2014 Goals

new year, new goalsAlthough there is nothing Scripturally mandatory about making New Year’s resolutions, there are plenty of verses that encourage us to “consider [our] ways and be wise.”

There are two questions I ask myself especially at this time of the year:

  1. “Would the Lord think I started 2013 strong, lived faithfully, and finished strong?” and
  2. “How does He want all of me this coming year?”

Then I sit down from time to time over the course of three or four days with my Bible, my journal, and a prayerful heart and just listen to the Lord. These are precious times of personal encouragement from God. He strengthens my resolve to live daily in His love and with His love.

Here are a few simple practical ways to start, continue, and end the year strong.

1. Plan your goals according to your roles.

Start by making a list of your roles. Your roles may include some of the following: daughter of the King, wife, mother, church member, teacher, daughter, roommate, fiancé, household manager, friend, sister, student, employer, employee, nursery worker, aunt, grandmother, neighbor, etc.

Now, prioritize your roles in order of greatest importance to least important. Consider that all roles are important to God, but not all roles are created equal.

For instance, my friendship with God must be much dearer and deeper than my friendship with my neighbor. Here’s another example. God expects me to prioritize my role as my husband’s helper over being helpful to a friend from church. Pray over the order of this list, as getting this right according to God”s opinion is key for satisfaction and success.

Now, list three to five tangible goals under each role.

For instance, Role of Mother:

  1. When my kids are doing wrong, I want to use the opportunity to get to the heart of the issue every time I tell my kids to stop.
  2. I want to teach my kids about finances this year.
  3. I want to be available to talk about life with my teenager this year.

Make sure your goal is focused on something you can control. I.e. I cannot make my child get the best grades in the class, but I can dictate that my child does his or her homework properly.

2. Evaluate your goals once a week for the year. This helps you finish as strong as you start!

Pick a place and time weekly to evaluate your goals. My favorite is right after my quiet time with the Lord on Tuesdays. (Moms with young children, think of a plan B. Plan A might be overtaken by chaos!)

Read your list of roles and goals. Pick the roles that need your immediate attention and think of practical ways to carry them out daily. For instance, if your goal under the role of household manager is to serve healthy meals, and you hit McDonalds three times the previous week, consider “why?” You may need to add specific goals for the week such as create a weekly menu, plan out a grocery shopping trip, and designate a food prep time. Maybe your goal as an employee is to show that your faith in Christ is real. Maybe something just came up, and everyone else is complaining. This is a great week to have the goal of smile and write a thank-you note.

We should do all of the above with GOD, by God, and for God. Otherwise, our efforts are vanity. Without God, the best we can do is produce something that makes us feel good or makes a few people think a bit higher of us for a few short moments. What emptiness. Instead of drawing on our own strength, comparing our successes to others”, or waiting for people around to notice our good efforts, let’s “[look] unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” for example, approval, and strength.

Focusing on Christ and eternity will teach us both how to begin and end successfully in the eyes of a God Who is “impossible to please” “without faith.” And noticing the One Who “endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself” will strengthen us to persevere when we feel “faint” or “weary in [our] minds” (Hebrews 12:2-3, 6).

May 2014 be a year of deep satisfaction and true success for each one of us!

–Erica Henry

Hand Over the Pickle Jar

picklejar1Have you have ever given thought to just how much we “depend” on others? Cj (age 3) isn’t strong enough to open the van door. Regan (age 8) thinks her mom can whip together a girlie tea party in a moment’s notice (hors d’oeuvres and ten friends included). And I still go running to my strong husband with a pickle jar!

In life, dependence is a constant reality.

We depend on other PEOPLE all the time, yet somehow we struggle with true dependence on our God! Is it because He isn’t strong? He spins the earth on its axis. Is it because we can’t see Him? We depend on others we can’t see all the time. (Yes, there really is a guy or gal running those systems that control our disconnected web services.) Is it because we don’t believe Him? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Often, we fool ourselves into thinking that we are trusting God while actually making a CHOICE not to believe Him. Our thinking may go something like this: “I’ll cry to God, and maybe, just maybe, He’ll fix this issue, and if He fixes it, then I’ll believe Him.” And what we really mean by this is “maybe, just maybe, He’ll give me what I want, and if He does, and only if He does what I think He should do, then I’ll trust Him.”

What a tragedy! How far our thoughts are from His plans!

In such a state of thinking, we’ve forgotten that God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Amazingly, while God’s ways are vastly different from our ways, God Himself does not desire to keep us at a distance. In the same passage He invites us to “seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

God knows that His plans–though different from our ideas, actually work much more to our advantage. He has a better, higher alternative for our “difficult circumstances” even if it isn’t the same as our idea of “better.” Despite the disparity, we need to choose to believe His “better” version. When God doesn’t seem to answer us, there still really is an answer—just a better one.

When I hand my husband the pickle jar, I don’t demand how he opens it. His opening technique may include running the lid under hot water or banging on it a few times. Instead, I’m confidently awaiting that crunchy, pungent pickle! How often in our lives, we get focused on God’s seemingly “rough” methods, forgetting to fix our hearts on Him who never leaves a job undone or done unwell. Worse yet, often we won’t even pass off that pickle jar, but grunt and groan in a futile wrestling match with the lid, only to wind up with a sore hand and—still—no pickle.

Oh, sweet friend, how about we remember today that “God gives us the grace we need, not necessarily the answer we want,” and pass on that “pickle jar.” Let’s stop demanding that He fix our issues without using hot water and a little banging. Let’s jump in together and simply rely on Him!

“Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Psalm 62:8)