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!