Tackling the New Year with Intentionality

It is 2020! Does that sound futuristic to anyone besides me?

I’m already getting asked if I’m making New Year’s Resolutions. So here are some posts from me and others on how to tackle the New Year intentionally.

Reflect on the Past Year
Look at your journals, sermon notes, the Scriptures you’ve read, and the songs you’ve downloaded or listened to on YouTube. Reflect on any common themes, or repeated verses.

Focus Roles
I started talking about creating focus roles rather than resolutions end of 2010, where I shared about my “breakout year” and how you too could have one. This post includes making “SMART” goals.

In 2012, I shared more about this concept as well as my focus roles for the year and created goals around that.
Creating Focus Roles
My Focus Roles for 2012
Why Make Goals At All

Psalm of the Year
In 2013, I choose Psalm 25 as my “Psalm for the Year,” and basically studied that for the year.

God’s Character
In 2014, I wrote this post “Wherever You Go, There You are” where I shared about shifting our focus from the “Change Your _____, Change Your Life!” game to “Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life” where we focus on who He is in order to become who He created us to be.

On October 8, 2014, I had a baby (my Jordan River Assignment) who had developmental delays and well, I kind of stopped thinking about much else 🙂 As you could tell by my sporadic blogging for several years!

Song for the Year
In 2017, I chose a song for the year, focusing on the theme of “Make My Life a Prayer To You.”

Word of the Year
The past several years, I’ve chosen a “word” of the year, something I feel summarizes what I need to work on or what area of my life God is currently speaking to me about. I honestly don’t know where I heard about it, but Crystal Paine talks about it a lot.

My word for 2018 was “present” as I strived, with God’s help, to simply stay present with my kids. I also read the whole Bible that year.
My word for 2019 (well, 2 words) was unstuck/beloved. It was also a year of digging deep into God’s Word, as well as working on improving my health after being diagnosed with a chronic (but not life-threatening) condition.

Here is a post from end of 2018 about why you should choose a word of the year from Crystal Paine, or an article from elsewhere about 4 Tips on Choosing a Word for the Year. I’m fairly certain I have my word for the year for 2020, which I might share in the future 🙂

So you see there’s a lot of ways to go about being intentional with our time and attention in 2020. Prayerfully consider picking one or several!

An Image from This Church

Freedom Friday: Make The Time

I want to use today’s post to check in about your focus roles and priorities for 2012.

I will share at the end of this post how some of my 2012 goals are progressing. How about you?

As I’ve reflected on past goals I’ve achieved, I’ve been asking myself: why? Why did some goals get ignored? Why were others achieved?

One goal I made back in 2005 was to take a ballet class. I had always wanted to take ballet as a child. I did take some jazz & modern dance, as well as theater dance (tap & jazz) in college. But I just always wanted to see what a ballet class was like.

This was a goal in 2004 as well. I did not achieve it that year. Why? I did not make time for it. Carving out time in an evening when you are a campus missionary and a leader of a non-profit is not easy! But in 2005, I decided it was a priority, and after years of hoping to do this, I made the time. It was a fantastic and affirming experience.

In the book Getting Things Done (one of the books I’m reading this year), author David Allen says “you don’t manage priorities; you have them.”

Those things that are priorities for us, we will make time for.

If you’re a football fan, I bet you had no trouble fitting the past play-off games and this Sunday’s Superbowl into your schedule! If you love to eat, you don’t have any challenges fitting in 3 meals a day, or finding the time to get to your favorite restaurant.

I never really committed to running until two things happened. First, I learned the major exhaustion I was experiencing (that was likely due to something called “adrenal fatigue”) could be greatly helped by regular, vigorous exercise. Second, I needed to maintain a 50 pound weight loss that I had worked hard to achieve.

I made the time for running because I needed to.

My fatigue issues have improved by about 90%. I barely notice it anymore, above and beyond the normal fatigue of a mom whose kids don’t sleep through the night! It is now normal for me to get up at 5 or earlier (today, I was up at 4:36) to meet folks for a run or go solo. I have found I need less sleep when I run regularly. I also not only maintained my weight loss and lost 10 more pounds.

