When Anxiety Tries to Win

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When I’m feeling anxious, which is often, my husband says he’s going to “sit on me.” This isn’t some idle threat, nor a threat at all. Rather, his words convey a promise to, literally and figuratively, cover me with his strength and love, though he doesn’t actually sit. Instead, he rolls over on top of me, completely enveloping me in his much bigger and stronger self. Perhaps he’s attempting to squeeze out all my angst, or maybe, not knowing what else to do, simply wants me to know he’s there, sees my inner struggle, and that he cares.

The first time he “covered me” in his love occurred around eight years ago. It had been a tough week during which God had allowed some deep, long buried hurts from my past to resurface. In the middle of this painful, fragile time, I received a phone call that left me sobbing so hard, I couldn’t catch my breath. It was as if every hurt once suppressed suddenly rose to the surface. It’s hard to describe the intensity of my emotions except to say that it literally felt as if my heart were shredding .

And in the middle of my ugly cry, as I lay in bed, tears coursing down my cheeks, my husband came to my side and immediately rolled on top of me, squishing me in the strongest, firmest, most immovable hug I’d ever experienced. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said over and over. Then, after maybe the tenth time, realization hit: “That’s Jesus.”

I understood, with tear-quieting clarity, that Christ was loving me through my husband in that moment. Though this experience and the understanding that followed didn’t alleviate my pain, it did make it more bearable, because I knew I wasn’t alone. Through my husband, Jesus showed me that He saw me, loved me, was with me, and would carry me through.

When my emotions and circumstances feel out of control, I love to spend time reading through the Psalms. Many of them were written by a man named David who was hunted down for years and, at one point, forced to hide in a cave. Though proven to be a courageous warrior, many of his psalms reveal he also struggled with fear. But in the midst of his most terrifying circumstances, he never lost sight of what he knew to be true: that sovereign creator God was always with him, would never leave him, and would one day turn everything to good.

When others warned him of threats, encouraging him to flee, he responded, in essence, saying, “I trust God to protect me, so why should I run.” (Psalm 11:1) Even if a thousand dangers lurked in the shadows (Ps. 11:3), David refused to Quote pulled from post
cower, because he knew God was both intimately near (in His holy temple) and reigning from heaven (Ps. 11:4), where He could see all. Though life and David’s circumstances might have felt out of control, truth told him otherwise. He knew with unshakable certainty that the all-powerful, all-knowing God was with Him, in the middle of his greatest challenge, engulfing him in love and truth.

As David Guzik from the Enduring Word puts it, “When David considers the greatness of God, the care of God, and the vision of God, it all outweighs the danger.”

When we’re anxious, may we consider and meditate on those same unchangeable truths, and may we wrap ourselves deeply, completely, in God’s loving, protective embrace. Though this may not alleviate our anxiety, it will make it more bearable as we cling to the certainty that God will carry us through.

Let’s talk about this! Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what are some things you’ve found to help?

If you haven’t already done so, consider joining my private Faith Over Fear Facebook group where I share daily challenges designed to help all of us move from fear to faith. You can join HERE.

I also invite you to join Wholly Loved’s private group where you can share your struggles, celebrations, doubts, and prayer requests and link arms with other women learning to anchor themselves in grace. You can find us HERE.

Additional resources you might find helpful:

Breaking the Fear Cycle by Maria Furlough

When Our World Feels Out of Control

Tracing Our Fears to Their Proclamations

Faith Over Fear Bible Reading Plan

Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia J Newbell

 

 

 

Finding God Amid Our Fear

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Sometimes God must allow us to experience our greatest fears in order to free us from them. When it feels as if the ground beneath us will crumble to dust, we learn in a deeply personal way that “though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed” God’s unfailing love will always remain.

To put it simply, we often discover who God is in all His faithful and merciful glory, not during the tranquil periods but when we feel as if our lives have upended.

Some of you may be familiar with this story I’m about to share. I tell it often because, of all the things I’ve experienced throughout my life, this particular event led to my greatest freedom. Though at first, I felt anything but free!

At the time, I was enslaved to fear, primarily of relational loss and financial insecurity. We were living in Louisiana at the time, in a newly built, gated neighborhood and had plenty of money coming in to pay our bills and then some. My husband drove a company car, had a company pension, and managed our finances well. I had every reason to relax, but anxiety frequently won, resulting in a constant fight for control. I lived as an orphan, as if I were forced to navigate a harsh, unpredictable world all alone rather than the beloved, cherished daughter of Christ Scripture promised I was.

