My journey to pray and reflect my way through January has continued. I am loving this slower approach to hearing from God on good goals and intentions for the year. I was excited to learn about the Word30 Challenge from my Instafriend, Neely (the wonderful artist who did the gorgeous “fearless” lettering for me). It truly was a God sent connection as the challenge emphasizes making adjustments in habits and prioritizing time in the Word which goes along with what I have already started for this month. Additionally, I was not able to participate in our church fast to start the year due to illness, so I like the cleansing component to this challenge. In many ways, it is a fast–ceasing one activity to build time and hunger for the presence of God.
Coming from a pretty legalistic, strict Christian school background, I, for a long time avoided anything that felt too much like “rules.” I avoided spiritual practices that felt inauthentic and forced, and I’ll be honest–fasting and “quiet times” were at the top of that list. During college and graduate school, found myself searching for more of God and a deeper journey in my faith. I would quickly fall into a pattern of doing what I felt I was “supposed to do” based on what others said rather than allowing an organic relationship with the Lord to thrive based on His Word and His mentorship. Those other-centered/my bright idea efforts were always short-lived.
Thankfully, the Lord kept calling me back to His Word. And once I started hearing from Him–blocking out past perceptions, experiences, and the voices of others–everything changed. I found the rhythms of spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and times of stillness to be more natural and more connected to all the parts of my day and vital to all seasons of my life, the triumphant seasons and the challenging ones.
I have learned over the years that authenticity in Christian life begins with building an authentic relationship with the Lord through His Word. Love for Him and His Word motivates the work and effort it requires to maintain meaningful practices on a consistent basis. It does not mean automatic perfection, but it creates a space for grace-filled participation in the acts of faith needed to grow into spiritual maturity.
Last semester, I was promoted to a new administrative role at work along with some extra faculty duties. The opportunities offered a lot of blessings, but about two months into the semester, I saw a dramatic increase in the time I was spending at work or on work-related tasks when at home. I am grateful that I kept at it and stayed in the Word, but I unsatisfied with the way I was constantly bouncing the time I spent with Lord around in my schedule. Now don’t get me wrong, I was not/am not under the impression that you have to spend time with the Lord at the same time every day! But for me, I thrive when my day unfolds out of my time with the Lord rather than me “taking time out of” my day to spend time with Him. Additionally, my teaching schedule involved nights, so I have been unable to get into a good Bible study–something I have severely missed since our move. As last year ended, it was on my heart to get back to a consistent morning routine and to form some new connections in this community in Bible study.
God has been faithful in answering the prayer of my heart. In fact, He started waking me up before I even set an alarm shortly after Christmas! I am rising before my household stirs, and I have a new book on the way for the Bible study I’ll be joining! He is so good! I can see the flow returning to my day and am eager for community and connection.
As I began the #Word30 challenge today, I opened my heart to see what else God has in store in the next 30 days. I realize that perhaps my “goal setting” for the year may continue into February, and I am okay with that. There is no time like the present to do what the challenge says–consume more of the Word and crave less of the world!
Are you participating in #Word30 or any type of beginning of the year spiritual cleansing/re-prioritizing? How is it going? How can I pray for you?