Erasing Regrets

In just a couple of days we’ll be ushering in 2015. For me each year seems to start out slow, but by September I begin to wonder where it went. And as the last few days approach many of us start to look at setting goals and making resolutions.

But what do we do with the year we’re leaving behind?

Do you find yourself ending the year with regrets? If we’re honest I think most of us do. They may not be huge disappointments, maybe something we have been trying to overcome for a while that we feel we made no progress on again this year. Or that little thing that nags at us and won’t seem to let go.

Starting a new year positively is much easier when we erase regrets, make things right inside and out, and allow ourselves to move on to a fresh new adventure.

erasing regrets

Here are some thoughts on letting go and leaving the negatives of 2014 behind:

1. Be Truthful With Yourself
Sometimes I lie to myself about something that is nagging at me. I want to have put it behind me or not let it bother me but truthfully I’m hanging onto it. Once I admit that I’m having a hard time letting go I can begin steps to truly do so.

2. Write It Down
Writing down regrets makes them concrete. It makes them real. Whether it’s a word or two or multiple pages of thoughts and feelings, putting regrets in writing helps to let go of them. And once you’ve made the decision to let go you can rip up the paper as a symbolic gesture of ridding your life of that weight.

3. Pray About It
Is there a reason you are hanging onto this particular regret? What does God have to say about it? Ask Him to show you if there is something you need to do for proper closure. Have you forgiven or asked for forgiveness? Have you done your best to make retribution where necessary? Remember what God says in about holding on to regret:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.    Romans 8:1-2 ESV

While God desires us to admit our sins and sometimes disciplines us, after that He’s done.

12 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 103: 11-13 ESV

If God is telling you that you’ve done all you need to do and it’s time to move forward, do so. If he removes our sins and forgets them, why shouldn’t we? Ask for His help in letting go.

4. Stop Thinking About It
It might sound over-simplified but once we’ve determined we need to move on from a past mistake or unmet goal we are hanging onto it all comes down to choice. We choose to continue to dwell on it or not. When something God has told us to let go of comes to mind we need to shut down that thought. Choose to think about something else. Consider Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

4. Ask For Help If Needed
There are times we need an accountability partner to remind us of our decision and ask us about our progress in areas we are struggling. If you are having trouble letting go on your own find a trusted friend or professional to keep tabs on how you are doing. Often for me just knowing someone is going to ask me about a particular struggle helps me to move forward and make progress.

As the new year approaches, take some time to consider the past year. Remember what is valuable and let go of what is not. The process may take some time but there’s no better time to get started. As we ring in 2015 we can hopefully echo these words of Paul:

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 ESV

Blessings and peace to you as you turn the calendar, leaving regrets behind.
Paula

Is That All There Is? – 5 Ways To Avoid Post-Christmas Letdown

Christmas is over. We’ve had our food, enjoyed our families and friends and exchanged gifts. Hopefully it was a day filled with special memories. After weeks or even months of preparations here we are the day after Christmas amidst empty stockings, torn wrapping paper and cookie crumbs. It can be easy to feel let down.

Christmas paper

This year let’s fight the post-holiday blah’s before they hit. Here are 5 ways I’ve found to help move forward and keep my spirits up instead of spiraling into the Christmas letdown.

1. Look Back – Count Your Blessings
Whether your Christmas season met your expectations or not I’m sure there were times of joy and blessings. Taking inventory of some of the highlights of your season can lift your spirits. Consider starting a Christmas Journal this year. Find a blank notebook and jot down some of your favorite memories. Pack it away with your Christmas decorations and pull it out again each year and add to it. Reflect on the memories of the past and record new ones. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t consider yourself a writer. Make a list, write a few sentences or write a story. It’s up to you.

2. Look Forward – Think About Next Year
I don’t mean start thinking about next Christmas (although I have started my shopping already…). One week from today we will be at the start of a new year. A blank slate. Endless opportunities. What are your dreams for that year? Dream those dreams and consider those opportunities. Don’t be afraid to consider something that seems outrageous. There will be time for turning those dreams into goals over the next few weeks. Nothing is off-limits today.

