Happy New Year, friends!
So if I'm being perfectly honest with you, I've sat to write this post not once, not twice, but I am now on my third attempt.
Yup, my third attempt (technically finishing this on my fourth session, but who's counting? Oh wait. Me.)
The first attempt was all about goal setting, my word of the year, and how you could set yourself about to make 2019 your best year yet.
The second attempt, was a post written from the humble stance of, "It's not my work, my goals, my plans, but God working through me."
This third attempt, meets somewhere in the middle between the first two tries.
I believe that it's important to set goals and have a vision for where you'd like to go. Otherwise you'll just binge watch and scroll your life away.
No amount of goal setting (at least in my faith-filled journey), determination, inspiration or otherwise will get you where you *truly* need to be,
Unless you've created margin to let God speak into your plans.
I've learned over the years, that even though I may think I want to do one thing, God might have an entirely different plan.
And His plans always seem to have a way of working out better than anything I could have imagined in the first place.
I had no idea (literally never even crossed my mind) how to start my own business.
As a kid, I didn't dream up owning my own store one day, or think through what products I could create. I didn't always play "shop" and pretend I was an entrepreneur.
In fact, we always played "college," mostly because that meant we could write and doodle in notebooks... Which is probably why I have such an affinity for notebooks. But that's a totally different story.
My business, was a God thing. A God calling.
And as I sat down to plan out the upcoming year, a terrible realization hit me.
I realized that I had spent roughly the last two months goal planning, assessing what worked and what didn't, polling my audience, reading through the surveys and compiling all the information, goal setting, etc. etc. etc.... and I had literally planned things MY way.
In all my planning, I didn't leave room for God to move through me.
What a hard reality to realize that I CREATED.
Sure, I wasn't deliberately trying to ignore God... But I definitely wasn't giving myself margin or praying through all these decisions I was planning on making.
Sure, I had written a few of these ideas in my prayer journal, but for some reason felt selfish praying over them when I could pray over other people.
Maybe I would quickly lift up a few points around my business, but I'd quickly move on to praying over someone else and spending significant time on others.
Praying over others is not a bad thing... I think we (myself included) tend to get a little inward focused, and forget to pour into others as much as we expect others to pour into ourselves.
However, I also firmly believe that God wants to hear about my heart. God wants to know what I'm wondering, questions, struggling with, hope for, etc.
I mean, GOD is the one that called me to this business.
GOD is the one that gave me this unique set of gifts, talents and abilities.
GOD is the one that put this calling so strongly in my heart, that I know with every fiber in my being that I need to keep pursuing it.
So why then, was I not giving God the space to do what He does best?
It always blows my mind (though it never should) how much God cares for the details in my life, and has patience for me even when I'm not listening my best to Him.
I'm so grateful He cares to whisper in my ear, giving me that sweet and gentle nudge that says, "My beloved, come back to me."
So out of ALL the goals I have for 2019, that one is my biggest focus.
To give God space (or freedom) in my schedule to move.
Sure, I'll create and move forward with some ideas that I believe He has planted in my heart.
I'll still move forward with ideas I have and use the data from the last few years to create wisdom around my decisions.
But I do all this from a place of margin. A place of surrender. From a place or rest and giving it to God, first.
To pray first, instead of just plan.
I want to keep a heart posture of surrender, where I'm flexible to change directions if He calls me to it.
Maybe, like me, you've experienced this too. Whether it was a new realization, or something you've known all along, I feel you.
TRUST ME, I'm currently in this boat.
But as I navigate letting God take the lead (again - a lesson I'm sure will be a continual theme in my life), I thought I'd share with you a few tips on how I'm actually going to do this.
Because it "sounds nice" to say that "I'm giving God control" - but what does this actually mean? Or how do you actually do it?
Well, let me share with you what my plan of action is.
A few tangible ways I'll be giving my plans to God:
1) Spending daily time with God IN scripture.
While I do have a daily, morning quiet time (and it has made all the difference - I highly recommend adding this practice to your routine), and have for awhile now, I've felt a calling for more time with God, and a deeper intimacy with God.
So in my life, this looks like waking up even earlier to spend more dedicated time in God's word (and gaining a deeper understanding of His word).
