by Debbie Altman

Well, it’s a New Year! There are so many great feelings that come with a new year! There is a freshness, a feeling of new beginnings, of new energy, of letting the past go. Just taking all the Christmas décor down lends itself to a feeling of packing up the old, and clearing away the clutter. There is the desire to cleanse our bodies, our minds, and our houses! To simplify, re-orient, re-prioritize. I’ve felt all of these things with the coming of this new year!

But to be honest, in the midst of all of this renewal, I have also felt some discouragement. Somehow it can feel that everything should be new, and fixed and different. But the truth is, that we bring a lot of the old into the new year. Things that cannot be changed right away. Things that we may have no power over. Things that are hard, things that have not yet been restored. Things we are waiting on…

I love a quote by Rick Warren that I read years ago.

“I used to think that life was hills and valleys—you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.”

I love this, because I find it to be so true! I have SO MANY blessings in my life! As a good friend always says…”I am more blessed than I deserve!” But in the midst of my “blessedness” I still deal with challenges, struggles, disappointments, and the things that I am still “praying through.”

So, once again, we realize that God is our only source and hope for the New Year. Once again, we are reminded, that we can’t go on another day without Him. That He is the One we must look to, that He is our refuge and strength, that with Him we will make it through, that with Him we will thrive!

Jesus, help us to rejoice in this New Year and the amazing new beginning that You give us, not just every year, but every morning! And help us to cling to You as we continue to fight our battles and surrender our “other rail” to You.

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. Psalm 16:8

In turning to Me and waiting on Me you will find salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

How can you rejoice the New Year? Share below!  

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading, the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games. 

by Becca Christensen

Christmas was weird in our house this year. One of my brother-in-laws and I both work for churches so we were busy and late. My newest brother-in-law couldn’t come. One of my sisters had to take a red eye Christmas night to make it home. Dad had to work Christmas Day. We were a mess, I guess.

Dad has been a football coach for over 30 years and he has three daughters and no sons. The running joke amongst us girls though is that Dad cries more than all of us combined. On our makeshift late Christmas night we were gathered around the living room sharing what we’re thankful for this year. Of course Dad was the first to get choked up. He said, ‘the only thing I have ever wanted to successfully do is raise three girls who love The Lord. God has honored that desire’.

You guessed it, there wasn’t a dry eye after that.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time since that evening thinking about that. What you may not know about my Dad and he’d never tell you if you met him is: he’s a Super Bowl winning NFL football coach. In his profession that’s the top of the pyramid. He has reached the ultimate football goal and he has the ring to prove it. Still he said with as much conviction as I’ve seen in twenty-eight years that success, for him, was raising godly daughters.

As we start a new year I am humbled and challenge by that. I have been blessed to watch my Dad use an incredible platform to further the kingdom and I have never once seen football trump faith. So now, in my own life and successes, what does that look like?

I’ve accepted that I won’t be winning any Super Bowl rings of my own but the concept really hit home for me this year. As I start 2014 I feel challenged to make sure that success for me is always found in my relationship with The Lord and in his calling for my life. One thing I’ve watched my Dad do to keep the important things the important things in a worldly profession is spend time in the word every day. We figured out this Christmas that Dad has read the bible through in a year every single year of his 19 in the NFL. I just finished my 5th and began my 6th. I jokingly told him I’ll beat him one day since I started so much earlier.

One particularly trying year in my career I asked him, ‘how do you have time for all that bible reading?’. I know you’re all thinking what a dumb question that was but remember this man works over 100 hours a week and I was struggling with 60! I have never forgotten a day since what he responded, ‘I know that I can’t make it a day without him’.

I don’t miss my bible reading now. Not on busy days. Not for anything or anyone.

So for me, the focus of 2014 is not doing a day without Him. And as I set my goals and set up what I hope will be a successful year, my mind is focused on real success. I hope that you’ll join me. Let’s not let another year go by out of focus.

What is your focus for 2014? Share your comments below!

Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to  travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her  blog, www.beccachristensen.wordpress.com

by Dawn Smiling

The season of change is here.  Yes, a new year brings so many thoughts to mind.  You review all of the challenges you faced.  You review the hurt, heartache and pain you endured.  Perhaps your season started as a gentle rain which turned into a thunderstorm.  Maybe you woke up one day to a blizzard that changed your life without notice.  Perhaps the tornado of life blew the roof off of everything you built over the years. 

Wherever you may find yourself, know that the season of change is here for you.  New hopes, new dreams, and new hearts await you.  Growing up in New York, I always had to prepare for the next season.  New York has four seasons; winter, spring, summer, and fall.  My favorite season is spring.  Spring is not too hot and not too cold.  I wish that spring could last forever, but it never did.  The leaves changed on the trees and winter crept in.  I never seemed to be prepared.  I had to rush out for a new coat and new boots.  I could only find one of my favorite gloves.  But the goal was to get ready before the temperature dropped.  My feet and my hands needed to feel warmth on the cold chilly days. 

How do you get ready for the season of change? What will make this new year different from last year? Start by welcoming good, healthy associations in your life.  Associate with people who are not fixated on where you are, but where you want to go.  You need people around you who will ring the bell loudly. People who will push for you as you push for yourself.  Second, decide to be around people who see your potential as unlimited.  Find people who will help you get to your next destiny in this season.  Pray for God to open the door to contacts that will meet your personal, financial, and emotional needs in a healthy way. Third, this is the season to associate with people who will encourage you.  Don’t stay in the shadows.  Now is the time to come out and get as much encouragement as possible.   That new endeavor is calling your name.  Find a class to bring that business into flourishing.  Join a cell group at church or become a member at the community center.  Take classes at the local library.  Position yourself for your blessing.  As you move forward, expect God to have people there waiting to encourage you.

Proverbs 17:17 tells us a true friend will not despise your weakness, but will believe for your strength.  A true friend will not look down on you because of your past, but will help believe for your future.  This season of change will bring new friends who believe in your future.

Finally, allow God’s love to pierce your pain and usher you into total healing.  Refuse to allow negativity to rob you of your good season because of bad moments in your past.  The season of bitterness, the season of brokenness, and the season of loneliness are banished by our heavenly father.  Your season has changed.  You are not defined by what you have been through and your future is not defined by what your current situation looks like.  This is only a process in time to bring you into your spoken destiny.

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights.