New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making and Keeping

Picture of a calendar

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

 

Choosing What Ball to Drop

I drop a lot of balls. I’m fairly certain I routinely disappoint a lot of people. I’m late responding to text messages, my house is rarely clean, and there are times when I go to cook dinner and find the fridge empty.

Each day, there are things I choose to ignore, and other things that get ignored by default. And yet, even with the latter, I make the choice. By choosing to do one thing, I am, in essence, choosing to let something else go. 

Time is our most precious–and most easily lost and wasted–resource.

I want to make sure I’m making the most of it. That I’m actively choosing which balls to drop. Because when something’s important to me, I make time for it. My priorities are revealed in my schedule.

Made beds and empty sinks are not top on my list.

So what is?

Jesus. My husband. My daughter. My church family and my friends.

At least, that’s what I say. But is this true? Does this claim reveal itself in my typical day?

God had given Him an incredible task, the most important responsibility known to man, and His time was incredibly short. In the span of maybe six years, Jesus was to reveal the heart of His Father to all mankind, pay for the sins of humanity, select and train a small group of motley men to birth His church, defeat death and sin, rise from the dead, and then return to the Father.

All while people were pressing in on Him, begging for His time, for His healing, His touch, wherever He went.

For me, that’s when things get exponentially difficult–when I’ve got something I know I need to do, but it feels like everyone else needs me. If I’m not careful, I can get swept into the chaos and confusion of other people’s expectations and lose sight of what Christ is calling me to do. 

In other words, there are many times when I put everyone and everything above my Savior. 

Is that idolatry? I’m not sure, but I know it’s contradictory to what I often claim–that Jesus is my Lord, my master, my God. Instead, in those moments, He becomes an addition. Almost an afterthought. One that leaves me exhausted, depleted, and hovering near but never quite grasping the abundant life Christ offers (John 10:10).

You may be familiar with this fact: As Jesus taught and healed in Galilee, His fame grew, and “vast crowds” followed Him (Luke 5:15), pressing in on Him, wherever He went. So, He dropped everything and immediately responded to their demands, right? Wouldn’t that be the loving, the “Christian” thing to do?

Not always. “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 15:16, NLT). There were times He chose to ignore the constant pull of the crowd, the very ones He’d come to save, to remove Himself–in order to be filled. Refueled. Re-centered. 

This left the disciples baffled. “Everyone is looking for you,” they said. (Mark 1:35-37)

I can almost hear the exasperation in their voices: “Lord, where have You been???”

Where? With His Father.

Reading this, I’m tempted to think, “But that was Jesus. He was God, and I’m clearly not.”

And yet, Jesus came not only to give us life but to show us, in clear, tangible steps, how to live it. And, through His death and resurrection, He gave us the power to do just that. 

The question I must ask myself is: will I? Will I be intentional in how I spend my time, will I treat the most important things as the most important things? Will I trust that if I put Him first, He’ll take care of everything else

Let’s talk about this! Take a moment to prayerfully evaluate your schedule. What does it reveal about your priorities? What might you need to shift in order to place God more at the center?

Everything is easier when done in community, and for that reason, I invite you to join Maria Morgan and I this coming Tuesday to, daily, dig into God’s Word the Bible and dialogue together about how we can live it out. Find out more HERE. I hope you’ll join us!

Before you go, I have a fun announcement! You can now pre-order my next release, Healing Love! Grab your copy HERE!

And for those who enjoy following me online, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Monday I visited Kristen Terrette’s blog to talk about Preparing for Divine Appointments.

Yesterday I visited Sandra chatted with writers about a similar topic, Making Time to Write When it Feels You Have None to Give.

Today I’m on Julie Arduini’s blog talking about Saying Yes to God (even when that involves transparency and vulnerability).

And for the book lovers among us, I wanted to tell you about Wholly Loved’s Operational Manager Dawn Ford’s debut release, Knee High Lies–so good! Check it out HERE.