I'm practically doing this by committing to read the Bible in One Year (a goal I've had for a long time). I'm also listening to a commentary podcast called "The Bible Recap" to go with the daily, chronological readings. I've also been using my ESV Study Bible to gain additional context (without having to use my phone) for scriptures I might have questions on, and usually the Study Bible can answer most of them. I was also recommend the "Read Scripture" app, and have found that helpful in gaining additional context to things I have difficult understanding (ex: the book of Job and all the dialogue between Job and his friends).
I'm also doing the above with an accountability group, and people I can talk it out with and ask questions. That's already been super helpful and motivating to keep going, and have honest and hard conversations about what I'm reading and maybe struggling with in scripture.
Though I will be honest, the above has already taken my quiet time from about 30 minutes to a solid hour, but I believe the time is worth it and I keep reminding myself... I can't out give God.
Not in my money, not in my time, and not in my brain space.
So I'm going to keep pursuing this goal and fight to spend daily time in scripture.
Even if that means only 10 minutes a day, one chapter - whatever gets my eyes on the pages of God's Holy Word.
Because I firmly believe there's power in this faith step.
I believe I'll gain wisdom and understanding beyond my wildest dreams simply by being faithful in what God's asked me to do: spend time in His word.
2) Spending daily time with God IN prayer.
Speaking of brain space, I want to spend more intentional time with God in prayer.
Similar to the above, I have a small prayer time during my quiet time, but it's definitely not the "War Room" kind of prayer time that I aspire to have.
And like I said at the end of the above post (that I can't "out give" God), I've been convicted with the fact that I usually spend about 2 hours on my phone everyday.
I was terrified to realize that I pick up my phone roughly 87 times a day.
If you have an iPhone, I challenge and recommend that you check out what your number is. Simply click on Settings > Screentime > *YourName* iPhone > then scroll and read through the numbers.
These numbers literally SHOCKED ME, and extremely challenged me in how I prioritize my time.
I used to think I "didn't have time" to do a 1 hour quiet time.
But I've learned, I didn't prioritize my time to have a 1 hour quiet time.
Now, please don't get overwhelmed and think I'm condemning you for the length of your quiet time or prayer time or for how long you spend on your phone, in front of the TV, or scrolling through social media.
But I do believe we're a generation that spends more time in front of screens, and less time pursuing more life-giving things.
So I encourage you to find time in your day to pray.
If I pick up my phone an average of 87 times a day, what would it look like it I prayed that many times a day?
What if I prayed every time I picked up my phone? Or after I put my phone down?
What if I prayed that God would help me be mindful of how many times I pick up my phone, and aware of why I'm picking up my phone in the first place?
I think a little mindfulness/awareness here would be so good.
A little less phone means a little more God.
A little less scrolling means a little more scripture.
So as I move forward in this venture to create more margin in my life to let God speak, that means less time on my phone.
Creating healthier habits away from screens.
Taking baby steps (like trying to cut my weekly phone pick-ups) so I can become less dependent on screens.
So this week I'm at 87.
Maybe next week I try to make that average 70.
The next week, 60.
Then the next 50. And so on.
Cut my two hours down to 1.5 a day. Then 1 hour a day.
Taking baby steps to create margin in an area that I know takes up more time than I want to spend, or care to admit.
So I'll keep fighting to pray.
I'll keep fighting for margin in my life, which for me, means less time on my phone.
I just heard this quote from Lysa Tuerkerst in her book, "Best Yes" (which is a great read if you struggle with making decisions and over committing yourself).
She said this, "We steer where we stare."
So if I'm spending a significant portion of my day staring at my phone, then I'll just become this social media and screen zombie.
Or instead, I choose to spend a significant part of my day "staring" at the Lord in prayer, or at scripture, can you imagine the possibilities and ways God could move?
I've learned a lot of times we miss God's answers to our prayers not because He's ignoring us, but because we're ignoring Him.
We're so busy scrolling, or being "busy" (whatever that means) that we don't have the stillness to hear His voice.
God calls us to, "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
But how can we do this if we're always on the go?
That's why I'm pursuing this life of stillness and margin.
So I can speak to God, and hear God speak to me.
Now I don't know about you, but for a long time I really struggled with prayer and actually how to do it. So if you're in that boat, I'd love to share a few tips I've learned.
A few tips on praying:
What I've learned over the years is God is like a dear friend, He wants to hear from us and know that we're thinking of Him!
Since we can't text God, we need to pray to Him.
