As 2017 came to a close and New Years Day rounded the corner, I found myself once again reflecting on the life I had lived through the past year. It is something we all do at the end of each passing season, but this year looking back was harder then it has ever been.
2017 was by far one of the most trying years of my life. I lost my father, closed my business, got engaged, got married, homeschooled my son, worked to expand my second business, and at one point fostered two children (a story for another time). For every “up” this past year there always seemed to be a “down”, and at many different points, I didn’t know if I would have the strength to carry on.
The one thing that was constant in this past season, was my relationship with Jesus Christ, the support of my husband, and the love of my dear family and friends.
As a new season begins, I want to make a practice of cultivating the relationships that God has given me. I truly believe that the people God puts in our lives are a gift to be cherished and treasured. Whether it is a friend, my husband, my son, or my family I want to be sure that I am loving these gifts God has given me.
But in a fast-paced, social-media-focused world, how do we slow down and love each other well? Social media surely has its benefits, but it has also disconnected us more than ever. How do we build stronger relationships in this modern world? How do we slow down enough to love those gifts God has given us?
Let’s look at a few ways we can cultivate meaningful relationships in this New Year.
I am an organization-aholic (if that's a word) and my time during the day is extremely important to me. I schedule out my time during each day to ensure that every task I have not only receives the time it needs but also has enough to be completed. We are given the gift of time by our Heavenly Father and it is our duty to ensure that it is not wasted. Relationships deserve no less.
If you want something in this world to grow, you must spend the time needed to cultivate it. This includes any relationship you wish to pursue.
How can you learn to appreciate your husband if you are never around him? How will you build a relationship with your child if you are always looking at your phone? How do you expect to build a circle of friends if you don’t set aside time to do so?
One of my goals for this year is to cultivate my relationships with my husband, family, son, and friends. I am going social-media free on most Saturday’s and definitely Sunday’s in order to do so. The Bible says in Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If you treasure your relationships, you must place your heart in them as well. If you spend your time building up those relationships then you will see the fruits of your labor.
Communication is one of the most important parts of any healthy relationship. Without communication, you can’t express who you are and how you want to grow. Communication, like anything else in a relationship, is a two-way street. While talking and conversing is surely a part of communication, listening is also extremely important.
We all want to be heard in this world. We want our opinions to matter, our hopes to be heard, and we want to connect to someone else. But in order to successfully do this we need to take a moment to stop talking, and simply listen. In being slow to speak and quick to listen we are approaching our relationship in a wise manner that will bear fruit.
In James 1:19, James called to his companions to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Doing so is considered a wise action, and there are many instances in the Bible that refer to the slowness of speech as something akin to wisdom. Proverbs 17:27 says that “he who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” When we stop talking and open our ears to listen, we give our relationship the ability to grow through the mutual respect that is gained.
PLACING GOD FIRST
The very first date with my now husband, Steven, didn’t go quite as planned. We wanted to drive out to Raleigh to visit an art museum and have a nice dinner, but one of the bigger hurricanes to hit North Carolina had different plans. We ended up stuck inside for the duration of the storm. I was disappointed that our perfect first date didn't work out.
We made the best of the experience, however. We spent most of the time eating homemade pasta and watching a show called, It Takes a Church. Have you seen it? It is basically a Christian Bachelor! The contestant's church gets together and picks several bachelors for a single girl, and they go through a series of games to determine who is the best fit for her. It was a cute show.
Anyway, on one of the episodes, a girl and her potential dates had to discuss the things they held most dear. The one that got closest to the same list that the girl made got the most points. The Items that had to discuss were things like family, spouse, money, God, travel, work, and so on. In the end, we were very surprised at the outcome of each person's order.
Not one of the contestants, or the girl, put God first!
In all of your relationships, you must always endeavor to put God first. We are here in this world to spread His message and show the world the unending love of Jesus Christ.
I know that family and children are important and that your significant other resides high up on your list. But placing God above all others is a calling that we must adhere to. And if we do so with those that we want a relationship with, we will grow in love not only for each other but also in the worship of our creator.
As we venture into this new year, I encourage you to take a look at how we build our relationships. In this new season, my prayer is that our relationships are based on a foundation of honesty, holding God first, listening instead of talking, and ensuring we give the time necessary to those that we love.