As I begin to prepare for this New Year, and reflect back over 2015, one huge desire comes to mind: The desire for more JOY.
You see, 2015 was a full and busy year for our family. We had three, THREE siblings get married in 2015…
There were so many reasons to celebrate this year. By all accounts, we had a wonderful year filled with many blessings. But in the midst of intense wedding planning x3, a rough twin pregnancy which ended with a difficult c-section recovery, and then the normal exhaustion of newborn twins plus two-year old twins…somewhere along the way, I lost my intentionality.
Much of 2015 was spent in survival mode. I don’t bemoan that. Because the truth is: When you have a newborn, let along newborn twins AND 2.5 year old twin boys, you are living in survival mode for a while. By God’s grace, we got through the year with tremendous blessings.
But now, heading into this new year, with 6 month old twins, and newly minted three year olds: I’m convicted now more than ever to focus on JOY.
You see, the internet lately has been imploding with articles calling mothers to: slow down, enjoy these little years, focus on playing with your kids and leaving the dishes until later, saying NO to too many things, etc…
And while I don’t disagree with much of it, I also find it a little discouraging at times.
Really, the last thing I can do right now, in this season, is SLOW DOWN. I’m barely treading water as it is. I’m fighting for survival. Some days (like the first two months of my twins’ lives) are a fog. A constant state of no-sleep, caffeine, diaper changes, and feeding babies. I’m so incredibly thankful for the family God has given me.
These four little darlings rely on me for everything. My husband and I have a new business. We are constantly running out of clean clothing that isn’t soaked with spit up or poop. The fridge is empty and the toddlers are asking for something to eat. Again. (I’m seriously afraid of having four teenage boys in the house when these toddlers already eat so much. I think we need to start an emergency teenager feeding fund soon. Ahem.) The toilets have a nice film on them that desperately needs cleaning…and the list could go on.
Life doesn’t slow down. In fact, each year seems to speed up.
Getting ready for Church the other day was one of those days. We pulled up late and grumpy and started unbuckling four children out of carseats (all of whom wanted to be carried). And I spotted a mom.
A mom walking on her own. Carrying only her purse and her Bible. That was it. No diaper bag. No sippy cups or bottles. No toddler crawling up her legs or struggling out of her arms. And trailing behind her, all walking on their own, were her five kids. They all had their own bags and Bibles in hand. The mom was ahead of them, walking through the parking lot, waving to friends as they headed into the sanctuary.
I mean, she wasn’t even frantically twisting around, counting her kids to make sure no one was going to run in front of a car!!
As I watched her, my eyes filled with tears and I thought, “One Day.” It was hope and despair all rolled into one groggy, tired thought.
And in that moment, I had to speak truth to myself:
- God’s Grace and His Strength will get me through this season
- I am not enough, but HE is!
- One day I will miss this season.
Or so says every older woman I’ve talked to. I know there is wisdom in listening to those older than myself who have walked this path before who now miss these fleeting days. Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 2 that there is wisdom and truth in young women humbling themselves to be instructed by older women.
Some days, I can’t imagine missing certain things about this stage, but I know there is wisdom and truth in their advice and it needs to help shape how I think about this season.
Which leads me to my focus for 2016:
JOY in all things.
- I know 2016 will go too fast. (Psalm 144:4)
- I know my boys are growing up faster than I would like. (Psalm 39:4)
- I know that far too often I get wrapped up in my own woes and don’t look outside myself. (Philippians 2:3-4)
- I know that I am more likely to walk in Pride than I am in Humility. (Colossians 3:12)
- I know I spend too much time gossiping and not enough time building others up. (Ephesians 4:29)
- I know I spend too much time worrying about events happening in this fallen world instead of serving CHRIST. (Matthew 6:25-34)
So my word for the year is JOY because it perfectly encapsulates my goals for this year, the principles of which I find in Scripture.
1) God calls us to have Joy in all things
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16
We don’t have to hunt for God’s Will in this verse. His will is that we would rejoice in all circumstances and gives thanks always (even when we are facing severe persecution as many of the apostles and those in the early church did)!
2) We find Joy when we cultivate a Thankful heart
“The occasion of your thanksgiving, as well as what you give thanks for, says a lot about your spiritual maturity. The Bible tells us to be thankful for all people and all things. Have you ever thought what a list of all things includes? Corrupt governments, unjust employers, bitter spouses, severe illnesses, economic collapses—all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Philippians 4:6).
