I’ll give you a hint, there are NO cliche “resolutions”!
The year 2020. That just sounds cool, doesn’t it? Every new year brings new possibilities, new goals, and new resolutions we get excited about and commit to for the first three weeks of the year. Then reality and routine set in and so many of those good intentions go flying out the window like confetti in Times Square. This was always my story in the past as I tried to use the beginning of each new year as a time to make life changes for the better.
I always felt like I knew what I needed to do, or change, to live up to that “New Year, New You!” mantra I always hear playing like a broken record come January 1st. Inevitably I would make resolutions like commiting to working out more, eating more healthily, or maybe doing something a little out of my comfort zone for “personal growth”. But again, these were always things I thought were good for ME.
Therein lies the problem. This is why so many of my past resolutions lost steam, gave me zero passion, or flat out failed. I thought I knew what was best for ME. Wrong approach.
If you are sick, do you ask yourself for a complete medical diagnosis so you can get better? No, not unless you are actually a doctor. If water is leaking through your ceiling in your living room do you use your massive internal knowledge of plumbing and house construction to fix the leak? No! Not unless you’re a skilled plumber and a fabulous contractor! The same goes for your life. How can you expect to know exactly what you need to live an exciting, productive, and ever growing life? You can’t! And why put that kind of pressure on yourself?
If you’re trying to figure out what you need to improve upon or change in order to live out your God given purpose while using your specific gifts and talents, stop asking yourself! Instead, ask the One who knows you better than you ever will! Take the pressure off of YOU to figure it all out and put it on the One who created every fiber of your being.
Take a computer for example, and imagine this scenario. You’re sitting by yourself at a diner having breakfast. A man you’ve never met sits next to you and orders a cup of coffee. Then he proceeds to slowly push a laptop down the counter to rest in front of you and says, “I need you to make two Powerpoint presentations, send five emails, and compile this data into two Excel documents in the next hour. If you complete these tasks I’ll give you a million dollars.”
Now here’s the catch. Also imagine that you have never SEEN a computer before. What would you do? Other than the obvious reaction of, “Who in the world are you mister, and why are you disturbing my morning with this weird square metal contraption?”, you might actually be intrigued by the challenge and try to complete the task. That hefty reward is a bit enticing for goodness sakes.
This is where you have two options. You could struggle to figure out this crazy machine you’ve never seen before all by yourself and get extremely frustrated because you don’t know the internal workings of a computer. Or, you could ask the gentleman who charged you with this challenge, for assistance.
And would it help to know that this man’s name is Bill Gates, a brilliant software programmer and co-founder of Microsoft? Uhh….yea, that would help. Anyone with half a brain would ask the expert, who practically built the computer, how to navigate this challenge instead of winging it with limited to no experience in the field. Right?
So why do we put this pressure on OURSELVES every new year to know what is best for us, where we should focus our efforts, and what areas of our lives we should work on? We shouldn’t! Instead, ask the expert! God!
Once I shifted my mindset from this “me centered” approach to a “God centered” focus, my “New Year planning” took on a whole new look.
It actually began about three years ago when I had just completed my breast cancer treatments and my husband and I were finally able to exhale. The stress and trauma of what a cancer diagnosis puts you and your family through is nothing short of exhausting. We were in dire need of some quiet time together as a couple to recharge, reconnect, and process everything we had just been through, so we decided to get away.
We cashed in some gift cards we had received to a spa, about an hour away from our home, and booked two nights and a few relaxing massages during the day. Because this difficult trial had brought us so much closer to God we knew that we wanted to dedicate this time to express our gratitude to Him for His many blessings, and seek His will for our lives in this next season of continued healing for me. That dedicated time away, just the two of us, has become a wonderful tradition that we have continued to do every year since.
It isn’t just the quiet time together that is so nice, it’s what we intentionally do during that time that has become absolutely critical to us each year.
Here is how we structure our “New Year Retreats”.
