Busyness, Boasting & My Best Yes

time

Well friends and followers, I’m back! I apologize about the recent hiatus from posting. These past few weeks have been crazy busy, and unfortunately posting on my blog was put on the chopping block in order to keep my head above water. But I’m back(!!!) and will be able to find regularly scheduled time to post again. I’m especially glad too because I have found myself missing writing more and more lately. I find writing therapeutic to help me process through so many things.

One of those things that I have been processing and mulling over for months now is the topic of busyness, of which I am the queen. I like to jam-pack my schedule full of activities so not a moment is spared in my day. I have made this a habit for years — truly ever since I can remember, I have been saying yes to things left and right. Eventually I hit some sort of breaking point, where I think I will not keep doing this, but somehow I continue to do it again and again. This time around though, I had had enough with my overbooked schedule. I was at an unhealthy stress level, and I wanted to get to root behind why it is that I do this to myself. Why do I say YES to everything?

As y’all know, I love to read (and even reading has had to take a second fiddle recently — ugh!). It just so happens that one of the books I read recently really convicted my heart about this issue of busyness. In Tim Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, he comments on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7 and how not to be a self-loving or self-hating person, but a self-forgetful one instead. There were so many convicting passages in this book that gave me insight into why I pride myself on busyness. Here are a few:

“In his book Sickness Unto Death, Søren Kierkegaard says, it is the normal state of the human heart to try to build its identity around something besides God. Spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God…[The normal human ego] searches for something that will give it a sense of worth, a sense of specialness and a sense of purpose and build itself on that.” (14-15)

“Doing all kinds of things, not for the pleasure of doing them, but because we are trying to put together an impressive curriculum vitae. By comparing ourselves to other people and trying to make ourselves look better than others, we are boasting. Trying to recommend ourselves, trying to create a self-esteem résumé because we are desperate to fill our sense of inadequacy and emptiness.” (20)

By filling my life with activities and “things,” I am trying to find my self-worth in life other than God. I am trying to find it in my job, in my volunteer work, in how many Bible studies I can do and the knowledge I am gaining by doing them, in being a good friend and girlfriend. I am trying to find my identity in basically everything other than God. And I’m boasting in all my activities, in how much I can do, to fill this sense of inadequacy and emptiness I feel by finding my identity outside of God.

But let’s face it, I fail every day at being the best worker, the best girlfriend, the best friend, the best blogger. I fail at giving my Bible study homework 100% of my attention, having the cleanest house, having a fun-filled life. By trying to do it all, I am failing to do give my full attention to anything and not trusting God to fulfill my sense of self-worth.

So I’ve gleaned a couple takeaways from this:

First and most important, I am nothing apart from Christ. No activity, role, responsibility is going to give me worth apart from God alone.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 10:17)

He alone is my portion and my cup (Psalm 16:5). He gives my life meaning. I don’t need activities to fulfill me or give me a sense of purpose or meaning. My life has meaning and worth because God sacrificed his Son on the cross for my life. There is no other meaning, no other purpose I need outside of that amazing truth!

Once I am able to remind myself that God alone is my justifier, I need to evaluate what it is that I am filling my time with — what activities are most important? And not only most important, what activities/roles do I feel like the Lord is calling me to?

I read another book recently called The Best Yes. In that book, the author encourages you to find the thing, the passion, you feel the Lord is calling you to and really commit to it 100%. She encourages and challenges you to say no to other “good things” in order to give your BEST yes to what the Lord is calling you to.

This was particularly convicting to me as I have a tendency to fill my life with “good yes’s,” while sacrificing my best yes because I have too many other seemingly good things happening. I need to narrow my focus to having a few things I can give my best to and be obedient to what God is calling me to do.

This season has had a lot of teaching moments, but my schedule and busyness has definitely been the biggest one. Having a new(ish) role in my life (being a good girlfriend) has come with a lot of challenges because my focus and priorities have had to change from when I was single. It has taken a lot of trial and error (mostly error it seems) and patience from P (thank you, P!!), but I think I’m finally figuring out how to have a more manageable schedule and give my best effort to each commitment. There are going to be some “no’s” coming up to some great things, but I know that the sacrifice is going to be worth it so my “yes’s” are going to the most important things, one of those being my blog.

All that to say, friends, I’m back. This blog means so much to me as I hope it does to you. I pray that the Lord would continue to use it to speak truth into my own heart and yours. He is refining me one day at a time, and I’m so thankful he is.

