The One Thing Your New Year Needs Most

The busyness of the holidays is over. 

The tornado that has been swirling since October is beginning to dissipate and I feel like I might just be able to come up for air.  Exhale —inhale.  

New endings and new beginnings.  Just like that.

I exhale reflections of times past, opportunities seized and opportunities lost.  Perhaps.  There are milestones and gravestones.  I measure the beautiful people and experiences that have meandered across my cobbled little path on my journey and give thanks.

I inhale new hope (which at times is so hard), as well as new visions.  More than anything I am learning to inhale what matters more to me than anything —and that is the gift of presence.

Years ago I read this quote by Henri Nouwen that speaks so powerfully to my own ideals and selfish agendas:

            “More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

I recognize the ministry of presence, as Nouwen describes, is not about being social.  It is about being intentional.  Intentional with what matters most to God —His children. In the truest sense, one cannot truly experience the presence of another until he has experienced the presence of himself (and survived).  And one cannot —cannotexperience the full presence of himself unless he has encountered and embraced the Presence of Abba, Father.  God.  Through His Son Jesus Christ.

For anyone who is done with all of the typical New Year's resolutions, this is truly the one thing your new year needs most!

So as you move into this new year, as you exhale what has been and inhale what will be, skip the lists, forgo the agenda.  Focus instead on the ministry of presence, and watch the transformation that unfolds. 

Make time to encounter God each day. 

I know, I know. Sounds so simple.  Yet when was the last time you were fully present with God? When did you last silence the noise of the world and still the clamoring of your heart to simply BE in the Presence of God?  To settle in and experience your belovedness.  Nothing else.  Just your belovedness.

Maybe this is already a daily practice for you, maybe it sounds completely foreign.  I encourage you this year to make the ministry of Presence first and foremost with your Father.  Visit with Him.  Sit in solitude with Him.  Breathe deeply in His Presence.  Pour your heart out to Him, read about Him in His Word. 

He will transform you. His Word says it and we can know it is true.  We will find nothing that fills our souls, nothing that completes us, or gives us the meaning we are searching for other than the One who created us.  Breathed His life into us.  Called us His own.  Invite Him into your heart today.  Invite Him into your schedule this year.

Carve out time to nourish your soul.

We know scientifically that good self-care reduces stress, lowers anxiety and depression.  But caring for our souls takes us on a lifelong journey of healing, of growth, of self-discovery.  

Since we are God’s creation and He thought what He created was good, shouldn’t we spend time getting to know ourselves —our physical and emotional identities, our ways of experiencing the world around us, our passions and purpose?  Shouldn’t we better understand why we think, feel, and engage the way we do so that we can continue on our healing journeys and allow God to transform those areas of our heart?

Every one of us has in him a continent of undiscovered character. Blessed is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul.

 Author Unknown

Soul-care is not selfish. It isn’t.  And it isn’t self-centered.  It is being rooted and planted in Christ, and becoming intentional to grow a solid, strong identity so that we can give ourselves fully to those He has called us to serve.  And love. That is the ministry of presence.

Carve out time to have a coffee and breathe.  Settle into your body.  Feel the feelings that have become buried or discarded throughout the day.  Name your feelings.  Be present with them.  Understand them.  Talk yourself through them.  Release them to the Father.

Be intentional about nurturing your relationships.

As Nouwen says, our desires tend to focus on tasks, agendas, schedules.  They seem so safe.  At times the ministry of presence with others can feel unsafe.  Humans are broken and our brokenness makes the terrain of relationships potentially messy.

Yet the ministry of presence is precisely what God calls each of us to embrace.  No one will remember the size of your bank account. They won’t remember the award you won at work.  They will remember being with you and experiencing the beauty, the love, the life and everything in between with you.  They will remember the experience of His presence pouring through you.  Love.  God’s love.

So as I enter these first few moments of the new year, this is my focus:

Exhale—My disappointments . My failures.  My sorrows. Inhale— God’s love, His delight, His compassion.

Exhale —My agenda, my plans, my desires.  Inhale —the ministry of presence with God, with myself, with others.

Exhale —Discouragement, doubt, comparison.  Inhale —hope, contentment, gratitude.  

And gratitude brings with it joy.  Joy tells us that while things are going haywire in this world, God is in control.  Joy tells us that in the face of the world’s definition of success, we are enough.  Joy finds itself alive when our hearts are most settled in the Father’s presence.

That is where I want to be in 2019 —settled in His presence.  

How about you?

I’d love to connect with you on…

Facebook: Lisa Murray

Twitter: @_Lisa_Murray

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  1. I have Henri on my list of Must Reads for 2019. I love his peaceful words, and I’ve pinned and tweeted this post in hopes of inviting others into the gentle challenge for a good beginning.

    • Yes, Michele! His words bring such challenge and peace, shining a light into dim parts of my soul with the soothing balm of God’s healing and presence. Thank you for visiting today, friend!

  2. Lisa, this was a beautiful piece.
    I found myself again, mercifully “chastised” (for lack of a better term… it’s still early 😉 ) when I read this part in particular, “Make time to encounter God each day. I know, I know. Sounds so simple. Yet when was the last time you were fully present with God? When did you last silence the noise of the world and still the clamoring of your heart to simply BE in the Presence of God?……Maybe this is already a daily practice for you, maybe it sounds completely foreign. I encourage you this year to make the ministry of Presence first and foremost with your Father. Visit with Him. Sit in solitude with Him. Breathe deeply in His Presence. Pour your heart out to Him, read about Him in His Word. ”

    Sometimes it feels as though we merely go through the motions. We KNOW we have to meet with God, and we KNOW mornings are best- so that we can be with Him to “charge” before our day even begins. But is the intention there? The right mindset? Or has it become so robotic?
    I felt the urge, again, to linger, after reading that particular portion I quoted above. Our time with God is so much more then a quickie prayer and monotonous reading of Scripture (I say it that was, as for 30 years that’s how I lived). It’s meeting with the Creator, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Possessor of all, that still bends His ear to listen to little old me, inviting me daily into His presence.
    What a beautiful thing.
    Thank you for the reminder.

