. Maybe I will still sneak that one in, just out of curiosity.

So that’s my plan.

One of the reasons I am sharing all this with you is because I want to hear your New Year’s goals, so now it’s your turn! … And the other is so I don’t ditch the plan by January 13. I think it will be fun to keep you posted on how things are going and which months are hardest and which goals I REALLY REGRET. I look forward to this likelihood with genuine anticipation.

I am sure you will let me off the hook if I’m dying.

Just kidding. You’re not the boss of me.

I’m perfectly capable of letting myself off the hook, but I do love a good challenge. You?

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3 years ago

I can’t wait for June!! =)

3 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

Bwahahaha! Love you, girl. No way am I waiting till June for another of those video coffee talks. ❤️

3 years ago
Reply to  Heidi

This is what I was thinking. If we all line up now, she might have to do that for every month. ????

3 years ago

I’ve never seen New Years goals made like this, and am intrigued to hear how it works out for you. I admire most the goal/desire to dig into Bible study. As for me, I don’t usually make solid New Years resolutions, but I do enjoy seeing other people reach theirs. ????

Dawn Harshbarger
3 years ago

I know the feeling of watching food ooze out of the pan and on to the oven floor (and on the heating element) or how about accidentally tipping a pizza upside down on a hot oven door? Usually these things happen soon after the oven has been cleaned. That’s why I rarely clean my oven. Hmm! That would be a good goal for me in January. I really like the idea of soaking in one book of the Bible each month. I’m interested in trying that. Thanks for the good ideas!

Priscilla F.
3 years ago

Oh Shari! It’s always good to read your posts. Sometimes they bring tears, sometimes silent gulps of laughter (don’t want to wake a sleeping household), always food for thought, and sometimes ideas for real food. This is one of the more unique list of goals I’ve seen. I will be eagerly waiting to read how it goes for you. I wish and pray all of God’s best to you and yours as He brings us all into this new year. Thanks very much for sharing your writings with us! P.S. I recently had 3 pans of birthday cake simultaneously ooze and gooze onto my oven floor. I’d like to say I smiled peacefully at the frightful late night sight and burning smell, and thought “oh well, life holds trials, at least it’s not a big one”, but that would be a big(ish) lie… However, a foil-lined oven bottom, made a dratted mess easier to bear and cleanup. And because God is kind even when I foolishly overload tinny little freebie cake pans, amazingly the cakes came out of the pans, and allowed themselves to be turned into the planned iconic doll cake. As Ma Ingalls said, “all’s well that ends well”. But those pans went down the road. Wilton 3″ next time!

3 years ago

I really like all the variants here and the fact that you’re trying them for a month and not an entire year. I like the idea of monthly focus.

Thanks for being my friend even though I am always a few paces behind you in getting my intentions/plan of action in place. p.s. I do it on purpose so that I can watch and learn from you 🙂 🙂 🙂

3 years ago

I love your plan for the New Year. I haven’t seen one quite like that before… I look forward to seeing how it works for you.

I started a bullet journal this year and am really excited about having my life organized in one space. So far, I’m using my current planner with a lot of creative modifications, but once I get the hang of it and the planner is full (think June) I will buy a real bullet journal.

Our New Year plan….

“The Bible insists that the best test of a nation’s righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst.”
— Jim Wallis, Christian writer and social activist

My husband decided that for the month of January and February we will not purchase anything that isn’t an absolute essential. As we step back from consumerism we want to consider the poor, pray for them and give to their basic needs. Taking it one step further, I decided the only groceries I will buy this month is fresh vegetables and apples… all our meals will be made with ingredients that we have in our house. And if we run out of food before the end of January, we will really be able to relate. ???? ( We get free eggs from the company my husband works at, so there will always be eggs to eat!)

3 years ago

“But it’s a good year so far, the four days I’ve lived through, and I am filled with hope for at least half an hour each day”
This is the line that resonated. Last night when as I was processing my day, all I could think of to be thankful for, was getting out of bed in the morning! (of course there were several more half hours) Thank you for sharing your goals & a window of hope.

3 years ago

Giving up reading—last year in January my husband and I chose a fast for each other, and he chose reading for me???? except the Bible. (Don’t worry. I chose an equally hard one for him.)????

I wasn’t sure I would survive since I also fasted from social media at the time, but I ended up reading through Genesis and enjoying Bible reading for the sake of reading the story.

I had forgotten what a blessing that fast turned into. I can see these goals turning into blessings you didn’t expect, too. I’m so interested in the recovery programs you mentioned. Sounds like you’ve learned a lot.

Becki Sensenig
3 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

I have heard good things about celebrate recovery, I stumbled upon it while doing some research for the restore training. I’m glad to hear a personal recommend.
I was wondering if you have heard of the bible project. I just watched the short clip on the book of lamentations, it was informative and fascinating. It is a good addition to book study.
I was challenged by your goals. Blessings as you follow the Shepherd.

Delphine Horst
3 years ago
Reply to  Becki Sensenig

My New Year’s goals aren’t very fabulous but I’ll share them anyway.
1) Read and study the Bible more 2) exercise more and eat more nuts and greens 3) read books instead of watching YouTube.
Your goals sound very worthy and well thought through.

3 years ago

My New Year goals? To start a magazine (for single women,) and to learn how to drive. You would THINK, at age 24, that I would know how by now, but it’s always hard to stop procrastinating! :p

3 years ago

Hi Shari, I like how you break up the goals, feels more doable and less overwhelming, plus gets lots accomplished!
We did a family activity on New Years that each child and parent filled out a Bucket List 2021.(lots of printables online).. filled it w doable believable things that are reachable which gave lots of insight on activities and possible small trips/vacations to plan for this next year. Then on the back we listed unusual or accomplished activities we experienced this past year and made personal more serious goals for the next. Was a fun and very interactive discussion time that let all the teens chip in their physical and spiritual “health” tips as well as discuss the goals they have for sometime-before-I-die. Thanks for writing….

3 years ago

There is something thrilling about starting a new year and reading about your new year was thrilling too????
When the pastor had Colossians 3 for a New Year’s message a number of years ago , about putting away the old and embracing the new, I had to think that for the Christian that passage of Scripture has enough New Years’ goals in it to last a lifetime… Last year I thought I should read Colossians 3 on the first day of every month but not sure how often I got it done (or rather remembered to do it!)

3 years ago

So I was looking over your abstinence goals…So many ways to repeat yourself. No easy carbs, no bread, no food after 8 pm. How are these not all the same? On another note I didn’t see any abstinence from chocolate. In regard to “No added sugar,” does this mean you can’t add sugar to your Lucky Charms? Cutting that out seems a little extreme doesn’t it?

For myself I have decided to not criticize or analyze others during the month of January.

Marlese Anderson
3 years ago

My New Year’s Goal is to read through/stay on track with, my One Year Bible. I like how they have it already nicely sectioned out for each day, and I’m hoping to actually get each day’s read on time this year.

3 years ago

I want to be less selfish this year. I can so easily get lost in the world of my own head – my interests, my involvements, my relationships… sometimes I forget that those around me, even those closest to me, have worlds in their minds nothing like mine. It takes effort to push mine aside and to join them in theirs.

3 years ago

My favorite word of this post: “shlumps” which is exactly what they are in an onomatopoeia sort of way. I loved your monthly goal list. They seem interesting and doable and not too overwhelming. I may steal some of your ideas. My goal for this year is to come up out of survival mode.

3 years ago

I had resolved not to make any New Year’s resolutions, but now I’m rethinking that resolution. I’m intrigued by your plan.

[…] This post involves my plan for 2021 – read it here. […]

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