Today is the first day of 2017 and I’ve been having extraordinary feelings about what will manifest in this year! Now I know that sounds cliché but it’s a feeling I just can’t shake – and I’m not the only one with the feeling! I can already see God working in my life.
December is my favorite month. For me, it’s a time of reflection, thanksgiving and preparation. Reflection upon what occurred in the previous 11 months; thanksgiving for all that God has done for me that year; and preparation for what I plan to do next. I know many of you look down on those who set new years resolutions because many of us don’t make it past the first few weeks. Well, I am the type to write out goals for the new year. This allows me to see my progress when December comes around and I’m ready to reflect. As I set my goals for 2017, I realized that most of my goals do not actually meet the SMART Goals standards. I found that they are more so ways that I can improve mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially. I looked over my goals from 2016 and marked what I did and did not do successfully. I created my new goals based upon what was unsuccessful. 2016 was truly a challenge for me. During my month of preparation, I thought long and hard about how to make sure 2017 the complete opposite. As I set my goals, I decided the foundation of everything I do will be based upon the following scripture:
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
See, last year my emotions got the best of me. Sure my eyes were on Jesus, but I was still seeking other things first. I tried to keep Jesus at the center of my life, but I failed to seek Him first – if that makes any sense. Did you know it was possible to keep Him at the center of all you do and still not seek Him first? I would stop in my tracks and pray about my situations, but I still gave my emotions the power to lead me rather than allowing my spirit to lead me. I would pray but not listen. I asked “how do I hear from God”? “It’s that still, small voice” they said. Well, I ignored it. “Read His word” they said. Does my Joyce Meyer Bible plan count? “He might send a sign” they suggested. I’m delusional. I see things in everything. I kept Him at the center, prayed all the time, but I would never stop talking and just listen to Him. It is possible that I was not ready to listen because there were still things I sought before God and I knew what He might tell me. Thankfully, I’ve finally arrived at a place where if I just trust God rather than leaning on my own understanding… if I just seek Him first…
“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
As I thought about what I would do different here in 2017, I decided I want more of God, less of me. I do not know what is best for me and I’ve proven that fact plenty times before.
However, I feel it is necessary to mention that this is a process. We can’t go from Dec 31 living one way to Jan 1, being close to perfect. In my last post, A Blank Slate, I mentioned how I thought that when I started my new chapter at a new school in a different city, everything would be better. To my surprise I found that a new chapter is not really a clean slate unless all of the [emotional] baggage from the previous chapter is gone. And even when we say we’re cutting people off in the new year.. that nice but be forewarned that cutting them off physically does not mean they won’t still have power over you. You have to let them go emotionally and adjust mentally as well. That is a process. I “cut people off” as I left 2015 and it took me the first eleven months of 2016 to actually detach. Nevertheless, I am beyond grateful that I was able to walk into 2017 without those attachments. It was a process.
I spent all of December reflecting, preparing and revising. One of the most prominent areas that I decided still needs work is controlling those emotions.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23.
As I was typing this verse, I realized this is exactly where I went wrong last year. As noted, I let me emotions get the best of me. I did not guard my heart as best as I could. But that second part – “for everything you do flows from it” – my emotions really did control my mood, my decisions, my conversations.. I was not able to seek ye first because I did not guard my heart and therefore everything I did, everything I desired, reflected the idols that my emotions had created. Here in 2017, I have to guard my heart. I believe that if I continue to seek ye first and keep my eyes on the things above, there is a good chance I’ll be more than a conqueror in this area. I just have to trust God’s will, not my own.
There are necessary steps to seeking God first. Our process will be different, but during my preparation I came up with a few different ways that I would go about this. Now I will be honest and disclose that I have never fasted food. I’ve read a little about it and have a fair understanding of its purpose. However, I have also found that social life too often gets in the way of what God is trying to reveal to me. Because of this, social media fasts have become an efficient sacrifice. I am sure that fasting social media serves a slightly different purpose from ordinary fasts, but they have been what I’ve needed to draw closer to God. I decided I’m staying off social media until April at least – no exceptions. I feel a peace upon me and social media has the power to interrupt that peace. Sometimes I need to quiet my world down and with social media at my fingertips, that is an impossible thing to do. I fast social media quite often but never for more than about a month. I’m challenging myself this year. In the time I would have spent scrolling, I plan to “seek ye first..” My mom bought me a study bible for Christmas. It’s pink too which makes me want to pick it up even more. I plan to read as consistently as I can. Not just read, but meditate on the word and apply it to my life. I have already begun to hear from God through His word. My heart, mind, ears and eyes are finally open. I am finally listening.
I also want to step my prayer game up. Last year, I started a prayer box after reading Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Priscilla Shirer, but began to slack off on constantly praying those prayers. I also learned that praying in bed when I wake up in the morning will never work for me. I need to get up and go pray. I found that I have success with this in the bathroom but I’ll spare you the details of exactly how that works. A quite place of solitude where you can go and meet God. Whatever works for you.
I have also decided that it is time to get more involved. I have yet to make new friends since I moved back home from school. Before I returned, I endured a season where friendships were in question and I decided then that when I do start my new chapter I would be intentional about how I choose my friends. No more “we’re friends because we have fun together”. I need friends that I can grow with; friends that want to know Jesus more. Making friends was never my focus, but they would be nice to have. In any case, I still want to serve. I joined the choir at church – mixing my passion of singing with my love for God. I’ve slowly been learning people’s names and I believe they’re beginning to recognize my face if nothing else. I just recently joined a mentoring program and I absolutely cannot wait to meet my mentee! I also plan to join a Women’s Bible study that a peer from high school is starting this year! Not only will I have the opportunity to meet many other Christ-like people, but each of these things give the glory to God as well!
Though my fitness goals are separate from my spiritual goals, sticking to them make me feel good, look good and help me to stay disciplined. In order to seek ye first, discipline and commitment are required. Going to the gym helps to strengthen me in both of these areas. And, our bodies are not our own. We are suppose to take care of these temporary temples. I also set financial goals. Romans 13:8 says “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” I have a great deal of student loan debt and it is still accumulating. I am looking for ways to pay off the $68,000 debt I’ll have once it’s all said and done, but look at the scripture that follows the seek ye first scripture (Matt 6:33):
“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
The debt will be taken care of someday someway. But “faith without works is dead,” so I am planning ahead! I’m not worried, just proactive. I think it’s amazing how we can find God in every area of our lives, even fitness and finances.
Seek Ye First!