When you reach the final days of your life, what will you look back and see?

What if your last day was tomorrow, would you wish you had made different choices today?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself the last couple of years. Why do people wait until their last days or a health scare to really start living? To change their perspectives and reprioritize? To become who they wished they’d been all along? I’m guilty too. Of not really l.i.v.i.n.g. right now.

Over the last few years — I’ve learned we make tons of choices everyday about how we will live our lives. We make those choices. I have a deep desire to make daily choices as though my days are numbered because I know it’s those little choices every day that add up to who we become in the end … but it’s harder than it sounds! When I spent time to reflect on 2015 I noticed many of my intentions had not been lived out. I said No to a lot (my 2015 Word) but I hadn’t taken action on the things that really pulled at my heart. My intention to get strong physically had passed me by another year. My desire to live a life of forgiveness & free of bitterness  was elusive because I still entertained resentment from recent and not-so-recent hurts. Or my dream of becoming a visual artist with a unique style all my own … was still just a dream. I wasn’t putting in the time or taking the action needed to move forward in these areas. I want that to change.

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As I thought about what 2016 might look like – I wondered – if I could put a deadline on my days maybe that would help put my choices into perspective and be more bold in living out my priorities. So … the ‘Part 2’ of my Brave is — to live like 2016 is my last year on earth. This has nothing to do with bucket lists or travel or life’s luxuries (although lovely). This is much more about a lifestyle of intention. If I have one year to live my days well, how will my choices be different?  How will I respond differently to my spouse? How quickly will I forgive? Will I have more clarity regarding what’s really important? How will I parent my children? How will I spend my time? How will I invest in my family … and myself … and the people around me? Will I be more intentional about my need for friendship, connections, relationships? Will I eat differently? Will I pray differently? Will it change how I manage my finances? What will my legacy be at the end of 2016 — if I were to leave everything behind — and leave only how I lived?

People freak a little when I share this. But I don’t think it’s scary at all. It’s an adventure of awareness. It’s a listening exercise. It’s letting go of the small stuff as well as what feels like big stuff but is really small stuff when you only have one year left. It’s following through on the little tugs on my heart that continue to tug year after year. It’s really living my values and adding value to the lives of others.

I started exercising this mindset on New Year’s Day. The photo above is the “sunrise” on 1.1.2016. I knew I wanted to launch 2016 watching the first brand new sunrise of the year rather than end the previous year with noisemakers and fireworks. So, I slept while the world partied. Kiana and I set our alarm for the wee hours of the morning, packed up our hot chocolate, gathered a few brave friends, and started 2016 with the fresh brisk cold air in our lungs and the familiar grey of our midwest skies. Though it was overcast and cold, it was also calm and beautiful and quiet. I hope to make this an annual trek – watching the sunrise on the very first day of every brand new year.

This feels like an adventure. This intention for 2016 is more about an attitude of the heart than “living it up” and 2 months into 2016, the results of this new mindset are undeniable!

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

 

  • Tam - Julie-I love the idea of living my days, weeks, months, year, as if they were my last. I hadn’t considered the idea of living a fulfilling life with this perspective. Truly, if I lived this way, I know I would make more time for the things that brought me joy and spend less time on the mundane, little things. Thank you for giving me something to think about. Also thank you for being so open with your journey, you are such an inspiration to me. Have a great day!

  • Jessie - I borrowed your word for the year. For me “Be brave” was about embracing my God-given dream, facing the future as scary as it is and standing up for the people in our world who don’t have a voice. It’s hard and scary, but bravery is acting even when we’re scared. Thank you Julie!

  • Julie - Yay for Brave! I know you can embrace the scary, Jessie — there’s too much to loose if you don’t! 🙂 Right?

  • Julie - Thanks for your comment, encouragement, and feedback Tam! There is just too much life to live, I think. Hoping to live without regrets!! 🙂

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Sometimes there are things in life that find you. I have to say I’ve never before experienced so much confirmation of one of my “Words” for the year than I have this January. From a little gifted book, to online encouragement, to a side comment on instagram naming a song that spoke to another artist — this song, “You Make Me Brave” I had to look it up. She was listening to a version by Amanda Cook, but I prefer the more acoustic version by Sarah Reeves. You have to listen to the whole thing …

I can’t say I’ve ever had a theme song for my “Word” before … but … there’s a first for everything!

It’s SO perfect!! I tried to embed it here but have not been at all successful.

You Make Me Brave, by Sarah Reeves

I love her voice. I love the piano. I love the tune. Today, this is so moving to me.

Listen Here on Spotify or Here on iTunes.

Here are the lyrics:

"You Make Me Brave"
I stand before You now
The greatness of your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of you
King of Heaven, in humility, I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
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Simplify. Rest. Soul-care. No.

It seems my “Word” the last few years have each related to regaining a sense of balance. Getting re-aquainted with my personal boundaries. Getting healthy. Those words make sense to me considering I had just come out of a long intense season of hardship. They provided a benchmark for the choices I would make throughout the year.

Discerning my “Word” has become something I look forward to as each year draws to a close. It’s rare for my word to be elusive to me. Most of the time it’s pretty obvious, I usually choose something that relates to a theme or a need that has come to the surface in my life. Something I want to dig into more deeply. For 2016, I’ve chosen …

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Back in November, I was approached by an acquaintance. She’s heard me speak at women’s events, services, and bible studies at church along with a friend of hers. They were talking together about a personal hardship she was navigating and what it looks like to be brave in difficult circumstances – what it looks like to hang on and not lose hope. This friend of hers, who is not even an acquaintance to me, told her, “You know who the most brave woman I know is?” And she mentioned my name.

Wow. What a gift. My acquaintance wanted me to know that they thought I was the bravest woman they knew. How humbling. I’ve definitely never FELT brave. Never.

This encouragement came to me at a moment when I was struggling with how much of myself to put out there. How to best encourage women in my circle of influence. How to make my mark on the world. Transparency is important to me, but I was wondering if that was the right way to leave a legacy? I know now. That word was just what I needed to hear God speak to my heart — I heard it and realized — I AM brave! I’m REALLY brave! My closest friends have told me for years how much courage they see in me. I haven’t been able to embrace that truth, until now. The true me is really really Brave. I am a courageous woman.

This year I want to tap into that Brave me more. Brave. What a very different word from the turning-in of Simplify. Rest. and Soul-care. I feel like “Brave” is more of a turning out now. A change in the winds of my life.

Each year when I choose a word, I never really know how it’s going to manifest itself throughout the year. Brave is one of those that could actually be a terrifying word — not knowing how it might be used. It’s not my style to think that way though. I’m not fearful of what may come and what might require me to use my Brave. I see it much more as an adventure. I have a feeling that much of  my Brave will be used in this space through thought sharing and art producing – or in opportunities to speak to other women. My desire is to reach those who need to hear something fresh. To give women permission to be their own brave selves as we each carve out a path in this life that is shaped just exactly our own shape. There are no cookie cutters here.

Do you have a word for 2016? Something to guide your choices and mindset for the year? Forget resolutions — choose a word! What’s yours?

 

  • Jessie - I really love this idea. And I love that your word is “brave.” I think I’d like the Spirit to give me a word. I’ll pray about it. I must say this is a year I could use bravery.

  • 2016 “Brave” … (Part 2) » Julie Kittredge - […] and be more bold in living out my priorities. So … the ‘Part 2’ of my Brave is — to live like 2016 is my last year on earth. This has nothing to do with bucket lists or […]

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