The One Thing Your New Year Needs Most
The busyness of the holidays is over.
The tornado that has been swirling since October is beginning to dissipate and I feel like I might just be able to come up for air. Exhale —inhale.
New endings and new beginnings. Just like that.
I exhale reflections of times past, opportunities seized and opportunities lost. Perhaps. There are milestones and gravestones. I measure the beautiful people and experiences that have meandered across my cobbled little path on my journey and give thanks.
I inhale new hope (which at times is so hard), as well as new visions. More than anything I am learning to inhale what matters more to me than anything —and that is the gift of presence.
Years ago I read this quote by Henri Nouwen that speaks so powerfully to my own ideals and selfish agendas:
“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”
I recognize the ministry of presence, as Nouwen describes, is not about being social. It is about being intentional. Intentional with what matters most to God —His children. In the truest sense, one cannot truly experience the presence of another until he has experienced the presence of himself (and survived). And one cannot —cannotexperience the full presence of himself unless he has encountered and embraced the Presence of Abba, Father. God. Through His Son Jesus Christ.
So as you move into this new year, as you exhale what has been and inhale what will be, skip the lists, forgo the agenda. Focus instead on the ministry of presence, and watch the transformation that unfolds.
Make time to encounter God each day.
I know, I know. Sounds so simple. Yet when was the last time you were fully present with God? When did you last silence the noise of the world and still the clamoring of your heart to simply BE in the Presence of God? To settle in and experience your belovedness. Nothing else. Just your belovedness.
Maybe this is already a daily practice for you, maybe it sounds completely foreign. I encourage you this year to make the ministry of Presence first and foremost with your Father. Visit with Him. Sit in solitude with Him. Breathe deeply in His Presence. Pour your heart out to Him, read about Him in His Word.
He will transform you. His Word says it and we can know it is true. We will find nothing that fills our souls, nothing that completes us, or gives us the meaning we are searching for other than the One who created us. Breathed His life into us. Called us His own. Invite Him into your heart today. Invite Him into your schedule this year.
Carve out time to nourish your soul.
We know scientifically that good self-care reduces stress, lowers anxiety and depression. But caring for our souls takes us on a lifelong journey of healing, of growth, of self-discovery.
Since we are God’s creation and He thought what He created was good, shouldn’t we spend time getting to know ourselves —our physical and emotional identities, our ways of experiencing the world around us, our passions and purpose? Shouldn’t we better understand why we think, feel, and engage the way we do so that we can continue on our healing journeys and allow God to transform those areas of our heart?
Every one of us has in him a continent of undiscovered character. Blessed is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul.
_ Author Unknown
Soul-care is not selfish. It isn’t. And it isn’t self-centered. It is being rooted and planted in Christ, and becoming intentional to grow a solid, strong identity so that we can give ourselves fully to those He has called us to serve. And love. That is the ministry of presence.
Carve out time to have a coffee and breathe. Settle into your body. Feel the feelings that have become buried or discarded throughout the day. Name your feelings. Be present with them. Understand them. Talk yourself through them. Release them to the Father.
Be intentional about nurturing your relationships.
As Nouwen says, our desires tend to focus on tasks, agendas, schedules. They seem so safe. At times the ministry of presence with others can feel unsafe. Humans are broken and our brokenness makes the terrain of relationships potentially messy.
Yet the ministry of presence is precisely what God calls each of us to embrace. No one will remember the size of your bank account. They won’t remember the award you won at work. They will remember being with you and experiencing the beauty, the love, the life and everything in between with you. They will remember the experience of His presence pouring through you. Love. God’s love.
So as I enter these first few moments of the new year, this is my focus:
Exhale—My disappointments . My failures. My sorrows. Inhale— God’s love, His delight, His compassion.
Exhale —My agenda, my plans, my desires. Inhale —the ministry of presence with God, with myself, with others.
Exhale —Discouragement, doubt, comparison. Inhale —hope, contentment, gratitude.
And gratitude brings with it joy. Joy tells us that while things are going haywire in this world, God is in control. Joy tells us that in the face of the world’s definition of success, we are enough. Joy finds itself alive when our hearts are most settled in the Father’s presence.
That is where I want to be in 2019 —settled in His presence.
How about you?
About This Community
Don't we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
Book Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155392891