What is the ultimate time sucker? Distraction! I am forever fighting this battle and honestly, somedays I win and others look like bloody battlefields of haphazardness. Being distracted is a condition that I think many of us face on a daily basis and one that not only drains our energy but makes our productivity almost non-existent.
I have found that especially in these times when my favorite local coffee shops have thirty minute minimums on tables, and I’m forced to work and write from home, I struggle with keeping my eyes on the prize. Instead, my eyes are flitting all over the place noticing the mounds of laundry, the living room that looks like a “tween bomb” just exploded in it, and the dishes still sitting in the sink from breakfast. What I wish were moments of uninterrupted, focused bliss, I am conversely flying around getting everything half completed and nothing done very well.
This year I am making it my focus to change that. Through trial and error, and prayer, I have found four simple steps that have helped me fight the distraction dragon.
Give your phone a vacation.
We all know that for some of us our phone is our number distractor. Most times, if your phone is anywhere within reaching distance you will grab for it. Half the time, we never really have a reason to grab for it, but we just do. I am SO guilty of this.
Give your phone a vacation. Here is what I mean by that. Simply put it in another room. While you are working in your office, send your phone to the lovely and tropical kitchen for a little R & R. Or maybe it would like some solitary spa time in your bathroom for a few hours. Get the phone away from where you’re working. Case in point, I just got some really cute blue light glasses, and I had the thought that I should share these on my Instagram stories. If my phone hadn’t been on “vacation” in the other room I probably would have picked it up, tried to take some semi-flattering picture of my glasses and then been sucked into the worm hole of Instagram. All writing productivity would have been flushed down the toilet for the next 20 minutes.
Create time blocks.
Time blocking is huge and I highly recommend it. Carving out specific blocks of time to do certain work tasks or things around the house is incredibly helpful. I talk a lot about these and how effective they can be. When you block off time it gives you accountability to stay on task. It also gives you peace knowing that all of those other things on your to-do list are going to get addressed at some point during their allotted time frame. It helps to keep you from running around like a chicken with their head cut off.
Identify a dedicated work space.
Whether you’re working from home or a stay-at-home momma/domestic engineer, having dedicated work space is important. For me, I only work on my Beautycounter business when I’m in my office. And when I’m writing, I sit in my favorite chair in the living room by the fireplace with my cup of tea or gigantic bottle of water. Each place has a different vibe and when I’m in those places my mindset shifts to the specific tasks that need to be done in that location. When I’m writing, I’m not thinking about Beautycounter. When I’m in my office connecting with my team, I’m not focused on what my next blog post is.
This can be as simple as sticking to folding your laundry in the laundry room (if you have space), not on the kitchen table. Because what inevitably happens for me is if I’m folding laundry any place other than the laundry room, I begin to see the messy dog bowl area and I leave my laundry task half done to clean up the kibble. Have your work spaces identified and dedicated. It really helps a ton.
Pray for focus.
Ya’ll. This is the secret sauce. Quick story. A while ago I was walking the dog and praying for God to help me in this area of fighting distraction. When I got back to the house I found a strange, but beautiful sight. One of my daughters was tying up my other daughter in a chair with a ball of yarn. (That was the strange part.) The beautiful part was that the daughter in the chair was reading out loud from her devotional book, You’re God’s Girl! By Wynter Pitts. She “happened” to be reading a chapter that spoke about distraction and she read the verse Proverbs 4:25. It says…
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.”
Boom. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Here was another sword in my arsenal that I could use to help me fight distraction. Now, everytime I sit down to a new task I pray out loud and ask God to keep me focused on that task. I say, “Lord, let my eyes look straight ahead and fix my gaze directly before me.” I believe this keeps me from letting my eyes veer off course and from looking at other things that could steal my focus on what is at hand.