I made the time for running because I decided it was important for me to do so.

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 39:4

Here are some tips on how to make the time you need to achieve your goals.

1. Analyze your current use of time. We all have the same number of hours in the day. All those hours have the same 60 minutes. God calls us to be good stewards of the time He gives us. Try carrying around a notebook for a day. Note what time you get up, and what you do for each 15 minute increment from that point on. Yes, that sounds a bit anal, but just try it. I remember how eye-opening it was when my husband & I started using a virtual envelope system, and I realized how much money we were spending in certain categories. 15 minutes 3 times a day on Facebook is 45 minutes. This exercise will likely be quite enlightening.

2. Prioritize your free time. What did the exercise above show you about your free time? I read recently that most Americans have 3-5 hours of free time a day. It likely doesn’t feel that way to you! Ask yourself from the exercise above: how much time do you spend putzing? On Facebook? Twitter? Your smart phone? Watching TV? Is there forced down time (like your commute) that could be used to accomplish your goals? Some examples of my forced down time is when I’m getting my kids to sleep or hanging out with them on the couch. I can write on my laptop or read a book while they watch a movie. We do not need to schedule every minute. That said, I know I feel better emotionally when I have stopped myself from getting drawn into a black hole of time wasted.

3. Create more time. Get up earlier. Go to bed earlier. Say no to things that you don’t have to say yes to and would rather not be doing. Be careful not to overbook yourself or your kids.

Here’s the status of some of my 2012 goals.
1. Keep my iPhone inbox below 50 emails (that’s 50 total for 5 email addresses).
Check. I have been able to do this every day, including when I was out of town and only had internet access on my phone.

2. Cut out food dyes, corn syrup, dairy & wheat, as well as most pre-packaged, processed foods. Cut down on grains.
Making slow progress here. I brought the boys a treat from my trip: green apple gummy bears! Definitely not food-dye free! I’m doing more cooking and baking grain-free.

3. Run 100 miles per month through the winter. Consider what other races I should do.
4. Run a half marathon at a :30/mile faster pace than my 1st half marathon, which I ran with a 10:08 pace.
I did 120.54 miles in January. Looking into some races. I also ran 13.46 miles (slightly longer than a half marathon) at a 9:19 pace, which is faster than my goal for my next half marathon.

7. Create a 4 week meal plan every month and follow it.

9. Continue daily Bible reading. 2 days a week, get up at running time to read the Bible, pray, journal & be silent.

12. Read & finish 25-30 books in 2012. That’s just over 2 books a month. This includes books I’ve started and not yet finished.
2 books done in January. Check.

I only commented on the goals that I made significant progress on. You can go to my original post to see the ones I’m still working on.

What do you need to make the time for today? What can you make the time for right now, in the next 5 minutes? What is draining time from your day?

Freedom Friday: Remember Your Motivation

In 2011, I wrote a booklet entitled Learning to Walk in Freedom. It’s basically been finished for months, but I needed to sit down and read it all in one sitting to check for continuity and last-minute changes.

One of my goals for 2012 is to finish this booklet and get it published as an eBook. At the end of 2011, I kept putting the booklet aside. I had reviewed the edits from the two folks who gave them to me, and implemented those changes. But I just hadn’t made the time to sit and do the final read-through.

Everything else felt more pressing.

I began to ask myself why I wanted to wrote this booklet. What motivated me to write it in the first place?

Back in October, 2010, my leadership team for the ministry I direct and I all wrote personal purpose statements. Here was mine:

To see the Church & its individuals learn to walk in the fullness of freedom that is available to every believer in & follower of Jesus Christ, finding healing in the context of community, seeing themselves reflected in the image of God and the cross.

It’s still a work in progress, but I would tweak it a bit now to say something more like this:

To see the Church & its individuals learn to walk in the fullness of freedom that is available to every believer in & follower of Jesus Christ, by discovering who God truly is, and who God created them. This is done through study of the Word, through the transformation of the Holy Spirit, and through the healing context of community.