Kristin’s Story: National Kidney Month

Today, I am sharing a story that is near and dear to my heart because it is from my best friend, Kristin (who I’ve been bugging to “guest post” for months!).

We met as Theta sisters at TCU and have been inseparable ever since! So inseparable in fact that we have actually been working at the same ad agency for over three years now since moving to Dallas. She is someone who has been by my side through all of life’s ups and downs both in college and after graduation. I’m so grateful for her continued friendship over the years! And I’m excited that she agreed to share her story with us today!

Here’s Kristin:

I’m not the type of person that cries at work. I think it’s pretty unprofessional. That’s why when I found myself crying in a conference room a little over two years ago I wasn’t prepared.

Being that I live in Texas, I was unprepared for the visits home. At first, it was easier to be in denial — my dad seemed fine when we talked on the phone and just a little more tired when I saw him. But the slow decline in his physical and mental capacity was brought much more into focus because I wasn’t with him everyday. When he began peritoneal dialysis at home it was apparent that no matter if I was prepared or unprepared, my dad was dying. Realizing that it may take years to receive an organ from the National Organ Transplant List my parents started sharing their situation with family and good friends hopeful that someone may be a “match” and consider making the ultimate sacrifice as a live donor; they never asked me. But I didn’t need to be asked. I got tested.

dad old

I cried at work because I was a match. While not “perfect” meeting only four out of the six criteria, it was good enough to be a donor. I was unprepared for the overwhelming feeling that I would finally be able to give back to someone that has given me so much in life — has given me life.

Shortly after my test came through, we got a separate call saying there was a rare six out of six match for him, and since it was “perfect” he was the recipient of a kidney! But there may be a time in the future where my dad will need a kidney, and I will give it to him — without a doubt. I think this is why God gave me two kidneys anyway. So take it; I don’t need both, but you can’t take my Dad — there’s only one of those.IMG_6213

National Kidney Month ends today (the whole month of March). Friends, 26 million Americans are living with kidney disease and another 73 million are at risk. Those numbers are astounding!

Kristin, her dad and the rest of her family are raising money and participating in a kidney walk to help fight kidney disease. If you would like to donate to her team, please click here. Any donation amount helps!

When you donate to the National Kidney Foundation you are joining the fight against kidney disease by:

  • Raising public awareness about kidney disease and risk reduction.
  • Providing free local health screenings.
  • Supporting kidney patients, organ donors and their families.
  • Advocating in Washington, D.C. for government action on the organ donor shortage, funding kidney research and defending Medicare coverage.
  • Educating doctors and other healthcare professionals with the best information in the field. Last year, 64,500 healthcare professionals were kept up to date through NKF’s Kidney Learning Solutions.

Thank you, Kristin for sharing your story! And we are so glad that your dad is doing so well with his new kidney!!

To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat

chicken

First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to me regarding last week’s post. To be honest, it was really hard for me to write and talk about some of those things, but hearing all of your feedback and support made it so worth it. Part of the reason I started this blog was to talk about my struggles with a healthy body image.

Several years ago (before I started blogging), I stumbled upon a blogger who openly shared about her struggles with an eating disorder. Her openness and vulnerability inspired me to want to be more open about my own issues in hopes that not only others could relate and know they were not alone, but that we would combat these negative thoughts together.

Satan wants us to keep all of our sin struggles to ourself. He doesn’t want us to be authentic and vulnerable with others and God because he knows we are set free when we confess our shortcomings.

Two passages on this topic come to mind:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

So if you are struggling with a healthy body image or an eating disorder, talk to someone. Don’t give Satan the power by keeping it to yourself. I hope to continue to write about eating issues and share my journey to finding freedom from my struggles.

But now onto the real topic of discussion for today: my transition to eating meat (only chicken so far) and what I think this will look like in the future.

I knew about a month or so ago that I wanted to surprise P for Valentine’s Day with barbecue chicken. He LOVES barbecue, but we have not been able to eat it together since we’ve been dating because barbecue restaurants rarely have anything vegetarian to eat (except maybe a baked potato and cole slaw). So I thought the ultimate surprise would be to not only make his favorite kind of food but eat meat all at the same time!