Had God not intervened, I’m certain I would’ve destroyed my marriage. But He did, tearing me from my highly-regulated safety plan and allowing me to land in one of my greatest fears—unemployment (my husband’s). This resulted in a three-year transitionary period where we lived off of savings for a while then moved, first to Texas then to Missouri. And with each move, God allowed falsehoods to rise to the surface so He could counter them with truth.

When I felt abandoned and unheard, He assured me He would never leave and was attentive to my every cry. When it seemed my prayers went unanswered, He reminded me that He was working out all things according to His good and loving plan, for my growth and His glory. For every fear, He gently guided me to timeless promises in Scripture, reminding me of who He was, what He’d done, and what’s yet to come. As my vision shifted off of my problems and concerns and onto my powerful, unconquerable God, my fears slowly died.

When I’m feeling frightened, I love to spend time in the psalms, which often seem to echo the cries of my heart. When it feels as if my circumstances are unjust and perhaps others have betrayed me, I know “the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from His throne” (Ps. 9:7). When I feel exposed and helpless, I know where to turn for “the Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble” (Ps. 9:9).

“Those who know Your name,” the Psalmist says, “trust in You.”

Or to put it another way: If we truly grasp the fullness of Christ—His love, power, and attentive faithfulness toward all His children quote from post with blue and green background—we realize we have no cause for concern and every reason to trust. We can attempt to fight our fears countless ways, but nothing soothes and strengthens the heart quite like growing closer to Christ. He is the only One with the power to save. When all our attempts to control and salvage our situation fail, we discover we truly have all we need in Him. He alone stands firm, immovable, at our side, and He always will.

Let’s talk about this! What characteristics of Christ do you find most comforting when you’re afraid? How do those characteristics speak to your current fear? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments.

For those of you waiting for the Faith Over Fear Podcast, Salem’s target release date is mid to late month. I’ll keep you posted if this changes.

My correlating Bible reading plan is currently available. You can find it HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram and contact her HERE to book her for your next women’s event.

Find her latest articles on ibelieve:

3 Commonly Quotes Bible Contradictions And How to Explain Their Truths to Agnostics

A Prayer of Hope for a Broken Home

What Would Jesus Say About the Church Today

Watch some of Jennifer’s Faith Over Fear video devotions:

Fighting Fear by Living Loved

How Anxiety Dulls Our Spiritual Hearing

 

 

Refreshing Our Prayer Life Through Remembering

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Have you ever paused to consider where you might be now if not for God’s intervention? I need to do this regularly, otherwise I become complacent, prideful, and entitled. I begin to focus on minor inconveniences—a traffic jam that makes me late for a meeting, or an unexpected bill that eats my coffee fund—rather than Christ and eternity.

Worse, I forget to listen and I resist surrender. I deceive myself into thinking I have all the answers, that I alone hold the outcome of my future. And with every forgetful step, my pride rises up, urging me to follow the god of self.

I know that god well, and I know precisely where she leads. Her progression from selfishness to isolation and broken relationships. Uncontrolled finances. Unresolved hurts and unchecked faulty perceptions. Lord, help me remember those dark, confused places and every battle You won on my behalf.

Perhaps that’s why Scripture often encourages us to remember and warns us not to forget.

In Deuteronomy 6:12 the Israelites were told to “take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” In Psalm 78, we learn the people rebelled because “They forgot what [God] had done, the wonders He had shown them” (NIV). But perhaps most powerfully are Christ’s words, spoken the night before He died, when taking the bread and the wine: “Do this in remembrance of Me” Luke 22:19 (NIV).

Because in the remembering:

I find courage to relinquish my grip, knowing I’ll always land firmly in my Savior’s hands. He’s proven Himself faithful again and again. He’s demonstrated, through my blunders and moments of surrender that His knowledge greatly exceeds mine and His ways truly are best.

I find strength to keep moving, regardless of how steep the climb. Why? Because God’s helped me conquer similar, perhaps even rockier, terrain before, and the strenuous hike always pales compared to the beauty experienced upon the mountain’s peak.

