For the past three years, I’ve picked a one-word focus for the 12 months ahead of me, and at the end of that time, I evaluate how it went.
Throughout 2016 (it’s weird to talk about it in past tense already), I felt like I wasn’t doing a great job of sticking to my word. I would forget about it many days, despite it being taped next to my bathroom mirror, and there were many times I didn’t feel very calm, either on the inside or outside.
But today as I thought more about it, I decided there have been some changes.
- There were several times I wanted to get upset about something but remembered my resolve to stay calm and let the upsetting thing pass.
- I altered my work schedule a bit so I don’t get so crazy in traffic, which has helped me stay calmer on my commute.
- When a couple of unexpected things came up last year, I tried not to freak out about them (in either a bad or good way), but slowed myself down to process it all and give a more level-headed response.
- When people annoyed me, I made a more conscious effort to be patient and not get snippy.
I don’t know if I’d call 2016 a success as far as my word goes since I think I could’ve done much better, but at least I saw a little improvement, which is better than nothing.
By early fall, though, I’d already started thinking about my next word and was pretty positive what it should be. I actually thought about using the word last year, but I think 2017 will be a good time for it.
My new word is “balance.”
There are too many days that I feel like my free time just slips by. Too many times I feel like my priorities are out of whack or like I’m barely keeping afloat with all of life’s commitments. I did tackle a bit of this when I focused on simplifying a couple years ago, but now I need to round it out.
I again taped my word next to my mirror, and this time wrote out, in order, what my priorities should be to find that balance: God first, followed by marriage, then family and friends, then work and everything else.
Even though I work for a ministry that starts each day with devotions and prayer, it’s no substitute for my personal time with God—something I’ve gone back and forth with this past year. I’ll get into a routine of reading my Bible every day or praying regularly, then it tapers off, then I do it again, then it tapers off. There’s a huge difference between putting Him first in my life and not, so this year, I’m going to try my best to do it consistently.
Here’s an excerpt from a devotion I read just before Christmas:
The world has become too much a part of us, and we are afflicted with the idea that we are not accomplishing anything unless we are always busily running back and forth. … We believe in having “all our irons in the fire” and that all the time we spend away from the anvil or fire is wasted time. Yet our time is never more profitably spent than when we set aside time for quiet meditation, talking with God, and looking up to heaven. We can never have too many of these open spaces in life—hours set aside when our soul is completely open and accessible to any heavenly thought or influence that God may be pleased to send our way.
Someone once said, “Meditation is the Sunday of the mind.” In these hectic days, we should often give our mind a “Sunday,” a time in which it will do no work but instead will simply be still. …
Time spent in this way is not lost time. A fisherman does not say he is losing time when he is mending his nets, nor does a gardener feel he has wasted his time by taking a few minutes to sharpen the blades on his mower. …
—from Streams in the Desert
After God comes my marriage. I do devote a considerable amount of time to friends and work and other things here and there, but I need to be sure marriage comes before all that. Sometimes that’s easy, sometimes it’s not, so again, I’m going for consistency here.
Here’s my game plan for achieving balance this year:
- Pete and I are going to start reading YouVersion’s Verse of the Day as our devotional time together. We weren’t crazy about the devotional book we went through last year, and the verse will be good because we can access it on our phones no matter where we are.
- I’m going to go through A Passion for Purpose, which gives you a one-page devotional each day. I started it once and really liked it, but never finished.
- I want to create a Gratitude Jar. More on this later, but my hope is that it’ll keep me focused on all of life’s little blessings and remember what’s important.
- I’d also like to finish reading Margin. Mom and Dad got me this book maybe two Christmases ago, and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t finished it. I think I have 4 unfinished books at the moment, but this one is all about balance and I’ve already underlined lots of stuff in the parts I’ve read.
- I want to be more diligent about praying for my friends and family. I just got a new planner that came with a small dry erase board where you can write down your prayer focus for each day of the week. I already wrote down friends’ names in each space for the first week of January.
- And finally, to build on my goal of simplifying from 2015, I want to give more thought to things I say yes to. I can’t do it all, and I don’t want to spread myself so thin that I do nothing well.
Although I think all of these are good goals, I’m not going to beat myself up if I miss a couple of days of devotional reading or forget to pray for so-and-so on Tuesday. I don’t want to be so lax that I’m not working toward balance, but I also know I’ll need grace now and then.
Let’s see how it goes!