But there was no way though that my stomach was going to be able to handle barbecue chicken at the first go around, so I spent a couple weeks prepping myself to get there, mentally and physically. I had also never cooked chicken before, so that was something I needed to do some research on.

Prior to going to the grocery store, I did research to learn about Whole Foods meat grading scale and where the chicken comes from at my local Whole Foods. Once I had confirmed that the chicken was hormone-free and antibiotic-free, I was ready to try it. I asked the butcher for only half of a breast (got to start somewhere) and after a confused glance or two, he eventually obliged.

In my research I had also found this AMAZING tutorial on how to cook chicken. And when I went to cook the chicken, it turned out perfectly the first time! (This was a miracle in and of itself.) I seasoned my chicken with a little olive oil and lemon pepper (the same way I cook most of my fish), but only ate half of the half breast because I was concerned it wouldn’t sit well the first time. But I felt find the rest of the night and the next day when I ate the rest of it for lunch. (This was a good sign!)

2016-01-20 19.37.38
the first chicken meal
Two weeks later, I tried chicken again and upped the intake to half a breast per meal, seasoned and cooked the same way. And again I felt fine after eating it. So after this second experience, I decided I was ready to make and eat the barbecue chicken.

I found this recipe for barbecue chicken “burgers” and was especially drawn to it because I could throw all the ingredients into the crockpot and not have to worry about it. The recipe suggested eating the “burgers” with guacamole and shredded cheese, so I did exactly that. I also made some roasted okra (P’s favorite) and bought sweet potato tortilla chips at Whole Foods (these were a BIG hit!).

2016-02-12 19.57.03
chicken burger, okra and sweet potato tortilla chips
Despite my nerves, everything turned out great and his reaction was priceless! I wish I could have gotten it on camera because he nearly cried. Yes, cried! He was so excited! And he LOVED the food as well. It couldn’t have gone any better.

2016-02-12 19.56.59
he was so surprised!
I felt totally fine after eating the barbecue chicken the first time, but when I tried eating some of the leftovers the next day, that didn’t sit as well. I think moderation is key, and I overdid it by trying to eat the two meals so close together.

Overall, I would say it was a very successful surprise! It was something that I know meant a lot to P, so I’m glad I did it.

But there were (and still are) some mixed emotions after, only because I feel like I have failed at being a vegetarian. This is completely irrational thinking, considering I was a vegetarian for 5 and a half years (and you can’t really “fail” at being a vegetarian), but I can’t get the thoughts out of my head.

So what does this mean moving forward? Am I a meat-eater? A part-time vegetarian? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s been hard to label, and I frankly don’t want to put a label on it. I have a tendency to do things ALL or NOTHING, 0 or 100, so this type of restriction I don’t think is good for my personality type.

I like the idea of eating what makes sense in each situation. For me, I think this looks like still eating mostly vegetarian or pescatarian. I love eating a lot of fruits, vegetables and whole-grains for my meals. But I think sometimes there will be moments where eating chicken or some type of meat is my only option and instead of eating nothing (which I have done), eating the meat is the better route to go.

I’ll update y’all as I go along because this is a journey, and I’m not sure where it’s taking me right now. In the meantime, thank you for your support, love and encouragement! It means the world to me.

The Year of the Chicken

chicken

This past weekend I had chicken for the first time in five and a half years. Well, technically that’s only partially true because I first tried it a couple weeks ago, so that I could get my stomach ready for the “big reveal,” but you get the point.

I’ve been a vegetarian for five and a half years. And I love being a vegetarian. After all I had a Vegeversary Party to celebrate five years of it! I also cook lots of vegetarian dishes (several of which I have shared: here, here and here). Part of what defines me is being a vegetarian. So why change? Why eat chicken?

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was thinking about eating meat again, that I was calling this the “year of the chicken.” When I first became a vegetarian, I always knew that I would eventually start eating meat again. I never thought it would be a forever lifestyle, mostly because I didn’t think it would be sustainable with a husband and family. But having been single for most of my twenties (with a few short-term boyfriends here and there), I never saw a reason to start eating meat again since I was usually only cooking for myself. So five and a half years later, here I am.

When I started dating P, I told him all of this. And although being a vegetarian was (and I quote) “not his favorite thing about me,” he accepted it in hopes that someday I would eat meat again (someday being sooner rather than later). It wasn’t a big deal. He ate everything I made (vegetarian or not). He would almost always have me choose restaurants, so that I wouldn’t have issues finding something. And when in the rare occurrence, he would pick, he would look up the menus and find a few things for me just so I had some options (he’s the sweetest, right??).