I gain peace as I contemplate God’s steadfast presence and all the years and days and hours that He faithfully walked beside me. I couldn’t always hear Him, and there were times I couldn’t feel Him, and yet, He was there. Always, just as He promised. And also, just as He promised, He will be with me now, today, and tomorrow, and forever more.

Through remembering, praise and strength fill my heart and soul, and the joy of Christ floods my being.

And so I wonder, why don’t I practice this discipline more?

Sometimes my prayers turn perfunctory. I go through my list and often repeat the same requests day after day. While there’s nothing wrong with asking for God’s help—in fact, He bids us to lay all our concerns before Him– I long for more.

Throughout my daughter’s life, she’s asked for many things, and rightly so. We fed her, clothed her, purchased gifts and paid for experiences with us and her friends. When she’s concerned, hurting, or frightened, I hope her father and I are the first people she comes to. I hope she knows we’ll always draw her close and will never turn her away.

But when she simply comes, to connect and spend time with me—those moments are priceless.

The other day, my daughter sent me a message that said simply, “You’re a good mom.” I took a screen shot of her words image of message from daughterand saved them, and I suspect I’ll read them again and again. Not because I feel insecure or even need her validation. Rather, I cherish her and the relationship we’ve cultivated. That was what she expressed in her message—our relationship.

But more than that, I cherish her heart. Her grateful, kind, loving heart.

Is that perhaps how God feels, when we offer Him similar praise? When we pause to reflect, to remember, who He is and what He’s done. When we really take time to sit in those memories, to let them bolster our hearts and our souls.

What are some ways you pause to remember? How do you make those moments times of intimacy between you and your Savior? What are some ways you keep your prayer life fresh and vibrant? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below. And make sure to connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook and Instagram.

Additional resources:

What Does the Bible Say About Remembering on Open Bible

Remembering Then But Now on Bible.org

A Holy Reminder by Jana Kelley

Remembering God’s Blessings by Dr. Charles Stanley

 

Growing Through Relational Conflict

Sad woman sitting in a caféMy friend was struggling. She’d been hurt deeply, unjustly, and by someone she’d once been close to. Worse, past experience told her this individual wouldn’t likely handle the situation in a godly manner. Rather, she’d spew her anger and her slanted representation to all who would listen. My friend worried her social group and faith community would be shattered, or at the very least, that she’d be shoved aside. That others would form conclusions and opinions on what they heard and would ultimately reject her.

This situation consumed her. It stole her joy and distracted her from her God-given mission. Which was ironic as the original conflict stemmed from that mission, or more accurately, challenges to it. In other words, she’d expressed concern regarding behavior she deemed counter-productive to the gospel. And while she admitted she hadn’t addressed the situation with the grace she should have, her urge to do so stemmed from Christ.

Unfortunately, however, she’d allowed her passion to initiate action before her heart had a chance to listen.

Oh, how often I do the same! When I see sin or dysfunction, manipulative or hurtful behavior, something deep inside pricks as an impulse to act ignites. And while that emotion, that conviction-based reaction, isn’t wrong, it’s incomplete and uninformed. It’s a signal that I need to seek God—His heart and guidance—for the situation and all involved. Because only He knows the best way for me to proceed—how to bring hope and life and healing to areas and interactions that are dark and diseased.

In Psalm 25, a man named David, who later became ancient Israel’s second king, endured frequent and ongoing attacks. Evil men, driven by insecurities, jealousy, and pride, hunted him down. One man in particular, the nation’s current ruler, wanted David dead and made this desire his life’s mission. He was relentless and his actions were unfair. David could’ve fought back. He could’ve told everyone he encountered of the injustice of it all, of how evil and deranged his enemies were.

What’s more, he who’d single-handedly conquered a nine-foot, tyrannical giant, could’ve assassinated his greatest threat and, presumably, spent the remainder of his life in peace.

But he didn’t. Instead, he sought God—regularly, fervently, and fully.

In Psalm 25, clearly written during a time of intense conflict, he said:

“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in You I trust. … let not my enemies exult over me” (v. 1, ESV). In other Image of Ps 25:1words, “I surrender my life and this situation to You and trust You to protect and defend me.”

He continued, “Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous” (v. 3).

David was able to wait, to rest in God’s sovereignty and timing, because he knew deep in his heart that God was just. That though evil appeared to be winning at that moment, truth and goodness would prevail.

But here’s his power prayer:

“Make me to know  Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all day long” (v. 4-5).

