To summarize January 2020 is like us looking at a masterful painting together and just talking about the frame.

I have my eye on this beautiful piece, titled “Cleft for Me,” from Jess Franks for our new office!

To summarize is to leave out the beautiful, complex, and simple details the Lord wove together over these 31 days. (31 days that have added up to a pivotal (and by that I mean “of crucial and central importance, at a place of pivot or turn”) month for me.)

Summarizing this month means skipping over the forty years leading up to this point. Summarizing means breezing over the pieces of His Word that broke through my soul in these 31 days—and in the whole of my life.

Sometimes the things God does are unexplainable in human terms and yet so vivid in the spiritual. And many times there are stories and relationships and moments (so many of them!) best left in the sacred memory banks of the soul.

Still, I will attempt to summarize. Even a glimpse into this may help you see your own pivot point opportunity, too. In one sentence: it started in the Word.

Each night in January, I’ve put my hands on my physical Bible, writing verses about worship. And each night, I have worshiped. In the hard times, in the gifts, and in the MANY times I felt outside my comfort zone.

When you turn down the volume of the world (what everyone else is doing, what the world expects of you, even good things and worthy pursuits) and slow down enough to let God get a word in, you come to the pivotal fork in the road: stay here or go with Him.

It’s not always an easy choice. It can be humbling and faith-stretching. Sometimes we feel like we just don’t have the energy or emotional reserves for change, right? Going with God doesn’t mean it will be easy, or that the path ahead will be clear. But, you can trust a very known God to be there as you step into the unknown.

Cultivate Your Year LIVE (a day spent with 200+ women doing our PowerSheets together) was a day that inched me closer to this pivot point. As I spent that day teaching and leading, I was also being led. Because, when you spend even a single hour away from the world, focusing on what matters in the big picture of your life—you begin to see a contrast. You see new possibilities for your life and you want to LIVE THEM.

No more doing things the same way you’ve always done them—maybe there are different and better ways forward.
No wasted hours lost in distractions or worry or comparison.
No crowded schedules and moving too fast.

You long for the wonder of the old days, under the stars, singing with your little brother and Grampa Cecil. The days when you would listen to Handel’s Messiah on your dad’s records and you’d make phone calls on a rotary phone that you thought was just the neatest thing.

You want to make some new choices. Those choices will make your life look a little different than other people’s.

You want to delight in Him—and to help everyone around you do the same.

And it’s in these times of stepping away from the world—these pauses on the rush of the status quo—that you can look out and see clearly. You begin to see these changes are more than possible.

After CYYL, I started doing—and thinking about—life differently. Despite my conviction to change, it wasn’t easy! I like comfort. I like routine. I like assurance. I do not like the unknown. I do not like to take risks when I can’t guarantee the outcome.

But! Numbering my days tossed me right out of that comfort zone. Allowing myself to be more still than was comfortable, phone out of sight, fingers searching my Bible, He gave me insight into verses I’ve read a hundred times. (Sometimes I’d say out loud, “Ahh!! I see it!”) If you let the Word of God into your life and open yourself to change, God will change you. 

As you and I spent last year exploring, our brains seek out patterns and habits. Our brains want to conserve calories, so they seek the path of least resistance. To shake them out of that, we have to intentionally choose change by spending our energy in new ways. And it will feel uncomfortable, at first, as we interrupt our brains’ patterns and allow them to be reconfigured. Knowing this from our conversations helped me push through and get to the other side—and God’s not near done with me yet! Change takes change… until it doesn’t. Now? It feels like I tasted freedom.

January 2020 has felt like a lifetime.

Our team was delighted last year when we realized the obvious pun opportunity for 2020: the year of clear vision! But, what’s more delightful is that it happened. In the process of doing my PowerSheets and starting to live out my goals in January, where I want to spend my time has, indeed, become clearer.