Hear me when I say, I did not start eating meat again solely for my boyfriend. He definitely played a significant part in the decision, particularly in speeding up the timing of when I did it, but there’s so much more to it.

Another big contributing factor was the annoyance of it in social situations. (I talked a little bit about this in my Thanksgiving post.) Whenever you go to someone’s house for dinner or you go to a nice restaurant, there are times when being vegetarian is not feasible. I remember several instances where the only thing I could eat at a party was a dinner roll and some cheese or even restaurants that I had to make a meal out of random sides. And when we went to Colorado over New Year’s, there was literally nothing I could eat in the house for breakfast or dinner. Everything had meat in it.

And you don’t want to be the person that picks through their food or rudely rejects a dish that someone prepared. You don’t want to be difficult every time you go out to eat. You don’t want it to be a big deal, but sometimes it is. So when I stumbled across this TED talk a couple months ago, the speaker’s points sparked my interest. I had never thought about being a vegetarian part-time because for me, it was always all or nothing. But his argument made me think a little differently.

And that’s not all. Health-wise, I think I used being vegetarian as a crutch in a lot of instances. I used it as a way to be restrictive in my eating without being “suspicious” of having disordered eating patterns. There were many times where I wasn’t eating properly, not getting enough protein, not getting enough calories, and I justified it in my head because of the “diet” I was on.

Now, do I think that being a vegetarian for five and half years was a cover up for an eating disorder? Not all the time, no. I know I had pure intentions to start and continued to have pure intentions for most of the time I was a vegetarian. With that said though, if I’m being brutally honest, I know at least part of the reason I stayed a vegetarian for so long was because I feared eating meat again. I feared gaining weight.

Even typing this now, I feel so silly saying that. Who fears chicken because they think they will gain weight? I know how irrational I sound, but it’s how I felt, how I still feel as I venture into new territory.

So with all those reasons in hand, I decided this was the year. I knew it would please at least my mom and my boyfriend. I knew it would give me more flexibility in social situations. And I knew I needed to get over my irrational fear of gaining weight. It was time.

Next week I’ll share how I handled the transition (those first couple meals) and what I think my diet will look like moving forward.

Back to the Basics: Part Two

photo-1440999189875-aec750e026f4

In part one, I wrote about how this year I am focusing on getting back to the basics of life in terms of my health, decluttering and time. In part two, though, I want to focus more specifically on getting back to the basics of faith. What does it mean to be a Christian? What causes us to lose sight of what our faith is about?

First and foremost, being a Christian at its most basic level means being a follower of Christ. You believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross paid the penalty for your sins completely. So nothing you do can “get” you into Heaven.

God’s gift of salvation is just that — it’s a gift. You cannot earn it. But you can accept this gift completely and sufficiently as a payment for your sins. 

OK, I need to pause because WOW! Praise God for this wonderful gift. Praise God that we do NOT earn our salvation. Praise God that he accepts me as a sinner and washes me completely from my sin because of His Son’s blood.

..He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit… (Titus 3:5)

So having received this gift of salvation, we live to worship God out of gratitude, humility and love.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1)

It’s as simple as that right? Just be a living sacrifice. No explanation needed. Well, wait. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? What does it mean to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27)?

I think it can be summarized well with this verse:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Overall, this looks like getting in the Word and in prayer every day in order to spend time with God (John 15:5). This looks like loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39) and serving others well (Mark 10:45). This looks like fleeing from sins that entangle you and pursuing righteous (Hebrews 12:1-2). This is the big picture.

But sometimes we can get into the nitty gritty details about specifically what Christian living looks like in various areas and disagree.

Person A thinks reading a lot Christian books is necessary (I may or may not be in this camp…haha). Person B thinks listening to secular music is wrong. Person C thinks only holding hands is appropriate while dating. Person D thinks and so on and so on.

I fear that when we get into these conversations, when we disagree and can’t find common ground on things that are so minimal, we are missing the common ground we do have. We are missing the Gospel. We are missing what this whole thing is about. We need to back “home” (or paragraph 2 of this post). We need to be reminded of the grace God has extended to us and look at the bigger picture. If we don’t, the enemy has us right where he wants us: distracted, divided and disheartened.

