Best Days

best-daysI am writing this in my dark living room enjoying a quiet night with the soft glow from the Christmas tree lights.  My husband actually put our tree up this year and I have loved looking to see where he put my favorite ornaments. I have several but one of the gems for me is a stack of pancakes. It’s right in the front about halfway from the top and every time I look at the tree, I can’t help but see it first.

 

I bought it a few years ago because it takes me back to some very cherished memories. When our kids were growing up, we spent many family vacations camping.  One of our annual traditions was camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness with our small group families.  Even long after our group stopped meeting regularly, we still camped together once a year.

 

Camping is bike rides, camp fires, late nights, pancakes, bacon, homemade donuts and chili.  We played kick ball with all the kids, roasted marshmallows, ran 1/2 marathons, worked puzzles and played games. But mostly, we talked.  We spent time catching up with each other like we couldn’t do when we were attached to life and work at home.  We challenged each other and prayed for each other.  Those were the best days.

 

As I reflect on 2016 and anticipate 2017, one thing I’m reminded of is that I can appreciate the past and the relationships formed there but I can’t live there today.  I can appreciate traditions and memories but if I try to hold on too tight to those traditions and memories, I will miss the new ones waiting to be formed.

 

I’ve taken a few mornings this week to think about what I want for 2017, what I am asking God for in the New Year.  I want to focus on the present and what God is doing today. I want to do hard things, the things I’ve been putting off, the things that scare me.  I want to take time to talk to people when the moment arises, I want to be flexible.  I want to connect with people like I did in those best days sitting around the camp site. I want more best days.

 

Reminiscing about those favorite memories has been so good for me this Christmas. I find they are pointing me to all the possibilities ahead. What are you looking forward to in 2017?

“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? 
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
Isaiah 43:19

Slowing Down To Listen

This summer, I hope to experience a slower schedule, time to focus on relationships and the opportunity to regroup and listen to God.  Truth:  That doesn’t happen unless I get intentional about it.

 

On of the ways I am slowing down is by mapping out what I want to accomplish this summer within a reasonable timeframe.  I am trying not to take on too much while also building more margin in my schedule.  I still have my usual responsibilities so I have to get creative!  On my days off, I am really trying to take the day off.  This may require me to work a little more on necessary things through the week but it’s so worth it!

 

A bad habit I started which I thought was giving me a jump-start on my day is checking my email on my phone when I wake up.  I realize this is stealing my focus first thing in the morning and the emails will be there an hour later.  When I spend the first part of my day focusing on God, I am way more productive and able to handle things led by Him.  So I decided to change this!

 

Being intentional meant finding several different ways to spend my morning with God.  Here are some of the things I am doing but not all in the same day!

 

  • Bible Reading – I have a great reading plan I’m working through and I have been experiencing the living Word this summer! Even if it’s a passage I have read many times, God is faithful to bring a fresh perspective and truth.

 

  • Worship – I love worship. I am not the best singer but I don’t think God cares.  I turn worship music on in the morning and I carry it around with me wherever I am in the house and even when I move to my car.

 

  • Listening – In the past I have gotten caught up in having to read or pray or worship to the point where I am not really listening. When I listen to what God is putting in my heart or how he wants me to see a situation, my perspective changes and my stress diminishes.  My best environment to listen is when I’m on a walk or sitting on my porch.

 

  • Devotional Study – I love understanding who God is through what he reveals to others. Sometimes hearing what someone else has been through helps bring clarity where we need it most.  My go to devotional right now is A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  Many of the Clubhouse team are reading through it currently and this is what Natalie had to say about it:

 

“I constantly have doubted who I am and if true faith and trust in God was in me.  In A Confident Heart, Renee Swope shares her own struggles and how when we understand who Christ is in us, the confidence in God and faith in Him comes. 

Renee speaks in terms that are so relatable through her own stories and victories! This book is helping me refocus on the truth and principles I learned in Freedom and gave me more proof of God’s love for me. .  I am not letting abandonment and rejection from my past define me.”

 

What are some things you are doing to be intentional with your time this summer?

 

Goals. Resolutions. Opportunities. Experiences.

Some people are goal-setting folks while others are not.  My husband Chris, enters a new year thinking about what he wants to accomplish.  He always has a list of things he is going to do and gets excited thinking about them, planning how he will accomplish them, setting goals for meeting the goals, and sharing them with the family.  On January 1st… He’s off!

 

Me… I’m more of a “let’s see what this year will bring” girl.  I have anticipation about the season I’m entering and like to look for the themes happening in my life.   I am not completely without plans and dreams but I definitely approach things differently than my husband.

 

I used to feel pressure to make a list of resolutions and promises for the year but now the pressure is off.  While I do not make a list of goals, I do set aside time to ask God for His direction and plans.  Sometimes I start the year with a fast.  Sometimes I start by reading a certain book in the Bible.  One year, I went on a prayer retreat starting New Years Eve.  Even though my method never looks the same, God always gives me fresh eyes to see where He wants me to go or what I need to pay more attention to.

 

As I look back over the past five years, I see areas of growth I never expected.  Each year had highs and lows but as I have been open to God in the midst of those experiences, I have changed.  Some highs: I started running triathlons, went on my first mission trip, read a book a month several years ago and one year, only read my bible.  Some lows:  the pain of loss, unexpected stress, and watching those I love go through trials.  The point is that through all those things, God changed me.

 

So as you prepare for this New Year, take time to identify the themes of last year as you ask God to lead you in 2012.  If you are a goal-setter, keep in mind that it’s not about the goals as much as the journey and growth.  If you’re like me and focus more on the journey, make sure you pay attention to opportunities where God is challenging and stretching you.  No matter what your personality, remember that when you lean into God and yield to His plans, He can make more progress, help you see the needs around you, use it all to bring fame to His name and change you along the way.  Approach the New Year with expectancy and see what God does!