Looking Ahead to…2017

Looking Ahead to…2017

Every year, between September and December, I start thinking about the year to come, and all that I would like to accomplish (just like everyone else on the planet, I’m sure).

I used to start making my list of New Years’ Resolutions — which basically consisted of the same things I’d had on my list the previous year (and probably the year before that, too), but hadn’t managed to follow through with. A few years back, however, I gave up on making “resolutions” for the new year.

Looking Ahead to 2017 | Life, Unleashed

Instead, I took up the practice of choosing a single word to guide me throughout the year; a focus-word… something I feel God wants me to base the coming year’s decisions around.

In past years, I’ve had these as my “one word”:

  • 2014 – “FREE
  • 2015 – “CHOOSE
  • 2016 – “GREATER

For 2017, my word is “BECOME“… as in, who am I working towards becoming?

I read a quote, recently — more of a question, really — that said something to the effect of this:

If you could choose ONE word to sum up how you want to feel for the rest of your life, what would it be?

(That’s heavy, I know!) Personally, I believe that feelings are fickle and they’ll change. But, if I had to choose one word to describe who I wanted to become, or how I’d like to live out the rest of my life, then I would choose the word, “STRONG“.

For far too much of my life, I’ve been playing the “victim” — blaming everything and everyone around me for how my life has turned out, thus far.

What I am finally coming to realize, however, is that the only one who can change the direction of my life {other than God, of course}, is me. I am solely responsible for how my life turns out; God gave me free will. And, He also gave me the responsibility of being a good steward of the time, energy, and resources He’s blessed me with.

All that being said, the woman I desire to become is STRONG — not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear & timidity, but {a spirit} of POWER, love, and self-discipline“. He calls us “MORE THAN conquerors“! And He says that we can “do ALL THINGS” through Jesus, whose strength we rely and lean on. God promises to fight our battles for us, if we’ll surrender them to Him. But, what does it take to be able to surrender? It takes STRENGTH… and courage, and willingness, and knowing God well enough to entrust the battle to Him, knowing that He isn’t going to let us down.

#oneword365-2017 | Life, UnleashedSo, for 2017, I have been pondering which goals I’ll set for myself, in order to become that strong, confident woman that I know God is calling me (and has created me) to be.

However, I am also re-thinking the concept of goals, now, too, thanks to an article I read via James Clear’s website. In it, he talks about Goals vs. Systems. And his main point was this: It’s better to create systems that you use on a regular (or daily) basis, and focus on those, rather than just setting goals and looking to attain them. Why? Well, what happens once you reach your goal? You’ve completed what you set out to do, and now you have to set yet another goal. You’re always in pursuit… always chasing something. Once you hit your goal, you can also experience a sort of let-down… Sure, it’s great to have accomplished something — but, now what? Your systems, on the other hand, don’t stop just because you reach a certain point.

Take weight loss, for example. We all know, or have heard, that weight loss is not about hitting some goal, but that it’s all about making lifestyle changes that will help you lose the weight and maintain that loss. So you can think of “systems” as those lifestyle changes you’re putting into practice, day in and day out, in order to lose the excess weight, but also to maintain that loss and become healthier, overall. Make sense?

So, here is how this would look for me, taking my goals for 2017, and creating “systems” for each:

GOAL: Read at least 1 fiction book (for pleasure), and 1 nonfiction book (for study), each month.

SYSTEM: Shut off my computer by 8 p.m. every night, so that I can have 1-2 hours for reading, before bed.

GOAL: Be able to do 25 consecutive push-ups, and 25 consecutive pull-ups, and be able to do a 3-mile walk.

SYSTEM: Do strength-training exercises at the gym 2x/week, focusing on my “push” and “pull” muscles, as well as my core. And do once-a-week cardio for 45-60 minutes, to build up my endurance and be able to do that 3-mile walk.

GOAL: Release the excess weight, and reach my ideal size (I have about 60-65 lbs to get rid of).

SYSTEM: Practice mindfulness at every meal, listening for my hunger & satisfaction cues; be careful not to eat unless my stomach is empty and I need to refuel; use visual cues and reminders, if necessary.

GOAL: Reduce our processed-food intake, and eat more real, whole, and healthy foods.

SYSTEM: Plan out each week’s menu on the weekends (Saturdays), and grocery-shop accordingly; do meal-prep on Sunday afternoons to make it easier throughout the week to stick to my plan; and try 1-2 new, healthier recipes each week, to build up our repertoire.

