2019 came to me like a breath of fresh air after a whirlwind of attempting to seek grace throughout 2018 (which I very much needed but often times didn’t accept).
Towards the end of 2018 the Holy Spirit put a very specific word on my heart to focus on for the coming year. The word was presence. To me, this meant receiving the beautiful gift of being fully present in my life while purposefully seeking the Lord’s presence within my life. It meant intentionally slowing down my fast pace of living in order to savor the small moments that come with the natural flow of life raising four young children.
I’m a Type-A goal setter and go-getter who easily slips into an overcommitted coma of overwhelming stress rather than taking the time to intentionally evaluate my physical, mental, and emotional capabilities and capacities.
Dedicating an entire year towards seeking presence seemed like a chore at times, but ultimately I learned so much.
I learned the art of slowing down.
“Growing up in West Michigan I experienced four seasons of weather, including brutal winters for the first 21 years of my life, but never have I ever had eyes to see what was right in front of me during the coldest months of the year. Blinded by the dark bitterness of surface-level winter, I couldn’t consider the goodness that was buried underneath the seemingly endless frigid season.
It was the perfect God-wink, signaling me to remember my word of focus for 2019 – P R E S C E N C E. You can miss so much when your head is down or when you are stuck in the pressure cooker of life.” [Excerpt taken from the January 2019 devotional titled, “Out in the cold, in with the new (year).” For the full post, click HERE.]
I learned to accept the gift of gratitude.
Most people don’t know this, but I experienced a chemical pregnancy in March 2019. It came after praying about expanding our family and then following the Holy Spirit’s nudges to cancel my husband’s scheduled vasectomy.
Imagine my surprise, nearly two weeks later, when I received a positive pregnancy test. God has been so faithful in my life (and especially throughout 2018) that I just had to offer up praise, awe and adoration upon discovering I was pregnant. But about a week later, the pregnancy didn’t take and I was crushed. It happened while on my family’s spring break trip to NYC and it ended up being a gift I didn’t expect to receive. Why? Well, first off, the due date of the pregnancy would have disrupted a few pre-scheduled trips that would have had to be cancelled without refund. Selfishness of vacation plans interrupted aside, it was a gift because it made me appreciate the four healthy children I did have (and who were all blessedly conceived, carried and delivered without any complications) while giving me the assurance my husband and I both needed to confirm our family was not yet complete.
The weeks that followed were confusing and I felt very distant from God. After our spring break trip and leading up to Easter, I cried out to reconnect spiritually to the Lord, to feel His presence and see Him at work within my life. He answered in a very BIG way – in fact, I experienced 10 consecutive days [leading up to Easter] of different occurrences that can only be described as God at work.
I conceived baby #5 several weeks later in mid-May and my heart was bursting with gratitude for the Lord’s perfect timing and never-failing faithfulness.
I learned how to be fully present.
Throughout the second half of 2019, I found myself having to retreat to quiet places with no distractions so I could tune into God’s presence. I did this through multiple bible studies, eliminating social media and other worldly influences while traveling or for a set amount of days, waking up early before the rest of the family got up and taking time to be completely alone. I felt myself come alive! It was as if all of my senses were awakened to being alert in the present moment. It was both refreshing and restorative even though it was also challenging to find the spiritual strength, commitment and will-power to do it.
I learned how to say, “no”
The Fall is my favorite season of the year but it is also the time I find myself overcommitting to any and every activity, event, responsibility or extracurricular that comes my way. I felt my schedule bulking up about a few weeks after the school year began and (praise the Lord!) discernment kicked in.
I desperately did not want my Fall to be like last year’s Fall (where I seemed to be falling short of everyone’s expectations while falling behind and feeling like a failure). As a result, I often found myself saying, “no.” “No” to hosting events and bible studies that I deeply enjoy coordinating or leading but knew I could not handle in my current season of life. I knew I needed my current season to be one that was life-giving instead of life-draining. I knew I was thirsty and needed to be poured into. So I did just that. It was harder than I imagined but the peace I received by saying the tiny word, “no,” lightened my load and freed my mind, body and spirit to accept more of God’s goodness.
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If you have been running on the treadmill of life for far too long and are looking for a way to get off, I highly recommend dedicating a year to seeking presence. There is so much beauty to be experienced when we stop and smell the roses and slow our pace instead of plowing forward. It truly is a gift to be alive and present in our life – we miss out on way too much when our heads are down, our minds are cloudy and our bodies are pulled in a million different directions.
I’m not going to pretend it is easy because it most definitely is not, but I will assure you that it is possible to be present in life when you seek God’s presence first. Intentionality leads to purposeful living and spiritual awakening. Our days may be numbered but God will give us enough time to fulfill whatever purposes He has assigned to our lives. Jesus was waaaayyy busier than we could ever be, you know, with preaching the Gospel and redeeming the world and all of that jazz, but still – he let the stuff wait and you can, too.
Retreat, reflect, and receive all that our good God has in store for you.
* Here are just a few scriptural references that support Jesus seeking quiet time alone with the Father *
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” ~ Mark 1:35 (NASB)
“After this miracle the news about Jesus spread even farther. Massive crowds continually gathered to hear him speak and to be healed from their illnesses. But Jesus often slipped away from them and went into the wilderness to pray.” ~ Luke 5:15-16 (TPT)
“After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” ~ Matthew 14:23 (NASB)