3. Look Inward – Take Some Time For Yourself
You’ve probably been busier than usual the last few weeks doing things that you don’t normally do. You may have gotten less sleep and eaten less healthy than before the Christmas treats started appearing. With all the friends, family, shopping, decorating and entertaining you might have pushed yourself to the bottom of the pile. This is a good time to take at least a few minutes for yourself. Do something you enjoy either alone or with someone you like to spend time with. Read a new book, watch one of your favorite movies or see a new one, maybe take a walk or build a snowman! Even if it’s brief, find some for yourself. Take a deep breath and relax.

4. Look Outward – Don’t Forget Others
The needs around us don’t end at Christmas. Consider lending a hand to take down Christmas decorations for a friend or neighbor. Take some of your leftovers to someone who lives alone. Take advantage of post-Christmas sales to get some gloves, blankets, winter hats or coats to give to a homeless shelter or nursing home. For most of us there is still a long winter ahead. Extending the season of giving can keep our spirits up and remind us of how blessed we are.

5. Look Around You – Consider Your Routine
It is likely you have more parties and events to attend over the next week or so but getting back to your regular routine as soon as possible is important. I know staying up later than usual the past few weeks has kept me from getting up to exercise on my regular schedule. My quiet time was also interrupted some days. Getting back to as much of our routines as we can soon after Christmas begins to regulate our sleep schedules and keep our spirits up.

***Most importantly, keep talking to the Lord!
Keeping the Lord in our days and nights, including Him in our decisions and activities will allow His Spirit to comfort us, guide us and bring us joy long after the trees are down, the lights are off and the long winter settles in.

I hope your Christmas season has been filled with memories new and old and that you will escape the letdown of Christmas this year and remember that there is a year ahead filled with opportunities.

Blessings and peace to you!
Paula

 

Pause to Praise!

Christmas is almost here!

The final push to shop, wrap, bake and put final touches on our celebrations has begun. As our days fill with hustle and bustle it can become a flurry of activity that transitions from fun to stressful. The saying of “making a list and checking it twice” applies to more than Santa’s naughty or nice list. The avalanche of preparation can threaten to snowball into a stress that gains momentum and threatens to overwhelm us.

There is a way to prevent this avalanche.

Pause to Praise!

Psalm 91-2

Think of the responses of both Elizabeth and Mary in the first chapter of Luke when they are told of the sons to whom they will give birth. While initially they don’t understand and wonder how it can be we are told of their praise to God for the gifts they are given and the choice He has made to use them as His instruments.

Elizabeth –  ‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown His favor and taken away
my disgrace among the people.’     Matthew 1:25

Mary – My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
              for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
          From now on all generations will call me blessed,
             for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name.  Luke 1:46-49

Both of these women had a lot to process and people to tell of their news. They could have gone about their preparations and set aside the blessing from the Lord. But they paused to praise.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year but it is only a season. It may seem to not be a big deal to set aside our quiet time for a few days. We might think we are too tired to get up early after late nights of preparations. Or we might think a quick prayer in the car will suffice during our rush to finish our shopping. God won’t stop loving us if we make these choices but He also won’t be able to assist us if we don’t spend time praising Him and enlisting the Lord’s help prioritizing and accomplishing things on our lists.

Intentionally pushing the pause button and choosing to praise God in the midst of the flurry of activity helps to press the reset button and bring perspective that all the things and activities are not as important as touching lives and blessing others.

DSC04727

Please take some time to pause – today and every day until Christmas. Pause to pray, to reflect and praise God.

And be blessed.

Paula

Magnificat

This morning I will be singing the Magnificat in church. It’s also known as Mary’s Song found in Luke 1: 46-55.

As I reflect on the lyrics of the song I can’t help but wonder at the precious state of Mary’s heart and desire that for myself.

Magnificat

It is remarkable to me that this young woman whose life had just been turned upside down would have an attitude of praise and openness to whatever God willed in her life. She was facing several months of people not understanding what was going on in her life and inside her body. Certainly some would not believe that she was still pure and the child growing within her was from the Holy Spirit – a gift, not a shame.