{Note: I have other goals/systems for 2017, as well, but for the sake of time, I’m not sharing them all in this post}.

Basically, creating “systems” is just asking yourself what goals you hope to achieve (or who you would like to become), then figuring out what steps you can take — what you can practice on a daily basis — in order to take you toward those results.

your turn to comment | Life, Unleashed

HAVE YOU EVER IMPLEMENTED SYSTEMS INTO YOUR REGULAR ROUTINES IN ORDER TO REACH NEW GOALS? DO YOU STILL SET NEW YEARS’ RESOLUTIONS? HAVE YOU CHOSEN ONE GUIDING WORD FOR YOUR YEAR AND, IF SO, WHAT IS IT?

Losing My (Fake) Identity

Losing My (Fake) Identity

From about 2002 to 2012, I was immersed in the book blogging world. It started with a Yahoo! group I’d joined, called “Book-a-Week”. Its participants aimed to read 52 books per year (a “book-a-week”). One of the Book-a-Week group’s rules was that you had to keep a record of the books you’d read. So, I’d started keeping a book journal then, but only a paper version. In 2005, I decided to start keeping an online –blog– version, as well.

Losing My (Fake) ID | Life, Unleashed

For the majority of my book blogging years, I was a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). As such, I had plenty of time to read and blogging became my place to connect with other adults.

As for the book-a-week goal, I managed to hit it almost every year. And then I started to exceed it. I talked books, read books, researched books, collected books. My collection grew from approximately 300 books to over 1400 books!

Because I’d started several book memes that my readers came, weekly, to play along in (on my blog), I was becoming known in the book blogosphere. I’d taken on the alias of “Mizbooks”, which my readers shortened to “MizB” — something I was fine with. Friends and family even came to know me as “Mizbooks”, and called me “the crazy book lately”.

And so, that’s who I was — who I became. My identity was caught up in my love of books and reading.

Then came the 5 years of being back out in the working world. When I landed a busy, full-time job, my time (and mental capacity) for reading greatly diminished. All-of-a-sudden, I found myself in a sort of identity crisis. If I couldn’t read, then who was I? I’d been the “avid reader”, “MizB”, for so long… now I felt lost.

And I felt ashamed …like I was betraying my blog readers by no longer being this woman who read 80 books per year.

Fast-forward five more years. My reading has dwindled to about 12-15 books read per year. My book blog is barely hanging on, with just two memes left, and about 1/3 of the readership.

I no longer feel as bad for my lack of reading time; but I do still wish I could (would?) read more. Really, it’s now more an issue of time-management and priorities.

warrior woman | Life, UnleashedThe book blog… well, I’d been questioning that aspect, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to keep going with it after the new year (2017). I plan to either hand my two memes over to other bloggers or just let them go, entirely. Part of me doesn’t want to do either, as they feel like my “babies”. But another part of me knows it will be a relief to let them go.

Regardless, this whole “crisis” has taught me something. And that’s that we shouldn’t place our identity in what we do, or in the roles we play. Our truest identity (if we’ve accepted Jesus as Savior) is as daughters (and sons) of the King of Kings, and all that that entails. It’s the only thing that will not change. We’ve been adopted into God’s family, so we’re now set apart and He calls us His own.

I’m still learning to accept myself as who God says I am. But already, it has been both peace-giving and empowering.

So, who do you say that you are? Do you know yourself as a child of God? What do you need in order to make that mental shift?

 

Journaling Prompt: New Feature (11/30)

Journaling Prompt: New Feature (11/30)

Today I’m introducing a new feature, here at Life, Unleashed. Every week, I will be sharing a journaling prompt for you to use. Feel free to do these privately, in your journal, OR share them on your blog and then come back and link up here!

Journaling Prompts | Life, Unleashed

 

PROMPT: What is the best gift you could receive?


Note: Prompts are mostly going to be courtesy of Elizabeth at Life of Lovely. She has free printables available. 