A week or two before we go we individually begin praying that God will prepare our hearts and plant seeds of direction in our spirits. We like to choose specific words to be our theme for the year and these words are also something we ask God to start sifting out in our minds. During this prep time Andrew and I are both spending quiet time with God, reading our Bibles and devotions separately, and jotting down anything that sticks out to us, or seems like a nugget we should remember.
Something else we do during this process is fast. For us that means fasting from food or certain foods while we go through this process. This can look different for everyone, but we believe in the power of submitting this basic need to the Lord for a time, and have personally seen how it brings us more in tune with Him.
2. Put Away Distractions
Once we are away, whether it’s a one night “staycation” in a local hotel, or 6 hours of solitude in our own home with kids off at the grandparent’s house, the first order of business is turning off the cell phones. This needs to be a distraction-free zone so we can focus on each other and be free to listen to what God wants to share in His still small voice.
3. Get Out the Tools
When we begin this yearly session we always bring the necessary tools to the table. A Bible, (preferably a couple of versions; we like the NIV Life Application Bible and the Message Bible), our Jesus Calling Devotional, and a journal.
4. Set the Stage
Again, beginning everything with prayer is so important. So before we dive in, we thank God for seeing through us another year and ask him to bless this time as we seek His direction for the coming year. We specifically ask Him to show us what to pray for and to guide us in this process.
This is where the handy dandy journal comes in. Andrew started recording our prayer requests and goals for the year in his journal, and we have found it to be so enlightening. Looking back on the previous year to see how God has answered prayers is one of our favorite things to do. It’s amazing to be reminded of His goodness in this way. Oftentimes our requests aren’t answered in the manner we THINK they should be, but when we are able to reflect on how God did it HIS way, it’s always better. We also take time to evaluate the goals that we recorded from the previous year, and celebrate the ones we have accomplished. It also gives us the opportunity to discuss the ones we still have to work on.
Now it’s time to think about the coming year and begin writing down the prayer requests and goals that have come to mind. Andrew and I make a point to sit in silence for a few minutes, listening and waiting for God to impress upon us exactly what those things are. Remember, it’s not about what YOU want those requests and goals to be, it’s what HE wants them to be. Be still, and give Him the space and stillness to tell you.
7. Determine Your Theme “Words”
This is one of my favorite parts of this process. Giving your new year a theme is super helpful. We like to pick one or two words, or a phrase that will be our anchor for the year. It helps us stay on track with the plan and mindset that God has put on our heart for the next twelve months. Use your Bible to research the words that you choose. If your theme is “Be Bold”, then look up verses in the Bible about being courageous. Meditate on those verses, and write them down as a reference. I will talk more about theme words in an upcoming blog so make sure to check back soon.
8. Lock, Load, and Let Go
Finally, take all of your dreams, requests, and goals, and release them from your hands. Begin praying…out loud…together…(yes I said that…OUT LOUD) through your list. If praying with your spouse isn’t something you’ve done before, I encourage you to do it. It’s awesome. Andrew usually starts off and then we volley back and forth like a tennis ball, each taking turns praying. Not only is hearing your spouse pray powerful, but the Bible says in Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Make sure to allow plenty of time for this prayer process, and don’t be afraid to cover EVERYTHING, including the kitchen sink, in prayer. Family, work, marriage, country, etc. Nothing should be off the table.
This whole process is wonderful and extremely fulfilling, but it can also be a little exhausting so make sure to celebrate when you’re finished. That can look as simple as cooking a great meal together or going for a nice long walk. Celebrate the fact that you are choosing to put God first in your lives. Celebrate that you were willing to sacrifice your most precious commodity, your time, to seek wisdom from the God of the universe.
Remember! You are submitting and trusting your year to a God who loves you and is FOR YOU!! Now that’s something to raise a glass to as the clock turns midnight and your new year begins!
Happy New Year!
When I was hit with a cancer diagnosis, one of the first things my husband and I wanted to do was change some of our eating habits. When you feel completely out of control of your health, being able to control SOMETHING is super helpful. I wanted to make sure that I was fueling my body with as much awesome goodness as possible to help fight those pesky cancer cells and give me the energy I needed to heal.