This is what drives me. More than anything, I desire to see people walking in the freedom that Jesus died to give them. This inspires me to write when I’d rather be watching the DVD’s of my favorite show I received for Christmas. It motivates me to get up ridiculously early and study God’s Word, talk to Him, and write about Him.

What motivated you to create your goal? As Michael Hyatt would say, what’s at stake if I don’t finish this goal? What will happen if you don’t reach that goal? What will happen if you do complete the goal?

Are you beginning the race with the end in mind?

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB)

You can apply this principle way beyond goal-setting.

Why did you join that recovery group?
Why do you want to gain some control over that bad habit?
Why did you start counseling?
What initially motivated you to choose this goal in the first place?

Remembering your motivation can also help provide you with a reality check: was my heart in the right place when I chose this goal? Hashing it out with a friend or through writing a pros & cons list can also help you assess what is discouraging you and how to press through that discouragement.

I finished the final final edits of my booklet this week. Now, it simply needs footnotes added and the cover art created.

What goal are you working toward this week? Ask yourself: what is motivating me? What’s at stake?

My Focus Roles, Goals, Dreams & Priorities for 2012

With my youngest at a conference in North Carolina this summer

I’m sharing with you today my focus roles for 2012, and the goals, dreams and priorities that have been born out of those roles.

Focus Roles:
Keeper of my home: Cleaning, Mealplanning, Meal prepping, Decluttering, Organizing, Playing with kids, Homeschooling
Runner/Healthy eater: Improving my running and overall fitness, eating better & more whole foods
Minister/Author, Speaker: Refilling, Writing, Praying, Soaking Up God

Keeper of my home: I’m not a very good housekeeper. I basically do the bare minimum of what needs to be done so the main rooms don’t look like a disaster area. I’ve always blamed this on being a homeschooling mom who works from home and has little kids with food sensitivities (i.e. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, as well as shopping at numerous grocery stores). I’d like to get more organized so I can see what I’m actually able to accomplish.

Runner/Healthy eater: As I stated, I’d like to improve my overall fitness. Also, in an effort to save money this year, I bought some foods that I normally would avoid, due to being highly processed. I have seen the negatives effects of that and am reverting back to a healthier eating plan. This goes hand-in-hand with the first role because this means I will need to do more meal prep and planning.

Minister/Author, Speaker: I’ve noticed when I come home from traveling, both for ministry and personal life, I struggle to get back into our routine. I also wrestle with feeling depleted. I would also like to write more and refine my vision for what God desires of me as a ministry director, author and speaker.

Out of those focus roles, I came up with the following priorities and goals.

1. Spend more time focusing on keeping my home, including interacting with my kids, decluttering, meal-planning and spending wisely.
2. Spend less time on the internet and on my phone. This is my escape, but it’s not necessarily helpful or healthy.
3. Continue running and work on improving overall fitness.
4. Improve family eating habits, cooking more and making whole foods more available, including snacks.

1. Keep my iPhone inbox below 50 emails (that’s 50 total for 5 email addresses).
2. Cut out food dyes, corn syrup, dairy & wheat from our diets (dairy & wheat is just for me since the boys already don’t eat it), as well as most pre-packaged, processed foods. Cut down on grains.
3. Run 100 miles per month through the winter. Consider what other races I should do, including aiming for a new 5K & 10K PR.
4. Run a half marathon at a :30/mile faster pace than my 1st half marathon, which I ran in 2:12:34 with a 10:08 pace.
5. Create a plan for traveling for ministry and family, which includes refilling on both ends of the trip. Figure out what my needs are in that regard.
6. Finish the booklet, “Learning to Walk in Freedom” & publish it.
7. Create a 4 week meal plan every month and follow it.
8. Make a plan for keeping my house tidy and for decluttering.
9. Continue daily Bible reading. 2 days a week, get up at running time to read the Bible, pray, journal & be silent.
10. Consider 1 other type of cardio fitness (a class at a gym or swimming).
11. Strengthen arms & core, specifically to prevent back injuries.
12. Read & finish 25-30 books in 2012. That’s just over 2 books a month. This includes books I’ve started and not yet finished.
13. Incorporate more raw & fermented foods into our diets, as well as broth. Specifically, keep a good supply of dilly green beans and dilly carrots for the kids.
14. Do a study on Mephibosheth.
15. Come up with a short stretching routine for after running.