Lessons From a Sea Sponge

Lessons From a Sea Sponge

I’ve always referred to myself as a “sponge” when it comes to learning things. Reason being, I tend to soak up a lot of information on an almost constant basis.

sponge lessons | Life, Unleashed

I love to learn! In fact, while researching some things for this post, I also learned some things about sponges that I didn’t know before! For example:

  • Once cut, a sea sponge will re-grow within a few years, often to become bigger & healthier than it was originally.
  • Sea sponges have a life span of a few months to 20+ years.
  • Even the tiniest fragments of the original sponge can be used to regenerate & grow new sponges.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of regulating the amount of water that flows through their bodies by the constriction of various openings.
  • Sea Sponges are capable of drawing in and out 20,000 times their own volume of water in a single 24-hour period.
  • Sponges survive by anchoring themselves permanently to other solid objects on the ocean floor (eg. coral, rocks, shell beds, etc).
  • Sea Sponges are composed perfectly for their environment by means of the hole-ridden structures, and could not survive without their unique design.
  • While sea sponges are technically “animals,” for all practical purposes, they grow, reproduce, and survive as plants

And, also…

sea-sponges | Life, Unleashed

Fascinating, right? At least, I thought so.

Originally, this post was going to be about using what you’ve learned. I tend to consume so much information in one sitting, sometimes, that it’s almost impossible to put any of it into practice {Input is one of my StrengthsFinder “top 5”, after all}. For example, I can get on a site like JamesClear.com (which I absolutely LOVE), and follow the links, reading article, after article, after article — because it’s all so good! But, even though I agree with what he’s written, and think, “Man, these are amazing & simple ideas — I should implement this stuff!“, I have already consumed so much that I get overwhelmed with where to start, and then choose what is easiest… which is doing nothing at all; meaning all of the information I consumed is practically useless. After all, if we don’t practice what we learn, then what’s the point?

But, in researching sponges, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to our Christian walk. So, here are a few lessons I believe we can learn from the Sea Sponge:

PERMANENTLY ANCHORED

The Sea Sponges permanently anchor themselves to the ocean floor by attaching to something that doesn’t move. This is how they survive. Likewise, God is our unmoving and unchanging “anchor”. When we attach ourselves to Him, He becomes our unshakeable hope, and the way that we can stay grounded, despite the turmoil in our lives.

We have this hope as an anchor for our souls, firm & secure.
 — Hebrews 6:19 

 

SELF-REGULATING

Sea Sponges regulate the amount of water that moves in and out of their bodies. In similar fashion, we need to monitor what we put into us, whether that’s food, or information. Too much of anything is not good for us. As evidenced by my own information overload, it’s more helpful to consume things in moderate or bite-sized amounts, and then use that up, or practice it for a while, first, before taking in more. That way, our intake is actually useful and doesn’t go to waste (or to waist!).

BETTER THAN BEFORE

God likes to prune us, removing anything that doesn’t help us live the life He has planned for us. This pruning can often be painful. But, like the Sea Sponge after being harvested, we, too, can then grow to be “bigger” (with a deeper, stronger faith and character) and healthier than before.

UNIQUELY DESIGNED

The Sea Sponge’s unique design — with all of its pores and adjoining channels — helps it to be able to survive and grow.

For example, look at its hard outer layer and soft interior. We, God’s children, aren’t called to be timid, but to be strong & courageous, bold, shrewd, and discerning! This is our “outer layer”. At the same time, we are called to be quiet & gentle, kind and compassionate, and innocent as doves … our hearts are to be soft, and not “hardened” with unbelief.

But, the most important aspect of the Sponge’s design is its ability to let massive amounts of water flow through its body. This makes me think of Jesus, and how He describes Himself as “Living Water“. When we have this –when we have Him– we have everything we need.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

So, there you have it. Lessons from the Sea Sponge. Bet you didn’t realize you could learn something about God from something you use when you take a bath! Ha!

You Always Have a Choice

You Always Have a Choice

There are two individuals who come to my mind when I think about choices in life. Both of these people are in a spot where they’ve been beaten down in life — their choices have gotten the better of them. This has made these individuals very pessimistic. They don’t feel that life will ever get any better… like they’ve just had bad luck, and that that luck isn’t ever likely to change.

You Always Have a Choice | Life, Unleashed

What both of these individuals fail to realize, however, is that, if they could be open to the possibilities, they could begin to see that it’s all very much about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

They can CHOOSE to see things differently. They can CHOOSE to work on their mindset. They can CHOOSE to work on finding a way to either (a) escape their current less-than-ideal circumstances, or (b) make their circumstances more bearable. It’s all a matter of CHOICE.

God gave each one of us free will. And it hasn’t been revoked just because we got ourselves stuck in some “mud”. We can choose to continue playing the woe-is-me “victim” and settle for the mediocre life we’re in. OR, we can choose to make changes!