Only one kind of person is able to express gratitude for those things—a humble Christian. Believers know they don’t deserve anything from God but judgment, so like the early church, they can sing hymns while they suffer in prison (Acts 16:25), or rejoice when they’re persecuted for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41). Humble Christians view every bitter thing as sweet, and rejoice always (Philippians 1:18).” – John MacArthur
It’s really hard to rejoice and have a joyful heart when we are not constantly thanking God for what we has given us. And when we face difficult and tough seasons, the surest way to start to feel Joy again is to start counting your blessings and thanking the Lord. Of course, God doesn’t promise that we will be happy in this world – and that our every need or want will be met – but he does promise joy to those who seek it.
3) Which leads us to being content…
When God calls us to rejoice, to give thanks in all circumstances, to pray without ceasing, it doesn’t leave much room for complaining or dwelling on our own circumstances. I want to learn more and more to be like the apostle Paul and learn to be content in all things. I want to be steady, characterised by an even head and a contentment in all that God gives.
“Fifth, learn to rely on God’s power and provision. The apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”; and Jesus said He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Like Paul, we can learn to rely on Christ’s promise. He faithfully infuses every believer with His own strength and sustains them in their time of need until they receive provision from His hand (Eph. 3:16).” – What is the Secret to Contentment?
4) And serving the LORD
All of this culminates in humbling myself and serving the Lord more. Rising early in the morning – without grumbling – to better serve my family. Putting my husband’s needs before my own. Beating pride out of my heart and responding with joy and humility to others.
Finally, become preoccupied with the well-being of others. Paul summarized this mindset in Philippians 2:3-4, where he wrote: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
A self-centered man is a discontented man. But the soul of the generous man, the man who lives for the interests and benefit of others, will find blessing upon blessing in his life.” – What is the Secret to Contentment?
So my goals for 2016 are coming out of my desire for more JOY in my life and how to be more thankful and better strive for holiness in my life. Here’s what I’m working on to achieve (or at least make progress in) my goals:
My goals/resolutions for 2016
1) Memorize Scripture to fill my mind with the things of God
I’m hoping to sit down soon to compile a list of Bible verses that go along with my goals and areas that I’m struggling with (i.e. Pride or gossip) and make Scripture memory cards out of them. I’ve been convicted that I have far too little Scripture memorized and ready to call up at a moment’s notice – word prefect.
I plan on sharing that list of Bible verses when I get to making it!
2) Daily Bible Reading
By God’s Grace, 2015 was a year of more consistent Bible reading than I’ve had in a really long time. But there’s always room for improvement and I’m more motivated than ever to make sure that each day is focused on God’s things and not simply my own agenda.
I hope to cover it on my blog one day, but I did an entire session in our Homemaking Ministries Online Conference about Bible reading, different methods and schedules, and tips for being more consistent. It was a very thorough and in-depth session.
3) More Consistent Prayer
God doesn’t need us to pray. But God has given us a wonderful opportunity in prayer to draw closer to him. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, sandwiched between a call to rejoice always and give thanks in all things, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing.
Prayer is a key element of the Christian life – and yet an easy one to ignore. If you are struggling in your prayer life (or don’t know how to pray) then I highly recommend this short but very effective book: Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
4) Better Schedules & Routines
A key piece to this puzzle – and my goals for this year – is to develop better and more consistent schedules. Along with my daily Bible reading, scripture memorization, more consistent prayer life…diapers still need changing, meals need cooking, laundry needs folding, and so in.
If I don’t learn how to better manage my home, then those truly important parts of my day will go by the wayside. Developing better household management is one of the keys to a more Spiritually-disciplined life.
Getting Up Early
One of those keys for my year that I will be focusing on the most in January, is going to be getting to bed earlier so that I can start getting up earlier.
As I shared last week, I’m craving some consistency in my schedules. I’m needing better routines and habits built into my day as I’m coming out of a very chaotic season. I have been resistant to this for a long, long time (because I am NOT a morning person) but I think it’s finally time.
Slowly, I am going to try and get up a few minutes early (and then eventually earlier and earlier) in the hopes of establishing a solid morning routine that includes my Bible reading, prayer, and a few minutes of planning my day so that I can start off the day in control instead of waking up to chaos and already feeling so far behind!!
How do we find joy – real joy – within our days? As women, a lot of what we do can seem mundane and tedious. But when we view our homemaking (and our life) through the lens of the Bible, we can begin to experience real Joy, Peace, and Tranquility in our lives…all for God’s Glory.
Join me for this free training: a 5 part video series that walks you through the essential habits that all Christian homemakers must form!