FOCUS QUESTION: What have you learned in 2016?
I love the week-long period between Christmas and New Years. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on everything that’s happened the last 12 months. And let me tell you…SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED! I can’t help but stand in awe of God’s faithfulness as I look back on all the opportunities I’ve received and the goals I’ve accomplished. He has come through and provided in ways my finite brain could have ever imagined! As always, there were lessons to be learned along the way. So, I thought I’d share with you the 20 things I learned in 2016.
These, of course, are not the only lessons I’ve learned in 2016! They are, however, the ones that stick out the most when I reflect on the past 365 days.
20 Things I Learned in 2016
1. Unless we’re passionate about the “why” behind our journey, it will be a long, long walk. Much longer than it already is. Pursuing what we love, what we’re good at, in no way makes the journey easier. However, it does make the obstacles, challenges, and frustrations worth the fight. No matter how hard or long the road ahead, if God placed a dream in our heart, it is every bit worth chasing.
2. Another person’s opinion about our gifts, talents, and passions (i.e. what we’re doing with our life) is not the final word.
3. The older we get, the smaller our inner circle becomes. As I mentioned in Being Intentional and Investing in the Lives of Others, we need to “make sure the people in [our] inner circle are pouring into [us] as much as [we’re] pouring into them. If they’re not, [we need to] start rearranging. [We] don’t [need to] mistake pretend-to-be/wanna be real friends for actual real friends…just because someone is IN [our] life does not mean they are INVOLVED in [our] life. [We need to] make sure the people [we] dub as ‘close’ friends meet the qualifications because not everyone is worthy of that title.”
4. A lot of people will discourage us from following our dreams because they weren’t brave enough to follow their own. They will minimize our potential and do their very best to make us believe we deserve less than God’s best for us. In other words, because they settled, they think we should, too. As hard as it is, we have to a) consider the source and b) let it go in one ear and out the other.
5. Sometimes, we have to make sacrifices in certain areas so we can one day do what we love.
6. “We may not all change the world but we can all change OUR world. Too often, we judge our impact and determine our value by whether or not the world knows our name. We feel inferior to other Christians because we’re not going on mission trips across seas or because we haven’t been called to ministry. The difference we make for God’s Kingdom does not depend on our title or our location. Christians change the world by first changing their world.” (Lightning Bugs and Changing Your World)
7. We don’t have to do what everybody expects us to do. WHAT OTHERS WANT FOR US IS NOT WHAT IS BEST FOR US. It’s not our responsibility to alter our lives in a way that fits the expectations of others.
8. We have to work ridiculously hard for the things we want most in life. Good things really do take time…and a LOT of time, at that.
9. It’s okay to say no. We don’t have to do everything for everyone. When we spread ourselves too thin, we’re hurting both ourselves and others. The more we do, the less of ourselves we’re able to give. Saying “no” sometimes enables us to give ourselves fully, rather than partially, at all times.
10. We cannot control other people’s actions.
11. We cannot create our circumstances and claim to be the victim at the same time. It’s one or the other. Sometimes, a door closes strictly because our actions forced it to.
12. We need to trust our gut more often. If a situation or relationship doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.
13. Surrounding ourselves with POSITIVE PEOPLE is vital. Negative people who complain about every little thing can, and will, suck the life out of us. We need to limit our time with them.
14. “If we want to display Christlike attributes in public, we should practice displaying them in private. If we don’t practice in private what we’re portraying in public, it’s going to catch up to us. We may get away with it for a while but will, eventually, be found out. It’s inevitable.” (What Happens When We Have Impure Motives)
15. Gratitude will get us much further than greediness ever will. It’s important we be thankful for the big and small things, the hard things, and the beautiful things. We need to recognize our blessings and stop taking advantage of what we’ve been given.
16. “It is better to remain single and strive for a life of spiritual integrity than settle for a relationship that does not daily lead [us] to the cross. What SOCIETY THINKS is best for [our] life is completely different than what GOD KNOWS is best for [our] life. IT’S OKAY TO BE SINGLE.” (Why It’s Okay to Be Single)
17. We don’t have to apologize for being imperfect.
18. Finding a way to balance ALL of your passions is extremely difficult and confusing, especially when they seem to contradict each other. Regardless, it’s important we be a good steward of our passions and find ways to use them for the benefit of others right where we are. There’s a reason God makes us VERY passionate about VARYING things. We may not be able to see or understand it right now, but we can trust He has a plan.
19. Patience is key…to just about everything in life.
20. God is worth taking risks for. Whatever God is calling us to do, we can trust that it’s important. No matter how scary or uncomfortable something seems. It matters. He wants to use us, and He will…if we let Him. His purposes for our life, the plans He has for us, far outweigh our temporary discomfort or confusion. Following Him takes patience, trust, confidence, hard work, faith, dedication, and obedience. BUT HE IS SO WORTH IT.
Well, there ya have it, folks, 20 things I learned in 2016. We are all a work in progress! Although I still have a lot to learn, I’m thankful for the lessons God uses to draw me closer to Him. I’m eager to see what He has in store for the New Year!
What have YOU learned in 2016?