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Entries in New Year's (6)

Thursday
Jan102019

Making Good on Good Intentions

Grace Fox wrote nine books. She's well-acquainted with the discipline and perseverance it takes to buckle down and write. She also knows how easy it is to stop at "good intentions." In this New Year UPGRADE, she invites us to examine our new goals and consider how we can "make good" on them.

"You and I—and millions of other women—know it’s easy to begin a new year with good intentions," Grace says. "Following through on them is often a different story."

Following through. Yes, I (Dawn) identify with that. I can't tell you how many times my good intentions ended up being forgotten intentions. But I can choose to change; and so can you!

Grace continues . . .

A traumatic experience helped me understand the importance of making good on my good intentions.

January 11th marks the sixth anniversary of my suffering leg injuries that left me wheelchair-bound for three months. Recovery required surgery, physiotherapy, and a lot of hard work on my part for two years.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my injuries were self-inflicted. As a writer, I sat at my desk for hours every day without getting up to stretch.

Granted, I woke each morning with good intentions. I promised myself that I’d take short exercise breaks, but soon my writing projects absorbed me and I’d think, I’ll take a walk later, after I finish what I’m doing.

Later never came, and I paid the price.

I’m grateful for the wakeup call. It forced me to admit something I knew all along—that good intentions alone won’t bring the benefits of good health.

Living long and strong for Jesus requires action on my part:

  • use my gym membership,
  • eat nutritious foods,
  • track my food intake,
  • practice portion control, and
  • be accountable on a weekly basis to a small group of women walking a similar path.

The same principle holds true for other aspects of life.

Say, for instance, we want to build relationships with our neighbors this year. Our intentions are admirable, but they won’t build friendships unless we take time to talk over the fence, to listen, and to demonstrate kindness.

We may want to grow in our relationship with the Lord over the next twelve months. Our desire is commendable, but it won’t result in spiritual growth unless we create space to study His Word, engage in dialogue with Him, and obey His commands.

Perhaps we intend to become more effective intercessors. This might mean facing our fear of praying aloud in front of other people. We may have to grow willing to pause and to pray right then and there for someone who’s just expressed a concern.

The examples I listed are among my good intentions for this year. Perhaps you’re nodding in agreement because like me, you hope to become more proactive about your health, about relationships with your neighbors, about knowing God more intimately, and about praying for others.

Or maybe your list includes a plethora of totally different ideas. Regardless, here are several prayer-focused points to ponder as you think about your good intentions for 2019.

1. Ask God for FOCUS.

It’s easy to make a list of impressive intentions. Trouble is, sometimes our list is too long or lofty or misses the mark altogether.

Ask the question, “God, what are Your good intentions for me this year? Where do you want me to focus?”

Jeremiah 33:3 promises that He will answer—“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wonderous things that you could never figure out on your own” (The Message).

2. Ask God for STRENGTH.

Following through on good intentions sometimes demands more emotional or physical strength than we can muster.

The good news is—God promises to strengthen us when we partner with Him to accomplish His purposes for our lives.

Psalm 18:29 has been especially meaningful to me as I continue my wellness journey—“In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

Sometimes following through on my intention to avoid unhealthy snacks is like fighting a battle, but God’s power at work within me gives me the strength to do the right thing. He’ll do the same for you.

3. Ask God for PERSEVERANCE.

We might think that making good on our good intentions will guarantee instant results.

For instance, extending kindness to a neighbor will automatically open the door to sharing the Gospel with her.

Unfortunately, sometimes our good intentions don’t yield the results we want, but that doesn’t mean we toss them aside. It means we learn to practice perseverance. We choose to hang in there for the long haul, trusting that God is at work even though we don’t see things happening.

Sometimes our good intentions are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We might think we know what God wants to do in and through us but in reality, He’s doing something much deeper, and that takes time.

So, my friend—what’s one of your good intentions for 2019? What actions will you take to make good on it?

Grace Fox is a career missionary, international speaker, and author of nine books. Her latest release is Forever Changed, a Bible study published by First Place 4 Health. Discover more about her ministry here. Purchase her Bible study through First Place 4 Health.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ben White at Unsplash.

Thursday
Jan032019

Looking Back to Look Forward

Kathy Carlton Willis is a life trailblazer. As her bio reads, she "shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow." And so you can move forward. In this New Year UPGRADE she writes about two "looks"—the look backward and the look forward.

