Saturday, 31 December 2016

How do you reflect back on 2016 and set yourself up to start 2017 well?

Do you find yourself slipping into a reflective mode in this week between Christmas and New Year? I do. I booked time by myself to work through Amanda Vivier's New Year Vision book earlier this week as my brain was furiously trying to process through the year that has been and wanting to get organised and look forward to next year. It was feeling like a chaotic process. My mind and soul were desperately trying to make meaning of a year that turned out very different to what I had thought at the start. I had ideas and plans flooding through my brain but in a haphazard way that was not lending itself to pinning down goals or action steps. I was left feeling overwhelmed and at a loss as to where to begin. The dedicated time I set aside was just what I needed. I loved using Amanda's book at the end of last year to focus my scattered thoughts and it was what I needed again this year. 

One aspect of reflection that I have been chewing over this week is what impact my word for 2016 has had. Has "abide" been reflected in my priorities, my everyday life and the big moments too? It would be a lie to say that I have thought on my word every day. As I reflect back over the year, I do see subtle shifts though. Despite huge changes, steps of courage and potentially stressful events, I have sensed a deeper calm and centring than I have been aware of before. I recognise that this peace has come through consistent time with God and seeking his presence in my days. I am far from perfect. I don't pretend to have some miraculous connection with God every day. I am realising more and more how it is the daily obedience, the small shifts, the minor moments that add up to abiding. As I come to the end of 2016, I am not done with the concept of "abide". This will be a life-long pursuit. I was searching for my word for 2017. Would I continue with "abide" or was there something else that God was calling me to focus on?

During my retreat time away, a word came clear to me: "Faithful". I shouldn't have been surprised given that this word has come up repeatedly for me all year in the decision to take on the MOPS State Coordinator role. It is the word that has been on my heart to focus on during centring prayer times. 

I see two parts to this word: a firmer trust in God's faithfulness and being faithful myself to what God has called me to. I am looking forward to diving deeper into this concept this year but am sensing some hard lessons ahead. Growth is often uncomfortable and I choose to embrace that.

My time of retreat has had two overall outcomes. 
I feel ready to start a new year now. My mind and soul don't feel so chaotic. I have a sense of focus for the new year even if I don't have a list of resolutions. 
I have struggled to pull myself out of introvert mode. This is a less desirable outcome but recognising it has allowed me to have grace for myself and my family. Immersing myself in reflection and deep processing is a valuable time but can be hard to shut off for this introvert. I have had to remind myself that other people, especially my daughter and husband, are not intruding or confronting. I am withdrawing. It has taken some effort to stop a spiral down into self-absorption and engage with those around me. This tells me that my soul needs more times of retreat and reflection. The time I have taken for myself has often been more in distraction mode than processing mode. A change to consider for next year.

It may be the last day of 2016, but it is not too late to end this year well and begin the new year in a better headspace. It won't even be too late at the end of next week. Make some reflection time a priority. If you are like me, that will be a retreat by yourself to work through some questions. Maybe you are more of an external processor who needs to book some time with a trusted friend to work things through. Maybe you need to journal, paint, vision board or find a word. Whatever it looks like for you, I encourage you to make it a priority to start your year well.

What have been your reflections on 2016? Do you have a word for 2017? I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Reflections on "now" (a Five Minute Friday post)

Does anyone else find that now is the hardest time to be in? My mind easily lives in the future or past but I struggle to be fully present in this moment. I long for distraction or get caught up in to dos. My daughter is able to immerse herself fully in the moment often. It may not be the now that I want her to be immersed in, such as reading rather than getting dressed . Often it is in the moments of celebration or joy hidden in the mundane. She invites me in to these moments but so often I allow now to be swallowed up by the worries of the future. What is it that feeds my soul now in this moment? What is it that will impact the now but have weighty benefit in the future? Where am I drawing my expectations of the now from? I have always set impossible standards for myself. I have moderated these somewhat but still have lingering voices that want me to measure up to some elusive target. It steals the joy and peace from now. Right now is a season that can be busy and fraught with stress. I give in to that at times but am aiming to change that in my day to day moments. I want to see the glorious in the mundane. I want to treasure the now I have.

This post was inspired by the prompt word from the last Five Minute Friday of 2016. You can read what others made of this word here.