I’m going to leave them as is without explaining them, but if you have a question, let me know! I will return at least monthly and let you know how it’s going.

Freedom Friday: Are Goals Necessary?

Happy Freedom Friday to all my readers!

I was asked yesterday when I began Freedom Friday. October 29, 2010: What is Freedom, Part 1. We’ve been seeking God and learning to walk in freedom together for over 15 months now!

Freedom Friday is a toddler. Aw 🙂

I’m going to be doing a series of posts to encourage you as you pursue your priorities and goals based on your focus roles for 2012. Today, we’ll be examining whether or not goals are really necessary in the journey toward freedom.

This may seem like an odd question after last week’s post. Here’s why I started pondering this question.

I read something yesterday that was very anti-setting goals called How to Have the Best Year of Your Life (without Setting a Single Goal). The author implies that setting goals is setting yourself up to fail. In fact, he goes so far as to say “Resolutions are pipe dreams, and goals are a waste of time.”

In some ways, I agree.

As I mentioned previously, I have been setting goals for years. Years. Many of them had to do with time management, weight management, health, fitness, and Bible reading. Most years, I didn’t even accomplish half of those goals.

I had to ask myself why? What has been the difference in those years when I did accomplish my goals?

One thing I could agree on with the article was that goals really need to be about developing new disciplines. If the goal alone is what is motivating you, then you may be setting yourself up to fail.

Saying, “I want to lose 50 lbs” is likely not good enough. Why? Why do you want to lose weight? And what disciplines are you planning on developing to accomplish that goal? If this is a recurring goal in your life, what have you done in the past that has worked and what hasn’t worked?

I started running seriously because I lost a significant amount of weight and wanted to keep it off. This was only motivating for a short time. I continued running because I wanted to see how far I could go and how hard I could push myself. I now run not only for the physical exercise, but for the mental clarity I gain while running.

One of my goals for 2012 is to run through the winter (something I’ve never done), even when it’s wicked cold. I hit one level of that goal this week, when it was 8 degrees, feels like -7. I ran 8 miles.

Notice the frost covering my whole head and the icicles on my eyelashes.

Keeping the weight off is not enough of a motivator to drag myself out of bed at 5 AM and run 8 miles in the freezing cold. I do it because I’m headed toward a goal, the goal being not only to train myself to run in the wicked cold, but also to shave 30 seconds off my half-marathon pace.

I frequently discuss having SMART goals. Creating SMART goals gives you a destination to reach and a way to measure whether or not you’ve reached it.

The ironic thing is that many of my goals & priorities this year are not SMART. The ones related to running that I shared here are, but many of the rest (which I will share in a future post) are not. They are not measurable. They cannot be timed. And they really aren’t very specific. Rather, they are focused on making some small adjustments in the way I live and how I spend my time that I hope will have a great impact in refining some areas of my life.

This is where I can agree with the article above about creating new disciplines.

A 2012 goal is to read and complete 25 books. This is a means to an end. The end is not being able to say “I read 25 books”; the end is that I want to spend less time on my computer and my iPhone. I also have a pile of half-finished books I want to complete, as well as a mammoth stack of books I’ve gotten off of Paperback Swap (fantastic resource, by the way!) that I genuinely want to read but have not made the time for.

These two factors together, I have books I want to read and I want to limit my internet time, are both motivators to read those books and create a new discipline of reading regularly, something I’ve struggled with since having kids.

So, are goals necessary? Maybe not for everyone. I like to have priorities to focus on with a few specific goals mixed in. I can’t completely agree that goals are a waste of time, but I can absolutely agree that one way to shape your goals and choose them is by focusing on who you want to become. Creating good, sustainable habits as well as shaping new disciplines that you enjoy is a step in this direction.