It absolutely breaks my heart to see people giving up and settling for a life that is so much LESS THAN what is available for us!

Trust me, I’m not always the optimist. Goodness knows, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my own life that could have left me hopeless (and just about did!). Heck, I’m still dealing with circumstances that are far from ideal! But, I also know that it could be worse… and it’s not (which I thank the Lord for).

I just keep leaning on the Lord for my strength. He has given me hope to see that my current circumstances are not my final destination, and that “it can be well with my soul, even when it’s not with my circumstances”. God has used my less-than-perfect situation to teach me that life really is all about choices, mindset, perspective, and practice.

What I truly hope is that I can help others realize that only they are responsible for what their life turns out like. It’s YOUR choice. If you don’t like your life, make a change. {Start here}.

Your Choice: Victim or Victor? | Life, Unleashed

Stealing Christmas

Stealing Christmas

I used to love the Christmas holiday. Truthfully, part of me still does. But I also feel that Christmas is being “ruined”, in a way, by commercialism.

stealing-christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday — the family get-togethers, the fires in the fireplace making a home feel cozy, the traditions passed down through the years.

However, with the recent trend of stores, and even individuals, starting to decorate or put out Christmas paraphernalia sometimes even BEFORE Halloween has come & gone, it’s practically “ruining” Christmas! It steals that “magical” feeling that Christmas has always brought — the 2-3 days of celebrating the real reason for the season: Jesus’ birth. When the focus skews toward making sure you buy your presents early, and get your decorations up before everyone else, you lose that “magic”, and you lose sight of what’s really important.

Christmas isn’t about the presents or the decorations. It’s supposed to be a time of celebrating the fact that Jesus came to earth in human form, in order that He might show us how He can relate to all of our human struggles & joys… because now He’s experienced them, too. He came “to save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray” — and we shouldn’t forget this.

Perhaps you think that having only a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, to celebrate Christmas just isn’t enough time. But then you have to ask yourself, WHY is that? What has caused your life to be such that you can’t take 2-3 days to rest, and to truly enjoy the time with family? Is it the hectic schedule of running from one get-together to the next? Is it that you work so much, and Christmas is your only time off? Is it that you’ve said ‘yes’ to more than you should?

I, personally, hate the way that the season has become so commercialized. It’s now all about decorating, and what you can/should buy. This is why, despite the fact that the neighbors have their Christmas lights up already (some even had their Christmas trees up as early as the first week in November!), and despite the fact that all around me, people are “prepping” for the season, I will continue to wait until it’s closer to the actual date. I normally don’t put up my Christmas lights (on the house) until after December 1st. And my tree won’t go up until 2 weeks before Christmas.

Join me, won’t you? Let’s bring back the real meaning for this holiday season. Let’s remember to rest, and be thankful for our Savior.

 

A Double-Edged Sword

A Double-Edged Sword

It took me two tries to watch the movie, “The Book of Eli“. The first time, I shut it off after only the first 5 minutes. The opening scene made me ill, and the violence that followed was too graphic for my tastes.

But, my husband encouraged me to give it another go ~ he’d already seen it, so he assured me that there weren’t many more violent scenes, and that it was worth pressing on.

So, the next night, after fast-forwarding through the opening scenes, I watched the film in its entirety (closing my eyes for the major fight scenes, mind you). 

And hubby was right ~ the film was definitely worth watching through to the end. I’m glad I did.

If you are a born-again Christian (a follower of Jesus), I think that this is an important movie for you to watch. It really gets you thinking. And, more to the point, it reminds you of what’s truly important in life.

At one point in the movie, the girl, Solara, asks Eli what life was like before the war (the Apocalypse). And, Eli tells her about how people had more than they needed, and how they used to throw away things that wars were now being fought over (a little extra shampoo, for example).

The whole premise of the movie is that Eli is in possession of the last existing New King James Bible, and he is on a mission to carry it West, to a place where he knows it will be safe & protected. Others view this Bible — this “Book” — as a weapon, though, and will do anything to get their hands on it. They know its power, and they want that power for themselves.

This film really got me to thinking about how often I’m lax in my daily Bible reading, and about how I don’t give Scripture memory much importance (if any) in my life. Bible reading has become somewhat of a chore ~ something to tick off of my daily “to-do” list.

