Bible in a Year Reflections and Hopes

It’s that time again for resolutions and goals and both reflecting on the year past and dreaming about the year to come. I love this time of the year, quite possibly more than any other season, because it seems so fitting that immediately after we spend a season remembering that Jesus came to save and serve and love, we get to walk into something new and try again. I think there’s a lot of beauty and grace propelling us forward in this season, and that gets me excited and anticipatory for the coming year. 

As I’ve reflected on this past year, one of my very favorite things I did was read through the whole Bible. This is the second time I’ve done this, the first being in 2016, and I’ve decided to make it an intentional practice every year to come because of how it moves me closer to the Lord, more knowledgeable about the God I serve and love, and molds me into a better wife, friend, daughter, teacher, and sister.

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My year of reading Scripture in 2017 was so, so good. I intentionally read from one Bible all year and took notes in the margins every day, thanks to the popularity of journaling Bibles. I used the reading and note-taking skills that I teach to my students and became a student again myself, every morning, practicing interacting with the text that was in front of me. In 2016, I worked through a first reading of the Bible, and in 2017, I was able to engage with the words on the page more deeply because I already had a context of what was happening. And being married to a man in seminary means that every morning I had access to Matt across the table, who is a wealth of knowledge on all sorts of Biblical things, and also his massive commentary/resource library to draw from, which I turned to often.

It’s really beautiful to look back on the year and pinpoint major events by where I was at in my reading plan and realize how the Lord was teaching me, comforting me, and challenging me through His word during those times. I recently heard in a sermon that the purpose of spiritual disciplines is for intimacy, not mastery. And that’s how I feel about this past year, more intimate with the Lord because his words ring over every major memory I have from 2017. His character and his presence were clear because I practiced recognizing them, and friends, this certainly changed how I lived and loved.

But just as a traveler learns after every place visited just how much more there is to explore and discover, the more I read the Scriptures, the more I realize how much more there is to learn about the Lord and how much more I can grow in Him and in my relationships and in my calling.

And although this can be disheartening, I remember that the point of spiritual disciplines isn’t mastery, but rather intimacy. I’m not practicing this to become perfect at it, but rather to grow closer to the only One who is perfect.

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In the coming year, I get to read the Bible again and learn more about a really incredible God and how he wants my heart. I get to read about how he provided a way for that to happen through Jesus. I get to learn, again, about how I don’t need to do anything to be loved, but rather I serve a God who fiercely fights for his people over and over and over again. And I get to grow closer to this God who is love and be transformed more deeply to who he’s called me to be.

This is why I commit my mornings to Scripture, even when it’s hard or when I’m tired or don’t feel like it. Because growth happens in the in-between moments, right? I’ve found this to be true and I want to continue living in this way with even more intentionality this year. Here are my Scripture reading goals and resources for 2018:

-Use the M’Cheyne reading plan– four chapters a day and it goes through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. (I used this plan the past two years)

– Use the new She Reads Truth Bible in the CSB translation (I used this journaling Bible last year and I’ve been eyeing this one to use next year)

-Take notes in the margin of my Bible

– Journal through Scripture at least twice a week

-Join Well-Watered Co’s Word before the World challenge– not getting on social media/email until I’ve spent time reading Scripture. The founder of Well-Watered Women has a great blog post explaining the challenge here.

I would love to know what your Scripture reading goals are for the year and walk with you this year! Let me know in the comments below or on social media @kelseylietzen

Morning Commutes and Trusting the Lord

I moved to a downtown neighborhood this past summer into a cute, two-story historic house nestled closely within the surrounding homes. I live with roommates and travel a little bit longer to school and to church and to Matt, but it’s a lively neighborhood packed with people and hospitality and social events every month.

If you talked to me at all this past fall, you know how much I hated the drive to work in the dark, early mornings and during rush hour through downtown after soccer practice. I hated having to get up earlier to get to school obnoxiously early because I was afraid to leave and arrive to work too close to the time we started because it didn’t leave much room for error. What if there was a crash and too much traffic? Or if the weather was terrible or some part of my route was closed down? What if I arrived to school late when I had more to prepare for the day? I didn’t ever want to risk it, so I got up early in attempt to minimize any problem before it could happen. 

As much as I dreaded this new commute, when I think back to the fall, one of the most consistent memories I have was in my car in the mornings. It was always dark and the roads were empty and it was quiet. And around October, in a strained effort to up the game in my prayer life, I started to pray aloud for at least half of my drive. At first it felt weird to talk to someone who couldn’t audibly respond, but as all habits do, it became normal and needed and a necessary part of my morning routine.

Through these prayers every morning, I started to practice remembering what the Lord has done. Because on days when I walked into the classroom exhausted after emotionally draining late-night games, He gave me energy and the ability to connect with my students. And in the moments when I’ve been overwhelmed with wedding details, Matt has been there to calm me down and my mom has been there to take the reins on whatever needed to get done. And in the moments when I’ve needed rest, He’s worked through the people around me to allow me a break, even when it came in the middle of 2nd period. Through this practice of remembering, I’ve realized that even though the Lord has provided every single thing I have ever needed to keep moving forward and to thrive, actually trusting that the Lord is in control has always come as an afterthought; something I realized once the struggle was done.

Trusting in the Lord is something I’ve always tiptoed around, something I’ve tested before believing that He’s someone I can always and consistently count on. Because when I look back on this past year, in so many situations I only trusted when it was the last resort, when it was the only option I had left. When I had finally held up my white surrender flag after realizing that I couldn’t do it all– all the driving, coaching, teaching, loving, communicating, planning, and organizing– without Jesus.

