Starting Fresh

So how’s those New Year’s resolutions coming along?  Mine are doing great in case you were wondering.  You know why?  Because I didn’t make any.  Ha!  Resolutions are to me just the beginnings of failure mainly because I put these expectations on myself and I likely will not follow through.  It’s like I make this big list of all my flaws and think I can all of a sudden completely change everything I dislike about myself because today is January and yesterday was December.

That’s not to say that I didn’t start anything new.  In fact I did.  A new year is a great time to start a new thing.  So I’m going to read the Bible all the way through this year.  I got a really cool (really on-sale) Bible with my Christmas money that is set up in chronological order and the readings are marked by the day.  It’s definitely different because the prophets are all sprinkled in where they actually happened on the timeline instead of clumped together in the middle and at the end of the Old Testament.  I’m guessing that Paul’s letters are probably inserted here and there in the middle of Acts based on where he was.  Anyhow, I just thought maybe it would all make sense and stay in my brain better if it flowed based on when it happened.  It just seems to tie everything together for me.

Right now I’m about midway through Genesis (with a little Chronicles ancestry inserted in here and there).  Because this is not my first undertaking of reading the Bible, I have read Genesis probably more than any other book.  In fact, Genesis is literally falling out of my Bible.

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So I’m rereading again about Abraham (was originally was called Abram until God changed his name) and the rest of the patriarchs.  But in reading one of the passages the other day, I was struck again by the wording of one particular verse.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. – Genesis 12:1

At first glance, that might seem a little redundant.  Go from your country, go from your kindred, go from your father’s house.  Okay, we got it.  You want Abram leave where he is and go.  But read back over that again and take note to how each time it’s a little more personal.

Go from your country.  Leave this place that you’ve called home and are comfortable with.

Go from your kindred.  Leave this way of thinking that you been taught and this way of doing things that’s been passed down to you.

Go from your father’s house.  Leave behind who you thought you were…this old identity.

God wasn’t just calling him to leave a place a go to another place.  God was going birth a new nation from his offspring.  God was going to give him a new way of doing things, change the way he thought.  And God was going to give him a new identity.

Abram wasn’t just going away from something…he was going toward something else.

And verse 4 says?  “So Abram went…”

Just like that.  And he didn’t even know where he was going.  All he knew what that he was following God, and in faith he went.  And God didn’t tell Abram to just go and find a new place.  No, God said to leave and go “to the land I will show you.”  So the change that was coming wasn’t with Abram leading, but with God leading.  I wonder if maybe that’s where I always messed up with my resolutions.  Making that list of things I wanted to change and then trying to do it myself instead of asking God where I needed to leave and where I needed to go from there.

Sometimes God calls us to walk away from things.  Maybe it’s something that has become an idol and we have to lay it down and walk away.  Maybe it’s an old way of thinking and God is saying, “It’s time to put that to rest and let Me birth something new in you.”  Or maybe for the very first time, you’re hearing God calling you out of sin and He’s got a new name and a new identity He wants to give you through Jesus.

And look, the things that He asks us to let go of don’t always necessary have to be bad things.  Sometimes they may be things that are consuming too much of our time.  Maybe you’re involved in too many activities and God is saying, “Hey, let’s say no to a few things so you can focus on this one thing.”  It might be that the thing God is calling you to right now is simply a season of rest.

No matter where you find yourself right now, I can promise you with all confidence that whatever God is calling you to is worth leaving behind what he’s calling you from.  And the blessing that is waiting there?  It’s gonna be a good one ya’ll.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Today has been quite a busy day.  We have cleaned this house from top to bottom.  I’ve been on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathtub and dusting baseboards.  The whole of Christmas-decked halls has been packed up and put away, which is a pretty big change for me since I usually fight tooth and nail to leave it all up well into January.  We have cleaned out cabinets and cleared off counters.  My arms ache so bad from all the scrubbing that my brain had to pep talk me into typing this post.  I just couldn’t go to bed on this new day of this new year without getting a few thoughts out first.  (Not completely sure if it’s all the scrubbing or if I’m catching the flu from my little one.  Please, oh, please let it be the scrubbing.)