On that note, here is a blog post about six keys to achieving big goals from one of my favorite bloggers, Michael Hyatt (I’ve mentioned him before). And here’s a post of his on How To Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick which discusses the importance of having SMART goals.

And a close-up of the partially defrosted eyelashes after they had been inside for a few minutes:

Freedom Friday: Focus Roles for New Year’s Resolutions

I’m fully engrossed in the process of creating my focus priorities for the coming year. Let me tell you – I’m excited about 2012!

If you Google “new years resolutions” and limit the search to the last week, there are 111 million hits. 111 million! According to this article, 44% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. Depending on the source, somewhere between 80-92% of those people will fail at keeping those resolutions.
I’ve been doing some variation on the theme of New Year’s goals, resolutions and focus roles for a decade now. One of my favorite parts of this process is looking back on prior years and seeing what I chose to focus on in the past. I don’t have a typed up copy from when I began to do this (I believe it was 2002), and I haven’t had a chance to dig into my journal bin to try and find it. Each year since then, I have a record of what I focused on.
I can honestly say this method of creating resolutions (I prefer to call them “roles, priorities and goals”) really has made a difference.
Why does creating focus roles help?
1. Fixed target. I’m a very different person than I was a decade ago. Much of that is simply God’s grace and the work He has done in my life. But another good portion involved moving toward a goal, a fixed target. I can look back on many of those focus roles and see I absolutely did grow in the areas I purposed to grow in because I kept my sights on a specific aim.
2. Focused motivation. Once I’ve created the focus roles, I brainstorm and come up with a statement concerning what I want to work on within that role, in addition to why I wanted to work on that role and make it a priority. This becomes my motivation for working on the roles when I’m feeling discouraged.
3. Intentional energy. Having 2-3 focus roles has allowed me to center my energy on specific areas of character growth. Once I have my focus roles, brainstormed statements and purposeful priorities, I come up with goals that are representative of these.
As I am presented with various opportunities in my life, or see things I might want to be part of, I can ask: does this line up with the roles in my life that I’ve chosen to work on? Will this help me achieve my goals & priorities? It also allows me to take the energy I have and be intentional as to where I will use it, rather than having my energy going in too many directions.
4. Deliberate reminder. I shared last week that I’m taking my running to the next level. When I wake up and it’s 16 degrees out, I need a deliberate reminder of why I’m putting myself through this! I remember how much more at peace I feel after running, and how regular exercise is a sanity saver for me. The focus roles serve as a deliberate reminder of what I’m hoping to achieve.
You can read more about creating your own goals in last year’s “Make It a Break-out Year“.
I’ve already brainstormed my roles and picked basically 3 that I want to focus on. I’m still working on creating the specific goals I’d like to accomplish.

As I brainstormed my roles, I took some time to reflect on 2011. What kind of year was it? How had I changed? I went through my journals and gathered some highlights of the year, some Scriptures that had touched my heart, as well as some words I felt God had spoken to me. And I prayed: did God want me to incorporate any of this in my 2012 roles, priorities, and goals?

I also asked myself: what kind of year do I want 2012 to be? I asked God the same question in prayer. Then I brainstormed: what focus role would bring me closer to that goal?
Are you making New Year’s resolutions? Why not try the “focus role” method this year?
What kind of year do you want this to be? More importantly, what kind of year does God want this to be?
Praying for you as you end the year and ask yourself some of these challenging questions and prepare for the new year.

Freedom Friday: Take It To The Next Level

I’ve been “a serious runner” since about June. I decided I could call myself “a serious runner” after I had run 25 miles in a week and ran over 8 miles at once.

Since then, I’ve run a 5K race (3.1 miles), 2 10K’s races (6.2 miles) and a half marathon (13.1).

My longest run has been 17.3 miles.

I recently decided to find out if there were any running clubs in my area. I found one local to me that has early morning runs twice a week.

