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January 1st—a new year and all that comes with it. Some see it as just another day while others begin with resolutions, goals, or a “one word” for their year. Personally I love beginnings. Whether it is the beginning of the calendar year or the school year (I don’t think I’ll ever get over that mindset even though my kids have graduated!), beginnings make me feel like I have a fresh start. A chance to have an intentional year.
For a long time I was more in love with the idea of it though. I made some resolutions, but did not have a plan to follow through. I guess I was going to depend on that illusive thing called willpower.
Still, I’m drawn to the idea of goals. Of being more intentional with my life. And as I get older one particular verse seems more urgent to me than ever before.
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
The average life-span of a woman in the United States is 81. So let’s do the math. 365 days a year x 81 = 29,565 days. I’m 49 years old and have used up 17,885 of those days, so that leaves me with 11,680 days. Obviously it could be more, or a lot less. Only God knows the days written for us (Psalm 139:16).
Does it put it in perspective, though? To number our days like that? But the idea here isn’t simply to count how many days we may have left, but to make those days count.
And that requires intentionality. It requires discipline.
I traded in my short-lived resolutions several years ago. But I do choose one word and set goals filtered through the lens of that word now. The idea comes from the book My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word by Mike Ashcraft. Instead of being about resolutions, Ashcraft explains that choosing a word
…provides us with a lens, with a new way of seeing. It’s a tool to train our eyes. It helps us frame the way we process the world around us and what happens to us.
In looking through the lens of a single chosen word, I found a new approach to personal change and spiritual formation—one that is doable, memorable, effective, and sticky.
My One Word for 2018
Last year I chose the word cultivate. It was an easy decision. The word seemed to confront me wherever I looked. At the time I didn’t know I was going to start this blog, but God did. And even then he was planting the seed and ideas that it would grow from.
Recently I’ve been reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender. And once again a word confronts me. Discipline. I’ve always struggled with it. But I love the way Elliot frames it a bit differently. Discipline isn’t about willpower; it is about obedience. She says,
Discipline is the wholehearted yes to the call of God. When I know myself called, summoned, addressed, taken possession of, known, acted upon, I have heard the Master. I put myself gladly, fully, and forever at His disposal, and to whatever He says my answer is yes.
So this year I want to say a wholehearted yes to the call of God. And that means each day I will make choices. Choices to obey or disobey. To get up and do the work or to choose comfort. To do the easy things or the hard things. To be intentional with my time or allow distractions to derail my days. I will choose.
Choosing Your One Word
Would you like to join me? To choose one word for 2018? If you don’t know where to begin, let me encourage you to do the following:
1. Start in prayer.
Ask God what he desires for you to focus on. Seek Him first. And take your time. You don’t have to have all of this figured out on January 1st. Spend the first few weeks of your year in preparation—in looking forward—not in feeling like you are behind.
2. Ask yourself a few questions.
- What do I get excited about doing? How has God designed me? Am I living in that?
- How can I glorify Him right where I am? In the areas He has already placed me in?
- Is there a weakness in my life that is keeping me from doing what He has called me to? Is there a strength that I’m not working within?
- Is God impressing something on my heart and mind?
- Is there something I’ve been reading or studying that inspires me to change or grow?
- What do I want the coming year to look like?
And then after you’ve asked yourself those questions…
3. Dream a little.
Yes, dream. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your life looks like right now. And it doesn’t have to be anything “big”. This isn’t someone else’s dream, it is yours.
Let me give you an example. Are you tired of feeling like your house is always chaotic and you can’t find what you want? Do you shy away from asking people over, but long to have a home filled with family, friendship and laughter? Then dream a little. Picture what you want your home to look like without even buying anything new. Allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to be organized. To be out with friends and not hesitate to say, “Hey, why don’t y’all come on over to my house for a cup of coffee?”
Whatever area of life you are struggling in, take the time to picture what it would look like if you changed that reality. And then brainstorm some words that go along with the dream. For our example, the words might be declutter, simplify, or hospitality.
4. Make your choice.
Know there isn’t one “right” word to choose from which you will grow. This isn’t some magical formula. It is simply a tool for Spiritual transformation. And ultimately that transformation is done by the Holy Spirit.
Pray, be in the Word, and let the Spirit lead you. You will never go wrong with a life focused on Him.
An Intentional Year
Yes, this is a new year with new opportunities. I want to invite you to walk alongside me, to decide to be intentional with your new year. This week, we will look at two other tools for this transformation process: setting goals and prayerful planning.
Have you chosen a word for 2018? Share it in the comments below!
Favorite Resources for living intentionally:
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
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