But… what if there were no more Bibles, and the world was given over completely to its dark side? How would I fight without my “sword“… without my armor?

Armor | Life, Unleashed

Eli read the Bible every single day, “without fail”, he said. He had the whole Bible memorized, word-for-word. And, while I don’t think we’re called on to memorize the Word in its entirety, I think it’s wise for us to have a good portion of it memorized, and tucked away in the event that we need it. God even told us that we are to “be prepared” for battle (2 Timothy 4:2-5; 1 Peter 3:15-17).

In the end times, knowing what God’s book says is going to be our only weapon against evil. Jesus used it to battle temptation, and we should do the same.

And yet, in my own life, too often I give every other book more time of day than I do the most important book of all.

What a shame…

My daily prayer, from here on out, will be that God’s Word will become precious to me, and that I will not lose sight of how important it is to get God’s Word into me, buried deep for future recall. You just never know when it’s going to come in handy.

Journaling: Why It’s Beneficial & How to Start

Journaling: Why It’s Beneficial & How to Start

If you have ever thought that journaling just isn’t for you, or you don’t think that you would get anything out of keeping a journal … or, heck, maybe you do want to start a journal, but have no idea how to go about it … this post is for you.

Journaling - How to Start | Life, Unleashed

I have been a journaler since grade school, when an older friend gave me my first diary as a birthday gift. Nowadays, journaling is a practice I can’t live without.

There are so many benefits to keeping a journal! To name just a few of my own personal favorites:

SELF-AWARENESS

You can start to see patterns in your behavior, if you journal on a regular basis. And once you see them, you have a better understanding of yourself and how you act in certain situations.

PROCESSING

I am one of those people who needs time to process things before I can give my full opinion on them. One of the best ways I know to do this is through my journal. Often times, writing out my confusions, troubles, worries, and anxieties in my journal allows me to gain clarity and peace. I can’t even tell you how many times the journaling process has helped me figure out how to move past blocks I’ve had in my understanding of things!

REFLECTION & GROWTH

Somewhat similar to what I said regarding self-awareness, keeping a journal is a good way to notice patterns in your behavior. When you are frustrated with yourself for continually making the same mistakes (or the same kinds of mistakes), your journal can help you figure out what to avoid doing in the future, so as to make course corrections and change your behaviors. It’s only in learning from our mistakes that we grow!

MEMORY-KEEPING

Obviously, when people talk about journaling, this is one of the top things that comes to mind. Many people use journals as a way to keep a record of special things that have happened in their lives.

For me, it’s been very helpful to have a written record to go back through, especially from certain periods in my life. For example, the years when my kids were newborns and toddlers, and I was a walking zombie due to the lack of sleep! Without my journals to remind me of things, there would be a lot from those years that’d be lost.

STRESS-RELIEF

I have often been very much a lone wolf — I don’t get out all that often. So, when I’ve had major upsets, I have turned to my journal and written out my stresses and frustrations. Not only did I get clarity, but I also found that the stress melted away through the pen and onto the page, and I ended up calming down quicker than I would have, had I not had that outlet.

elegant-1769669_1280

So, you see, there are great benefits to becoming a journaler!

My friend, Judy — a lady from my church who is in her 60s — never liked journaling. So, when we were asked to keep a journal throughout the weeks of our one Bible study, Judy made a fuss. Yet, she agreed to try for the sake of getting the most out of the study.

Several years later, after her house had survived an electrical fire, Judy recounted how worried she’d been that she would lose her journals! She had kept up the habit since the study had ended, and she’d grown to love it! For her, journaling had become her way to spend time in prayer with God and, in going back through them, she could see how God had been faithful to answer prayers. Her journals were a precious record of both her relationship with God, and her own spiritual growth.

So, while you may think that taking up journaling isn’t for you, I challenge you not to give up on the idea so easily! You just never know. Maybe you need a new perspective on what journaling could look like for you. Or, perhaps you just need to try a different method than one you’ve tried in the past. Consider the following ideas:

  • Instead of writing daily, try writing only once a week
  • Rather than keeping a record of what went on during the day, just write about the best part (or, reflect on what could have been done / gone differently)
  • Try writing just one sentence each day, instead of a full page
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, just list 3 things you are grateful for (studies have show this to have numerous benefits to your health!)
  • Keep a “work journal” where you write out your to-do’s/schedule, and even reflect on successes or mistakes that happened

There is no right or wrong way to keep a journal. Experiment with different methods to see what could work best for you.

