Happy New Year! Wherever You Go……

Happy New Year, Freedom Friends!

2013 is officially over, and 2014 is in full swing.

The New Year’s resolutions have been made. We’re excited about a fresh start. Out with the old – in with the new! Right?

Right?

That’s the hope, isn’t it? Isn’t that why we love this season? New Years brings a fresh round of “Change Your _____, Change Your Life!” Have you ever played this game? It begins with “If Only’s”:

If only I lose weight…
If only I move…
If only I find a new job…
If only I found a good partner…

Then my life would change.

Then we might lose the weight, or relocate; we find the job or the new spouse. Usually, we’re not successful. The outcome doesn’t necessarily settle the disillusionment we feel because we thought for sure things would be better “if only.”

Why is that? Because the saying is true:

Wherever you go, there you are

Have you ever thought about what this really means? We get so focused on changing our external circumstances that we forget this simple truth: most external issues flow out of internal issues. So no matter where you go or how much weight you lose, inside you are still you. If we don’t allow God to change the internal, changing the externals will not have the hoped-for result. We will experience the same trials, the same struggles, the same unhelpful thought patterns. We will do the same thing again and again and expect different results.

I started re-reading the book of Joshua today. The Israelites are about to cross the Jordan to head into the Promised Land. God gives Joshua a string of directives and things to remember, ending with, “For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

The Israelites had a few things they needed to work on. They needed to trudge forward without fear. They needed to remember the instructions God gave Moses on how to live, meditating on them day and night. They needed to choose courage and not discouragement. And finally, they needed to remember that wherever you go, there God is.

What would happen if in 2014, we played the “Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life” game?

What would happen if we began the New Year focused on who He is rather than who we want to become?

How about we make it goal to take God at His Word in 2014, no matter what comes our way, meditating on that Word day and night? What if we allow God’s Word and His Holy Spirit to change the internals and allow the external changes to flow out of God remaking us from the inside out? What if we chose hope and courage instead of fear and disillusionment? If we really believed that nothing is impossible with God (Matthew 17:20), and that we are to live by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), if we truly believe God is with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9), how drastically different would our lives be?

Wherever you go, there God is.

What about you? What is God speaking to you about your hopes for the new year? 

A Psalm for the New Year

Happy New Year, my faithful readers!

2012 was a very hard year – for reasons I’ve shared here plus many, many others. You all have been so patient with me.

Watching 2012 end left me thankful and sighing big sighs.

It ended well. I had the privilege of leading the music at our new church home here in Virginia on the last Sunday of the year. I ended the difficult year, praising God for His goodness.

Then on December 31st, I joined a friend as she ran her first 10K.

Through the last months of the year, Psalm 25 sustained me.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.

Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

It’s a psalm I know well, due to it being the focus of one of my favorite worship songs.

As hope looked to dwindle, as our condo didn’t sell, as my father fell more ill, as life thinned out in painful ways, Psalm 25 sang to my soul like water in a dry and weary land.

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.

I decided to make this my psalm to ring in the new year.

Have you ever selected a psalm to focus on? Psalm 34 was another that I have focused on in previous years. I simply read it often, often aloud, pausing frequently to reflect.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,

and my hope is in you all day long.

Consider selecting a psalm to begin the year with. I will be writing on this psalm in the coming months.

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:

Happy 2012, Living Unveiled Readers!

It’s officially 2012! What are you doing to ring in the New Year?

One great way to ring in the New Year would be to do a refresher course on learning to walk in freedom series.
Also, if you have come up with focus roles and some goals, I encourage you to read through the tags (called “Topics to Explore” in the right navigation of my blog) and click on any that resonate with your focus roles for the year.

Again, happy new year! I’m praying for you as you continue to grow into the person God created you to be.

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 Fridays: Make It a Break-out Year

It’s Freedom Friday!! And I’m taking yet another break from the series, “Learning to Walk in Freedom”, to talk yet again about the holiday that is upon us.

It’s New Years.

Are you making resolutions this year? Lose weight, quit smoking, cut down on your Starbucks spending….

How about making some freedom resolutions?

Back in 2003 or 2004, I started a new way of creating resolutions (my former pastor’s wife taught me this practice). Rather than focusing on specific things I wanted to change, I started to do the following:

1. Brainstorm the different roles you have in your life. Here are a few examples: wife, mom, friend, musician, child of God, daughter, etc.

2. Pray, and using God’s direction, pick 2-3 that you’d like to work on for the year.

3. Brainstorm statements about what you’d like to improve upon (priorities).

4. Formulate goals accordingly.

Here’s another things I learned. Goals should be SMART:
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Timed

A quick note about goal-setting and figuring out if your goals are “SMART”: try to think about whether or not your goal is something that someone would be able to hold you accountable to. If you say, “I’d like to read the Bible more” or “I’d like to make more Christian friends”, it’s not really measurable or specific enough, so someone wouldn’t be able to hold you accountable to that. But it also needs to be realistic. Saying, “I’m going to read the whole Bible in a day” isn’t really attainable nor is it realistic. Saying, “I’m going to find a weekly Bible study to join in the next 3 months” or “I’m going to read a chapter of the Bible 5 days a week” would fit the SMART model.

Think of a way to frame your goals so that you can assess whether or not you’ve reached them. Some goals may be more general and those are the ones that are more difficult to narrow down. Another question you could ask yourself is what are some practical steps I could take to achieve this goal?

Here are some examples of what I’ve done, in terms of brain-storming roles and making priorities and goals out of them.

For 2005, my focus roles were:
Lover of God
Worshiper
Wife
Healer
Recoverer

Yes, I chose too many, but as the year progressed, it became clear which ones were to be my main focus.

Based on that, my list of priorities:

To Keep my Focus on God:
• In My Actions
• In My Marriage
• In My Recovery
• In My Music and Singing
• In My Work with Others

That year, I ended up really focusing on healing. That focus naturally overflowed into my other relationships and roles. Practically, I focused on healing by growing in my understanding of who God is and who I am as His daughter, through reading the Bible and Christian books, listening to Christian speakers, growing in my friendships and praying. I unfortunately cannot find my specific goals that I set, but you get the picture.

Here’s what I wrote at the end of 2005 as I reflected on my resolutions.

2005 has been a “breakout” year for me, truly. I heard a pastor preach on this theme at the beginning of the year, and I embraced it.

It was a choice.

And it was a hard choice, but healing and victory and joy and freedom are always choices that we can make, if that’s what we truly want. If it’s not what we want, then we will keep making the same mistakes. I decided I didn’t want to live that way anymore. And praise be to God, I’m choosing not to live that way anymore, with God’s help.

When you look toward 2011, what are your hopes and dreams? What are you looking forward to?

Do you want it to be a “break-out” year, like 2005 was for me?

What roles or areas of your life can you focus on in order to make it a break-out year?

Do you need to go to counseling, find a mentor, get a life/freedom coach, join a Bible study or support group, start going to church regularly, pray for God to re-make you, allow His spirit to illuminate who He is in new ways?

In the sermon I referenced above, my pastor played the Switchfoot song, “Dare You To Move“. I wasn’t super-familiar with the song, but I walked away thinking, over and over, “I dare you to move.”

Today you have a choice: to stay stuck in the same place, doing the same things that are not working for you, or you can allow God to move you into true freedom.

I dare you to move.

I dare you to trust that the God of the universe has a vested interest in seeing you learn to walk into freedom.

Make a choice today: to do whatever it takes to make 2011 a break-out year for you.