Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
In this bonus episode, we are going to take a look at the practice of reflection and then I am actually going to walk you through a mid-year reflection of my own.
Raise your hand if you have ever set a goal or intention at the beginning of the year and then promptly forgotten about it? Or maybe you got distracted and it simply got pushed to the side.
This is where reflection comes in. Why is reflection so important? Why do we need to pause and take a look back?
Trevor Hudson said that we don’t learn from our experiences; we learn from our reflection upon those experiences. It is when we pause and think about our experiences that we are able to identify both the good and the bad, and then know what we need to know in order to move forward.
This is important both for things like goals as well as life events that we go through. When we go through a break-up, or move houses, or take on a volunteer role at church, it’s important for us to take at least a few moments to pause and consider what we might learn.
Plus, God invites us to pause and notice where He is at work in our lives. If we don’t pause and notice, we’re likely to miss Him altogether.
And so today, even though it’s actually a little more than halfway through the year, we are going to pause, look back, and then see what we can learn and take with us as we continue moving forward.
Perhaps you set goals or intentions for the year. In that case, you can keep those in mind as we proceed. For me, I picked a word for the year. Or should I say, a word picked me.
My word of the year was diligent. As a new business owner, this seemed particularly relevant, as I knew I wanted to put in the hard work it would take to build a solid foundation for this ministry-minded business of mine. I wanted to be a good steward of what God had given to me.
At the beginning of the year, I took time to pray about this word. I looked up a lot of Bible verses about diligence and hard work. My key verses became 1 Timothy 4:14-15 (NIV): “Do not neglect your gift… be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”
And in a blog article I read about how diligence is “the slow and steady work that bears fruit in the end.” And how “choosing diligence often means choosing the hard, uncomfortable step.”
I also prayed about this word through three painted prayer projects. Each one took on a look of its own and taught me about a different aspect of the word diligence and what it might mean as I moved through the year.
For the first one, I thought about a farmer or gardener—one who prepares the soil, plants the seed, pulls weeds, and tends to the ground, but who cannot force the seed to grow. There are images of flowers and a hand-drawn shovel. I included phrases in the painting like “focus on what’s important,” “remain faithful,” and “work hard.”
For the second one, it was a more abstract painting where I contemplated the Proverbs 31 woman and how she was a hard worker—spinning threads and caring for her household and running her business. But this abstract painting was one where I experienced an intimacy with God as He shared that we were going to do this together. It wasn’t just me doing the work, but Him working through me.
And for the final one, it was a more realistic-style painting of a beaver, who served as another example of diligence and hard work for me. As I reflected on that painting, on how the beaver is diligent in his work, I wrote down phrases like, “don’t overlook the details,” “mistakes happen; keep building, try again,” and “do the work. It’s going to take work.”
I was again reminded of 1 Timothy 4:15-16: “Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those around you.”
“Throw yourself into your tasks” reminded me of God’s invitation to me to go “all in” with Love Does That, like I shared in the podcast episode this week.
I was also reminded of the story of Ruth, and how it was told to Boaz that she showed up in the field early in the morning and “she has been hard at work ever since.”
These were the ideas I went into the year with. I would be diligent. I would put in the hard work, even if no one else saw it. I would go slow and steady. I would stay true to what God has called me to do.
Now that the year is more than half over… how am I doing? Am I still holding onto this word and putting in the hard work it takes? Where might I be getting off-course?
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned as I’ve reflected on my experience over the past 7 months.
First, I need to be diligent in the slow times. Building this business has always been about slow, sustainable growth. I’m new to business. I want to make sure I’m doing things right. And it’s okay that I go slow, at a pace that works for me and my family.
But sometimes, it’s easy to grow frustrated in the slow times, when I’m not seeing the fruit I want to see. And sometimes I have to remind myself, it’s not time to bear fruit yet. Just keep weeding. Keep watering. Keep tending.
For example, as I listened to a recent podcast episode from Christa Hutchins of Just One Simple Thing, I was reminded that having a solo podcast show is going to grow more slowly than when it’s an interview-based show where your guests can help you promote. And I’m completely okay with that. That’s why I didn’t do a huge launch when the podcast started. I just… started. And while I shared about it, I trusted God to draw those who needed to hear it. Slow growth is okay! Even when I sometimes grow frustrated with it.