For the past few years at this time, I’ve chosen one word that would sort of define what I felt God desired to speak into my life for the coming year.  I guess I thought if I had just one word….one single bunch of letters forming a meaningful unit…that surely I could manage to apply that word.  It’s not like it was a list of stuff.  Not like a bunch of resolutions that would never make it past the third week of January.  It was just a word.

But honestly right this second, I can’t even remember what my word was for last year.  Or if I even had one for that matter.

I think I was drawn to the vagueness of one word.  Just one word should be easy to apply throughout the year, right?  Apparently not.

So this year, when I started to think about my one word, I felt like God was clearly saying, “No more vague.  It’s about time we got specific.”  And you know what?  And when specific gave me a feeling of relief, I was kinda surprised.  Because vague is usually how I roll.  By keeping things vague – not setting any really specific goals, not nailing down a really intentional plan, not “boxing myself in” anything that’s on purpose – it means any failures would be pretty vague, too.  Like did I really fail, since I really didn’t set a goal or have a really solid plan the first place?

I did still ask about the one word, but instead of one (and in addition to a little list of 2015 to-do’s), He gave me four:

Less stuff.  More love.

I’m sure there’s lots to be unpacked in those two little phrases, but initially here’s what I see.

I am overwhelmed with stuff.  Clothes and knick knacks and pots and pans and Pyrex and books and I feel my eyes crossing just thinking about all the stuff I own.  And all the stuff my kids have.  And all the stuff my husband has.  We have so much stuff.  And it’s that much more we have to clean.  And that much more space needed to keep it all.  And that much more wasted money or time or whatever else spent on all this stuff.  Less stuff indeed.  This year will be the year of simplicity and downsizing in the stuff department.

And love?  Yes, love.  If there is one question I have asked God over and over in this past year, it is this:  How do I love others well?  Love my children well, love my husband well, love my friends and family well, love the stranger well, love my enemies well?  Show me, Lord, how to love my neighbor.  Teach me how to pray for my enemy.  After a conversation with my very wise friend Daniel at church this past weekend, I started to realized that I spend quite a bit of my prayer time, my journal time, my one-on-one with God time just pleading for God to change me.  For Him to fix this in me or remove that from me.  If I think back and read back over my journaling, it’s a lot about me.  So I’m thinking maybe God’s trying to help me get my mind off me and onto others.  More love.  For them, for Him.  Yep.

I also have a list.  It’s not a huge one.  And not a hard one.

Here’s what I have so far:

1.  Intentionally make a date night with the hubby once a month.  I know for some people, this one is a no-brainer, but for us it hasn’t been.  This past year has been a pretty rough one for our family and so I guess date nights were probably the last thing we’ve thought of.  But it dawned on me yesterday that I’ve missed my husband!  So yes, please.  Once a month date night.  Check.

2.  Read the Bible – the whole thing – this year.  Something you’d think I would have done in my 30 plus years of walking with Jesus, huh?  It’s not that I haven’t ever tried before.  I’ve had lots of started attempts.  (I’ve probably read Genesis more than anyone else I know.)  But I’m an impatient one and so my efforts at reading the Bible have been like a lot of things I do.  I’ve tried to do it in as little amount of time as I can, but then I fall behind, get frustrated, and quit.  This time will not be rushed.  I will savor the Word of God.  Bit by sweet bit.

3.  Memorize scripture.  This is the other thing I’ve had a tendency to rush…and thereby be unsuccessful at.  I give myself a few days to memorize a piece of scripture and then move on to the next one, but then I end up forgetting what I learned because I didn’t really let it sink in good.  So I will be spending two solid weeks on each scripture.  Sometimes it might just be one verse, sometimes it might be several.  But regardless to whether I have it memorized in three days or if it takes the whole two weeks, I will not rush.  I will stay with the same selection for the full two weeks.  I will also keep this simple.  No big chunks or whole chapters, just one or a few at the time.