Time to Breathe

Yesterday was a pause, remember, and reflect day where I celebrated all God has done in my life and renewed my committment to follow whole-heartedly after Him. Which implies I will consistently take the time to actually listen for His direction. That’s the hard part, isn’t it? Especially when things get crazy. Today multi-published author Cara Putman shares her thoughts on calendars, stress, and taking the time to breathe.

Please note, she’s giving away a copy of Shadowed by Grace to one of you, randomly selected from the comments below. Also, don’t forget about Faith-Filled Friends’ month long give-away. 🙂 If you haven’t been over there in a while, now might be a good time. Tuesday, I talked about some of my friends’ greatest fears–finding themselves in my novels. ha! You can read this fun yet thought-provoking post here.

putman-LR-1Taking Time to Breathe by Cara Putman

It’s a new year.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a new calendar out … and are praying for a short reprieve before its nice, clean blocks begin to fill with new events, tasks and activities.

My family graduated from standard blocks several years ago to the kind of calendars that provide separate blocks each day for up to six family members. Even so the days get filled and hard to read.

Is it even possible to stop?

To pause?

To breathe?

Not unless we commit to make it a priority. I can complain that life is busy, or I can take a pocket of time to step back and intentionally evaluate where I am, where my family is, and where we want to be.

So what should we do? I have a few suggestions…just remember I’m talking to myself just as much as making suggestions to you.

1)     Pause and ask God what He thinks of your schedule. Should some things end for a season? Are there things you should add? Are there things you should do as a family?

2)     Evaluate your family’s pulse. Are you all tired? Is there an attitude creeping in that is tired-boy-899951-ma reflection of a harried life style or too little sleep? Do you need to make some adjustments?

3)     How many activities can each person/child do? I’ve known families that only allow one per child. Or all children do the same sport. What works best for you?

4)     Are there on-going responsibilities you’ve taken on that you should release? Just because you’ve taught Sunday school for five, ten, twenty years, doesn’t mean you should continue to do so. Do you need to step out of the way so someone else can step up and grow?

What would you add to this list of suggestions?

Cara C. Putman graduated high school at 16, college at 20, and completed her law degree at 27. An award-winning author of seventeen books with more on the way, she is active in women’s ministry at her church and is a lecturer on business and employment law to graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and is a second-generation homeschooling mom. Putman is currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Administration at Krannert. She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana. You can connect with her online at:

FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

ShadowedbyGrace_CVRShadowed by Grace:

Rachel Justice is desperate to save her dying mother. She doesn’t want to leave her, but she accepts her newspaper’s assignment to travel to Italy and photograph war images. No one knows her photography is a cover and that Rachel is really seeking to find the father she never knew, hopeful to get some help with her failing mother. Dedicated to her mission, Rachel is focused on completing it. Soon, though, she finds her priorities and plans changing when she is assigned to Lt. Scott Lindstrom, on mission as a Monument Man. Their meeting will have far-reaching consequences. Will this derail her plans? Will she ever find her father? Is her faith enough to carry her through?

Buy it here.

Read the first chapter here.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. Do you regularly take time to reflect–on your faith walk, personal growth, AND schedule and commitments? I’ve found, come December, I’ll notice a large number of tasks have been added to my calendar, many that were accepted almost accidentally. Accidental commitments don’t move me in the purposeful direction God’s planned, which means, there are times I must cut back. Then again, there are times He nudges me to add something new. But if my schedule’s loaded with the accidental, there’s no room to embrace God’s new. 😉 Join the conversation in the comments below or on Facebook at Living by Grace.

What are some ways you stay on top of your schedule? How do you keep yourself centered in God’s will for you and your family?

