As 2019 came to a close, my husband challenged me and my parents to do something really thoughtful. While we were all sitting in the living room on NYE, he asked us to reflect on the past decade and select 10 highlights. These 10 moments in time were not necessarily the happiest moments of our last 10 years, but maybe the moments that had the most impact as we looked back. We spent some time thinking and after writing them down, we shared. We reflected on great memories and accomplishments like graduations, weddings, and sweet babies entering the world. We reminisced on fun trips, the Royals winning the World Series, and new life stages – you know I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to acknowledge me stepping into my calling as world’s best dog mom. When sharing our lists, I must admit, most of our last 10 years as a family has been really, really good. We had so many exciting and joyful moments that filled our years. However, we also reflected on several hard moments. Hard seasons, even. We looked back on seasons in the desert, seasons when we had no idea what the future would look like, and seasons of deep pain and hurt. We faced the death of dreams, death of plans, and almost death itself. In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer says this,
“Death is always followed by resurrection.”
This statement has proved true in my life and in the lives of those closest to me. God has been faithful to resurrect the things that were dead. Dreams, opportunities, relationships, health, etc. The beauty of reflecting on our top 10 lists is that through it all, God’s faithfulness is so evident. Through the good, through the bad, I have so much new life to be thankful for.
Along with a top 10 list from the past decade, Riley also encouraged us to create a top 10 list for the next decade. We didn’t spend much time on this part, and mostly just jotted down some trips, goals, and ideas that sounded fun. However, number 10 on my list is the truest desire of my heart.
10. Grow closer to Jesus.
See, in the last several months, God has been doing some heavy lifting in my heart. He has been challenging and stretching me in ways that I’ve never experienced before. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve likely read some of the ideas I’ve been saturated with lately, but I’ll share another today. In the last year, and more intentionally in the last 6 months, I have been on a deep dive in the waters of work, rest, sabbath, and living an unhurried life. I have been studying the life and teachings of Jesus and have also done some other reading on the topic. (I’ll link my favorite resources below.)
In this season of my life, I wouldn’t say that I am too busy. I don’t have children yet, and I work from home, so I actually do find that I have ample free time. However, without a doubt, I am living a distracted life. I’ve been aware for quite awhile now, that what I give my time and attention to is not healthy for my relationship with God or those closest to me.
At the beginning of 2019, I removed social media from my phone in an attempt to reign in my tendency to escape. If you are at all annoyed by how much of your time and attention you’re giving to social media, I would urge you to give this a try. Delete your social media apps off of your phone for one week. Tally every time you reach for your phone to open an app. I promise you, it will blow your mind how many times you are subconsciously turning your attention to your device. Even after having social media removed from my phone for the majority of a year, I still find myself itching to escape the present moment through an app on my phone. I am to the point now that I am so aware of my tendency to checkout, I can usually catch myself in the act and pivot to a new activity. Most recently, when I have the urge to check my phone, I instead turn to prayer – an opportunity to connect with God. It’s been incredibly life giving. Need more persuading? Check out what Comer says in his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry,
“Not only does hurry keep us from the love, joy, and peace of the kingdom of God– the very core of what all human beings crave– but it also keeps us from God himself simply by stealing our attention. And with hurry, we always lose more than we gain.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s terrifying. What if our addiction to social media, Netflix, or whatever our distraction of choice, is doing more than just damaging our eyes? What if it is literally keeping us from experiencing love, joy, and peace? What if it is keeping us from experiencing God himself?
I’m fully convinced that I have to ruthlessly and intentionally eliminate the distractions fighting for my attention, if I want draw near to God and near to others. So, not surprisingly, while I was praying about a word God might have for me in 2020, the word PRESENT came to mind. I decided to rest on that word and let it sit while I did some reading. I was about to close my Bible when I had this urge to read a Psalm before moving on for the day. I randomly opened to Psalm 27. I read through it once slowly and then revisited verse 4,
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Usually when I read this verse, I am reminded of the song we used to sing in church, Better is One Day (I’ve linked to an amazing cover if you’re interested). But, in thinking of this concept of dwelling in the house of the Lord, I always believed that this is something that we as Christians had to look forward to. Maybe when we would go to heaven and spend eternity in God’s presence there. However, after reading this verse again, I read it with fresh eyes. David doesn’t say that he is looking forward to dwelling in the house of Lord in the future. Nope. He wants to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his LIFE. His life here on earth, and beyond. Because we live on this side of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the veil has been torn, we don’t have to go to the temple or church building to spend time in God’s presence. In fact, God’s presence dwells within us and is available to us anytime, any place.
Here’s the truth ya’ll. Our God is so relational. He wants to be with us, near, in us. What do I want in 2020 and for every day after? I want to dwell in God’s presence. I want to be aware and alert to how God is loving, and moving, and speaking. I want to create space for a thriving relationship with the God of the universe because if that’s available to me, why wouldn’t I lean into that?
But this relationship, this abiding, it doesn’t just happen. It takes being intentional, it takes margin, and trust, and patience. It takes being present.
Will you join me this year? this decade? this life? In abiding, in eliminating distractions, in being present to the moment, to each other, and to God himself?
Be encouraged and Happy New Year, friends.