Kathy says, “It’s not possible to move forward while looking back, but it’s also not possible to move forward without having first looked back.

"Looking back allows you the opportunity to leave it there. The good and the bad."

I (Dawn) love the opportunity Kathy gives us to prepare ourselves for our best year ever. Lots of wisdom here.

Kathy continues . . .

The past is only baggage that will weigh you down moving forward. It’s futile to expect passion to be enough for productivity in living out your purpose for 2019 until you properly put 2018 to bed.

Do you have any annual practices as you transition from the old year to the new year? Or would you like to start a new tradition this year?

It’s a great time to look back (to learn from the past) and to look forward (to set new goals).

Some choose to ask God to give them a focus word or phrase for the year. This practice allows you to have a main purpose or perspective as you navigate the next twelve months.

One way to prepare for the New Year is to:

  • look back on the old year,
  • address any unfinished business hanging on in your heart or mind,
  • and then ask God to help you move forward, ready for what He has planned for you in 2019.

Steps to Looking Back Well

1. Be honest with yourself.

Many women tend to downplay the good things and magnify the bad.

2. Identify the positive highlights of the year.

Why do they stand out in your mind? What was your part in the outcome? How did you see God at work in the circumstance, or in your heart and mind?

3. Let go of the disappointments of the year.

What do you regret? How were you let down? How did something negative impact your year?

What can you do to move past it?

4. Repent of anything left unconfessed from 2018.

  • Look upon your sinful choices with remorse and learn from them.
  • Consider ways to choose godly options next time.
  • Accept God’s forgiveness and ask God to change any lingering tendencies that might cause you to give in to unholy thoughts or actions in the future.

5. Recall the hard times you endured that had good outcomes.

Thank God for equipping you with the endurance needed to persevere.

As you say goodbye to 2018 and say hello to 2019, take some time to grieve the losses of the year and celebrate the victories.

Do something monumental and memorable to mark this moment. This prepares you to move forward.

“Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given” (1 Chronicles 16:12 NLT.

Now it’s time to release 2018 and enter into 2019 with full resolve!

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT).

Steps to Looking Forward Willingly

1. Decide what to do about unfinished projects.

What was left unfinished in 2018?

How do you plan to make room for it in 2019? Or is this a goal that you need to let go?

2. Evaluate what new thing God is impressing on you as you pray for direction in the new year.

How will you incorporate that into your plan?

3. Identify distractions, doubts and disabilities.

What limitations might impair you, moving forward?

How can you set up a plan to work around these concerns?

4. Work within your heart-core passion.

What project excites you? How can you make more room in your life for it?

5. Reserve more margin or white space in your life.

How will this refuel you?

What might you do to guard against draining to-dos threatening to crowd this space?

6. Ask God to show you the goals He has for your 2019.

  • What will help you grow spiritually, personally, and professionally?
  • What will benefit your family and friends?
  • What will put you in a place of service and ministry?
  • And mostly, what will bring glory to God?

The blank 2019 calendar represents you emptied out and ready to be filled up with God and His goals for you.

How will you fill your calendar (and your life) this year?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace; and she is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with their adorable Boston Terrier, Hettie.

Graphic Adapted, courtesy of JakeMelara at Unsplash.

Tuesday
Jan162018

Live the Abundant Life in 2018!

Many write about “abundance” these days, but abundant living doesn’t mean we won’t experience struggles, as Yvonne Ortega explains in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE.

“I went through aggressive chemotherapy and thirty-three rounds of radiation seventeen years ago this month,” Yvonne says.

“That experience and the loss of my only child in 2009 convinced me that I want more out of life than a mere existence of going through the motions day after day.

When I (Dawn) think about “going through the motions,” I picture monotony and boredom. Though we may face tough “wilderness” experiences, monotony and boredom are not what the Lord has in store for His children in our times of difficulty.

Yvonne Ortega continues . . .

I celebrate the gift of life not only on my yearly anniversary of being cancer-free but every day.

Jesus said,

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10, NASB).

I want to live the abundant life Jesus came to give us.

My life changed in my journey to live the abundant life. I questioned every area of my life and searched the Bible for answers.