    • That resonated with me also. Having grown up in the church, the term “quiet time” brings with it so many emotions and ideals—the little box checked for the day. How much more freeing to be pulled into a time of fellowship, of communion with our Creator? Thank you for sharing your heart!

  3. Amen. Be intentional about being present. Look at a person when speaking with them. Share love and laughter. Share joys and concerns. Share God’s love in all we say and do. That is my prayer for today and every day. Happy New Year!

    • Great action points, Melissa! When I am fully present with others, it is the most amazing experience. Great prayer for all of us. Happy New Year to you also!

  4. This was great, and I really appreciated the tornado imagery you used. That’s exactly how my fall 2018 felt! Happy new year.

  5. Dear Lisa!

    Yes, this season is surely a season of reflections.

    The gift of presence is one of the best gifts we can receive or give.

    That’s a beautiful quote of ‘simple ministries’ mentioned in the quote.

    When reading your blog post, I’m thinking of how important it is to take ourselves and our time seriously.

    I agree with you: It’s essential to put a finger in the sand and ask ourselves how things are going?

    You asked about our goals in 2019: Mine is to be less politically correct in the Christian online community; next, to that, I wish to share an online lifestyle that is much more focused than what we’re used to from main-stream.

    Edna Davidsen

    • I love hearing your goals, Edna! I admire your focus not to be politically correct (such a hard thing even in the Christian community.) Praying for you that God uses you and your ministry in a powerful way this year!

  6. Henri Nouwen is one of my favorites. I read Bread for the Journey almost every day — and have done so for years. Like you, he reminds us to BE not always DO. Our spiritual journey is what matters most. Thank you for this beautiful post.

    • So glad to find another Nouwen fan. He speaks to my soul in such a powerful way. Yes, our spiritual journey is what matter most! Thank you for stopping by, Jory!

  7. This is a message of soul-strength. Thank you! You have inspired me to seek more time to give to the Lord. God bless you!

  8. Practicing being present – stillness – is lost in a culture of busyness. It’s as if we somehow think to slow down and be present is wrong! As you so eloquently address, being present is not wrong but vital to a healthy spiritual life, a life from which all health flows. God bless you!

  9. Wow, what a great post. I love Henri Nouwen! These words fit perfectly with my hope to recalibrate life in 2019. This post has been such a blessing to me. Thank you!!

  10. Intentional moments with people, now that’s a worthy goal! I like the phrase “soul-care”, and it ties in with my word for the year very well. Thanks for this insightful post.

  11. The word that came to mind for me is “hospitality” – a declining art in our culture. We can practice the presence of God and take care of ourselves and remain hidden from the world we are so uncomfortable with. These are good things unless our goal is stay hidden. Practicing hospitality puts us in the presence of others and in a position to minister to them as the Lord calls us to do.
    Thanks for the nudge to do all three!

  12. Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite writers. Thank you for sharing this wonderful quote. so powerful and so true. We do need to learn to know people on a more personal basis – to take the time to listen to others’ thoughts. Loved this post!

  13. Beautiful piece and it spoke with me in so many ways. One of my weaknesses is busyness….I just cannot sit still. I have a million things going on and I often times in the past have sacrificed building relationships because I just won’t take the time. This last year, however, God has been working on me to just stop and spend time with people to listen and obviously spend time with Him. I am a work in progress and have a long way to go but your blog was a beautiful reminder for me.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Luisa! We are all a work in progress and there are some days I get it right and some days I don’t. So thankful that God gives us new opportunities and new mercies every day.

  14. We all definitely need time with the Lord.

  15. What a beautiful post! Thank you for articulating it so well. This was my conviction last year. I stepped off the hamster wheel and began setting my pace to that of Christ as I sensed His leading. I turned from living a distracted life for one that is more intentional. What I found was freedom and contentment like I had never known before. Wow what a difference!

    • Amen, Gretchen! I love hearing about the freedom and contentment you found from being more intentional. It can make all the difference in the world! Blessings:)

  16. What wonderful thoughts by Henri and you, Lisa. Such a needed message for our world and the body of Christ. Interesting to me he uses the word “social.” And it has nothing to do with social media. 🙂 And what he describes as living with others reminds me what we say about our life groups at church, “doing life with each other.” It is intentional and it’s how Jesus did life with others. He was present in the present. His presence whispered, “I’m here among you because I care for you and want to know you.”

    Love everything about this!

  17. I love the inhale/exhale portion. What a good way to focus our minds as we meditate on Him and His word.

  18. Lisa – What a beautiful post. My favorite part, “But caring for our souls takes us on a lifelong journey of healing, of growth, of self-discovery.”

    I know I need more of this soul care in 2019. I hope you will link this post up with Grace & Truth. I know others would benefit.

    Blessings prayed for you as you start your new year.

  19. You have quoted one of my favorite authors, Lisa. It’s fascinating that once we taste the kind of presence he speaks of, it’s something we want to hold tightly to because in this, God feels so present. I feel the wrestling of significance and inadequacy he speaks of in the process of practicing presence also. You are right, it is the one thing we need to make a huge heart and soul difference…more peace, more contentment, and more grounded faith.

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