4.  I will pray less for myself and more for others.  One of the many little tidbits I gleaned from my conversation with Daniel is the reminder that God has my back and He will take care of me….and I can find rest in that.  And resting in that means that I can focus my prayers on others – my family, my friends, my church, the world, those who’ve never heard the gospel, missionaries, and whatever else and be assured that God will cover me.  That I don’t have to beg and plead and pray the same prayers over and over a million more times.  I can intercede for others with the same desperation that I’ve prayed for myself, and be at peace knowing that Jesus is interceding for me.  I’ll write my prayers in my journal and will intentionally pray for at least one person/place/thing each day.

5.  Be intentionally thankful.  I love Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts.  (If you’ve never read it, you should add it to your 2015 reading list right now.  Do it.)  So much joy to be found in being thankful.  I’ve kept gratitude lists before and will do that again this year.  I will write down at least one thing each day that I’m thankful for…one unexpected blessing, one sweet moment, one kiss from God…something to remind my heart where every good and perfect gift comes from.     

6.  Keep it simple.  I have such a knack for complicating the snot out of something, whether literally or imaginatively (as in thinking something is going to be way harder than it is).  In the past, in an effort to be organized (ha!), I’ve had a journal for my thoughts, a notebook for prayer requests, a gratitude journal, etc.  So for the sake of simplicity, I will have one journal.  Everything goes in there.  Prayers, scriptures, gratitudes…all of it.  One thing to carry around instead of three or four.  This particular bit also applies to the whole “less stuff” thing.  I got a pretty decent head start on the house today and will keep that going this month.  I think January will be the purge month.  Just get rid of stuff I don’t use, can’t wear, don’t like and clear out the clutter.  I don’t really need 6 rectangle Pyrex dishes, right?

So that’s what I have so far.  In all this however, there is GRACE.  Grace to screw up.  Grace to start over.  Grace to rethink.  And the neat thing God showed me about this list is that it is unfinished.  Usually when you think about making resolutions, you think about changes you intend to make for the whole year.  But this list is just for right now.  And next month, maybe we’ll add something else to the list.  Maybe we won’t.  I’m sure there’s going to be some getting healthy and exercise in there eventually, but for right now, I guess we’re starting with the heart.

So Happy New Year to you and yours.  I’m looking forward to a year of simple…less stuff, more love.

What about you?  Do you do the one word thing or make a list…or just pass on resolutions altogether? 

The List

Alright well it’s that time of year….THE LIST!!!!  Resolutions for things I will do different this upcoming year.  Honestly I don’t know why I ever make a “list” because I never do what I say I’m going to do, but maybe if I share my list with you, it will make me more likely to at least acknowledge it from time to time.  Feel free to periodically hold me accountable.  Here goes…

1.  I will finish something.  I am the world’s worst procrastinator and the world’s best at losing interest in something.  I have been doing an honest assessment of myself recently and have found that I am in fact all talk.  I have lots of great ideas, I just have no follow through.  Yes…this year, I will finish something.

2.  I will be more consistent with my blog.  I started out strong, as always, but then my posts became less and less regular and further and further apart (see #1).  I love blogging.  I will not quit.  I will not give up.  I will blog.  It’s a matter of discipline.

3.  I will not buy any more books until I read the ones I have.  Nevermind.  That’s a total fallacy.  Won’t happen.  Next…

4.   I will lose weight.  I will eat better and exercise.  I will make healthier choices.  My children follow my lead and if I’m making poor health-related choices, they probably will as well.  If Jesus were here in the flesh to visit for a week, would I serve dinner on paper plates and make Him sleep on the floor?  Would I not clean the house from top to bottom before He got here?   Wouldn’t I want my home to look nice for Him?  Of course.  So why do I offer Him a flabby temple (i.e. – my body) in which to dwell.  He deserves better than that.

5.  I will spend less time learning about God and more time getting to know God.  I love learning about God, about the time in which Jesus lived, about Jewish traditions, about word studies of the Hebrew language…but I have a terrible habit of allowing that to consume more of my time than just hanging out with God.  I want to know more about HIM.  I want to learn how to listen more and talk less. 

I think I’ll stop there for now.  I’m sure I’ll be adding more to the list in the new few days.  Happy New Year!