I hate this reality even more than I disliked my morning commute at first. Because I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I don’t remember a time where I didn’t know Jesus. But I get stuck in the rules and the expectations and the ridiculous notion that I am in control, even though that’s failed over and over again. But the Lord is gracious and he provides well and I want this year to be a year where I trust more in these truths than in the unnecessary expectations I put on myself that only lead me to exhaustion and dissatisfaction.

And so, I want this year to be a year of remembrance, of always knowing that the Lord provides abundantly what I need. I’ve tiptoed around this reality for too long, testing God first only to look up at him in awe, wondering how he could do such a good thing. I want this year to be a shift from sheepishly wondering whether the Lord will provide to completely trusting that He will. I want to trust that he is enough for my mistakes and insecurities and anxieties before they get to be too overwhelming. I want to fully trust that he is a God who answers prayers and who fulfills callings, that he is a God who restores his people to himself, even in the midst of complete and utter mess and brokenness and especially during times of prosperity, joy, and excitement. 

This year, I’ll keep getting up too early and start to say my prayers once I pass the Keystone exit. I’ll continue to practice remembering who our God is with the hope that I learn to trust him more, before the overwhelming moments come. But even when I forget, even when I’m stuck in my anxieties and control, I’ll remember that my Lord has restored me before and will graciously do it again because that’s who he is and what he does. Today I’m grateful for this new year and this time to be reminded to start over, to inch my way forward in learning how to trust a God who has always been in control.

When New Year’s Resolutions Fail the First Week

It snowed last night. The weather app said it wasn’t supposed to snow today, but it did. I woke up to the sound of the snowplow and people scraping the ice off their car windows, but it was Instagram who first told me how much snow there was because I checked it before I got up out of my bed and and looked out the window.

As I was scrolling through my feed, I remembered that I’ve already failed at many of my newly made New Year’s resolutions, including the one not to look at social media first thing in the morning before I had my time with Jesus. I sat up, disappointed, and started another day angry at myself.

This past week, filled with the hope of new beginnings, didn’t go the way I planned in regards of following my resolutions. As I was preparing for the week last Sunday afternoon, I wrote goals and to-do lists on my shiny new notepad. I couldn’t wait to get back in the classroom and be with my students, to start my new running schedule to prepare for the half-marathon I signed up for, get back into eating healthy, and spend consistent mornings in the Word.

But during the teacher work day the next morning, I began freaking out because I didn’t know everything about Greek mythology and I started teaching The Odyssey the next day. How could I effectively teach this story if I didn’t know every single detail about the background information and Ancient Greek culture?! Cue panic attack.

And then on Wednesday I had to go home early from work because I started to feel terrible, which was probably worsened by my panicking about what would happen if this led to being super sick, because the rest of the week was packed and I couldn’t trust a sub to make sure my students got all the information they needed to understand this new text. The rest of the day at home, I proceeded to chastise myself because I didn’t feel that bad and have gotten through much busier days and weeks feeling much worse—I could have dealt with it and been fine.

The rest of the week I was continually irritated at myself for failing. I had to skip the rest of my planned runs because I still didn’t feel 100%, spiraling angry thoughts towards my body. I ended the week spending too much time poking and prodding and hiding my body because it didn’t look or feel the way I wanted it to.

I once again fell into the rhythm of believing that my worth and credibility as a human were based in how efficiently I crossed things off my to-do list, how skinny I felt in the morning indicating that I ate well and worked out the previous day, and how consistently I stuck to my goals.

I already failed at accomplishing these things and it hasn’t even been two weeks into the new year.

Have you been here, friends? Have you fallen in to the all-too familiar rhythm of criticizing yourself when you don’t meet your own standards? Of falling back into this destructive thought pattern after you’ve promised yourself that things were going to change tomorrow but failed?

Because that’s where I’m at on this snowy Sunday afternoon. I woke up most mornings this week pounding myself into the ground because I already failed the first week at being consistent in the healthy things I know I’m capable of—of eating well and working out and being organized at school and not checking social media before having Jesus time in the morning.

But instead of staying angry, I’m choosing to rest in the truth that my worth is beyond any kept New Year’s resolutions. I’m choosing to remember that I am loved deeply by the Lord and that my actions don’t earn my salvation, His grace is enough for that. I’m choosing to reflect on the all the things the Lord provided this week in the midst of my failure.

Because while teaching a story I wasn’t yet comfortable with, I fell back into the rhythm of being in the classroom and was reminded of how passionate I am about teaching universal themes expressed through beautiful words to almost-adults and how powerful it is to learn alongside my students.

And while I wasn’t feeling my best, I experienced the Lord’s provision and love through my co-workers covering my classes, my boyfriend bringing me soup from my favorite place, and my mom answering my seven phone calls that day asking what medicine I should take.

And although I spent most of the week angry at my body, I’m remembering all the moments it supported me in doing the things the Lord needed me to do, like carrying me through a day on my feet with a textbook in my arms reading words that hopefully teach my students something important.

I love New Year’s resolutions, and even after this week of failing at mine, I’m not throwing them away yet because I think they’re important guidelines to living a healthy life. But here’s the thing to remember—they’re guidelines. Failing at them isn’t the end of the world or the crumbling of our worth. Through grace and love, the Lord gives us the freedom to start over in every next moment.

If you failed this week and have been hard on yourself, let this moment be your next moment. Regroup, find your place in the Lord’s grace, and move forward. Recognize the beautiful, redeeming moments that happened in the midst of failure and self criticism, realizing how fully the Lord provides for you and how deeply He loves you.