Six ways to insert a fresh start
With my inability to slow down time, each new year continues to emerge much too quickly in my life. My usual new year routine is to transfer annual dates and information from my old 8.5 x 11 month-at-a-glance calendar to my new, empty calendar – this year with a flower print cover. Yes, I have a phone calendar for a quick overview of my schedule, but it takes me too much time to fill in many needed details. I’m just an old-fashioned girl that loves a paper calendar with a big space to write important stuff each day. I write almost everything in pencil, ’cause change happens. If I have a speaking commitment, it is written in red. That helps me monitor my time for preparation and travel.
My goal is to control my calendar, not have my calendar control me.
I have made a practice each year to glance back over the pages of my life from the previous year. There are things that have become just a faded memory, some momentous occasions that are forever remembered with a smile, and then there are always things I want to intentionally rethink and do differently the next year. Let’s just say I don’t want to copy and paste the same habits, patterns of thinking, or attitudes into a new year. I review my actions and my heart, then make every effort to cut the old way of doing and thinking, and reformat to bring about the changes that need to be made. I’m not saying I always get it right, or do it right, but at least I try.
This is where I want to get up close and personal with you. Perhaps, since I may have had a few more calendar years than you, I can pass along some of the things I’ve learned along the way. At least it might encourage you to review last year and think about what you might want to do differently this year.
There isn’t anything that you and God can’t do together. I will often repeat that sentence to myself, sometimes out loud, for the confidence and assurance I need when facing a difficult task. No question about it. Like you, there are times I feel overwhelmed with the craziness and demands of a full and busy life. Sometimes my “difficult” task is just to get through the week! I’ve spent many hours stressing over a situation only to be reminded that God didn’t call me to ministry and then leave me on my own to figure out things I don’t have a clue about. You may be a new mom and don’t know where to begin with taking care of a baby. Perhaps you’ve started a new job with a huge learning curve ahead. You might even be facing a life change that seems insurmountable and you’re not sure you can handle it. God is with you in the trenches of life. You are not alone.
Change is a choice you make. This is where the rubber meets the road, girlfriends. Only God can change you. Only you can change the choices you make. So, got some habits left over from last year that you know in your spirit don’t reflect Christ? Does your attitude stink ’cause you found yourself in a rut in 2017? Do you find yourself thinking more negatively than positively about life because of circumstances beyond your control? You might even have said, “I’m so glad 2017 is over.” Well, it is. So now what? You may not have the choice to change your situation, but you can make the choice to change your focus from your circumstances to a focus on Christ. You can choose to change old habits, how you think, and your attitude, because remember, “There isn’t anything that you and God can’t do together.” Is it easy? Heck no! I struggle daily. Sometimes I take two steps forward, then one step back. But, if I keep my eyes on God instead of me, He changes me, and that will change and influence the choices I make.
Learn from your mistakes. Start Fresh. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results. I made a lot of mistakes last year. Over and over again I scheduled too much in a day or a week. I focused more on checking off my list of to-do’s and less on people I love. Many times I was too busy to remember to sit at the feet of Jesus. I am choosing to start fresh this year and learn not only from my mistakes, but from the consequences of my choices. You might want to get real with yourself too and recognize some of the mistakes you made last year that you don’t want to repeat. I want to remind you that God gives us a clean slate of forgiveness each day. Not only can we learn from our mistakes, but more importantly, we are forgiven for our mistakes. We are free to start over with a new beginning and a fresh start in the new year.
Be intentional. Persevere with purpose. I choose a word each year that I need to work on in my life. For the last two years it has been intentionality. This year it is trust. I practiced being more intentional about staying healthy, exercising, spending one-on-one time with my grandchildren, and developing a deeper prayer life. This year I want to trust God all the more. I want to intentionally let go of what I cannot control and trust God completely to handle all things. It’s interesting how trusting God is something we know to do, yet fall back into trying to help, solve, or fix that which we cannot. What would your word be for this year? Think of some specific ways you want to be more intentional.
Prioritize. If your first priority isn’t spending time with God – praying, reading scripture, and listening to what He’s been trying to tell you – then nothing else really matters that day. I’ve tried it all: squeezing in God between appointments, working Him in at the last minute, and, quite honestly, sometimes just too busy to take time for, and with, Him during the day. Maybe you’ve been there too. Priorities screwed up, too exhausted to even figure out what, or who, is really most important. I’ve learned over the years that nothing, no nothing, trumps God. Your day will fall into place when you place Him first.
Less is more. Having a full calendar isn’t a sign of being fulfilled. I used to think it was. I thought that when each day was filled, I would be happy and fulfilled. Not so. It took years for me to unlearn that belief. As an old commercial once said, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” and indeed I have. Having some unscheduled days on my calendar to spend some quiet, restful time – whatever that might look like – fills my heart and soul.
I challenge you to not copy and paste all your activities from last year to this year. Think less, not more. Less stuff, more of Jesus. Less busyness, more time to become all that God created you to be. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know. (A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh)
Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new.
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness.
Rivers in the desert.