So, my wonderful husband, who loves to do research, found some fantastic juicing recipes from our friend Cortney who is also a warrior super mom and cancer survivor. So I will take ZERO credit for these recipes, but I wanted to share them. If you haven’t checked out Cortney’s blog, anticancermom.com, do so! It’s fantastic!
If you’re interested in juicing go out and invest in a good juicer. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the energy when we first started this to test out a bunch of them, so my sister-in-law gave us hers which was a huge blessing. It is a Breville Juice Fountain Plus. I’m sure there are a lot of great options out there, but this one has been great for us.
We have found that setting aside a day of the week, like Sunday afternoon, is great for juicing. It can be a bit of a messy and involved process, so dedicating specific time for it is helpful. We typically make two to three recipes and juice in bulk.
Make sure you have a bunch of small mason jars that you can freeze your juice in. We typically make approximately 8 ounce individual servings. Fill your jars leaving at least one inch of room at the top so there is space for the juice to expand when it freezes. You don’t want frozen juice and glass carnage all over your freezer after all that hard work! Trust me, you will cry.
If we pick two recipes and double each one it usually yields around 12 to 15, 8+oz servings.
Once you have your frozen stash of juice you can take one out each morning, place it in a bowl of water and by lunchtime it’s thawed. DO NOT PUT IT IN THE MICROWAVE! You don’t want to kill all that good nutritional gold.
And that’s it! I love my juices and still enjoy them even after recovering from because they feel like rocket fuel for my body.
So here’s the good stuff! The recipes! Again, I give all credit to anticancermom.com for these fabulous concoctions. A couple of these may require a little getting used to in the taste department as they are designed to be cancer fighting. But I have grown to really enjoy them. If you are looking for some flavor variety there are also wonderful books out there with more recipes like Crazy Sexy Juice by Kris Carr. I LOVED this book and we made a lot of juices from this resource too.
(1 cucumber, 8 carrots, 4 kale leaves)
(1 cucumber, 1 medium beet, ¼” piece of peeled ginger)
(6-10 carrots, ¼” purple cabbage, pineapple core)
(1 green apple, 4-6 carrots, 1 broccoli stalk, 1 medium beet)
Apple-Celery-Carrot-Baby Bok Choy
(1 green apple, 3 stalks celery, 6-8 carrots, 1 bunch baby bok choy)
It’s a new year already? Hold the phone! How did this happen? I feel like I just cleaned up the confetti from last New Years’ Eve party. Okay, who am I kidding? There was no confetti, or a party this year. Andrew and I were in bed by 10 pm like we are most New Year’s Eves. Truth. Not ashamed. But seriously, how did another year fly by like this past one did?
Last year was an incredible collection of twelve months, and voted one of our favorites by the unofficial “How did this year stack up to the last few?” poll in our household. It was definitely a year of new births, and no, I don’t mean actual babies. Good gravy, that would have sent me over the edge, and we all know my baby ship has sailed. But God birthed some dreams in us over the past 12 months that were pretty awesome.
I’m sure all you moms can understand and relate; birthing babies and having newborns is a LOT of work! And even though these new dreams and projects are wonderful and exciting, bringing them into existence is exhausting! Please don’t read this as complaining. I am definitely not doing that. In fact, it’s far from it. I am SO grateful for it all, the release of my book, the start of this blog, to name a few of the blessings, but to put it quite simply, by mid-November I was tired. In fact, here is a little snapshot of what my brain was saying on a daily basis….
“Make it stop, Lord! Make the spinning, the constant spinning of my mind and my anxious thoughts stop! I’m FREAKING out!”
