I love January. It’s my favorite month of the year. I’ve said it here before, but it bears repeating: I much prefer to celebrate Emmanuel in the quiet, simple, uncluttered routines of January than I do in the obnoxious commercialism and materialism of December. I love clear calendars and fresh starts. I love looking back at everything God did in me and through me the previous year. But I love even more setting a firm focus and direction for the upcoming year. I love knowing where I’m heading. I love knowing my purpose.
“Knowing your purpose simplifies your life. It defines what you do and what you don’t do. Your purpose becomes the standard you use to evaluate which activities are essential and which aren’t. You simply ask, ‘Does this activity help me fulfill one of God’s purposes for my life?’” *
This year, it took me a little longer than usual to narrow things down. I went through an intense period–months, really–of mulling over possibilities and options. I prayed and reflected and read and studied. I picked the brains of people who know me and love me–people who have earned the privilege of speaking into my life. (You know, not everyone has a right to speak into your life, right? I hope you have a few of these people in your posse.) I also recited all of this to my husband (just to make sure I was not crazy), because he is the one person most profoundly and directly impacted by my goals.
(He assured me, I’m not crazy.)
(No, actually, he said I WAS crazy, but I was not crazy concerning these goals.)
After all that, I waited and listened for God’s voice to have the final word.
It’s a powerful thing, annual goal-setting. It sets the course for how I spend the next 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days and 8,765.81 hours. It forces me to see time as the precious commodity it is. To spend it intentionally, with an end result in mind. It forces me to focus my energy on what truly matters, instead of bouncing around from thing-to-thing-to-thing, distracted and unproductive.
Distraction is something I have to confront every minute of the day. It’s not even the bad things that distract me the most. It’s the hundred other good things I could be doing. It’s the one other thing I wonder if I should be doing.
“The power of focusing can be seen in light. Diffused light has little power or impact, but you can concentrate its energy by focusing it. With a magnifying glass, the rays of the sun can be focused to set grass or paper on fire. When light is focused even more as a laser beam, it can cut through steel.” *
I want focus like that. So concentrated that I can cut through stuff.
So, here’s how I intend to focus my light in 2015:
Focus One: To Successfully Transition My Family From Our Current Home to Our New Home. This includes the over-seeing of the building and decorating of the new house, the selling of our current house (Oh, Jesus, please help me with the house-showings. How I loathe the house-showings!), the actual moving into the new house (also loathe!), and the shifting of relational ties as we leave one set of wonderful neighbors for the next.
It’s funny…of all the goals I have for the year, this one was the most difficult for me to actually acknowledge as a viable, worthy focus. For the first half of this building process, I kept trying to accomplish the duties associated with house-building as a side-job. I don’t know how to articulate it, but I didn’t want to focus on it because it felt so insignificant or temporal. But it’s not. It’s huge and eternal, because it involves my kids and their relationships. The home becomes the backdrop where life happens and where faith grows. And hopefully, we will use the house as a ministry tool…teaching, feeding and serving many, many people there.
Our current house is the one the older kids will remember most vividly—where most of their childhood memories were created. It’s not going to be easy for them (or me!) to pack up and drive away. The new house will be most vivid for my youngest, and also the place where we raise and launch our kids into adulthood. It’s a big deal. Therefore, I finally feel like I can, with God’s blessing, make this transition a priority and give it the energy it deserves.
Focus Two: To Love My Husband and My Children Well. This includes all my daily wife and mom duties and responsibilities like playing with and talking to my kids, helping with homework, guiding/training/disciplining, prioritizing time with Jon, preparing healthy meals, cleaning/laundering. And, as much as it depends on me, creating a peaceful and joyful atmosphere.
I include in this category taking good care of myself (healthy eating, exercise, rest and investing in female friendships). Because, basically, if I am toast, I do not love my people well.
This is always a focus of mine, but each year it shifts and changes, depending on where my kids are and what my marriage needs. We just came out of a very, very difficult season in my little family. This year, I want to specifically focus on restoring and nurturing and rebuilding. I want to play more and laugh more (we really need that!). And I want to sprinkle every conversation with God’s word, drawing constant attention to His goodness.
Focus Three: To Go Deeper with God Through Spiritual Disciplines. When I pray about my own spiritual walk with God, the words I keep hearing are “deep” and “depth.” I know God wants to take me on some new spiritual adventures in 2015. I don’t even know what the heck that means, but I sense there are some treasures I have yet to discover (more insight, more wisdom, more clarity, more peace), if only I would gear up and dive down a little deeper. I’m excited about this focus. I’m re-reading one of my favorite books, The Celebration of Discipline, and I intend to use it at an outline the entire year.
Focus Four: To Use My Gifts to Build the Kingdom of God. Primarily, this will be through writing on this blog.
This year I went through an intense season of self-analysis and evaluation. I considered everything I could do well and what I enjoyed, as well as what fits my temperament and season of life. I remembered I am really good at many things. (And I mean “remembered” in the most literal sense of the word. When you are a mom for almost 18 years, it’s easy to forget that you have a skill set that exceeds organizing carpool and picking up dirty socks.) I considered all the ways I could be serving my church and community–things I truly enjoy, with eternal value and cultural relevance and opportunities for human connection (because being a stay-at-home mom can be lonely and isolating).
I seriously considered going back to work part-time. Or starting up some business from home.
I knew I needed to narrow this focus significantly, because it’s not like I’m basking in hours and hours of discretionary time where I can try a few part-time jobs on for size (See Focus One and Focus Two).
“People who don’t know their purpose try to do too much…it is impossible to do everything people want you to do. You have just enough time to do God’s will. If you can’t get it all done, it means you’re trying to do more than God intended for you to do.” *
After hyper-analyzing to the point where, for real, I got on my own nerves, I am now confident that writing is where I should focus in 2015. Not all writing. Only writing on this blog. And not for potential publishers, but for you.
Well, for God, for you.
For the first time in years, I feel like I can focus on good, consistent content (not book-publishing or growing my readership or blog design or any one of a dozen other possibilities that come with writing on line). And when things get crazy, I don’t feel like I have to set writing aside. For the last few years, writing was always the first thing to go. I feel like I can, without a bit of guilt, carve out daily time to create and publish here. And also, protect that time when other duties threaten to steal it.
Maybe you’re not as insane as I am about narrowing things down. (Let’s face it, few people are.) But, I assure you, this process, though laborious and tedious, is a major factor in living a well-balanced life. It truly is the blueprint I will follow the remainder of the year. If an opportunity does not support one of these four major goals, it goes straight to the To-Don’t List.
If you haven’t thought through it yet, it’s not too late to determine your focus for the year. By my calculations, you have approximately 8,333.81 hours left.
“You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (GNT)
*All quotes in this post are from Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? ( Expanded Edition)
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