Honestly, the thought of joining with them made me nervous. Would I be able to keep up? This fear was warranted, as I already knew they ran faster than me. Would I even like running with other people (something I’ve only done once since I took up running again)? What if I looked goofy? What if they weren’t nice to me? Yes, even I have these thoughts 🙂

I went, despite my fears and insecurities. We ran. We ran fast (by my standards). In fact, we ran the 5.26 mile route at a pace that was an entire minute per mile faster than I had previously run on a really good day.

I made it through. I even talked during the run without gasping. It was challenging.

For the rest of that week, I decided I would continue to push myself on my personal runs. I ended up running about a minute per mile faster for all of my shorter runs (5 miles or less).

The next week came. I was nervous again. I went anyway (even though the run starts at 5:30 AM). The person I ran with last week, who runs a bit slower than the others, wasn’t there. I ran anyway. We ran a whole minute faster than the week before. And it was cold.

My running had been going well. I was happy with my race times and the completion of a half marathon. I had been doing what was comfortable (well, as comfortable as running is for someone who is not a natural). Then something came along to shake me up from my comfortable place, challenging me to take it to the next level.

As I pondered this, I came across this blog post, Why You Should Embrace Discomfort by Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing (and a fantastically challenging blogger!). Ironically, the two examples used are running examples.

Michael Hyatt references a Wired magazine article about Dean Karnazes, a long distance runner. It describes an experience where he put on his shoes and started running one night, after coming to the realization one night that this was not the life he’d imagined for himself. At the end of his run:

He had covered 30 miles. In the process, he’d had a blinding realization: There were untapped reservoirs within him. It was like a religious conversion. He had been born again as a long-distance runner. More than anything else now, he wanted to find out how far he could go.


When I started running, I hoped to be able to finish a 10K someday. I certainly never even considered running a half marathon. This was only made possible because I made a choice to push past what was comfortable and take it to the next level. Now I’m looking forward to the next one, as I hope to improve my time significantly.

I have begun to relate this concept to my spiritual life. Have I become too comfortable in my spiritual habits? Are there reservoirs within me, or within God, that I have yet to tap into?

I read the Bible most days. Being that I’m the director of a faith-based ministry, rarely a day goes by that I don’t read the Bible for ministry purposes. But most days, I read 1-2 chapters of Scripture for my enrichment. Sometimes, I journal. Sometimes, I read a devotional. I take a chunk of time to pray, though this is something I often do while I run.

This has become a fairly comfortable routine for me. None of these things are bad, and nothing in particular jumps out as needing to be changed. But the question I’ve been asking in prayer is this: God, is there something You want me to do to take it to the next level?

As I refine my running schedule, I have decided to also refine my devotional schedule. I am aiming to run 5 days a week. The other 2 days a week, I will try to get up extra early to read the Bible, pray, listen, and read from some books and devotionals (I did this on Monday and today). I have already been doing this about 1 day a week, except I usually sleep in. I’ve decided to stop that. If I can get up at 5:30 to run, shouldn’t I also be able to get up at 5:30 to spend purposeful time with God?

I have a goal to finish several books that I’m in the middle of, as well as finish editing the booklet I’ve written, by February.

I also set some running goals for this winter:

1. Run in the freezing cold. I have never been a consistent runner, and I have not yet run through a winter. I decided to make that a priority this year. The coldest weather in which I’ve run had been 20 degrees F, feels like 8 degrees. I ran 14 miles on Sunday in this weather. See my attire below.

2. Run at least 100 miles a month. In the months of August through October, I ran 124 miles, 132 miles and 148 miles. November, due to illness and 2 races, I dropped down to 90 miles. I’d like to keep it above 100.

3. Find another half marathon to run and shave at least 30 seconds off my pace.

What about you? Is God challenging you to take it to the next level? Are you feeling too comfortable? Or possibly feeling stuck? This is the perfect time to evaluate any goals you had set for 2011 and reassess for 2012 (this post might help).


“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14, emphasis mine


Press on. Embrace the discomfort. Ask God what it means for you to take it to the next level.

If you’re disappointed that I didn’t talk about Christmas, you can read last year’s post 🙂