I came up with FOUR AREAS that required change.

First, I had to make FOOD CHOICES to live the abundant life.

For the most part, I look at food from the perspective of 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

The Holy Spirit convicted me that I couldn’t eat junk food and take care of my body, His temple.

Second, I had to get SUFFICIENT SLEEP each night to live the abundant life.

For me that means eight hours of sleep each night.

Jesus saw the need for rest in Mark 6:31–32:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them (the apostles), ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”

Third, I had to EXERCISE MORE than my fingers at the computer to live the abundant life.

I tried various types of exercise before I settled on the ones that work for me. I enjoy walking outside. As I walk, I review Bible verses and pray for the needs of my neighbors.

Since I live close to the beach, a walk at the beach delights me. The sound of the waves and the feel of the sand between my toes revive me. As I look around at the beach, I thank God for the beautiful world He created.

I also enjoy swimming laps and aqua classes. Through my time at the pool, I’ve met many wonderful people.

Fourth, I needed to DEEPEN MY RELATIONSHIP with the Lord to live the abundant life.

I committed to reading the Bible from Genesis through Revelation each year.

One year, I read the Bible in 90 Days in addition to reading the Bible in a year.

I also chose to listen to praise and worship music daily. When I listen to praise and worship music, I am transported into the very presence of God. He speaks to me, and I listen.

What will you do this year to live the abundant life Jesus came to give you?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle) and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), both available at amazon.com/books. She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pexel at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan032017

Give It Your All for Your Best Year Yet!

Pam Farrel, a mentor and friend, has always encouraged me to do my best, saying, “You make your choices, and your choices will make you.” In this New Year UPGRADE, she writes about giving life “your all”—in whatever God calls you to do.

“Give 100% effort,” Pam says. “You might not be 100% perfect, but give it your 100% all.”

This year, Pam and I (Dawn) have tried to give our health our best effort so we both can live longer and stronger for the Lord. I know firsthand the blessings of “giving it your all.”

Pam continues . . .

Two of my sons are athletic coaches. They often motivate the individuals on their teams with challenges like:

Do today what others are unwilling to do so tomorrow you can do what others are unable to do.

Simply put, Leave it all on the field. Be 100% present in your goals. Give your best effort—and encourage others to do the same.

I have a t-shirt by Union 28 that reminds me of 1 Corinthians 6:19: ”… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit….” The shirt reads:

God created it

Jesus died for it

The Holy Spirit lives in it

So I must take care of it

Dawn and I have tried to be “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) to one another. The result has been a “sizable” weight loss for each of us. If our weight loss journey were a distance race (and it is—a new lifestyle for the long haul), we would be within the final stretch of reaching our goals. I help women navigate these kind of core, vital issues for living a focused and healthy life in my 7 Simple Skills book (see bio, below).

While co-authoring our book in 2012, LOL with God: Messages of Hope and Help for Women, Dawn shared how one of my favorite verses was easily broken into a common sense, simple, achievable outline of life priorities for a well-balanced, healthy person.

This was reflected in the answer Jesus gave to the religious leaders of his day:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

He [Jesus] answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:25–27, NIV).

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:52).

I have placed a descriptive sentence in parenthesis, phrase by phrase, to capture the full meaning of the Lord’s command:  

  • Jesus increases in wisdom (He guarded his intellectual life)
  • and stature (He guarded his physical life)
  • and in favor with God (He guarded his spiritual life)
  • and men (He guarded his social life)

When we dig into the original languages, we discover even more power to live a healthy life:

  • Love the Lord, your God (Demonstrate your affection based on a close relationship with the Lord, the God who you have made your Supreme Master or Leader.)
  • with all (It encompasses your whole, complete, entire self.)
  • your heart (This is the psychological the inner self, your mind; that place of your will and volition that has thoughts, then makes decisions and choices.)
  • your soul (This is your psyche that was God-breathed to make you uniquely you.)
  • your strength (This is your total personal potential, capacity, capability, power, might, material and possession—with everything you are or have or could be.)
  • and your mind (This includes all your ability to think, reason and learn.)
  • Love your neighbor (someone who is a companion or simply someone who lives adjacent or nearby; anyone whose life intersects yours) like yourself. 

