No Goals, No Resolutions. Just a Theme. New Year, New Ideas, New Perspective.

I used to set New Year’s Resolutions and write out pages of goals.  Like many, I wound up stressed, feeling like a failure, repeatedly changing/modifying or updating my lists.  Not fun.  Not productive.  

Two years ago I was sharing with a friend and mentor that I felt God had given me a repeated message, summed up in two words.  I didn’t know what to do with them, they made no sense for that time in my life (at least not earthly sense) and I was finding myself discouraged.  She challenged me to consider the idea that God was speaking a “theme” into my life.  One He wanted me to heed, delve into.  One He wanted me to make the focus of my prayers, studies and thoughts.  Those first two words were “Come Home”.  I had gone back to work full-time after 11 years at home with my twin girls.  It seemed a necessity.  If you recall, we had a little financial crisis in our country-one that impacted my husband appraisal business, our investments and our joint home building business.  We had scaled back, were faced with some difficult decisions about financial support of some extended family, and in many ways jolted into a new reality. We had once been able to give generously to our church, ministries, friends and family.  His telling me to “Come Home” made no sense.  While we had made the financial changes we could, some that should have been made years earlier, we were by no means in a great place financially.  Nor did it look like there was going to be any great turnaround in our country’s economy. Yet, the more I prayed, the louder the words.  The more often something hit at those words.  The more I prayed, the more frustrated and unhappy my family became.  We were all scurrying around and behaving like little grumps!  Thankfully I am married to a man of faith.  After spending time in prayer himself and hearing me out, he knew to bless my decision.  We’ve learned the hard way not to mess with God’s guidance.  So, home I came.  No more working outside the home full-time for someone else.  I got my real estate license and began researching professional organizing.  

The next year, I felt strongly God saying, “Provision not Position or Prosperity”.  This time I heeded quickly.  At first I thought God was challenging me to have a little more faith.  To trust He would provide.   Didn’t sound too hard.  That was part of it, but certainly not the crux of it.  As I prayed over those words, found myself stumbling upon scripture hitting on that theme, I realized God was asking me to let go of what I thought had to be, what I thought I needed.  He was asking me to let go of my need to achieve, to do, and focus on being.  A huge part of the process was also developing a heart of gratitude.  The journey wasn’t easy.  Next to my six year battle with infertility, this past year was probably one of the most difficult spiritually.  I took almost a full year to go through Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free” study (lots of rabbits to chase as the digging in led me to other books, conversations and scripture), coming to grips with things holding me captive, keeping me from a full life in Christ.  It has been a freeing year, but I have felt bruised and battered at times.  I found comfort and words of encouragement as well as instruction and wisdom in blogs and/or books recommended by women of faith I follow on social networks.  Thus, the birth of this blog.  I saw a level of community, a way to develop my love of writing and most importantly a place to hold myself accountable.  

I share all of the above with you to say this:  I no longer set lofty goals or resolutions.  Instead, as the year comes to a close (about October) I begin earnestly praying for God to give me a word and a verse-a theme for the year.  I am open to the idea He might not change the word(s) because He might not be done with that area of my life yet.  I pray.  I wait.  I listen.  I watch.  I write (journal).  The words, the theme, become my guiding principle for the year.  As I make decisions about what to do, where to go, changes to make, I look at them through the lens of these words.  If there is a connection then it makes the list, it gets to stay.  If not, I put aside, knowing that if it is meant to be God will provide the way when the timing is right, when I am really ready.  

This year the given word is PEACE.  The scripture:  “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.”  Isaiah 26:3.  While my mind initially went to ideas of quiet days at home, no children fighting, a less than full schedule, time to curl up and read, that’s not what God had in mind when He gave me the word PEACE.  The verse speaks volumes to where He is leading me.  He desires I have peace of mind.  I struggle with that one.  It was an issue I had to face last year as I studied, learned to accept His provision and trust Him for future provision.  I am a worrier.  Yes, I am well aware that is a sin.  If I could quit cold turkey I would have years ago.  I am not going to say I can’t, because I know I can.  It hasn’t happened yet because quite honestly I haven’t been ready to really let go.  I believe this year He will do a BIG work in me.  So, I enter the new year claiming His word to me.  I claim the scripture.  I will spend the next few weeks listening for His guidance as I pray over what activities to continue, new opportunities, what bible study to engage in etc…  Here are a few things I will focus on this next year as I seek PEACE by keeping my mind on Him and developing FAITH that truly trusts, trusts enough to let go:

1.  Read through the Bible.  I have failed at this many times.  This time though it is not a task or just something I want to do.  He has called me to keep my mind on Him.  I have a morning quiet time each day, but I feel compelled to spend it this year in His word and His word alone.  No devotional, just His word.  I have combined this with my desire to give each of my daughter’s a bible read by me, with notes and comments made by me for them.  This year I am using a bible my daughters bought for my grandmother a year before she passed away.  I will give it to one of my girls next Christmas.  The following year I will use a bible my mother-in-law left me before her death.  I will once again read through the bible, this time thinking of my other daughter.  I will give it to her Christmas 2015.  