It's not too late to get this free mini-devotional. Only 3 devotions to fit in before Christmas! Click on the image to sign up to receive this.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

It's 10 days until Christmas but it's not too late

Christmas is rushing towards us at a relentless pace. Do you feel calm and organised or are your stress levels reaching a fever pitch? As much as I have had some very stressful moments in this Advent season, I have noticed the difference from spending time in reflection and soul-breathing through the Advent devotional I am using. For me, this has been a continuation of a daily habit and so easier to fit in each day. I know that a daily time can seem completely overwhelming at the best of times, let alone in the busy season leading up to Christmas. 

My heart is to encourage you in this season, as I have been encouraged. Whether you are able to spend 5 minutes a day or even only every few days, you can experience that peace and lightness for your soul. I want to give you the opportunity to engage in that reflection time for yourself without having to go looking or be overwhelmed. I have written a mini Advent devotional exclusively for my readers. It only has 3 entries making it an achievable goal before Christmas. 

Click on the image below to sign up to receive this mini-devotional for free. May your heart be encouraged and filled with peace as you carve out those moments before Christmas.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

What do I crave? (A Five Minute Friday post)

What is it that I crave? I have come to the conclusion that different parts of me crave different and often opposite things. My mind in this season simultaneously craves mindless distraction and stimulation. My soul craves connection, restoration, spiritual direction. My body craves sleep and coffee. My fingers seem to crave a device to fidget with. 
Of all of these cravings, what should I give in to? What do I indulge? Those are often not answers I want to look at too closely. Cravings can be indicative of internal processes. I'm told certain food cravings can indicate mineral or nutrient deficiencies. Craving mindless distraction and rest is a warning sign of too much intensity and the need for a break. And yet indulging every craving is detrimental to my health, physical, mental and emotional. I need to spend more time reflecting on what these cravings are telling me and how I can meet that need in ways that will give long term gain rather than only short term relief. 
The end of term is in sight. Many things in my life start to wind down now. Christmas brings a kind of busyness but not the intensity I have in other seasons. It's time to indulge the right cravings.

This post was written for the Five Minute Friday link up, where a community of writers take the prompt word (crave this week) and write unedited for five minutes flat and share our thoughts with each other. Check out the other contributions here.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

What I learned this Spring

Today is the first day of summer, the first day of many of our Advent activities, the first day of the last month of the year. In the midst of looking forward to the Christmas season, I want to take some time to stop and reflect back on the season that is ending. I am increasingly thinking of my life in terms of seasons, both in terms of weather and seasons of what God is calling me to do. 
Here is what I learned this spring:

  • Momentum only lasts if you keep it up! I am able to achieve a whole month of posts, establish great momentum in my writing and lose it just as quickly. To say I loved writing in the Write 31 Days challenge would not quite be accurate but it did draw on a deep calling within me and that is a good feeling. I believe in what I wrote about and I am in the process of turning that series into a book. Finding the motivation to write has been so difficult since then, though. I find myself writing in fits and starts. This has made sense in this season as writing has not been a high priority. We will see what the next season brings for my writing.

  • I have far more good ideas in my head than I can act on! My to-do list each day vacillates from completely ridiculous in its expectations to almost empty. I have so many ideas and thoughts throughout the day that never come to fruition both from busyness at times and plain forgetfulness and can't-be-botherdness at others. I have to learn how to sift through them more realistically and prioritise more. The lure of easy distractions can be too great at times.

  • I'm going to be a calisthenics mum. My five-year-old daughter was asking to do dance and gymnastics classes. Calisthenics was a great option for including both. She did a four-week trial this term before deciding that she loves it and wants to continue next year. Time will tell if she sticks with it for the long-term, but for now, I will be a calisthenics mum. 

  • Transitioning to a new church campus requires more grieving than anticipated. Our church launched its new campus recently. Most of my friends and my daughter's friends remained at the existing campus. I am struggling to adjust far more than I thought. I anticipated being more excited but right now, I mostly feel sad and not at home yet. I am so glad that we have this campus to impact the community and know I will get to a place of belonging. For now, I am giving myself space and time to grieve and adjust.

  • Leadership sets a fire to my heart. Stepping into a new level of leadership has drawn out a passion for leadership learning in me. I am thriving on learning new things and am passionate about communicating that to other leaders. I feel a tug to call out leadership in others, especially those who don't see it in themselves, just as others have done for me.
This list was deeper than I intended when I first started writing. It is indicative of the season I have come through. Some seasons are light and fluffy. Others are gritty and rough. I will embrace them all as they come.

(If you are still looking for a way to celebrate Advent with your kids, it isn't too late to take advantage of this exclusive discount for Truth in the Tinsel and include a few activities in the coming weeks. Find out more here.)

This post is linking up with Emily P. Freeman