Share your day with Him, talk about the highs and lows. Give Him your prayer requests, for yourself and for others. Talk about things you're struggling with, having a hard time processing or discerning, or things you're loving.
I mean, if I can talk to God about pumpkins and the joy they bring me, TRUST ME, you can bring anything to God! ;)
Also, one of my favorite habits I created is to simply acknowledge His goodness throughout my day by saying praise reports - whenever I catch a little blessing or a smile, I'll just say a quick, "Thank you Jesus for this moment."
Another thing I do that's helped dramatically in my prayer life, is start a prayer journal. This is literally how it sounds. I use it in two ways:
a) Whenever I tell someone, "I'll pray for you" I write it in my journal, so that I can actually pray for them.
I also do this for other people or situations God puts on my hearts. Sometimes I'll have a page of just names, sometimes lists of topics I want to pray over, and sometimes it's a variety of requests I get from others or the Lord puts on my heart.
It doesn't matter the format, just do what works and makes sense for you!
I've found that for me, my prayer journal is especially helpful on those days where I'm super distracted in my head and can't focus, and need a "prayer template" if you will, to guide me through.
b) I use it as a literal journal, but for prayers.
Again, I often struggle with having a wandering mind during prayer time (what am I going to cook for dinner? Did I respond to that email? Did I think someone might think my last text was rude, even though I used 14 emojis?), I've found writing things down helps with my focus.
I've noticed that writing out my prayers helps me focus on what I need to and be fully present in that moment.
Plus, I'm often surprised as my heart will just get going, and I'll end up reading through what I wrote and it's totally different than perhaps what I originally thought was on my heart. I believe sometimes the Holy Spirit just takes over and helps me get out the root of the issue and give it God.
Plus, you get the added benefit of getting to go back and write out how God answered that prayer. It's the most beautiful and rewarding part of the prayer journal, and a perfect encouragement when you're feeling a little down or uninspired in your faith.
Seriously, if you don't have a prayer journal, I 100% recommend that you pick one up (it's a good excuse to buy that cute notebook from Target) and start writing.
Now back to tangible ways I'm giving God more space in my schedule:
3) Surrounding myself with like-minded, Christ-centered people.
You've heard the saying, "You become like those you spend the most time with."
And I firmly believe there is so much truth in the statement.
I've noticed a HUGE difference in my life when the majority of my circle were secular friends (and the negative influence it had on me) and then the polar opposite when my main circle was believers.
Yes, I personally believe you need balance between your friendships, and it's not good to go to either extreme. But you don't need a lecture on that. All I'm saying is that if you know you're going to struggle with letting God speak into your business, your dreams, your goals, your hopes, etc., you need to be surrounded by at least a few people who will encourage you in these pursuits!
I'd argue that you probably can think of at least ONE person you look up to and could talk to.
And once you think of that person, I'd reach out and schedule a coffee date with her. If she's not local, then schedule a Skype/FaceTime coffee date.
If that person can't connect, then I believe you can find someone else.
And amidst all of this, I would highly recommend that you pray (and have patience) for God to answer your prayer.
Anyways, this post has already reached some length! That's why I'm making this a two-part-ish series, and I'll share more on my goals in my next post.
Hopefully this honest chat has been helpful for you!
In my recent surveys, there was a strong and overwhelming "Please share more about faith and practical tips on it." When God showed me this realization I had in my business, I thought, "Well, it's vulnerable, but people asked for it and I'm happy to share."
Being a small business owner, wife, mom, daughter, friend, co-worker, woman, human, etc. isn't easy. There are so many things that would be easy to weigh us down.
But I believe that there's a God who is fighting for you. He wants to work in your life, and move in bigger ways than you could ever possibly dream or imagine.
In order to let that happen, we have to create the space to actually let it happen.
For me, that looks like adding more margin in my life.
Creating more white space and down time for me to rest and hear God's still, small voice.
Kind of related, but slightly unrelated, there's an article called, "The power of doing nothing" and I think it does a great job illustrating this point further.
Anyways, I'd love to hear what your favorite nugget from today's blog post was! Or if you have any thoughts or perspectives you'd like to share, I'd love to hear.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and I truly hope and pray that 2019 is your best year yet! I'm talking about your "best" being from a place of rest, joy and peace in the gifts, season and calling that you're in.