So this year, let’s all make it our mission to remember the Gospel in every conversation. Remember it when we agree, disagree, correct, love, rebuke and spur one another on. With the hope that these disagreements will be minimal because we remember that we are all playing on the same team.

Back to the Basics: Part One

unsplash treesThe best way I can describe 2016 in the 20 days we’ve had so far is like drinking out of a firehose. It’s funny because I have always thought of January as a sleepy month, a month where you’re getting over the post-holiday blues and getting back into the swing of things. But not this year.

And I truly can’t complain. The activities and events that have filled my calendar so far have been fun, rewarding and beneficial. I love all of the different things I have going on in my life right now. But that doesn’t deter from the fact that I need a regroup. I need to evaluate priorities again and get rid of the “clutter.”

My new year’s resolutions were mostly about my faith. And that is purposeful because it is the biggest area I want to see growth over the next year. But after reading so many inspiring posts and articles these past few weeks, I’ve been inspired to take the approach I’m taking with my faith to all areas of my life. So this is going to be a “back to the basics” year.

This plays out in several ways, but mostly boils down to de-cluttering, to getting rid of things in my life that are meaningless so that I can make time for the things that are important. This is a lesson I’m trying to learn and re-learn.

Last year, I got really hung up on the details, the little things in life that in the grand scheme of things weren’t the most important. I over-extended myself into so many different areas that I wasn’t able to focus on the things that mean the most to me. This year, I can’t promise that I won’t over-extend myself (because who am I kidding?!), but I am going to promise to not spend so much time in the details and non-critical, non-important things of life.

P makes fun of me with this because I have a never-ending to do list filled with mostly menial tasks that I have a really hard time prioritizing. He always asks me what’s on my “must do” list instead. Hilarious, thanks P. but that is what this year is going to be about. Tackling my “must do’s” so that I don’t sacrifice the “basics” of life.

As best as I could categorize, here is where I see this playing out:

Health

I need to get more sleep PERIOD. I need to make it a priority to be in bed at 10 during the week no matter what. How can I expect to be productive and effective without a good night’s sleep?

I also need to drink more water. I spend so much time and energy on my diet and eating healthy it blows my mind that something as easy as drinking water is difficult for me. Although I’m not making it a resolution like last year, I need to make a point to be drinking more water.

I’ve been calling this the “year of the chicken.” There are several reasons why I’m going to be looking into adding meat back into my life (but we will save those for another post). I want to re-look at the dietary choices I’m making and evaluate what I think is most healthy for me in this season.

Finally, I want to get back to cooking more regularly and cooking different things. Because of my 2014 resolution, I have a few go-to’s that I always make. But I want to expand my horizons this year and get back into cooking new things. How are you going to learn if you don’t try, right?

De-cluttering

I need to de-clutter. Mind you, my house would not be categorized as cluttered. I clean out my closet and things at least once or twice a year. Everything is always picked up and clean. But after reading so many articles about a minimalistic wardrobe and de-cluttering your house, I want to re-look at this again. Plus, it’s good to have a good clean-out every now and then.

And on that note, I just bought Marie Kondo’s book and can’t wait to dive into it. I’ve heard such wonderful things about it and hope to incorporate some of her de-cluttering concepts, which I know will translate themselves to all areas of my life.

Time

Time is the ultimate enemy for me. I never seem to have enough time to do everything I want to do. This year, I really need to hone in on where I’m spending my time. How can I manage those 5-10 minute pockets of downtime better and not scroll through my Instagram feed for the 100th time that day? How can I make the most of my time while remaining flexible and free for some spontaneity too? How can I make time for the things that matter the most to me? These are all questions I need to process through and evaluate.

I also want to make more time for reading. During the first half of last year, I was reading about three books a month and loving it. But during the back half, I was lucky to read one book a month. Now there are a number of factors for this (looking at you, P), but hopefully I can make it a priority to make more time for it. After all, there are so many benefits to reading.

And lastly my blog. Writing and sharing what’s on my heart has been such a joy for me this past year and a half. There are so many ideas floating around in my head that I would love to write and execute on, but time always seems to get in my way. I hope to find a better way to schedule time for writing this year because writing and using my creativity to come up with post ideas have become a favorite outlet of mine.