Distraction is what I like to call a “soft enemy”. It doesn’t seem particularly harmful compared to all of the other craziness going on around us in this world, however it’s still very real and very dangerous. Distraction keeps us from moving fully and effectively into our purpose and so much progress can be lost if we allow distraction to rule our lives.
It’s a battle I know many of us continually have to fight, but making some easy adjustments in our routine and asking God to keep our eyes on our paths will help kick the distraction dragon to the curb.
Last year at this time the world was anxiously anticipating the dawning of the year, 2020. Not only did it have a nice ring to it, but it just felt like the year that would bring new wonders and the promise of good things to come. In fact, many organizations developed marketing strategies around the numerical play on words, 20/20, creating slogans referring to the optical connotation of seeing things very clearly. The idea of casting vision about our future and making New Year’s resolutions along those lines was heard and seen frequently. And as much as I love a nice, shiny new start to each year, and I’m ALL for casting vision, I have found that beginning the year with a “filter” alongside that vision is so important.
My husband and I have a tradition that every year in the month of December we begin praying and asking God to give us our “words” for the upcoming 12 months. These are literal words that we feel God impresses upon our hearts to act as filters that we look at our lives, and anything we put our hands to, that year. Last December, after praying and asking God for our word filters for 2020 one of the words we felt Him gently impress upon us was “RESET”. We wrote it down in our journals, and I posted it on the back door of our home so that we would see it and be reminded of it everyday as we left the house.
At the time, I thought that this word was a prompting for us to take a look at things in our lives that perhaps needed to be done a little differently. I had no way of knowing that the entire world would be given a big, fat, RESET. I didn’t understand the enormity of that word and what it would mean last December, but now I see how God was giving it to us to use as a filter. A filter that we would eventually sift everything through. Having this filter gave us incredible peace and confidence as we began to walk out what this physical, emotional, and spiritual reset looked like in our own home.
I can’t stress enough the importance of committing your New Year to the Lord, and asking Him for a filter in which you can look at your year through. This may be something you’ve never done before and that’s okay! This year would be a great time to start. It’s simple. It’s as easy as committing to spending regular quiet moments with God and asking Him to impress His truths upon your heart. It’s coupling that with consistent time, even five minutes, of reading the Bible and filling yourself with His wisdom and knowledge.
James 1:5 (AMP) says “If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.
After you have spent time seeking this wisdom, then write down whatever you are feeling is being impressed on your heart. It could be one word or a phrase.
The most fun part of this process is looking back on your “word” at the end of the year and seeing how so many things that happened fell into alignment with that filter. It’s incredibly beautiful how God loves us enough to go before us into the New Year. Instead of trying to white-knuckle through that list of New Year’s resolutions, as you binge eat leftover Christmas cookies and write out that unrealistic gym schedule fit for an Olympian, ask the Creator of the Universe to guide you this year. Add a filter to your vision and watch as what you “see” becomes more clear than ever before.
How many times do we hold ourselves back because our “head” tells us we’re not smart enough, clever enough, pretty enough, or liked enough? Or maybe your head is on overdrive and you’re over-thinking a situation or making assumptions that aren’t really the case.
A few years ago my husband and I were traveling, and we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch. A large neon sign was affixed on the wall in front of our table and it said, “It’s All In Your Head”. The gravity of this message struck me instantly.
You may not realize this, but there is a battle raging for control of your mind. The enemy wants to have a foothold over your thoughts because he knows that when he can control your thoughts he can control you.
It’s very similar to when a dog trainer uses a gentle leader leash on a dog. This type of harness fits around the animal’s muzzle so the trainer can control the dog’s head. When the head is turned in a certain direction, the animal will move in that direction. The same concept applies to us!
Think about those classic Looney Tune cartoons. If something delicious was baking nearby, the cartoon character’s head would turn toward the wafting smell and the whole body would lift off the ground and float toward in the direction of the aroma’s origin. The same goes for us, but instead of finding a tray of homemade cookies, our negative thoughts can lead us into despair and destruction.
