“Clean my room and make my bed everyday,” Grace Reid wrote on her notepad, saying the words aloud as she wrote them. “What other New Year’s resolutions should I make this year?”
She gazed all around her bedroom, hoping the various objects and pieces of furniture would remind her of resolutions she needed to make. An opened envelope on the dresser across the room caught her eye.
Grace picked up her pen and wrote, “Write my pen-pals regularly.”
“Grace!” a boy’s voice sailed up the stairs. “I need you to come dry dishes for me.”
“Oh no,” Grace squeaked, dropping her pen and notepad in a flurry and racing out of her room, her brown braids flying. All the way down the stairs, she scolded herself. “One of my new year’s resolutions was to do my chores without being reminded. And I’ve already broken it.” She glanced at her watch. “And New Year’s Day isn’t even half over yet.
Letting out a big sigh, Grace looked down at her list of new year’s resolutions. She wanted to crumple it up and throw it across the room, but she knew that wouldn’t help anything.
“What’s wrong, Grace?” Hope asked from the corner where she was dusting the bookshelf.
“My year is off to a bad start,” Grace responded gloomily, doodling on her paper. “Only two weeks are over and I’ve already broken half my resolutions.”
Grace surveyed her list, then answered, “Reading my Bible every day. I forgot on Saturday. Joey had to remind me twice to help with breakfast dishes. I still waste time in school. I missed making my bed one day, and I forgot to do something nice for Sam yesterday.”
By now Hope had joined her on the couch. She looked over the list and after a moment’s thought said, “Maybe part of your problem is the way you’ve written your resolutions.”
“What do you mean?” Grace wondered.
“Well, what I’ve found to be helpful is to be more specific in my goals.” She pointed to the fourth resolution on the list. “Be more diligent in school. You need to have a plan how you are going to do that. It’s not enough to just decide to do better.”
“I should pray about it too,” Grace chimed in. “I need God’s help to change.”
The girls’ conversation was interrupted by Samuel and Joseph entering the living-room, Samuel carrying a checkers board.
“What are you girls doing?” he asked as he began setting up the game on the coffee table.
“Hope has been helping me figure out why my new year’s resolutions aren’t working,” Grace told him, crossing off some of her resolutions on the list and preparing to rewrite them.
“I gave up on making resolutions a couple years ago,” he told his younger sister. “I never was able to keep them more than a few weeks.”
“Me neither,” Hope responded.
Grace stopped writing in the middle of her word and stared at Hope in surprise. “Then why are you giving me advice, if you don’t do any better than me?”
Hope laughed at her sister’s confused expression. “I don’t make new year’s resolutions anymore, but instead I make new year’s goals, with plans of how I will accomplish them.
“Oh, I see,” nodded Grace. “Just like what you said I should do. Can you help me plan out some of my goals?”
As the boys began their game of checkers, the two girls returned their attention to Grace’s list.
“Ok, what’s next after exercise?” Hope asked as they neared the bottom of the list.
Grace ran her finger down the paper, stopping beside number nine. “Learn Spanish.”
Before he could stop himself, Samuel laughed a little.
“What’s so funny, Sam?” she asked.
“Nothing much,” he answered.
“Ok, I think I see a problem with this goal,” Hope began, choosing her words carefully, trying not to hurt her younger sister’s feelings.
“What?” asked Grace.
“Besides being too vague, it’s also too big. I think you should choose a smaller goal, like learning a particular number of vocabulary words or being able to have a conversation on a particular topic.”
Samuel added, “I think Hope’s right. About the only way to learn a language in a year or less is if you are living somewhere where only that language is spoken.”
“Ok, what about being able to write a letter in Spanish,” Grace suggested. “One of my pen-pals speaks Spanish, and I could write her to practice.”
Hope smiled. “That sounds like a much more doable goal.”
“You know,” Samuel began, moving his red checker to another square. “I think I might make some goals of my own this year. You girls have got me motivated and given me some ideas how to get them done.”
“But you can’t start on your list ‘til the game’s over,” Joseph piped up, jumping his checker over two of Samuel’s.
“Ok, ok, I’ll wait until after you’ve thoroughly beaten me.” Sam grinned. “And I think my first goal needs to be improving my checkers-playing ability.