In the middle of his pain and fear, while enduring injustice, David sought God, saying, in essence, “What should I do now? How do You want me to respond? Show me, lead me, and teach me.”

Oh, the wisdom and strength in those words. Can you imagine what our relationships might look like if we learned to seek not just God’s intervention or vindication, but more importantly, His heart?

A while back, a loved one came to me in tears. She, like my friend, had been deeply hurt. I listened, hugged her, then asked, “Have you prayed about this?” When she responded that she had, I asked further, “And how are you praying?”

She said, “I told God this sucks.”

I laughed and nodded, agreeing with both her and Christ in her. But then I said, “Ask Him what He wants to show you.”

Her venting to God openly and honestly was a great start. May we always unveil the depths of our heart and hurts to the One who knows and loves us deeply. But may we not stop there, lest we get stuck in the pain or respond in unguided emotion. Rather, may we, like David, ask our Savior to show us, lead us, and teach us.

When we do that, the results will be beautiful, regardless of how our situations turn out, because God will strengthen and change us through it. He’ll help us become a little more like His Son, who demonstrated incomprehensible love in the face of injustice and evil—because His vision centered on something far beyond that moment to the souls of all mankind.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, join her private Faith Over Fear Facebook Group, Logo image for Faith Over Fearand watch out for her soon-to-launch Faith Over Fear Podcast and Bible reading plan on the YouVersion app.

 

 

 

 

Resting in God Our Rock When Our Enemies Attack

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In 2006, my husband stepped into an ugly power struggle that nearly cost him his job. In the span of a year, he’d changed employment three times, landing, precariously, at the company he’d started with, but in a different location and with a pay cut and demotion. The organization he initially quit, with zero notice. Therefore, though my husband’s former boss, through God’s grace, invited him back, Steve’s position felt shaky at best. Like he was one mistake away from unemployment.

Adding to this mess of uncertainty was the fact that my husband was coming in both equal and under the current shop director. A man accustomed to little oversight, and whom we soon discovered was behaving unethically in countless ways. He was allowing employees to “steal” time, was misreporting injuries, misusing his company credit card in outlandish and grievous ways, and gave those with influence special privileges. Worse, he pressured my husband to comply with his dishonest tactics.

Though anxious, my husband refused, knowing, however his boss responded, whatever occurred, his allegiance was to Christ and Christ alone. He made the right hard choice. The result: the truth eventually came out, his boss and numerous managers were fired and walked off the property, while my husband was promoted.

We rejoiced at God’s goodness and grace, celebrating the fact that righteousness and justice had prevailed. Soon, however, our praise turned to desperate prayers for God’s intervention and protection as evil, power-hungry men used to getting their way slandered and attacked him.

One man in particular, the union rep, determined to make it his mission to get my husband fired. Every day, he bombarded my husband with accusations and demands in an attempt to wear him down. When this didn’t work, he turned to the Chief Executive Officer telling him how “terrible” my husband was. Once sent, he printed and prominently displayed the letter he wrote, in which he’d twisted everything my husband had or hadn’t done in an effort to make him look bad.

While walking down the hallway one morning, my husband happened to see this letter, tacked on one of the union bulletin boards. He felt attacked and deeply fatigued. Not only had his continual decision to make the right hard choice not produced positive results, but it’d landed him in a mess. One that felt never-ending and in fact appeared to be gaining momentum.

With every interaction, my anxiety climbed. What if this man succeeded and Steve’s company let him go? Where would he work? How would we pay our bills? Our mortgage? What if we lost our home?

Initially, our world felt out of control. Our security only as steady, as sure, as my husband’s next paycheck. But then we remembered our sure foundation, the immovable rock upon which we stood.

Psalm 18:1-2 says, “I love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliver.”quote pulled from post

This was written by ancient Israel’s second king, a mighty warrior who’d once defeated a tyrannical giant without displaying a hint of fear. But this warrior found strength not in himself and his military prowess, but instead in His sovereign, all-powerful, ever-present God. He recognized how insufficient, how vulnerable, he was apart from God, but more so, how protected, untouchable, he was when raised upon the crags of God’s love.

Towering rocks or bluffs dotted the landscape of ancient Palestine, providing places of refuge, of protection, for all who scampered upon them. These elevated geological edifices were difficult to reach and offered shelter within their caverns. Therefore, they became places of safety in times of danger.

