terrifying Russian literature, a style challenge, and New Year’s resolutions

The book sat on a side table in my bedroom, the one over by the corner fireplace, for six months.

The oil portrait of its central character stared at me from the cover with those stoic, challenging eyes (like only Russians can), seemingly asking the question again, “Are you ready now? Is today the day?”

And then, a couple of days before Christmas, I was able to answer, “Yes, today is the day.” Finally, after months of looking the other way, I picked up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and began reading.

those eyes…

Why had I resisted this book for so long? I bought it after reading (and hearing) multiple recommendations from trusted literary sources, but it just plain intimidated me. I wanted to read it, but I was scared that I wouldn’t “get it.” I was afraid that Tolstoy would make me feel stupid.  

Welcome to my New Year’s resolution letter, folks! (It’s an inspiring one so far, right? Lol)  

Here’s where I cut to the chase: I am LOVING Anna Karenina.

I just crossed over page 300 last night and am approaching the middle point of the story and I can’t stop thinking about it. Michael and I haven’t watched any TV or movies in the evening for the past week because I’d rather go to 19th century Russia! I’d rather be immersed in the drama of Anna’s extended family, the subtle socio-political and theological commentary of ol’ Leo, and the kind of prose that wraps around me like a warm, woolen blanket. From this side of my silly inner debate, I’m so glad that curiosity overcame the fear.

What are you curious about? Is there something in your life that beckons quietly, that proffers an invitation to taste and see?


There’s a scene in the story where Levin, the wealthy estate owner (and agriculture aficionado), decides to join the peasants who work on his farm for a day of manual mowing in the fields. His brother protests, based on their familial economic standing in the community (and the confusion such a break in social class would cause), but Levin simply thinks to himself, “I need physical exercise, otherwise my character definitely suffers.” (Oxford, p. 252)  

When I read this, I chuckled to myself. Yes, Levin, I too need physical exercise for so many reasons –my mental and emotional health is much more balanced when I can move my body every day. It’s almost as if we were intentionally designed to be complex, holistic people, right?  

And here we come to my first resolution for the coming year: to remember that I am human, which is the intricately balanced creation of body, soul, mind, and spirit. For those of us who desire to be good stewards of this life, we do well to attend to every aspect (LISTEN Sara, and walk away from the laptop and move your body every day, okay? Okay.)


Resolution #1: Move my body more (every day) and some days more than others. Remember that being human is a physical experience…physical exercise is good for my mind, emotions, and prayer life.


Resolution #2: Write more. Write more honestly. (And carve out time to actually do this.)


Resolution #3: Be patient and wait on the Lord. Don’t try to get ahead of what He is doing…His timing is perfect and His work takes time.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14, KJV)


I want to unpack this more, but I will have to come back to it later. The Spirit is challenging me here (again) on this point, so it is worth meditating on before I say anything publicly. I appreciate your prayers for me as the Great Surgeon does His deep work in my heart!


And finally, on more of a practical note, I’m going to embark on the 3rd annual #NoNewJanuary challenge. If you are feeling bored with your closet, need to hit the creative reset button, or just want to save a few bucks, then consider using this method…

For the past couple of years, beginning on January 1st, I refrain from buying anything new for my closet for the whole month. No clothing pieces, no jewelry, no shoes, etc. It’s so simple!

The challenge accomplishes two main objectives for me (and I think it will do the same for you!):

  • It allows me to fully inventory my closet and analyze what I actually wear and don’t wear, what pieces I might be missing, and what I need to donate/give away. Tip: Keep a note on your phone with a list of desired pieces to fill in the “gaps” after the month is over.
  • It provides the necessary boundaries for creative dressing to happen…in other words, I find new, interesting ways to wear what I already own!

I will be posting my fits (if you are from Gen Z) = looks (for my fellow Millennials) = outfits (Gen X/Boomers) in my IG Stories most days with the hashtag #NoNewJanuary to keep the inspiration going all month long.

Join me!

Oh, and Happy New Year! 🥂

Published by Sara Beth Longenecker

Sara Beth Longenecker is a writer and blogger based in Nashville, TN. She helps women sort through the noise of our culture by bringing them truth, beauty, and everyday theology.

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