In spite of whatever Mary’s external circumstances were her heart was filled with joy and gratitude. We don’t see Mary taking credit for being good enough to be the mother of Jesus but rather a humble spirit and wonder that Her Lord would choose her for His remarkable plan. And she gave all the glory to Him.

Here is a link to one of the most beautiful renditions I have heard of this song.

Practicing to sing this song brings to mind that I also have much for which to glorify the Lord. He has also looked on me with kindness and mercy and has done great things for me. Too often I forget to give Him the glory for who I am and who He is creating me to be.

I also have been reflecting on whether or not I allow God to put His Spirit inside me to use me as He desires. Am I open as Mary was to carry out His plan for me or do I drag my feet, ignore His voice or shrink back from fear?

How about you?

God’s plans for us are not always grandiose but they are always important. Whether it’s taking the time to listen to someone who needs to talk, lending a hand to someone as they carry packages or drop a note in the mail or e-mail letting someone know you are thinking of them and praying for them, each can make a difference and may be just the touch from God someone needed.

And like Mary, God may have something bigger planned for your life. Are you open to Him using you to lead others to Christ, to go to the mission field, lead a bible study or write a book? Don’t let your opinion of yourself and your abilities hinder what the Lord desires to do through you.

My greatest desire this morning is to keep the attitude of Mary’s Song in my heart and carry it in my spirit not only throughout today but each day of the coming year.

“For He has looked with mercy on my lowliness.”

“And Holy…Holy…Holy is His Name.”

 

Bringing Christmas Into Focus

It’s the first day of December. Are you in the Christmas spirit?

I love Christmas. I love the music, decorating, choosing the right gifts for family and friends, and especially baking. It’s a special time of year where a certain magic seems to be in the air. I enjoy being busy and seeing all the projects and activities come together.

But this year as I thought about the month ahead I found myself overwhelmed. We have some extra-special celebrations this December, adding a twist to an already busy month. The added planning and preparations began to suck away some of my Christmas spirit.

christmas bag

My Christmas was getting out of focus.

Then during my quiet time I was reminded of a woman in the bible who allowed things to get a little out of focus.

Jesus and his disciples went on their way. Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha lived. She welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary.

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was busy with all the things that had to be done. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my sister has left me to do the work by myself. Don’t you care? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered. “You are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her.”

                                                                                                                            Luke 10:38-42 NIV

This interaction seems to reflect my conflicting emotions about the Christmas season this year. As I make my lists and check them twice (or 3 or 4 times) I realize that all the things on my lists are good things. There is nothing wrong with any of them. The challenge comes when I focus on my lists instead of allowing the Lord to set my focus.

Jesus corrected Martha and encouraged her to look at her sister in a different way. Mary had chosen what was best and Martha was worried about things that were not important in the eyes of Jesus. The more I reflect on this passage the more I think Mary gets a bad rap. At first glance it appears that she is lazy and doesn’t care about what needs to be done to host all the people who have arrived at their home.

Perhaps the reality is Mary did care and knew just as much as Martha about what needed to be done. It was her focus that was different. Mary knew the most important thing was spending time with Jesus. Not listening from the other room as He spoke, picking up a word or two here and there, but sitting at His feet and soaking in what He had to teach her and those around her. Mary knew the people would wait to be fed and no one cared if there were cobwebs in the corner.

Possibly it’s not that Mary didn’t care about the preparations, she just didn’t allow them to distract her.

My nature is to be more like Martha. I love helping to create special times for others and doing things that will bless them. There’s nothing wrong with blessing others – God appreciates it as this is how He created me.

The key is focus. If all my plans distract me from focusing on Jesus and what He has to teach me then like Martha I am worried and troubled about things that aren’t needed.

Keeping my focus on Jesus brings all other things into perspective.

How is your focus as the Christmas season begins? I hope you are beginning each day with some time with the Lord, seeking what is best for your day in His eyes then allowing everything else falls into place.

I’m going to work on my focus. I pray the Lord will show me where to focus my mind, energy, and especially my prayers to have the most impact for Him. I’ll share what He shows me with all of you throughout the month and I hope you’ll share with me what He shows you.

Together let’s focus on CHRISTmas and all we have to learn from the babe in the manger.

 

blessings and peace to you…
Paula