Fortresses offered similar protection. The people built heavily-fortified cities high upon a cliff, where they could see enemies approach for miles. Then, they erected stone towers at the highest point in the city.

Can you sense the layers of protection revealed in the Psalm 18 passage? In Christ, we stand high upon an immovable rock of power and grace, further hidden within the clefts of His love. His strength is greater than anything or anyone that comes against us. We are triply protected within His steadfast embrace. He is our sure and constant deliverer, the rock beneath our feet, and the fortress surrounding us.

In 2006, as attacks continued to barrage my husband and our family, we hid ourselves deeply in God. When anxiety arose, we reminded ourselves of where our true security lay, and all we knew to be true about God. He was faithful, loving and attentive—unconquerable. He was our ever-present provider, the only One with the power to sustain us.

That year, He proved Himself to be all those things and more. I’m confident He’ll do the same for you. Whatever you’re facing, whatever is coming against you, rest in this: God’s got you. He’s standing beside you, within you, and is camped around you. He is your refuge, your rock, and your strong, fortified tower.

You don’t have to be strong or know all the answers—that secret that will somehow whisk you to safety—because in Christ, you’re already safe.

Let’s talk about this! When has God proven Himself to be your rock and your fortress? How might remembering this time help you when future problems hit?

If you’re facing a difficult, uncertain period, how might it help to shift your thoughts off your ever-changing circumstances and onto your immovable Savior?

If you currently feel under attack, make sure to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the endLogo image for Faith Over Fear of this month by Salem Web Communications, my upcoming Faith Over Fear Bible reading plan, and join the Faith Over Fear challenge launching on social media on February 6th. You can find the Faith Over Fear Facebook group HERE and watch a short clip on unexpected anxiety HERE. Read the passage I reference in the video HERE.

Connect with Jennifer Slattery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

Finding Joy When Our Kids Struggle

woman with childWhen those we love hurt, often our first response is to try to fix things. Or, if we anticipate a potential threat, we may attempt to orchestrate things so that those we care about somehow remain pain-free. At least, that’s how I’m tempted to respond. Until I take a step back and consider life through a more grace-filled lens and remember, God always has a hope-filled plan, one intended to bring healing and growth.

I’ve always hated to see our daughter struggle emotionally, spiritually, or physically. As a result, at times, my parenting became entangled with my heart’s desire to make my daughter happy. Many times, watching tears pour from her big green eyes, I forgot God’s primary focus was on her growth, not her momentary comfort or pleasure.

Unfortunately, sometimes, many times, growth involves pain.

When our daughter was young, we home-schooled, and after an expensive and unproductive first semester, I started adapting my lessons to her learning style. I realized rather quickly, textbooks and paperwork didn’t work for her, so I tossed out over a thousand dollars’ worth of curriculum and began planning my own.

I found a way to teach everything through dialogue, stories, or hands-on activities. She excelled and quickly developed a love for learning punctuated by questions and personal exploration. In fact, many times I felt as if I was simply trying to keep up!

Everything changed once she entered institutionalized school. To paraphrase her next eight-and-a-half years of learning, she struggled. A lot. Though I saw her angst, I largely didn’t understand what was really going on. Initially, I assumed she was simply having a difficult time adjusting and that I’d left some holes in her educational journey. When she reached high school, I figured her challenges came from taking a demanding course load, from not having developed proper time management and study skills, and from not clicking with teachers.

I didn’t realize how hard she was working nor how many adaptations she’d made in order to be successful.

Then came college when everything moved much more quickly, was much more challenging, and where her adaptations proved insufficient.

She called me often, in tears, saying, “Mom, this just isn’t working for me. No matter how hard I try or how much I study.” She would routinely stay up until one or two in the morning, doing all she knew to do in order to prepare for a test or master an assignment, only to fail. She became so sleep deprived, her vision blurred, and she had migraines more often than not. She also developed severe testing anxiety to the point she’d vomit every morning before class.

Her stress level became so high, she acquired her second and third bout of shingles her freshman and sophomore years, consecutively. Well-intentioned friends suggested perhaps she needed to change majors, and though I never voiced this to her, I wondered the same. Yet, she’d felt called into engineering since a missions trip to El Salvador in middle school and was determined to persevere, pushing herself deeper and deeper into exhaustion.