I did some simple math. I started this year knowing I wanted to spend more time with Him than the world. (And not just time with Him, but rich time. Like the difference between having a casual conversation about the weather plus a few meaningful moments sprinkled in vs. growing in depth and closeness with each interaction—and growing to crave that time, undistracted by anything else.) I added up how much time I was spending with the world (not thinking about Him or asking for His thoughts, distracted, worried, doing my own thing) and how much I was spending with Him (talking with Him, serving Him as I went in work and mothering and everything in between, listening to Him) —and I asked God for change. 

I asked Him to help me live numbered days.

We’ve been thinking a lot about living numbered days together, haven’t we? In my life, our conversations have been fruitful. Turning 40 as 2019 came to a close ushered in a month of reminders that I am not in charge of my time. A family member awaiting medical tests. A young woman in our church leaving this earth too soon. Our neighbor across the street passing away at home. I held his wife as she sobbed on my shoulder.

Ari and I found ourselves praying each night for friends with greater hope—because, in hard things, we know the end of this story, and it’s good! We prayed with increased gratitude for the life we’ve been given, our children, our work, and our marriage. And again, here I am trying to summarize 31 days that felt like 31 years – and were filled with so much more than I can explain in a few paragraphs! 

I don’t know how many days I will get in this life. That fact doesn’t deflate me, though; it energizes me! I want to use my days well, and I think you do, too. But maybe, like I felt at times, you wonder how. When will life slow down enough to give you time to live it? When will you have the motivation to make the changes you want to make? When will that all happen?

Here’s what I kept hearing in my soul as I experienced this pivot-forming month: If not now, when?

Sometimes the answer is to wait.
Sometimes the answer is to listen.
I’ve experienced those things this month, too.
But, in His timing, sometimes the answer is now.

With each verse I’ve written, each “I see it!” experience, and each day I spend letting my brain unravel from the same way it has always operated, I am compelled more and more to say yes to living numbered days now. And the beautiful thing? The freeing thing? It’s happening little by little—the small daily decisions are adding up. All of this change I’ve experienced has happened right in the middle of my work and mothering and cleaning the house and solving problems and doing taxes. My circumstances haven’t changed; the way I see them has.

Here’s what numbering your days does. The following are not things I decided to do in order to change. They were not the impetus for change, but the result of it. These are things I couldn’t help but do because He changed my thoughts.

Camelias showing off in our unseasonably warm January.

I stepped away from social media this month. I wanted a life reset with the internet (not a temporary break, but a totally new way of using it). I wanted to hear from Him and I did. I did the math here, too: 10 minutes a day on weekdays adds up to 65 hours a year. (It’s usually far more than that in our busier months at work—and most weeks with answering direct messages.) With answering questions and messages and comments I can easily reach 200 hours a year!

Is it time wasted? No. Each message and interaction, to me, is a connection with another heart. We’re not just pixels on screens; we’re people. But, I often think of having all those people in my living room. What would it feel like to take an hour a day and have 100 people pour through my home asking questions? (Many times, deep life questions that I’m not the best person to answer?) It would feel like a lot. I can’t do it all and do it well, but I can choose to cultivate my time for Him. And, even though I don’t like saying “no” to people by not answering all of my messages, I need to use that time differently. I need to say yes to living numbered days. And hopefully, help you do the same. You’ll see me less on social media, but, Lord willing, with more intention when I am there.

We dug deep into Shabbat. We spent a lot of time outside in the sun with the kids. I lost track of my phone. Even as unexpected challenges and meals to make and sibling squabbles continued, we found rest. We had the beautiful realization that, as we are experiencing the Sabbath, thousands of others across the world are doing the same. Something about the sharing of that gives me great joy—we are a part of something much bigger than us.

I started reading books in the fringe hours out of curiosity and to use my brain in new ways. So many books I am loving right now: The Call of the Wild and Free, The Montessori Toddler, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry (on Audible because the author is reading it – love when authors do this), Digital Minimalism, Get Out of Your Head (Jennie’s new book!), and Heidi with the kids.