For more on how to get started, and an expanded view of the benefits of journaling, check out these resources:

 

IF YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN A JOURNALER FOR SOME TIME, LEAVE A COMMENT WITH WHAT YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT IT IS! AND, IF YOU ARE ONE OF THOSE WHO IS SKEPTICAL ABOUT THE PRACTICE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND TELL US WHY!

Remembering My Source When I Need Direction

Remembering My Source When I Need Direction

If anyone ever told you that choosing self-employment was easy… they lied! I will say one thing, though: It is definitely character-building!

direction | Life, Unleashed

For many, many years, now, I’ve had the deep desire to be an Entrepreneur — to be my own boss, make my own rules, set my own schedule. My grandpas — both on my mom’s side, and on my dad’s side — were entrepreneurs; a couple of my uncles are, too; and so is my sister. So I like to say that Entrepreneurship is “in my blood”.

In 2013, I finally got the opportunity to pursue this dream of self-employment. And, while my business model has transitioned several times since then, it has all been a part of the learning process.

One thing that has become clearer to me, though, is that God designed me to be an Entrepreneur. I see this because of how everything has ended up working out to allow me to continue pursuing this path — even despite the times when it looked like things wouldn’t work out. If God didn’t intend for me to be self-employed, I would have been thwarted at every turn, and would be back out working for someone else, right now.

I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned, so far, through this journey — and it’s something I’m STILL learning, really — is how important it is for me to seek God’s guidance and direction for each move I make with my business.

For example, just yesterday I set out to work on my “ideal customer”, and I created a survey to help me with this. Then I shared that survey in several of my Facebook groups. But I ended up getting some pretty harsh feedback from those in my groups, and it got to me… it had me in tears (even though I know they meant well).

As I sat and processed this, God seemed to whisper to me, asking, “Why are you turning to those secular groups for direction, instead of coming to Me?” It was a gentle reminder that I had gotten caught up — yet again — in seeking answers from the “world”, and I’d forgotten to FIRST go to my Source {God}.

Not surprisingly, as soon as I asked God to give me His opinion on it all, peace washed over me. The stress I’d felt, minutes before, melted away. And I started seeing better questions I could ask of myself, which helped to calm & refocus me.

So, let me just encourage you, today: If you are self-employed, don’t forget to put God first in your business. Go to Him, first, for direction. I know it’s easy to forget to do this. But the more we practice, the better we’ll get at making it automatic (and, God is gracious enough to offer us reminders when we do forget!)

“You will keep in perfect peace
    all who trust in You,
    all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
~ Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

Spiritual Disciplines? No, Thanks!

Spiritual Disciplines? No, Thanks!

As a Christian, have you ever felt the pressure to take care of your “spiritual disciplines” (Bible reading, prayer, devotions, going to church, etc.)? Have you experienced guilt and shame because you haven’t kept up with these as well as you feel you should?

spiritual-disciplines | Life, Unleashed

Well, guess what? God doesn’t demand that you do these things in order to “be a good Christian”. He doesn’t love you any less when you can’t squeeze in the time for these practices. He isn’t disappointed in you!

“…the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:8, NLT)

“Jesus replied, “‘You must
love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, and all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
(Matthew 22:37-39, NLT)

These are what God wants from us. Our greatest “mission” and purpose here on earth is to love God and others, to make God known, and to bring Him glory in all that we do. He craves a relationship with us.

While the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading aren’t required in order for you to be “righteous”, or a “good” Christian — or, even for God to love you — practicing these two things helps you to know God better. And, guess what? When you know God, it helps you to love God… and when you genuinely love God, you then want to spend time with Him through prayer, and you want to learn all you can about Him through His Word!

Trust me: I used to want to run in the opposite direction when my mom or grandma “preached at” me about this stuff! But over time, God has shown me more of Himself, and He’s taught me these things that I’m sharing with you, now. He showed me that it’s not about have to — that’s legalism. Instead, it’s about the Creator of the Universe reaching down from heaven and saying, “Hey, come talk with me! I’d love to hear from you.” It’s about His patience with us, and His love softening our hearts to the point where we desire to spend time with Him — because we start to understand what unconditional love truly is.

So, the next time you read or think about prayer, reading the Bible, or any of the other spiritual disciplines, try to look at them as God’s invitation to you to get to know Him better… see them as His way of teaching you how much you are valued and loved.