It is during this slow growth that I am able to make sure my website is strong and up-to-date, that I have my legal and financial stuff in order. It is even during the slower seasons on the product-side of things that I am able to work on the business itself instead of always running to fulfill orders. I know that my busiest season for selling products is Quarter 4—the holiday season. But that doesn’t mean I quit working during the rest of the year. No, I keep doing the hard work. I keep learning. I keep serving others.
I’m diligent. I go slow and steady.
Second, I need to be diligent in the right things. In other words, I need to be faithful to what God has called me to do.
Looking back, I can see where I’ve gotten sidetracked by a couple of things. For example, social media has never been a high priority for me as far as promoting my business or podcast. There are other things I want to be focused on. Things like creating the content for the podcast. Things like speaking at events. Things like sharing with small groups. Things like leading webinars and workshops. Things like writing articles for magazines or websites.
While I will still share on social media, so that I can help you bring light and encouragement to others in that space, the bulk of my time and energy goes into creating free content and training for you. Because I want to serve you. I want to help you. I want to get to know you.
Additionally, as far as being diligent in the right things, I can tell when my family gets pushed to the back burner because I’m too focused on something for the business. That’s part of the struggle of working from home. I am not always fully engaged with them. And I want to be. I so want to be. And so I need to be aware, every week, of those moments when I’m tempted to be on the computer instead of hanging out with my family. I want to put the phone and computer away and play games and cuddle and read books.
Now, in reflection, it’s important to both celebrate what has gone well and note what still needs work.
For me, I celebrate when I see this word—diligent—pop up in conversations with others. Those in my peer mastermind know it was my word for the year and they encourage me when they see it in me. “Diligence and persistence is paying off!” And they cheer me on. Or when a business coach I’m working with tells me, “I have so much respect for you being diligent and working hard.” It’s like the 1 Timothy passage says, “Others will see your progress.”
And so I celebrate that. It might just be a little smile or a “thank You, God, for working in me and through me.” Or, if something “bigger” happens, taking a few minutes away from work to just sit and be and rest in that moment.
And what needs work? For me, that is making sure I stay diligent in the right things and even during the slow times. Slow and steady. Even when I don’t see the growth. Even when I am not bearing fruit yet. I still do what He has called me to do. And I do it joyfully, not begrudgingly, because I’m being faithful to what He has asked of me.
So that’s what I’ve learned as I’ve reflected back on this year. What about you? Remember, you learn from your reflection upon your experiences, not from the experiences themselves. Where in your life do you need to pause and reflect?
Perhaps it’s on a word of the year or some goals you set, like I did. But maybe it’s taking a deeper look at your priorities and commitments for this season. Or maybe it’s an experience you had that you just kind of pushed to the side for another time. Maybe that time is now. Bring it before God and reflect on it in His presence.
How will you celebrate what is going well? Can you take an hour to yourself and read a book? Can you fix your favorite dinner? Maybe you can go to the movies with your spouse or best friend. Maybe you can enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee. It doesn’t have to be big, but it should be intentional. (By the way, celebration is a spiritual discipline, too. We’ll have to talk about that another day.)
And what lessons have you learned? What new intentions can you set? Or where do you need to let God do some work in your life?
Take some time—even if it’s just 30 minutes—to pause and reflect in God’s presence.
Until next time…
- Episode 24: An Example in Spiritual Discernment and Decision Making: Going “All In” With Love Does That (http://lovedoesthat.org/24)
Friend, I’d love to encourage you as you encourage others. Here are two ways to get started:
1. SHOP ENCOURAGEMENT + SYMPATHY GIFTS
These are prayerfully-crafted gifts you can share with those you love as tangible expressions of care. Let your friend know she is not alone.
2. SCHEDULE A SPIRITUAL DIRECTION DISCERNMENT CALL
Interested in spiritual direction? Schedule a complimentary Discernment Call where we’ll talk about what’s weighing on your heart and identify next steps you can take to discern God’s direction.