Here’s the good news.
You can regain control of your thoughts and resist the enemy’s schemes. When you start hearing those lies begin creeping into your mind, fight back by swinging your sword. Your sword is the Word of God. Speak TRUTH over yourself, and I mean outloud! Jesus fought back the devil in the desert by speaking truth. We can do it too. Here are some examples of verses you can speak over yourself when you’re fighting the “mind battle.”
Lie: I am inadequate or ugly.
Truth: Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Decree (what you say out loud): “I am made in the image of God and I am beautiful! I am created for good works! God has prepared these works for me, and I WILL walk in His plan for my life!
Lie: I am alone. No one loves me and I am unlovable.
Truth: Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.”
Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Decree (what you say out loud): God knew me before I was born and He is with me always. He loves me and delights in me just the way I am. He rejoices over me with singing day and night!
Lie: I am dumb. I will never amount to anything.
Truth: Proverbs 2:6 “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
Decree (what you say out loud): I am smart, and the Lord gives me wisdom, knowledge and understanding FREELY! I have the mind of Christ and He is renewing my mind!
Get out of your head and don’t let the enemy or YOURSELF be your biggest roadblock. Flip the script in your mind and believe that you are created for such a time as this! Go rock the life God has given you, and if you start sinking into the abyss of self-doubt, fight back the lies and SPEAK TRUTH!
I was standing on the Kawarau Bridge on the South Island of New Zealand overlooking the 141 drop to the river gorge below. Strapped to my ankles was a large bungee cord, or essentially a glorified rubberband. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I could faintly hear the water rushing below me. The wind was whipping at my cheeks as the bungee worker began yelling the countdown in a loud booming voice. Three, two, one… All I felt at that moment was….fear.
“What in the heck am I doing?” I thought to myself in these final moments of the countdown. “I’m getting ready to throw myself off this bridge and hope and pray that I don’t go plunging to my death in the icy waters below. Have I lost my mind?” Some would probably say I had, but even though fear was for a moment holding me back from jumping into the abyss, it didn’t win. On that final count of three I jumped.
I jumped because I knew that something was holding onto me, and I trusted that it wouldn’t let me go. I began to free fall, head first, and found myself instinctively shutting my eyes tightly out of fear as the wind whistled past my ears. But then something incredible happened. I began to feel a slight pull on my ankles and my descent began to gradually slow. I felt a tension develop that eventually stopped my rapid fall and that tension started to gracefully bounce my body up and down. I immediately opened my eyes and threw my arms out like wings of a bird. It was the closest sensation to flying I had ever felt. It was a gloriously freeing moment that I will always remember.
I would have never had this experience had I let fear rule in that moment when I was standing on that bridge. Fear. The “False Expectation of something Appearing Real”. Fear has the potential to cripple us and keep us from moving forward into what God has prepared for us.
The Bible has more verses written around the command “DO NOT FEAR” than any other concept. In fact, I was reading the book “If You Want to Get Out of the Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg, and he said that there are 366 verses about fear to be exact. One for every day of the year including leap year! Obviously, God knows that fear is the enemy’s most powerful weapon that he has to keep us down for the count.
If God’s people are immobilized with fear, they can’t mobilize for His kingdom.
Isaiah 41:13 says, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
“You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22
Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” This one is a direct command for us to not be afraid. Not just a suggestion, but a direct order from our commanding officer, God.
In order to not live in fear you need to trust. Just like I put my trust in that thick bungee cord to keep me from failing, we need to put our trust in Jesus. Trust that He will carry you through whatever storm you are facing. Trust that He will protect you when the waters and the world are raging around you. And trust that if you push past your fear and take that leap, He will catch you and send you on the ride of your life.
Open your eyes, spread your arms, and get ready to fly.