Now this is not meant to be another round of resolutions. Good grief, I don’t think adding resolutions would help get “back to the basics,” do you? This list is however a reminder to myself of the areas where I wasn’t successful last year and where I want see growth in 2016. So hopefully on December 31, 2016, I will be able to look back and say I successfully got back to basics and formed healthy habits again.

Part two will be coming your way shortly. And for that part, I want to focus on my faith. Stay tuned.

Links I Love: Resolution Edition

unsplash

We are two weeks into 2016, and I am just now feeling settled from all of my holiday traveling and getting back into my usual routines. I’m starting to make some headway on my own resolutions, and have been inspired to make a few additional small goals for 2016. It already feels like it’s going to be a great year!

Have you noticed all of the great articles on resolution making and keeping that have been floating around the internet? I sure have and couldn’t help but share a few of my favorites! I categorized them in case you were looking for something specific, but if not they are all worthy of a good read!

Making & Keeping Resolutions

  1. 7 tips for keeping your resolutions (Camille Styles)
  2. Advice from a former Twitter exec on reaching your goals (Relevant Magazine)
  3. Bringing balance to your resolutions (The New Potato)
  4. Making a resolution that actually sticks (Relevant Magazine)
  5. The guidelines I use for making a resolution 

Health Resolutions

  1. 3 reasons to get more sleep — this was a convicting read for me! (Desiring God)
  2. 10 ways to actually stick with your “healthy eating” resolution (The Everygirl)
  3. A good perspective on factors that influence our relationship with food (Cupcakes and Cashmere)
  4. 3 damaging lies that women believe about their body (The Chalkboard)
  5. How to be more positive (The New Potato)

Life Resolutions

  1. How to stay organized at life (Camille Styles)
  2. 4 ways to practice the Sabbath this year (Relevant Magazine)
  3. How to find more time for reading books & a 2016 reading challenge (The Everygirl)
  4. One blogger’s goals for 2016 & the books she chose to correspond with those goals — LOVE that idea! (Natalie Metrejean)
  5. 26 small things you can start doing right now (Thought Catalog)
  6. My tips for making the most of your mornings

Faith Resolutions

  1. A place to start when you’re feeling spiritually stuck (Desiring God)
  2. The one book you must read this year (Desiring God)
  3. 12 promises to keep you motivated in your Bible reading (Desiring God)
  4. Tips on reading your Bible (Desiring God)
  5. My tips for memorizing Scripture & sharing your faith 

What are you resolutions for 2016? I would love to know!

My 2016 New Year’s Resolutions

QoR8Bv1S2SEqH6UcSJCA_Tea

Happy New Year y’all!

This year’s resolutions are all about getting back to the basics. This will be the last time I say this (I promise!), but last year was hard. There were a number of reasons and factors that contributed to that, but excuses aside I did not do a good job of getting in the Word and in prayer as consistently and fervently as I had in years past. This year, I am determined to get back to the basics in order to grow in grace and truth.

In particular, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the spiritual disciplines book I read last year. There were so many nuggets of truth that I gleaned from it that I wanted to think through how to put it all into practice. But in order to not overwhelm myself with twelve resolutions as I have done in the past, I decided to focus on the four “Inward Disciplines” (as Richard Foster calls them in the book). They are meditation, prayer, study and fasting.

Foster says, “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us” (7).

I love this. God wants to transform us to be more like himself and one way he can do this is by us focusing on our spiritual disciplines. It’s like disciplining yourself for a marathon. Sure, you don’t have to do it. But your stamina, running abilities and body will suffer if you don’t train and discipline yourself for the actual race. This is the same with our walk with God. We need to discipline and train ourselves so that we will be able to run fervently no matter what is thrown our way.

So with all that said, here are my resolutions for each of the four inward disciplines this year:

Meditation

Thomas á Kempis called meditation “a familiar friendship with Jesus.” Unlike Eastern meditation that attempts to empty the mind, Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind, “to create and inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves to God freely” (21). There are not necessarily particular steps to “practice” meditation, rather it is a way of life.

In order for me to be successful in keeping my resolution though, I need to take an actionable step in order to incorporate meditation into my daily quiet time. Each day, I am going to find a verse that I feel like the LORD wants me to focus on. I might need to marinate on this verse for weeks or maybe only a couple days — I’m not going to set a specific time limit. It should a verse that the LORD has been using to tug at my heart.

