It’s a new year people! The holidays have waned, the ball has dropped, our Christmas tree is almost dead and must go soon (however I’m holding on as long as I can), and somehow the date is now 2012. Can it be?
When it comes to new years resolutions, i’m about as good as the rest of America- meaning my resolutions usually last all of….let’s say….one week. Two if I’m lucky. But this year (after one of the craziest and intense of my life), my heart and mind have been nudging me into a new mindset. Instead of making a list of unrelated items associated with compartmentalized portions of my life, I felt like I needed to mentally ask myself where my life was going, and if I wanted it to be going that way. Had I made decisions this past year that blew me off course, and was I willing to take steps to put me back on track?
With all the willpower I could muster, I began praying and asking the Lord to guide my steps for 2012. Over and over again, I heard the Lord speaking the words “simplicity and kingdom” over me. And to be honest, the more i’ve thought about it, the more i’ve realized these two truths simply go together.
With some deep introspection, my magnifying glass upon this last year yielded some signs that indeed I was not going in the direction I desired my life to be about. I felt “busy” all the time, I was constantly over analyzing my decisions for the wedding, and heaped enormous expectations on people (including myself). In one way or another, I began to lose sight of the only treasure that really matters, and that is Jesus.
So with this New Years, I prayed about how to allow God to steer me back on the path of his grace and freedom. The quote from William Law that I spoke of last post has helped guide me “If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, in will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.” I deeply desire God first, and so with that I began to ask the Lord to help shed any obstacle hindering this heartbeat.
Now before I share my hopeful shapings of this year, I have a confession to make. I adore the Amish. If it was possible to have a crush on a “people group” I would have a major crush on the Amish. And here’s why. They are courageous in the way they live. Their value on community, simplicity, economy and modesty, wrapped up in a reverent and honest love of the Lord, allow them a joy and freedom scarce found in our society. Yes, it is true that they do not use electricity, cars, cell phones, or God forbid….the internet, and we might ascertain that they are missing out on not only convenience but connection. How horrible it seems for us to imagine life without technology. And yet, I believe it is exactly their sacrifice that allows them to live full and relational lives.
The point is, I believe true life, abundant life, is often found in sacrifice. Cleaning the deepest facets of our life to bring God and others to the forefront. Time to connect, face to face, time to raise a barn together like the Amish and build relationships of healthy interdependence. God created Adam in his perfect image, and then knew that his perfect plan was for Adam to be in community, so created Eve. Community is God’s perfect plan from the beginning. For me to be fully present, I had to make some sacrifices that in the short term may be hard, but in the long haul are God’s perfect treasures:) I’m sure in the moment the Amish farmer may have wished he had the technology to build his barn in a day, but the blood sweat and tears that sustains him as he labors side by side his friends binds the friendships and the mutual feelings of accomplishment that last a lifetime. I want to invest in the eternal, I want my actions and choices to be those that last a lifetime:)
So, while I haven’t donned a bonnet or bought a horse and buggy, I am working on making decisions out of sacrifice that lead me deeper into the heart of God. Here are a few “mind-set shifts” that i’m beginning this year:
– Going part-time: For the past 3 years I’ve worked full time at Empowering Lives International. I’ve loved my job, working to make an impact in East Africa. About 6 months ago, I felt a strong desire to go part time, in an effort to create more space to commune with others. I deeply desire to build a home for my husband and I, and to be available for spontaneous outings with friends, family and even God. I long for times of reading, and resting, and opening my heart and soul. Society may tell me that it isn’t financially smart to go part-time right now, that I should be working and saving up money. But Jesus said “you cannot serve both God and money” and if my ultimate goal is pleasing him, and I feel He is calling me in that direction, I will follow, and pursue his eternal plans for Kingdom living. Fresh winds, and I’m excited:)
– Going off facebook: This one may seem trivial, but I found that often I spent too much time just mindlessly scrolling through the newsfeed. And when I really thought about it, I realized that I was not “truly” connecting with someone when I looked through their pictures. I want to be intentional about reaching out to people in person, to hear their voice on the phone, or to make a special visit to see them face to face, or send a hand written card letting them know i’m thinking of them. In no way do I condemn social media, but I think it’s easy to lose sight of what it really means to have a deep connection with someone, a bonding of heart to heart. So I hope to be more intentional with all of you this year:)
-Reading biographies: Reading can open up worlds, ideas, and inspiration. I believe personal story and testimony is so valuable, and I long to be encouraged by the lives of others. This past year I spent time reading biographies on Hudson Taylor and Corrie Ten Boom, and it changed my life and perception of faith. Their stories moved my soul. My Grandma (who was a missionary for over 30 years in Southeast Asia) are planning to read biographies together this year. We are starting with the biography of Amy Carmichael, and i’m really excited! More on that to come!
-Praying for the world in a year: Kevin and I found this incredible book called “Operation World” that has every country listed in it, complete with prayer requests and information about each country. I printed out a list of all the countries in the world, and cut them up, and put them into a special box I deco-pauged. Every night we take turns picking out a country. Already we are learning SO much about random countries we didn’t even know existed, and feel so stoked that we get to pray into being something that might not have happened if we didn’t pray. I love that God hears our prayers, and honors them.
-Perspectives Class: Last year, while Kevin was in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to take the Perspectives class. If you’ve never taken it, or have never heard of it, all I can say is…you are missing out big time. It was the most incredible class ever. It’s nation wide and is offered every spring and fall in various locations. It walks through the world christian movement, and is both incredibly moving, interesting and challenging. They fly in qualified dynamic speakers who have experience all over the world. Kevin and I feel called to reach the nations for Christ, whether here or abroad, and we are looking forward to taking it as a couple this spring. If anyone in the OC wants to take it with us, we are starting next week, so let me know:) We are ready to be challenged and grow in new ways in our knowledge of what God is doing worldwide!
–Dinner Dates: Food brings people together, and opens hearts in a very unique way. When we break bread and share a meal together, we are friends and have the ability to speak in to each others lives. I love that. Henri Nouwen (my favorite author) suggests that “Hospitality …is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place…where strangers can enter and discover themselves as created free; free to sing their own song, speak their own languages, dance their own dances; free also to leave and follow their own vocations. Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the life style of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own”. I love this idea, and have found that as a guest of others, I too have been encouraged to be free and live as God created me. Our prayer is that we will be intentional about inviting others over to our home, and that they would feel loved and welcome:)
I suppose I could continue on, but I’m excited about the treasures that this new mind-set shift will bring. I’m looking forward to having more time, to being intentional, and to times of introspection and great learning. And I’m excited to journey with all of you:)
Much much love…