It is New Years Eve. The kids are at preschool for half a day, I just finished an uninterrupted workout, and now I am sitting at my kitchen table crying literal tears of joy and gratitude for all the amazing people in my life that inspire me, and for all the things God has taught me in the past year. You see, the past couple of months have been hectic with birthdays, and holidays, and visitors, and underways for my husband, and the end of the semester of teaching for me. Add a couple rounds of whole family sickness in there, as well as ongoing, extremely expensive, emotional, and time-consuming veterinary issues, and I was on the verge of burn out. So the past couple of days I have taken the kids to preschool and have had a personal retreat of sorts. I have enjoyed uninterrupted workouts, quiet sunrise meditation on the beach, cooking new recipes, quiet time with God reflecting on the past year, and praying for vision and direction for the coming year. It is unbelievable how refreshed and renewed I feel!

2014 was a crazy year for us. It started out slow, almost boring, as we endured a long Connecticut winter often cooped up in the house for days on end. After much transition, the year is ending quite differently; busy, frenzied, and on the verge of burn-out. Now I long for the quiet hours that seemed to stretch on forever earlier in the year, the time that I previously cursed for moving too slowly. In an effort to steward my God-given gifts well by returning to teaching, it now feels like I am not doing anything well, just adequately. Each day that passes my children are learning and growing but I have been too exhausted and overwhelmed to intentionally sow into them in the ways that I desire to. I often blame this on my return to work which confuses me because it was so clear to me that I was meant to return to teaching. I have clearly seen the hand of God at work along that course opening doors, providing for me, and sustaining me. Yet I feel as though this pace of life and our lack of margin is not sustainable for our family without repercussions we do not want to face. From the start we have known this endeavor would require more of us than we have to give, but have been trusting God to provide, and He has. Sometime in the past couple of months though I have switched from purpose-driven-eyes-fixed-on-Jesus, to survival mode trying to do it on my own, which I am pretty sure has been my fatal flaw leading to burn-out.

As we face the new year, there currently is not much we can change about our hectic pace of life due to the commitments we have already made, but my little retreat over the past couple of days has given me fresh vision for 2015. God has helped me to refocus by fixing my eyes again on Jesus {our family's 2014 goal}, and has given me the goal of stewardship for the new year. I aim to apply the principles of biblical stewardship to all areas of our current life and to allow those principles to guide us as we consider the impact of future decisions about current and new commitments.

My guiding verse for 2015 is Ephesians 5:15-16;

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil."

In studying this verse I found that by going back to the original language it was written in there are several key words/phrases that brought me deeper understanding.

"Careful" means to see or discern, to turn the thoughts/mind to something, to consider, to contemplate, to weigh carefully. To me this suggest that walking carefully means intentionally turning my thoughts and mind to wisdom.

"Making the most" literally means redeeming, by payment of a price to recover from the power of another. One source said "to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are the purchase money by which we make our time our own."

"The days are evil" means the days are full or labors, hardships, and annoyances. Labor, hardship, and annoyances are a reality! They can be so distracting but especially in light of that truth, it is important to make the most of my time.

In light of these meanings I have personally paraphrased the verse;

"Therefore, intentionally turn your thoughts to wisdom, redeeming your time because the days are full of labor, annoyances, and hardships."

I see stewardship as exactly that... redeeming my time. Making the most of the opportunities God blesses me with. As I prayed about stewardship God put several areas of my life on my heart that I need to apply this to;

Our children. Training them up in the way they should go in the areas of character, spiritual, and academic development.

Our finances. Being grateful for and taking care of the things God has blessed us with like our home and other possessions. Eliminating wasteful spending. Intentional and prayerful giving.

Our marriage. Continuing to invest in our most important earthly relationship.

Physical bodies. Eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep.

Ministries. Following the Spirit's lead in choosing where and how to invest our time and energy including our professions, our church, and our community.

A few action points specifically for our family;

Scripture memorization with the kids.

Work with kids to set quarterly goals for themselves.

Revisit our budget and stick to it.

Practice the Sabbath.

Philippians 3:12-14 says "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Leading up to this {Ph. 3:1-11} talks about how everything gained apart from Christ is worthless. Therefore, this verse commands me to put it behind me and forget it. Following this verse Paul goes on to describe those who, even claiming Christ, go on working hard toward their own goals {Ph. 3:18-19} and it makes Paul weep because they are missing out on the gift of living life in communion with God! In 2015 I want to steward the life God has given me well for the purpose of pressing on toward the goal of becoming like Christ with the knowledge that my true citizenship is in heaven {Ph. 3:20}.

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