A heart-felt summary might read:

Show you are a friend to God by giving him your inner self—your entire “thinking, living, breathing, everything-you-are, everything-you-own, or could-possibly-be” self.

  • Do you have talent? It’s God’s!
  • Do you have a bank account? It’s God’s.
  • Do you have physical strength, the ability to think, a heart that beats, any earthy possessions? It is all God’s!  

Simply put:

Love God with 100% of your will, your uniqueness, your capacity and your intellect. And love everyone God places in your life with that same kind of enthusiasm.

Show God your love, by loving the life He gave you with your best effort.

Which area of Luke 10:25-26 is God asking you to give your 100% effort in to make 2017 Your Best Year Yet?

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success at Keeping It All Together. Pam and Bill have created a set of goal-setting worksheets to help you have YOUR BEST YEAR YET. (For weight loss, Pam used First Place 4 Health, a Christian, Bible-based wellness program).

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec292016

Back to the Future: Retreat to Plan the New Year

Kathy Carlton Willis is an encourager to the max! She knows how to motivate women to upgrade their lives. In this New Year’s UPGRADE, she suggests we all go on a “retreat.”

Kathy told me, “As a career coach I often hear the excuse, ‘I’m just too busy.’ I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. Each person is given the same number of hours in the day.”

I (Dawn) do think there is a “too busy” level for all of us, but I’ve discovered better planning, delegating, and eliminating the non-essential and what God says “has to go” suddenly can free up a lot of time I didn’t know I had! So I am shouting a hearty “Amen” to Kathy’s words.

Kathy continues. . .

Sure, we all have different energy levels and abilities, but I’m positive we have exactly the resources we need to fulfill the purposes God has for each of us.

The next time you’re tempted to offer up the excuse, “I’m just too busy,” instead I challenge you to say what is the real reason: “It’s simply not a priority for me.”

We get to choose what is important in our lives.

One way I adjust my priorities is to have a yearly personal retreat, either at home or a remote location.

A familiar Psalm indicates what happens during a personal retreat.

“He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He  refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23: 2-3 AMP).

Here are some pointers for your retreat:

1. Start and end with God.

Put your agenda aside. Focus on His strengths and skills. Fall in love with Him again. Be wowed by His power and wisdom. Worship Him, not for what He has done for you, but for who He is.

If you find your mind trailing off, use the alphabet to stay fixed on Him. Come up with a word that describes God from every letter in the alphabet.

2. Use a variety of worship techniques.

  • Walk with Him in nature.
  • Take photos of His creation.
  • Sing along to praise music.
  • Dance to the tune.
  • Draw.
  • Invent your own sign-language to symbolize the lyrics.
  • Personalize Scripture.

3. Get filled up.

Surrender your life to God again. 100% God and 0% you.

Once you are filled up and yielded, then you are ready to proceed.

4. Evaluate the year just ending.

  • What surprised you?
  • What exceeded your goals?
  • What derailed or disappointed you?
  • What is still left undone?
  • What desires and direction did God plant in you that indicates the New Year will look different?
  • What was within your control to do that you procrastinated?
  • What was not within your power that changed your plans?

Give the old year to God. Leave it behind without regrets as you move into the New Year.

Clean slate: either a second chance to get your current goals accomplished or brand new goals for a brand new year.

5. Ask God to show you His plans for your New Year.

Don’t merely ask Him to bless your agenda.

Be willing to follow God’s lead wherever it takes you—out of your comfort zone and into the faith-zone.

People ask my secret to getting so much done, and goal-setting is the root of my productivity. It’s not about success as the world sees it, or achievement. I’m focused on being and doing everything God has designed for my life.

Here’s a sample template for my goal-setting session. It varies depending on the year, so feel free to alter it to fit your needs.

  • My spiritual growth goals for 2017 include:
  • My mental/emotional growth goals for 2017 include:
  • My physical goals for 2017 include:
  • I will use my ability of ______ by doing:
  • I will work on a relationship with:
  • Finances will improve when:
  • I will read ___ books.
  • To be healthier, I will:
  • I have a problem procrastinating. This year I will improve in the area of:

Fill out your goal worksheet, then sign it as an indication you will give 100% to God’s agenda.

Does God have a surprise for you in the New Year? Put on your eyes of faith so you can see it when it arrives.

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Gracewith AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of depaulus, Pixabay