I read the Bible slowly. Sometimes I’d read the days’ reading twice (or more) to let it sink in. 
I did the Fresh Faith Challenge.
I began listening to this with Ari and this on my own.
I saw friends. 
We got outside. I didn’t read this book, but just the title changed my perspective and, as a result, I got the kids raincoats
I ran over 50 miles this month (thank you, Peloton app and Matt Wilpers)! It’s amazing how the body can adapt if you give it time. My emotional health starts with my thoughts and my thoughts are clearer when I take care of my body and mind!
I let go of a lot of leadership at work. This has been a year+ long effort with so much fruit in January 2020.
I let go of half of my closet.
Ari had three weeks of back-to-back work travel in which we had long phone conversations about life. Some of the best conversations we’ve ever had. 
I said no to many things because they take time—time I want to use differently now.
I said yes to a bucket list trip with my mom and Grace to the Philadelphia Flower Show (!).
I sang hymns at the piano with the kids. If you make music, they will come! I decided to worship the Lord by myself at the piano one Saturday afternoon and I felt little bodies near me a few notes in.
I did some cross-stitching that I’ve had forever (purchased from this lovely shop!). Just a few stitches felt so good.
I chose seeds for our garden.

In all of it, God planted seeds in our souls. I could double the sentences above telling you about the challenges and unexpected events, the unexpected and unmerited grace in it all. There were sleepless nights and tears and crying out to the Lord. But, He always answered. And each time, the pruning and testing of our faith was for our good.

Ari and I grew closer. 
Our kids grew funnier.
I had meaningful conversations at work. 
I prayed.
I listened.
I worshipped. 
I lived. 

And this isn’t the half of it. To summarize this month is to leave out the kisses and the sweet words with my kids and the heartaches and the times God whispered to me through wildflowers or songbirds or that time I stood in the park and looked around at the bare trees and realized—they all look bare, but they are FULLY ALIVE. Soaking up nutrients, waiting for the turn of spring to burst forth in green buds and unfurling new leaves. Life—full, rich life—is happening under the surface. I feel like those trees! 

January 2020 is one for the books for me. Thank you for reading and indulging me in so many words shared. I’m grateful you’re here, for the gift of words, and for all the intricacies that can’t be captured by them!

We will never regret choosing to cultivate what matters in each season of our lives—even when it means disappointing others or not being able to do it all. I’m cheering you on as you do the same!

Now that you’ve had a peek into January, my February goals will come to life in new ways. Read them here.

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  1. Molly Stillman

    Oh Lara, your words are music to my soul. Thank you for your willingness to let the Lord speak and work through you! I just love you.

    • Lara

      I am grateful for your encouragement and that these words encouraged you, too! I love you so much!

  2. Anna

    Beautiful words, beautiful story. Thank you for sharing what the Lord is doing in your life ♥️ I cried while reading this, so many things that I can resonate with. Praise God for His faithfulness! Also, side note, I started listening to the BEMA podcast along with my Bible reading for each day and I am understanding scripture on a deeper level! So Thank you for sharing.

    • Lara

      Amen–He is faithful! So glad you were encouraged by this post and the BEMA podcast! Such a great way to dig deeper into scripture!

  3. Sarah

    This was a beautiful post. Thank you for trying to put words to this and for sharing so vulnerably. I benefitted from reading this.

  4. Rebecca

    I love reading your words; you write so eloquently and it’s easy to follow along, not to mention what you write/share is encouraging in many ways. Praise our Father for the wonderful work He’s doing in your life, and that you’re letting Him do it. I appreciate that you share your life with us, as it’s encouraging & inspiring. Blessings & Shalom!

    • Lara

      Rebecca, you’re so kind! Your sweet words mean so much. So grateful for you! Shalom (:

  5. Hannah

    Thank you for this. Love post like this one where you bear witness to what the Lord and living intentionally is doing in your life. They inspire me more then the post about how for example powersheets could help me. The guesswork or suggestions in such post never come as close as hearing about the real deal from you and others. So thank you again for sharing it really touched my heart. Also sending prayers for those around you dealing with loss and grief.

    • Lara

      Your kind words mean so much, Hannah! I’m so grateful you were encouraged!