Luckily, an insightful professor noticed some concerns with her writing and suggested she get tested for dyslexia. She did in December of her sophomore year, and as I read the results a week later, I cried as so many of her childhood struggles and behaviors suddenly made sense.

How could I not have known? Why hadn’t God told me? I’d prayed, almost daily, that He would grant me wisdom and help me parent to her heart. He’d done that in so many areas; why not in this one? Had we known, we could’ve gotten her help and resources that would’ve helped her succeed and avoid so much pain.

But as I was praying, struggling with my guilt and frustration at God for what felt like His lack of direction, I sensed Him whispering to my spirit, “She needed to struggle.”

I thought about that statement for some time after and have come to realize how true that was. Had I known about her dyslexia and other challenges, likely in empathy, I would’ve limited her. I might have encouraged her to take easier classes. But more than that, she wouldn’t have developed the grit that has enabled her to press through and view difficulties as challenges to overcome rather than dead ends.

Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most when you read today’s post? When has someone else’s pain sent you into “fix it” mode, and how might pointing them to Jesus and growth in Him help them more instead?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

And speaking on the courage to surrender–whether ourselves or someone we love–make to keep an eye out for my upcoming Faith Over Fear podcast, releasing at the end of this month by Salem Web Communications. We’ll be talking about, among other things, finding the courage to surrender.

I’ll also be  releasing, through the YouVersion app, and will launch a Faith Over Fear challenge on social media on February 6th. Find out more HERE. And make sure to watch out for Wholly Loved’s next Bible study, Unshakable, Unbreakable Joy, releasing in 2020, with relationship building resources and more!

 

New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making and Keeping

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When you review 2019, the highs and the lows, the goals you began with and those unexpected yet precious moments experienced along the way, does it change how you view 2020? Does it change what you’ll prioritize and what you’ll release?

It does for me.

I’ve discovered how fleeting grand achievements can be. Last decade, years before I received my first publishing contract, I often dreamed of the “call.” For a time, this longing became my obsession, causing my emotions to rise and fall on every step forward or rejection. And now, nine titles and countless articles later, though I’m grateful for every opportunity God allowed, those accomplishments aren’t what I hold most dear.

Similarly, as a former high school dropout, it took me nearly twenty years to earn my college degree. Twenty years of moves and starting over, of switching majors, juggling motherhood and canceled babysitters and studying and tests. But though my family celebrated—with flourless chocolate cake!— when I finally graduated, that event wouldn’t make my “end of life” list. Too many other, much more monumental and sacred memories will occupy that spot.

On New Year’s Eve, as I sat across from the love of my life and, together, we reminisced on all of our successes and failures, some patterns emerged—patterns of beauty, of growth, of healing. Of heart-purging and filling, adding clarity to my days ahead. I want to live with intentionality, absolutely! But I want to make sure I’m pursuing what matters most, what adds beauty, purpose, and joy.

In 2020 …

  1. I want to prioritize prayer

Each morning, before I write one task on my ever-lengthening to-do list, I want to prayerfully offer each moment to my Savior. I know He has a plan, not just for my life, but for my every day as well. He knows what’s ahead, whom I’ll encounter, and when my loved ones will need an extra hug. Ultimately, I want to live as if God truly is my Lord—my master and my guide.

  1. I want to practice gratitude Gratitude notebook

The other night, my husband said something that briefly took me aback. He said I was a positive person, and this brought me joy, not just because I believe that’s such a godly trait to cultivate, but also because there was a time when he likely would’ve said the opposite. There was a time when my thoughts instantly jumped to the negative and I complained much more frequently than I praised. But as my intimacy with Christ deepened, my perspective changed. My heart changed, and I realized how blessed I truly was. God has given me so much—a husband I adore, a daughter who daily makes me laugh, loved ones who see the best in me, and a faith-family who continually points me to Christ. But even if all of those things were absent, I’d still be abundantly blessed because I always and will forever have my Savior, the One who knows me, sees me, stands beside me, and loved me enough to redeem me.

  1. I’ll take a regular Sabbath rest

If you know me well, you’ve discovered how easily bored I can be. How much enjoyment I receive from productivity, efficiency, and forward momentum. My husband often jokes that I have “ants in my pants,” claiming I can’t even watch television without having other tasks to complete. He’s not wrong. I’m a writer, editor, mentor, ministry leader, teacher, and speaker who often works long hours and ruthlessly eliminates distractions. But amidst all my busyness, I’ve learned to fiercely guard my Sabbaths. Sundays are my rest days and have been since my daughter’s preschool years. Those are the days I set my manuscripts and computer aside, turn my phone to silent, and spend my afternoons and evenings reading or napping.