Yes, you heard that right. YOU are a warrior. Is that hard to believe? What? You’re not feeling like you’re channeling Superwoman right now? You’re not flying off to save the world from utter destruction? Are you instead feeling like just getting dinner on the table for the “fam” before 8:00 pm is looking a little iffy? What if I told you that you ARE a warrior and you have a secret weapon that can fight and win major battles everyday? It’s true.
Here’s my secret. Your weapon is prayer. (Crickets)…. Was that a little anticlimactic? Just hang with me for a second. I’m serious. Prayer is your superpower, and you want to be tapping into your superpower on a daily basis.
A few months after I had officially finished my fight with breast cancer (and by “officially” I mean I was done with my chemo treatments and recovering from surgery) I was asked by a friend who owned a local clothing boutique if I would help with her fall photoshoot. She needed a few “models” to wear some of the new looks that came into the store and truthfully, I was the token mom in the bunch. The other girls were beautiful young twenty-somethings that were made for the camera. I was honored that she asked me and was excited to play dress-up, but I felt highly inadequate for the job. I mean really. My hair was just growing back so I had crazy lengths I was trying to manage, my eyebrows and eyelashes were essentially gone, and my reconstructed chest was still feeling a bit wonky. Not exactly checking all the boxes in the “model” department. But I happily agreed because again, I thought it would be fun.
Once I was ready and in my first outfit, the photographer and I went into the alley to start shooting. To say that my confidence had taken a hit due to my previously difficult road and very recent memories of being bald, would be an understatement. But I did my best to loosen up and dig down deep to my previous dance and performance experience for inspiration. As we were shooting I saw the owner of the shop come around the corner and take a couple of pictures of us on her phone. After the day was over, she sent one to me and it stopped me in my tracks.
The picture was of me standing against the alley wall doing a full-on Superwoman pose. My hands were on my hips, my feet firmly planted in a wide stance and the look on my face was one of complete confidence and let’s just say, world dominance. It looked like I was ready to go to war and no one or nothing was going to stop me! (Now, please know that was not how I was feeling inside, whatsoever. I was just praying that my fake eyelashes weren’t going to blow off in the stiff breeze swirling around us.)
But here’s the cool thing. As I looked at that picture I felt the Lord impress upon my heart these words. “Jamie, this is how I see you. You may be weak physically and emotionally at times, but you are strong in Me. You are my warrior.”
Guys, this is how God sees US! And it’s not how strong we are on the outside. It’s about the inner strength we have when we put our faith in Him! When we do that, He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us fight our battles, and He gives us the best weapon to do that with. Prayer!
I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher from the eighteen hundreds.
“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that- it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.”
Prayer isn’t something you just repeat to check off a box. It’s true communication with your Heavenly Father and because He loves you, you have the ability to move the heart of God! I’ll say that again, YOU can move the heart of God with your prayers. How beautiful is that.
Matthew 18:18-20 says, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I am among them.”
You might be thinking, “I don’t know how to pray.”
Well, this is an easy one. You know how to talk, right? That’s all you have to do! Just talk to God like you would a friend. Share your hurts, your fears, your wins and your successes. Tell Him everything! It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just talk.
But when should I pray?
Whenever you want to! (and all the time) I pray when I’m in the shower. I’ll pray when I’m driving in the car. I’ll even pray while I’m walking the dog. It doesn’t matter when you pray, just do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Your prayers move the spiritual realms so why wouldn’t you want to use this power God has given you. Does every prayer request turn out the way we want it to? No. That would be like giving our children everything they ever asked for including the pony and the riding stable. Duh. God our Heavenly Father loves us as His children, and He’s not going to give us everything we want, in just the way we want it, because He knows what’s good for us. But He does hear every prayer we pray and He will work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Stop walking around with your head hanging low feeling like you can’t make a difference in your world, your family or your marriage. If you believe in Jesus and He is your personal Savior, you have everything inside of you to fight massive battles. Start by praying. Stand up, get into your best Superwoman pose and start letting those words fly.