Some other articles you might find helpful:

Finding Meaning in the Mundane

Living 2014 With Intentionality

Time to Quit 

Additional book length resources:

Mommy Pick-Me-Ups by Edna Ellison and Linda J. Gilden

Deeper Still by Edna Ellison

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock, Americans Love Their Clock

Last night our church talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan and somehow this led to a conversation on social mores and customs. (I’m not sure if it was a way to excuse our Americanized, “It’s all about me” mentality, or if we just happened to hop down a rabbit trail or two.) The jest of it was that Americans do things so differently than the majority of other nations. Many of our neighboring countries place a high priority on relationships. According to our small group leader, in Africa, relationships are valued to such an extent, one stays until a conversation is done–until the conversing party excuses them. There’s no, “Hey, I hate to cut you off, but I’ve got to go.” If you miss work, you miss work. I suppose you’d learn to schedule your fellowship time on Saturdays. lol.

In America, it’s all about productivity and achievements. People think nothing of fathers who can’t make it home for dinner or mothers who have their nannies on speed dial. It doesn’t take long to figure out where our priorities lie. Relationships? Not high on the list.

And before I get too far, I have to admit, I am very guilty of putting my schedule before relationships. Partially because I’m an introvert–a gregarious introvert, I suppose you could say. It’s not that I can’t handle social events–in fact, I’ll probably be the most talkative of the bunch. It’s just that I’d prefer to stay at home. With my computer, my books, and maybe some softly playing music. But if I’m not careful, my tasks can dominate my day, leaving others feeling a bit unappreciated.

This is a balance I’m not sure I’ll ever master, but it’s one I can never neglect. For me, scheduling works best. (That sounds a bit odd, I know.) With my family, there are certain days and times that I set aside to be available. With my friends, I’ve had to schedule days in. That way I can’t “get too busy” or conveniently decline. And with my daughter, it can be even harder because as a teen, she’s convinced she doesn’t need parental time. Only I know she does. It’s the time spent in leisurely walks or nestled on the couch that will glue our hearts together when the threat of rebellion seeps in.

Elizabeth George, author of A Woman After God’s Own Heart, has an effective way of keeping first things first. Each day she grabs a slip of paper and folds it into individual sections. Each section is given a category: God, husband, children, and so forth. She begins with prayer, “Lord, show me how I can demonstrate that you are first in my life today.” Then, “Show me how I can love my husband today.”

She comes up with one tangible way to bless each of the individuals on her list. For her God category, perhaps that means spending time in prayer. For her husband, it might mean cooking a special meal. Or maybe she’ll call and ask, “What can I do for you today?” (Gotta tell you, the first time I tried that one, I was pretty worried. Visions of my husband unloading a mammoth to-do list filled my mind. But most of the time, his requests have been very minimal.) It doesn’t really matter what the action is. What’s important is that she took the time to be intentional with her love.

It’s always better to be proactive than reactive. I’ve known so many couples standing on the other side of divorce that highly regret the lack of time they spent investing in their marriage. I’ve also seen countless parents watch their children spiral into destruction, wishing they’d been more consistent with family time and Bible discussions.

But on the flip side? I’ve also witnessed many couples married for decades still light up when their spouse enters the room and I’ve watched numerous adult children look upon their parents with deep respect and admiration.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, but all you’ve really got is  today.

So here’s the challenge: the holidays can be stressful or enriching. You can have the best decorated house on the block, attend all the right functions and buy that perfect gift for the tenth office party you’ll attend. Or, you can scale it back and determine to put first things first, even if that means saying no to that time-sapping function. Or perhaps forego cooking that ten course meal in order to spend a few extra moments with your family. Better yet, find ways to include your children or grandchildren in the preparations, focusing more on the event than the outcome. Meaning, if your ten year old’s iced cookies look a little less than perfect, let it go.

What about you? Are the holidays a time of stress or a time of celebration and connection? If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, perhaps that’s a sign to scale something back. What “Americanized’ traditions and expectations have seeped into your holidays, detracting from its true purpose? What steps can you take to refocus? What events and activities do you need to say no to? And what could you do simpler?

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the ever-invasive threat of materialism. Yeah, I know, this topic is way overdone, but if you’re anything like me, the constant reminder to put first things first with a counter-culture mentality is a constant battle. One worth contemplating periodically.

1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”