I saw evidence of this happening with Joel 2:13 at various points throughout 2015. Because the LORD kept placing that verse in my life, it allowed me to think about it a lot and soak in its truth. I’m hoping that mediating before prayer will help me to get more out of my quiet time because I have prepared my heart for communicating with God and have spent time thinking about his Word.

Thomas Watson says, “The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fires of meditation.” Oh, how I can relate to that.

Prayer

I’ve thought of so many ways I could improve upon my prayer life this year, especially after reading so many books on prayer the past couple of years.

First and foremost though, I want to get back to the basics of being prayerful everyday. This means carving out the time necessary in the mornings to pray for an extended period of time. Jesus prayed for extended periods of time all throughout the New Testament (Luke 6:12), so how much more should I be spending ample amounts of time in prayer before beginning my day?

I still find journaling my prayers to be effective because it helps me to focus on what I’m saying and not babble. But I need to spend more time journaling and make sure I am well-rested enough in the mornings to have a fruitful quiet time (a.k.a. not falling asleep). I will keep the journaling in place.

Also, I want my life to be more prayerful and not just something I do every morning. Tim Keller in his book on prayer found that praying in the morning and evening with maybe a brief midday prayer was most helpful for him. I’m going to try to incorporate at least an evening and morning prayer in my own life.

Overall, I want to make sure I am praying no matter what. We have been given such an amazing gift to be able to communicate with the Creator of the heavens and earth, and a lot of times I take that gift for granted. I hope that by the end of the year, I can see growth in my prayer life and therefore growth in my love and affection for God because of the time I was able to spend with him each day.

Study

I’ve always thought of myself as “good” at this spiritual discipline, but unfortunately I think I’ve been selling myself short of what God intended “study” to look like. Instead of fully meditating on Scriptures that I’m reading, I have a tendency to get through as many studies and as much material as possible. Very seldom do I allow myself to marinate on a verse or go through any application steps/questions regarding a particular passage.

John Piper’s Desiring God team has recently put out a series of wonderful articles on this subject (here and here) that really convicted my heart for why this discipline is so important to apply rightly. If we don’t, we become Christians who are just checking a box and getting through our quiet times.

Imagine how frustrating it would be if whenever you talked to a loved one on the phone and shared your thoughts and feelings with them, but they didn’t respond? Were they even listening? Did they hear what you said? Think about this next time you are reading God’s Word. We are to move from reading to meditation to prayer. We need to have the proper response to God’s Word and treat it for how valuable it is. This is something I greatly need to work on this year.

I also want to make sure I am being as consistent as possible in my quiet times. Last year I made a lot more “exceptions” for myself than in years past for why I was “okay” to skip my quiet time for the day. Though there may be times an exception has to be made in the future, it should be an infrequent occurrence.

Fasting

I knew very little about fasting before reading this book let alone putting it into practice. To be clear, fasting is not for vanity or a desire for power. It is not to be used to get God to do what we want. Instead fasting must be centered on God and must be God-ordained and God-initiated.

So my fasting resolution for this year is to try it once, since I’ve never tried it before. I’m not going to force it to happen, but to prayerfully consider what prayer request or decision I need to make this year that would benefit from spending time in fasting and prayer. I’m not even sure what fasting would look like for me yet — whether it’s food, social media, TV, etc. I’ll wait and see how the LORD uses it this year.

I recently purchased a journal that I hope will be helpful in organizing my thoughts for my quiet times. I love this woman’s Instagram feed and had purchased the memory verse card booklet a couple months ago (and love it!). I’m hoping the structure of her journal will help me to meditate, study (take notes) and pray through the Scripture I read this year. I’ll let you know how I like it!

Other resolutions:

  • Read 40 books this year. Setting 52 as the goal last year was a little too ambitious considering I only ended up reading 35. But I have been able to increase my book count by five for the past few years, so I should be on track to meet this goal.
  • Keep my #SomethingNew resolution from last year. I had so much fun doing this last year that I want to keep it going this year. Here’s to trying many more new things and stretching myself to get out of my comfort zone even more.
  • Practice thankfulness. My “word of the year” is thankful, something that I am not good at expressing in the midst of my busyness and selfishness (or focus on my self and my own issues/concerns). So I created a Thankful Jar for the year to write out and keep track of one person, moment or thing I am thankful for each day. The LORD has blessed me with so much to be thankful for. I’m hoping that this small act will give me an attitude of thankfulness throughout the day and all year.