I started the fall of my freshmen year of college with a little uncertainty and with sort of a question mark in my mind. I was excited to be in college, but I was a little unsure of the direction my life was headed as I began to feel the pull of many things weighing on me. I was hoping for something more, or different, but was not sure what that would look like. The new schedule and classes made life a little overwhelming at times. If I could have been at school without the classes, I would have been so happy! I pledged a sorority, and immediately had brand new friends with fraternity parties to go to. In the midst of this, my sister invited me to a CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), weekly meeting. Something about the time made me want to return (and it wasn’t just the group of cute fraternity guys that were there). During this year, someone gave me a small book entitled, “A 31 Day Experiment” as an encouragement and way to spend time alone with God. The “experiment” had bible verses for 31 days with a few questions. The book was simple and actually contained a lot of white space for writing thoughts, observations or prayers. This sort of thing was all new to me, for I was unfamiliar with the Bible or even with locating Bible verses. One thing I do remember from that time is that I really began to sense some changes going on in my life. I began to feel hopeful that there was something more to college than the uncertainty I had been experiencing. As I look back, I honestly felt like a different person by the end of that year. Something was changing inside of me.
Habits for Growth
Change usually happens subtly, it occurs and we rarely know that it is happening at the time. It is similar to the changing of seasons–it continues to occur, yet we may not even notice it. I love the fall because of the change that appears around me as the weather cools and the leaves turn (well, it is a little less dramatic in Texas than where I grew up in Missouri). I remember gazing up as a child, and all of a sudden it seemed like the leaves above were a canopy, bursting with orange, red and yellow colors. Before I knew it, there were beautiful leaves surrounding me and leaves on the ground to jump into. New habits, like the one above, can help change us over time and in time, and hopefully for good. God uses these practices, as we trust Him, and know He is the only one who can meet a particular need. Because He loves us, He is in the work of transformation, and doesn’t just let us continue as we are. To meet with God is to be with Him (see Meeting with God 101: To be with Him). To be with Him is to see Him more clearly. To see Him more clearly is to be changed, affecting everything around me. I need to be with God, for true life is found in Him and only in Him.
I know this to be true, but sometimes things become “not quite right,” or “so-so.” God can feel distant, even when I know that He is with me. There was a time like this a few years ago, when I told my husband I was tired of the “same old, same old” and hoping for something new. You probably know that sort of feeling. I was weary of the same selfishness in my life, and the same old issues. I felt exhausted and anxious a lot. I would get up in the morning and not have the best thoughts or feelings about the day ahead. Nothing was very terrible, and actually, there were many positive elements in my life. I was involved in good things and spending time in prayer and bible study. I wanted, though, to see God overflow more into all areas of my life.
30 minutes, 30 days
I decided to try something a little different and a little stretching for me. I call it, “30 minutes, 30 days.” It is nothing “earth shattering,” but it is a practice for developing a new habit, and one for hopeful change. God used it to breathe new life in many areas of my life. I decided to get up 30 minutes earlier, in hopes of setting my mind first thing in the morning in a new direction. I wanted opportunity for my thoughts to start with God, in hopes those thoughts would overflow into the rest of my day. I decided to do this for 30 days. The night before, I would set my alarm and set the things out I needed for the morning. The first days were very difficult, for I was already getting up early for exercise and getting the kids off to school. Many days, I really did not want to get up! When I didn’t feel like getting up, I tried to remember that I didn’t want to remain in the “same old, same old” and I needed to give this a try.
Since I wanted my thoughts transformed at the start of the day, I decided to just read Scripture during this time. I read a psalm, a New Testament section (a chapter or one “scene”) and sometimes an Old Testament chapter. I started the time (for just a minute or so) exalting God and recognizing He was over all. Then, I handed over any distractions and moved on to reading scripture. I wanted this time to be different, allowing God’s Spirit and His word to fill me.
New eyes for seeing
Something began to happen slowly, but steadily. I began to look forward to those first thirty minutes! It was a “get to” time. I would get to meet with God. During the day, I found myself returning to the things I read earlier in the day, often sharing it with my husband, children, or the girls in my bible study. I also found myself wanting to steal away for 5 minutes here or there in order to come back to those passages. The amazing thing to me was those 30 days did not end there. Thirty days became 31 days, 32 days, etc. Later, I began to notice some exciting things happening around me and even in areas of reaching out to others. Maybe those things were already occurring, but now I had new eyes to see them. This time felt set apart, as I stepped out in faith, believing that only God could transform me and pull me out of the “same old same old.” I wrote this during that time, “Who knew that 30 minutes for 30 days would turn into something so much bigger?”
This time of meeting with God, “30minutes, 30 days” is a little like fall approaching. As I stop and look around, I notice things happening, even though I don’t know exactly how the change occurs. I don’t really know how the weather begins to cool in the evenings and the days begin to shorten. I don’t know why the fall flowers and berries are so bright, the pumpkins so orange, or the smell is so nice after an autumn rain. However, as I pause and look around, I can take in the stunning colors and the 70 degree weather. Meeting with God is transforming and life-giving. God works to bring about the growth in Christ-likeness. To meet with God, changes us. Beautiful change is coming.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
1. Try this practice of “30 minutes, 30 days.” Trust God by faith with this new habit, knowing only He can bring about lasting change.
2. Discuss this idea of “30 minutes, 30 days” with a friend. Consider each doing it, and getting together regularly to talk about it.
3. If you could see growth in your life, what relationships or people would you like it to impact?