Those moments of reprieve give me the energy I need to successfully tackle the rest of my week.

  1. I’ll diligently live in grace

I used to waste so much time and energy on guilt and regret. When I’d say something I wished I hadn’t or maybe acted rude rather than loving, I’d rehash the scenario in my brain for days. I routinely lived in shame rather than grace, in essence, elevating my sin above the cross. But no more! Jesus paid much too high a price for me to hold on to my former self. I most honor His death and most clearly represent the gospel when I live in its reality. When I anchor myself so deeply in Christ’s love and forgiveness, that everything else fades so far in my periphery that I forget it entirely.

God doesn’t ask me to live perfectly. He doesn’t expect me to strive or perform. Rather, He invites me to abide and accept, fully and deeply, the precious gift of atonement He granted.

  1. I’ll diligently dish out grace

I cannot simultaneously live in grace while withholding it from others. Whenever I cling to an offense, whenever I harbor bitter thoughts and emotions against another fallible but deeply loved human, I’m demonstrating I’ve lost sight of the cross. I’ve lost sight of my Savior. I’ve lost sight of hope. But when I begin to view others through the same lens through which Christ views me, healing prevails. Christ’s love purifies my heart and draws me closer to Himself and others.

  1. I’ll live generously

God, my Provider and Sustainer, invites me, daily, to live in full dependence on Him. That is where my generosity stems from. When I realize I belong to the God who owns a thousand cattle on a thousand hills, I find the courage to release my grip on my time and resources. As I do, His joy flows, unhindered through me and my heart and life align more closely with His.

  1. I’ll dance often woman dancing in the sunset

Years ago, my daughter came home from school one afternoon feeling down. I don’t remember why, but it was a situation I had zero control over. I stood there for a moment, saddened by her pain. Then not knowing what else to do, I grabbed her hands and pulled her into a goofy dance. At first, she was stiff, reluctant. I’m sure she rolled her eyes with a huff. But soon, she relaxed, and together we danced about the kitchen, both our days momentarily lightened.

The next day when she returned home, she grabbed my hands and began to dance as I had done with her. I realized how much that silly yet special moment had meant to her. This soon became our tradition—on good days and bad, hard days and those filled with celebration, we learned to hit pause, to intentionally create moments of joy.

  1. I’ll laugh often

Ladies, we often set the tone in our homes. We can sprinkle gloom and frustration or stir our family to laughter. Both types of environments are contagious. One leads to increased tension while the other binds hearts, defuses stress, and infuses our days with life and light.

  1. I’ll guard my peace

We’ll likely face numerous challenges in the year ahead, many we won’t have control over. But that doesn’t mean we must absorb the tension and chaos. We certainly don’t have to reflect it. God invites us to live from a higher plane—seated in the heavenlies with Him (Eph. 2:6). In other words, to remember where our true home lies, where our Power Source resides, and to live, continually, yielded to our guide.

Perhaps God leads us to remove ourselves from certain situations, or maybe He’ll call us to persevere in love. Regardless, when we’re following Him, seeking to honor Him above all else, everything will feel much less consequential. Because our eyes will rise above the drama of today and center on the things of eternity.

  1. I’ll embrace godly risk

Scripture tells me I have the power of the risen Savior living and breathing within me, stirring and empowering me to do His will. I refuse to allow my fears or insecurities to hinder what God might want to do in and through me. I belong to Him, to be used as He wills—for His glory, not mine. When I daily squash my pride to give God’s Spirit free reign, my fears begin to die as the strength and courage birthed through surrender take hold.

God has so much planned for 2020, plans He’s inviting you and I to participate in. He’s not calling us to change the world with superhuman faith. All He’s asking is that we’d yield, live in and breath out His grace, and grab hold of every moment of joy, so that He can change the world through us.

Speaking of moving boldly into 2020 … I invite you to join me for my Faith Over Fear challenge, which I’ll launch next month. Keep an eye out!

Additional resources:

Better Than New Year’s Resolutions by Jennifer Slattery

10 Steps to Help You Think Through Your Goals for the New Year by Jennifer Slattery

More Than a New Year’s Resolution by Girlfriends in God