You ARE a warrior and you SLAY when you PRAY!
THIS is who I am. I am not a dancer, a teacher, a mom, or a cancer survivor. I AM a child of God. Are all of those titles pieces that make up the story of my life? Absolutely. I am proud of every phase that I have experienced and that God has walked me through. I believe that each of these seasons has played a very specific and important role in developing me into the person I am today. Each has been an opportunity to gain wisdom and insight for the next season. I have seen how God uses the spring seasons in our lives to gently grow and mature the seeds He has planted within us. I have also seen how He uses the winter seasons to demonstrate His fierce and unwavering love for us and to teach us to trust in His goodness no matter what we are facing. He will never leave us through those storms because we are His.
I have a strong desire to instill this same identity in my daughters and to equip them with the tools they need to face the identity crisis this world inflicts upon our youth. In searching for the best way to cement this concept into their sweet little hearts, I turned to my always reliable and favorite theological resource, Hobby Lobby. Yes, believe it or not, I found what I was looking for at this craft store that I harbor a slightly unhealthy obsession for. One day around the holidays, I was perusing the aisles trying to decide what farmhouse chic item needed to come home with me and was stopped dead in my tracks by a pretty lettered sign propped on a shelf. It read,
“I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world.
My God is with me, and goes before me.
I do not fear because I am His.”
I felt my arm reach out as if being powered by something other than my own strength and watched my hand take this sign off the shelf. I put it in my cart and headed home. I wrapped it up and gave it to my oldest daughter for Christmas that year, and promptly hung it in her room where she would see it every night before she closed her eyes, and every morning when she woke up.
This saying has become what I call our family’s, “I am” statement. We recite this statement in the car going to school in the mornings and pull it out when my daughters are feeling inadequate in any area of their lives. We stress that they don’t need to be moved by the world by peer pressure and that their God is with them always. They do not need to fear the challenges that will come because they belong to a God who hung the stars and set our world in motion. They are His now and forevermore. My hope and prayer is that these words will be rooted in their hearts, and will surface when they need them most. I want them to know their identities are in their Creator, and not their accomplishments. If this statement is a constant truth in their hearts, then it becomes a weapon they can use to fight the lies that the enemy will whisper in their ears, “You are a failure. You are ugly. You aren’t good enough.” Truth trumps lies every time, and when it comes to our identities, it’s no different.
So often my girls get asked the question, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” They may answer, “I want to be an artist.” Or “I want to be a doctor.” I am guilty of asking them this question myself. However, I have learned that a better question to ask is, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” God has given us all specific gifts and talents that He desires us to use for His purposes and His kingdom. But, defining our future by what we want to BE is deceiving because it insinuates that our identity is in what we do. I believe our identities are who we are from the minute we put our faith in Jesus Christ, and that identity is a son or daughter of a King. We can aspire to work as a teacher, a lawyer, or a stay-at-home mom, but just as the seasons in nature change, so will these seasons in our lives. The only thing that remains the same throughout the ever-evolving life path we follow is our title as a joint heir with Christ.
Changing seasons are extremely unpredictable. In fact, as I sit at the table in my sunroom writing this, I’m gazing out at my snow-covered yard. You may think, “Oh that sounds lovely. All of that white, beautiful snow must compliment your Christmas decorations so well.” It’s April. Yep. Not just April, but the MIDDLE of April. Five days ago my family and I were riding bikes and skateboarding in shorts. Today I’m looking at snow. It’s the same in our lives. There will be days when everything in your world feels bright and sunny, and then in an instant, a violent storm blows through and everything you know and find comfort in is crashing down around you. The Bible says in John 16:33,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We will experience hardship and trial. But through those storms there is a constant and steady truth. You are a son or daughter of a King. You are loved and cared for by the King of all Kings, and He is faithful to provide all you need.