Yep, it had happened. My brain had officially become a salad spinner. “A what?” you ask. You heard me. A salad spinner. You know, those cute little kitchen gadgets that look like a big bowl with a strainer type thing inside and a plunger pumping mechanism on the top. It’s what cooking savvy people, a.k.a. my husband, use to put rinsed salad greens in. Once they’re tucked safely inside, the plunger is repeatedly pushed down to make the inside strainer basket spin like a crazy tilt-a-whirl at the fair. Those poor unsuspecting lettuce leaves don’t know what’s hit them and before they know it they’ve been whipped into oblivion in order to draw the excess water out of their leaves. If you’ve ever used one of these before you know that even after you stop pressing the plunger, the inside basket continues to spin until you either manually stop it or let it slow on its own.
Well, my brain had become the epitome of this salad spinner. The pace of the past year and all of the work that went into birthing these dreams was like that plunger constantly pushing up and down on my brain. That consistent pumping was keeping my mind spinning, and fast. Even though all the work and projects were good things, my thoughts were still moving at top speed. Then as November rolled around and the pace of our lives began to slow a bit before the holidays, the “plunger pumping” stopped, but my brain couldn’t stop spinning, just like that crazy salad spinner.
I found myself unable to concentrate, and I was having a hard time setting aside quiet moments to be with the Lord. Even when I did, I couldn’t focus and I felt anxious. I was beginning to see that social media was keeping my mind in a constant state of stimulation, and I wasn’t allowing it to rest. I was far from the peaceful person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like it. I knew I needed to do something drastic.
Well okay, not drastic like move to Bali and meditate in a cross-legged position on a beach all day kind of drastic (as lovely as that sounds), but I absolutely needed to make a change in some of my daily habits. As I lay in bed one night trying to quiet my mind so I could go to sleep, I started praying and asking God for help. What I heard was a still small voice in my spirit say, “Give up social media for awhile.”
Earlier in the year I may have had a slight heart attack at the thought of doing this, but at this moment it felt like a breath of fresh air and permission to unplug. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until now, but I saw how the frequent scrolling, posting, comparing, and pressure I put on myself to “show up” was keeping my mind from finding those much needed quiet moments.
It was one of the things that was forcing my salad spinner brain to stay in motion and in turn, was keeping out the peace, guidance, and wisdom that God was wanting to let in. So I made a pact with myself that I would put social media to the side and not engage with it as long as I felt God wanted me to. Let me tell you….
IT WAS GLORIOUS.
Like anything, it took a little while before I stopped reaching for my phone in the grocery check-out line, or in the car waiting for my kids at school pick up. That weird need to scroll and kill time was still strong. But like any habit you’re trying to break, the more you work on it the less the desire is there. Anytime I felt an urge to scroll I would change my focus to my Jesus Calling devotional app or my Daily Bread app to be filled with God’s wisdom instead of what someone ate for breakfast that day.
(Disclaimer: I love a great breakfast idea, and I’m sure I’ll be doing an Insta Story on avocado toast in the near future, so no offense my breakfast posting friends!)
As I began clearing my schedule, putting my phone down, and picking up my Bible more I began to feel the spinning start to slow. My thoughts were becoming more calm and less fractured, and I experienced my brain beginning to reset.
Every morning as I began to wake up and be conscious of my thoughts, I prayed Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” The other verse I frequently meditated on and often still say outloud is Phillipians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I think God shines His light on things in our lives that need a little attention, or a little less attention, as in this case. I don’t feel like He was condemning social media or saying it as a whole is “bad”, but I knew He was telling me I needed to step back to refocus my eyes on Him. Just like Ross and Rachel from Friends, (yes this is dating me), I wasn’t deciding to “break up” with social media. I was simply “on a break!”
As I re-engage into this digital world again, my goal is to live in perfect PEACE and to do that by trusting God in all things, and setting boundaries for myself. These boundaries are going to look like specific times that I am allowing myself to “scroll”, and/or post, and making sure I keep that piece of my life (that I do enjoy) in check. I think simply being aware of it is half the battle and often a great place to start.
Stopping the spinning was the first thing that needed to happen at the end of 2019 so that I could effectively vision cast and seek God’s will for myself and our family for 2020! If you’d like to read about what that looks like and the process my husband and I go through to do this each year, check out my post on “How I Begin My New Year”!