Another year, another chance to reflect on who we are, what our goals are, and Who we are serving in our actions. Also – an exciting new direction for this blog! This will be the first post co-authored by Chantelle AND Jayla. You can read more about the two of us here.
For our first post we want to start the year off talking about our focus words for the year. Instead of creating a whole list of New Year’s resolutions (which, let’s be honest, hardly ever are remembered or achieved past February) we have both chosen words for the year so that we can maintain focus and continue to grow in the Lord throughout the coming months!
Collectively, our words for the year are present, at peace, purposed, and positive. Today’s post we will talk about why we chose our words and how we are using them to glorify God – and hopefully encourage you to live this year fully in the moment with purpose as you seek Him!
PRESENT – Chantelle
As Jayla and I talked over the last few months and we came to the topic of the “word of the year”, we realized that we had already both chosen one of the same words – “present”. In a world dominated by screens, I think this is something that a great number of us struggle with, and we both want to be more purposefully present this year.
As for myself, In a world where everything is centered around our screens, I found myself losing control of my screen time. When things get difficult, my temptation is to retreat to my device and let my mind become numb as I scroll, like, comment, and message. And I found that, while a lot of what I was doing was good, a lot of what I was doing had no purpose at all. And I found that the thing which should be helping me to live life better was actually draining my life away.
So, this year I will be trying to live with more presence. I want to embody the words of Paul, and “not be brought under the power of anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Here are some things I will use to help me live presently this year:
- Screen time. Apple has a wonderful app that tracks all your usage. I will have my social media turned off in the morning from 8-2 (when the kids get up until nap time). But it’s more than just being on my device less – being present includes being present, engaged, and purposeful in all my online pursuits.
- Prayer/thought journaling.
- The book “Hands Free Mama”. It’s a workbook of sorts – each chapter has something to implement to help you live life free from screen-domination. I plan to read and implement a chapter a month to keep my mind focused!
- Time blocking/timer-setting. I will use this for everything – playing with the kids, reading, cleaning – whatever it is I need to do presently. Too often I find myself distracted by the time I think is slipping away. Setting a timer and blocking out a period of time helps me to stop watching the clock and be present. I don’t have to worry about the time, because the timer is doing that for me!
PURPOSED – Jayla
To be purposed is something that I never thought I would have such a difficult time with until I thought about it. Through school this past year, I would often catch myself in classes, working on assignments, or even sitting through breaks, without any real purpose. I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing. I once challenged myself and asked, “What would I rather be doing right now?” The answer: “I honestly don’t even know.”
I decided to start trying to incorporate purpose into my every action. Before I did anything I would ask, “What is my purpose in doing this?” Remembering why I was doing something, why I was sitting in a class, why I was working on that assignment, etc, I was more willing to do it. I also noticed that if I knew the purpose of something I was doing, I would work towards adding purpose to the event.
I learned that if I worked with purpose, refusing distractions of my phone or the TV or the people around me, I was more focused on the things I was doing. I was able to get my work done more quickly, efficiently, and because I wasn’t so distracted, I began to make even better grades. I was giving each assignment and lecture and event my all, and genuinely enjoyed what I was doing, which really showed in my work.
Not only was I able to do a better job with what I was doing in that moment, but because I was able to be more efficient, I was able to take longer breaks, get more sleep, and do things that I enjoyed. This reduced my over-all stress and helped me find more fulfillment in the things I was doing. Rather than seeing school as something I am doing before I can do what I want, I began enjoying school so much more and realizing that this is just as much a part of my life as my career will be. Our lives are not counted in big events, but by days. It is what you do in each day, not in the big exciting moments, that define you.
AT PEACE – Chantelle
Anxiety/OCD is something I struggle with on a daily basis. While I don’t believe that I’ll ever be “anxiety-free”, God’s peace is something I know I can lay hold of.
- I can know that I have victory in Him when I feel like everything is wrong (John 16:33).
- I can turn to Him in prayer when I am worried (Philippians 4:6).
- I can cast all my concerns on Him (1 Peter 5:7).
- I can increase my peace in life by my knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:2).
So in seeking peace I’m going to be aiming at praying more and increasing my knowledge of Him. Honestly, these are two things I haven’t done well this past year and I am not proud of it. It certainly hasn’t helped my anxiety!
Some things I am doing to help me acheive this are: talking to mentors and Christian friends on a daily basis, turning off the radio on the way to church/gym and using that time for prayer, keeping a prayer journal, and using the times when I’m tempted to distance myself to draw me closer to God by praying for His help with those things. Presence and peace go hand in hand – that’s why I’m working on them together!
POSITIVE – Jayla
Another thing I need to work on is being more positive. This heavily impacts upon my purpose because it helps me look at the positive side of what I am doing. The more positive and less negative I am, the more I enjoy what I do and the less anxious I feel about deadlines. I am developing a, “If I work hard and it doesn’t get done, I still worked hard,” attitude.
But beginning to develop that sense of positivity was, and still is, very difficult for me.
We live in a very fast-paced, “I get what I want when I want it,” world, and we tend to expect perfection, or nothing. I once worked at a restaurant where the motto was, “Excellence is tolerated but perfection is expected.” When we live in this kind of a society, any minor inconvenience or fault of another person is amplified. Any imperfect thing is “the worst thing in the world.” I began to start with myself and my own attitude. Was I becoming a source of negativity? Was I complaining about small things? Of course, I don’t mean talking about my troubles. That is something that is very important to do. What I am talking about is pointing out every fault and flaw of everyone and everything around me, whether mentally or verbally.
My first step in working on this was my inner monologue. Matthew 12:34 tells us that, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” What was I storing up in my heart? What was I allowing myself to thing? I began monitoring every single negative thought that came into my mind. I would say that about 98% were about things that really did not matter in the slightest. So what did I do? I stopped complaining about those things. I stopped ranting about the fact that there were no paper towels in the bathroom, and told myself, “It’s okay. It happens.” These little things helped tremendously in working on my positivity.
I also stopped judging people as much. This is something that I have noticed quite a few people do and, if it is not corrected, can cause deep levels of pettiness and discord among people who I am supposed to love. I decided to reach out to the women I was jealous of and going out of my way to be kind to those of whom I had a negative opinion. What I discovered in doing this is that I really only disliked people I didn’t really know. Of course, there are some people who you struggle to get along with or who are just downright rude, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Finally, I stopped allowing my entertainment to fill my life with negativity. Television shows where the moral of the story seemed to be, “Life is terrible and we just have to deal with it,” I stopped watching, even if I was mid-season. I unfollowed the people on social media who only posted complaints and made me feel anxious, and no longer filling my life with friends who spent their time gossiping and treating others negatively. This doesn’t mean that I just ignored these people and burned my bridges with them, but I did put a bit of distance between us. Any time the conversation grew negative, I would change it, any time I found myself gossiping, I would stop.
Once I incorporated these habits, I felt more at peace with myself. I felt more willing to work, more fulfilled in my relationships, and more like I had not just not done bad things, but that I had been doing the right things by the end of the day. I learned that journaling daily about these things, praying about them, and talking about them, really helped me to remember my goals. I gave myself both long-term and daily goals to incorporate these things into my life, and ever since I not only feel like a better person, but I better Christian, a better person for my fiancé, and a better friend.
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Today we would like to challenge you to look at where your shortcomings are, and spend this year working on making them your strengths. Make 2019 the year of daily improvement, hard work, better relationships, and most importantly, growth in your spiritual walk.
If you want to know more about how to choose your word for the year, click here.
We’re excited for this year and all it holds!
What habits are you changing in 2019?
Chantelle & Jayla