When I excused myself from the rollercoaster of identity seasons and settled into the steady knowledge of who I truly am, I gained a peace that laid a foundation for me to build upon. This foundation is the rock solid wall that I now decorate with the gifts and talents that God has given me. When one of those giftings or professions gets a little cockeyed on the wall, or flat-out falls off and crashes to the floor, I will still be grounded in who I truly am. I now have the confidence to proudly wear my identity name tag that will always and forever read:
Jamie Dahl, The Daughter of a King
This is an excerpt from a chapter that I wrote in the book, “The Identity Effect”, A Collection of Stories by Women Who’ve Discovered Their True Identity in Christ. This book was published by FEW International Publications and can be found on Amazon.com.
As I sat down to write this morning, I opened my laptop and immediately got a message and a little picture of a low battery with minimal juice. The message said, “Low Battery. Your Mac will sleep soon unless plugged into a power outlet.” Ha. Funny! That’s how I feel somedays. Somebody plug me in, quick!
There are days when I wish I could actually connect myself to a Tesla Supercharger station and fill up my much depleted tank of energy. No amount of perfectly brewed Americanos made by those heavenly angels sent to Earth from God, (a.k.a. Starbucks baristas) can give me the kick I often need to keep going. Life is draining! Can I get an AMEN?!
It seems that these days, we are being called to wear a lot of different hats. If you’re a mom, you may be working from home, all while being “teacher” to your homeschooled children, chef to your family preparing three square meals everyday, dog walker, house cleaner, family taxi driver, community volunteer, and the list goes on.
There are nights when I literally fall in my bed, attempt to read a chapter in a book, but have absolutely NO IDEA what I just read. My eyes are crossing and my brain feels like the fuzz I’m finding in the corners of my house because I can’t keep up with it all. “Low Battery. Your body will sleep soon unless plugged into a power outlet.” Totally me.
Yes, a good night’s sleep always helps and if you’re lucky enough to get that, it’s possible that you can wake up feeling a bit recharged and ready to tackle your day. Physically, and maybe mentally, you’re running on most cylinders, but emotionally are you still feeling depleted? And as the day goes on are you falling back into that pattern of feeling completely worn out and exhausted by the grind?
Maybe you need to plug into a true power source that will give you the internal juice to keep you going each day. For example, someone who works all day and uses a laptop, and wants to be efficient with their time, makes sure their computer is fully charged first thing in the morning. That’s what we should do too! Yes, coffee is always helpful, but that’s not what I mean.
Are you plugging into your life source every morning before you start your day? I set aside 20-30 minutes every morning for time with the Lord. If you only have 15 minutes, then take that! I literally put this time on my schedule, and it’s a non-negotiable for me. I get up before the kids are awake, and I sit in the same comfy chair with my cup of tea, and I get still. I quiet my mind and ask God to show me what He has for me today. Next, I get out whatever devotional book I’m working through, (my favorite is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) and then I open my Bible.
Some mornings I just read where I left off. Currently, I’m reading straight through the New Testament. Other mornings I may have a verse that jumps out at me in my devotional so I decide to do a deep dive into that verse and I meditate on that alone.
Lastly, and before I jump up to get the girls’ cereal ready and grapefruits cut, I ask Him to go before me and order my day. Yes, ORDER MY DAY. You heard that right. Coming from the queen of To-Do lists I have learned to hold those lists lightly. I make them, but then I release my grip on them and ask God to show me what His priorities are for me over the next 24 hours.
I keep this conversation going throughout the day and even when the phone rings, I say a quick prayer. “Lord, do you want me to answer that right now, or should I let the caller leave a message, and I call them back at a time that’s better.”
The cool thing about all of this is it gives me energy. Am I still tired at the end of the day? Of course! But do I feel like I’ve been thrown on a Tilt-A-Whirl, run over by a truck, and had my brains whipped with an egg beater? Nope.
