A Fresh Start to 2018!

I’ve spent my entire life apart from extended family. No aunts and uncles living next door. No grandparents to babysit or pick me up after school. Really it was just my mom because my dad traveled for work most of the time and my only sister is ten years older, who left for college when I was only eight.

This is why I cherish the Christmas season especially more than others because it’s one of the only times during the year I’m surrounded by family. Each Christmas, my dad, loaded the car to the brim, somehow even hiding Santa gifts in the van, to make an eight-hour car ride through the Pennsylvania mountains to my grandmother’s house. Since my grandmother lived next door to my Aunt and Uncle and my mom’s brother only lived a few miles down the road, I would spend an entire week surrounded by family. I can still remember the excitement of all of us being together. For a week out of the year the world seemed to be on pause and happiness flooded my heart.

Packing the week with baking, games, shopping, wrapping, a special candlelight Christmas Eve service, walks, meals together and we always seemed to have enough time to see a movie. Perhaps my favorite memory is playing cards with my grandmother and laughing at how she always seemed to change the rules. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for those years spent at my grandmother’s house.

The week seemed to always go by so quickly, and before we knew it, we were loading the van back up and heading back to New Jersey where it would be just my mom and me once again. I remember pulling out of my grandmother’s neighborhood feeling loneliness set in, and burying my head in my pillow as tears filled my eyes.

Into adulthood, the week between Christmas and New Years continues to be a struggle. My husband and I and our five children live states away from family and only see them a few times a year, Christmas being one of them. Loneliness is something I’ve gotten good at covering up by being productive and diving into projects to keep my mind busy. Rather than allowing God to be my Rock and stronghold, I would give into the feelings and spent most of the week crying.

Like me, you may be good at covering up your feelings and diving into projects just for the sake of not processing how you feel. It’s easier to keep busy than to dig for the root of the issue.

This year was a little different. Loneliness struck a few days before Christmas. I found myself crying and longing for my family. One afternoon, I called my sister vomiting all my feelings onto her and allowing her to speak life into my soul.

As I hung up the phone, I purposed in my heart this year would be different. Loneliness can genuinely be made into meaningful if cultivated. 

I pick my pen and ask God for strength as I work to Cultivate What Matters. It’s not only a book. It’s interactive power sheets to unlock dreams and aspirations. The PowerSheets were designed to help cultivate what matters most. Unlike other goal setting plans which just seem to make you busier, the PowerSheets are intended to help you make a clear, meaningful year.

I’m not a planner by nature. Not even sure I’ve ever bought one, and I certainly haven’t written down goals with an action plan to go along with them.

Sometimes you need to do something different to snap yourself out of the funk you’re in, because you know if there’s nothing to aim for you’ll get it every time.

The PowerSheets guide helps you uncover why you feel the way you do and then guides you to design a plan.

Looking back over my childhood Christmases, I can see that it was God who put the joy of gathering people in my heart. The option to choose either joy or loneliness is our choice.

2018 God is inviting me, and those who wish to come along, to open the gift He’s placed in each of us… joy.

Where did you most feel joy like a little girl?

Was it when you baked with your mom? Did it happen swinging so high on the swing set? Or maybe joy was felt when you painted or created something out of clay? Or when you sang in the shower when you thought no one was listening. Or maybe it was something simple like reading a book or lying on the bed daydreaming about the future. It could be anything.

I love what Bonnie Gray in Whispers of Rest says, “Joy becomes your heart’s response to God when you reclaim your rightful place in this world, as someone valued, seen, and important: His beloved child.”

So I ask you: What brings you joy? Because joy is meant for you. Don’t believe it? I have trouble too. Jesus reminds us, “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” John 15:11.

Take time to sit with yourself and see the vision for 2018. Have you asked yourself what brings me joy? Let’s not push away our childhood joy. Let’s choose in 2018 to cultivate it instead!

In 2018 I’ve purposed to carve out time to cultivate joy in my everyday life, and I hope you will join me! Because YOU ARE VALUABLE and worth the fight for joy

I wanted to include a gift for signing up for my weekly email devotion. Something to remind us all to choose joy in the everyday craziness of life. So I asked my sister, Michele Coco to create a digital print featuring Nehemiah 8:10!

I printed mine out on card stock and put it in an 8×10 frame and hung it in my writing nock. What a great reminder of the promise of joy.


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The Joy of the Lord is My Strength.

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One thought on “A Fresh Start to 2018!

  1. Lea, I am also away from my family for the most part. The lonliness is profound regarding my grands and how much I love and miss them. This “joy” is exactly what I need each and everyday.

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