New Year's Restarts

I don't do the typical New Year's Resolutions, mostly because that term brings to mind a style of writing a list of desired achievements, usually varied, lengthy, and lofty, and typically without a workable plan to accomplish the tasks.

But I do like to plan, evaluate, tweak, trash, restart.

Here are 3 restarts for my 2015:

1. Morning Prayer and Make-up

I set up my prayer focus on the wall. I wanted/needed it visible. I posted our wedding vows in this fun collage and pray over our promises to each other. Using Ikea frames with plastic fronts and dry erase markers, I actually write down requests of friends that they share on facebook, email etc. I've blurred the contents of the picture to protect privacy. Also on the picture is lists of neighbors, co-workers, kids of friends, friends of friends whose names I would never remember unless they were in front of me. Behind the dry erase surface is a map of my city--I pray over it generally--that God's love and light would multiply. I starred the locations on the map where my teammates live, and framed a verse below that I pray over each of us.

I chose to move my mirror and makeup to this location because getting ready in the morning is one of the few times of day I have to my own thoughts. I actually completed this set up in November, and it has been enjoyable and doable.

I don't have the names of my children or family written because I don't struggle to remember to pray for them, but I did post a daily prayer guide for children, which has 30 different aspects to cover in prayer. Our church gave this out last year and I saved it, but if you're interested in something similar, I made a set of cards for praying for children that I used the past couple of years, I can email you the pdf, just leave a comment below.

If you want to add more prayer to your life, a posted list is a great way to start. In college, I wrote 5-6 prayer requests of people on my bulletin board. I prayed for those requests simply how they were worded each day, no fancy or long words. It opened a door to communicating daily with God, and before long, I was talking to Him about my own day. It really jump-started our relationship.

2. Thankfulness, January Joy Challenge  
Evaluating our family's needs--we all need a little more joy. Many of our conversations have been coming back to this "Joy is not happiness. Happiness comes from circumstances, joy comes from gratitude." All 5 of us are participating in Ann Voskamp's January Joy challenge*, where we each write 3 things of thankfulness, guided by a prompt, each day. And since a recent Harvard study showed that the one thing that combats the neuropaths of anxiety more than anything else is exercising thankfulness, we do this joy challenge in the evening, as one of my children struggles with nighttime anxiety. We write the day's prompt on a family poster, but I also gave each child their own Joy Journal, and if they can't write yet, they draw their day's entry. This carries the added benefit of providing them a quiet activity to do in their bed if they have trouble falling asleep or if they are an early-riser. ;)

*If you peruse Ann's library of free downloads, there's a joy challenge for every month of the year! I aspire to do all 12, but I'm taking the baby step first and seeing how the family responds to January. One day at a time, y'all. ;)

3. Fueling on God's Word
The past few years I have thrived in personal Bible study because everything I needed was available and in place. I eagerly jumped into the Word each day, and I had a great group of women with whom I met regularly. My environment was rich--I heard sound teaching on multiple times a week, and also attended conferences/retreats with my job throughout the year that provided excellent encouragement. However, living abroad I have been without the benefit of hearing teaching (in English) and without a regular Bible study group. I have always seen these things as the butter, not the bread. The bread is God's Word, and I am capable and responsible for the bread on my own. The butter enhances the bread, but butter alone does not sustain. Without the butter, I steadily fed on bread these past months, but I recognize in myself, that I will not last long, and that I am also steadily, although it be slowly, waning. I needed to be creative and take initiative to find what I need.
When I saw Marian Jordan's post about 52 weeks of scripture memory through Redeemed Girl Ministries, I knew I had found what I was looking for!

She delivers a podcast teaching the context of scripture, and there's a verse to memorize each week. We don't memorize just to collect trophies of knowledge, but as we understand the truths of God's Word, and store them up in our hearts, they change us from the inside out! But I also need real tangible friends of mine to meet this challenge, not just the virtual community of RGM, I invited local friends to join me in the challenge. If you would like to join the challenge but don't feel the capacity to gather your own group, contact me about a virtual group over email! RGM is partnering with Scarlet and Gold Shop which has printed these beautiful memory cards, but since I can't have those shipped here, I've made my own. If $30 is the only thing standing between you and this challenge, I would love to share my cards with you over email for free.

Lastly I added this Ann Voskamp quote: "What a heart knows by heart is what a heart knows."

These 3 things I have listed above--this is where I want my heart to be all year, so I put things in front of me to help me stay on track. God calls people his sheep, and Jesus looked at the crowds and said, "They are like sheep without a shepherd." It all implies what I already know is true of my nature--that I can get distracted by whatever is in front of me at the moment. So I intentionally put Jesus in front of me everywhere! :)

Happy New Year! How can I pray for you this year?

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