2.  Advocare 24 Day Challenge followed by healthier eating and 5 days of exercise per week.  I have come to grips with the fact my body, at age 46, does not behave as it used to.  My mind is WAY TOO engaged in thinking about my body-how tired I am, the hot flashes, the pants that are too tight or don’t look flattering…  I need to kick start my system and work towards a healthier me so I am not thinking about my body so much.  It has been said we spend most of our thinking energy on those things we have not done, robbing ourselves of the energy and thought to carry out the things we want to do.  

There are some other things swirling in my mind, but I haven’t quite yet been able to get them articulated.  On January 31 I will do as I always do.  I will have my 31st Retreat.  I have blocked off the day, keeping it open for planning and reflection.  (see previous post about how I practice this throughout the year on the 31st)  I usually make the January 31st Retreat a big deal.  In fact, I will probably be in a hotel (in my city) alone with my journal, family planner, calendar, bible and a couple of my favorite devotional books.  I’ll have paper, highlighters etc…  This year, not only will I be finalizing plans, but I’ll be celebrating the end of the Advocare 24 day Challenge and hopefully will have a new sense of well-being and be able to get one thing off my mind!  I might even have to indulge in a little sliver of chocolate cake to celebrate!  

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Survival of the Fittest: Thanksgiving Style

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Hallmark version of the holiday emerged victorious in all our homes?  Instead, for many of us, it turns out a little more like “Christmas Vacation.”  The reality is, even with the best laid plans, executed with grace and efficiency, people are a part of the holiday and, sadly bring to the table emotions and baggage.  Maybe that is not your experience, and if not, I pray you know how blessed you are.  For me, the family strife seems to creep its way in, no matter what I do.  This year, proved no different. An ongoing volatile relationship exploded once again, and to round it all out nicely, the dreaded stomach virus has over the course of a week taken immediate and extended family out one by one.   It’s given new meaning to “survival of the fittest”.

I have a tenuous relationship with my mother. There are many reasons for it, most a result of life circumstances in and out of our control, her struggle with depression, and an innate desire as a daughter to want to fix things, do enough to obtain approval, maintain peace…  For years I allowed those desires to almost consume me.  I took on every need, every disconnect and feverishly sought to find a solution, a way to mend the fences.  In the end though, I did little more than take on another person’s anger and dissatisfaction. I was changed and in return able to do little to create change.  Last year, all things came to a climax-yes, at a holiday.  It was devastating.  It was painful.  It was terrifying.  It was the end of me, and the beginning of truly learning to let go of the things that bound me and learn to live freely in Christ.  I look back now and wonder why I didn’t let go earlier.  Why I didn’t realize that the struggling was not a part of my spiritual growth, but more a battle to hold on to “earthly ways” and a failure to trust God.  Beth Moore, in Breaking Free says “..the most debilitating loss for a Christian is not the loss of a loved one, but the loss of faith.”  It is hard to admit a loss of faith.  Too often we think of it in broad terms-walking away from a relationship with Christ.  If we look at it in broad terms we can protect ourselves from having to face the harsh reality of our spiritual condition-the lack of faith.  As a Christian it is heart wrenching to come to terms with a faith problem, yet anything binding us/oppressing us is just that.  So, while I hated last year’s events, they were the beginning of looking deep within myself and coming face to face with my lack of faith issue.  And so, this year, through much prayer, quiet reflection and pursuit of God’s word, He has begun to restore.  The relationship with my mother is not restored.  It may never be fully restored, for some of the work is hers to choose to do.  He has begun to restore me, free me to live abundantly as the person He created me to be.  He has shown me cycles need not be repeated.  He has shown me I must trust Him to see my mother through her journey on the path she chooses.  He has shown me I can not live “for” others, but can live freely “with” others.  And as happens when we let go, have faith, He grows in us the very image of all we have hoped to be.

As for the stomach virus, well, not much to learn from that.  Life happens.  Sometimes you just roll with the punches.  You get back up, you clean up and carry on.  In the end, we all survive.  Some of us may not grow or seek a new path, but some of us will.  We survive, but more importantly we chose the path less traveled, we get through it and we thrive.