Jeremiah 16:7 says “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out it’s roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
John 4:14 says, “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
Jesus’ living water is the power source that we all have the freedom to plug into on a daily basis. Let Him energize you and fill you with a power that will never fade. One that produces beautiful fruit. Plant your roots deep in those living streams and I promise you, you will feel refreshed.
Most mornings I take our dog for a brisk walk to tire her out and burn off some of that puppy energy. It’s usually fairly fast paced, and I try to limit her stopping and sniffing around as much as possible so we can accomplish that goal.
A few mornings ago we started our walk, and being the creature of habit that I am, we turned right out of my driveway and headed on the same path we take every morning. The nice thing about this path is that we always pass a beautiful maple tree planted along the sidewalk. Every year during the fall season its leaves change a brilliant red orange color and begin to drop along the grass and nearby walkway. This year was no different.
As we neared the tree my sweet pup decided that she needed to do her business right at this spot so as you would imagine, I stopped to give her ample time to do her thing. As I fumbled around with the eco-friendly, biodegradable poop bag in my hand trying to accomplish the impossible task of finding the right end to open and then actually open it, I happened to look down at the ground where I was standing.
Forming a gorgeous blanket under my feet were hundreds of leaves in every shade of fall yumminess that you can imagine. You could almost smell the pumpkin spice latte aroma in the scene set underneath me. I was literally stopped dead in my tracks.
I stood for a few moments more admiring the brilliance of the leaves and the sheer beauty of God’s creation. It was then that I felt God whisper something in my heart. “Stop rushing and just BE WHERE YOU ARE.”
It hit me like a gentle ton of bricks. Be where I am. Enjoy the present, and don’t rush into or worry about the future. So I stood there, holding a bag of poop, and allowed myself to stop and breathe.
I immediately began reevaluating my day and my mindset about my week. Where I was allowing myself to excessively plan every moment and rigidly stick to that plan, I decided to ask God how He wanted me to spend my time that day.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Was I really allowing God to determine my steps or was I trying to tell Him what I thought I should do that day? Was I truly being in the present and noticing the little gems He was placing all around me, or was I too worried about the next day, and the next?
It was a reminder for me to be flexible with my “schedule”. Have plans, goals, and be organized, yes. But ultimately give those plans up to Him and be free to move and adjust accordingly. Because oh yeah, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our DAILY bread…” not give us this day our weekly or even monthly bread.
BE WHERE YOU ARE whether that’s a 24 hour period or a season of your life. There’s purpose and beauty in that moment if you’re willing to stop and notice it.
That’s why it’s called the “present”, because it’s a gift.
Twenty years ago I was an elementary school teacher. I taught second grade in Austin, Texas, and worked with a lot of children who came from troubled homes. I wanted my classroom to be a place that felt cozy and safe because many of my kiddos didn’t know what “safe” felt like. Some had parents in jail. Others lived in homes where family members were dealing drugs.
So one of the small things I did to try to create this environment was putting this cute lamp on my desk, and every morning I turned it on as the children entered my room. It was a way to create an inviting and warm place for them to know they were loved.
My teaching days are far in the past, but now that we are all “safer at home” because of the COVID-19 outbreak, I’m putting my teacher hat back on for my own girls. Incredibly, I still had the lamp, and now it sits in our sunroom where we “do school”. Every morning I turn it on as my girls get settled and ready to learn and I’m reminded of how our past prepares us for our future.
Never discount what you have been through. Whether it was good, bad, or simply a training ground. God is always preparing you for something. I challenge you to take the experiences that you have lived through and really think about the lessons they have taught you.
Maybe they were simply times that felt like you were in a holding pattern. Those are valuable moments too. God’s timing is perfect and the seasons that feel like an uncomfortable pause could quite simply be opportunities for God to align what it is He has for you next.
They always say “hindsight is 2020”and I believe that is so true. Be proud of, or at the very least accepting of, your past and be open to how it has readied you for your future.
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!