Looking Forward

I'm pretty sure this is the first year I've really taken inventory. Never have I ever really sat down and soaked in all the blessings from the past year and looked ahead to what the new year will bring. Last year I definitely didn't. Travis and I were recovering from the flu from Christmas and I was in the midst of mastitis while we rang in 2015, plus we had a fresh 2 1/2 month old who enjoyed being awake all hours of the night rather than sleeping like most human beings. Looking to the year ahead was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to get through the day.

This year, however, is different. Both our children sleep through the night now--Praise God from whom all blessings flow!--so I'm not just in survival mode. I actually want to look ahead this year. I'm able to get through most days with my head still on (picture a chicken running with its head chopped off. That was me a year ago), albeit I'm ready to crash at 8 pm, but that just comes with the territory of being a parent. I'm ready to take my walk with the Lord to a new level. I'm ready to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend of which I can be proud. But all these "things" I'm ready to be doesn't just come without effort. Inventory has to be taken. Reflection needs to take place. Looking back to look forward. Despite the sleepless nights and the being sick for two straight months last winter, 2015 served our little family well. I trust that 2016 could be even better. I only say this after I've looked back to look forward. Without reflection, sure, 2016 can still be a great year. But with it, I'm beginning the year with a clear and proactive mind. 

I'm so thankful a mentor recently handed me a list of questions to ask myself as the new year approaches. Questions to get me thinking how I desire this upcoming year to be different than the previous year. I'm excited to share these questions with you in the hopes they'll be an encouragement as you look forward to 2016 as well. I added a few of my answers to the questions below. Most I wanted to keep between the Lord and me. I challenge and encourage you to take some time in the next few days to really ponder over the words below. How can 2016 be different than 2015? 

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
Breathe. Just Breathe. (ok, Faith Hill, you can pipe down in my head, thanks.) Stop for a few seconds...minutes--if I'm blessed with that long--a day to take in the Lord. Pause and let Him envelope me. Breathe in all the good that is He. Really enjoy the laughter of my children. Find the lone flower in the midst of weeds. Gaze at the sunset. Revel in the stars above. Listen to nature. And realize all the above comes from Him alone. Take a breath. 

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
Stay disciplined. With chores, homeschooling, simplifying our lives and home, spending time in the word, working out. And how do I do that? I've come to the conclusion that having a morning routine gives me a better chance of actually staying disciplined. When I am disciplined it makes for everyone else's life to be disciplined. It makes for a happier family. It makes for a purposeful life. One in which you get things done and get to just be rather than just going through the motions to try and get by. 

Below is my current morning routine followed by 2016's morning routine:
-wake up whenever the kids wake up-so no "me" time
-forgo getting changed out of pjs and into real clothes
-maybe make bed but most likely will wait until mid morning (at least it's made by noon!)
-shuffle to the kitchen to make everyone breakfast and coffee; coffee, always coffee
-lounge on couch watching kids play until we have somewhere to be and then scramble to get everyone ready in a matter of 20 minutes. Always late. 

-wake up at 6:30 (hopefully before kids are up since they usually don't wake until 8)
-make bed
-put on bra. This is key.
-make coffee
-start a load of laundry (not everyday, just on days it's needed) and empty dishwasher
-make breakfast
-lounge on couch, get into the word, and just breathe before everyone wakes

So maybe the single most important thing I could do: keep to a morning routine. 

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
My prayer life. It's so weak. I'm so selfish. Confession time: I rarely pray as it is and when I do it's usually all about me and my desires and wishes and wants. So what will I do about it? Last night I was browsing through the website "Desiring God" when I came across this article: Reignite Your Prayer Life. It was perfect. I don't want a step-by-step "this is how you pray". I want something simple. I need something simple because I'm a stay-at-home mom who struggles to pray as it is. So this was perfect. John Piper suggests Pray Through the Bible, "open the bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer". This allows me to dive into the Word and to pray in one setting. It also prevents me from saying the same old things about the same old things. I'm hopeful this is the beginning of a new conversation with Jesus. 

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

If you're where I was last December, without the slightest idea even of what year is coming to a close, IT IS OKAY. Even just a skim through this list might bring new perspective, might bring a little light to the end of the tunnel. Wherever you are in your life just looking forward to the task in front of us--not even to tomorrow--is all that Christ asks of us. So be encouraged, friend, we made it to a new year! 

**Happy 2016!**


These questions come from Don Whitney: Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year.

The photos were taken by Carly Jones.