Staying Close to God During the Busy Holiday Season

5 Ways to Stay Close to God During the Busy Holiday Season at www.annswindell.com

This is my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the whole article here.

Life doesn’t ever stop, especially during the busy holiday season full of to-do lists, parties, shopping and (hopefully!) worship and service opportunities. So how can we focus our hearts in a deeper way on the presence of God in our lives, especially during a time of year filled with increased opportunities and responsibilities? How can we stay close to God when everything around us is demanding our attention?

Here are some simple steps that I’ve found are helpful to stay close to Jesus during the holiday season.

Start with Scripture.

It sounds simple, but it can also be very hard to read the Word regularly. Still, I have found that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day. It’s like tying up my shoelaces before going out the door—it’s much easier to keep from slipping as I walk through the day.

During the holiday season, when time seems short, get creative about reading the Bible if you’re struggling to do so. Listen to the audio version of the Bible on your phone or in the car. Or read for five minutes before you get out of bed (or even touch your phone!) in the morning. You might even consider starting a special Advent devotional to help you focus on God during this time of year.

5 Simple Ways to stay close to God during the busy holiday season via @RELEVANT Click To Tweet

Make time to serve.

Too often, the holidays can cause us to focus on ourselves—what we want, what we wish we had and how much we have to do. But when we take time to serve others through our church and community, we are fulfilling a central call of the Gospel (1 Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13).

Who in your church community needs some attention and love, especially this time of year? While it can be wonderful to participate in official service opportunities, sometimes the most meaningful chances to serve come by loving the people right in front of us with our time, our energy and our attention. Pray and ask the Lord who you can serve this holiday season, and then set aside time to do so.

Sometimes the most meaningful chances to serve come by loving the people right in front of us. Click To Tweet

Listen to truth.

In our home and car, I play music that reminds me of God’s presence in my life. Music seeps into my mind more easily (and mindlessly) than most things, so if I find myself humming a tune unintentionally, it helps my soul if it’s a song that reminds me of who God is. If Christmas music is your style, there are wonderful stations and streams to listen to that are full of Christ-centered Christmas music. And if you don’t love listening to music, find a podcast, radio station or audio book that declares the truth of who God is and turn it on while you’re doing mindless tasks around the house or even working out!

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Five Ways to Keep Jesus Central this Holiday Season

Life doesn’t stop in any season, especially during the busy Christmas season full of t0-do lists, parties, shopping, and, (hopefully!) worship opportunities. So how can we still try to focus our hearts in a deeper way on the presence of God in our lives, especially during Advent? How can we attend to how he is moving and how we are (or are not) responding to his love?

5 Ways to Stay Close to Jesus in the Holiday Season. www.annswindell.com

Here are some simple steps that I’ve found are helpful to stay close to Jesus in the busy days of Advent:

1. Start with Scripture. It sounds simple, but it can also be very hard to read the Word regularly. I have found, for me, that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day. Aligning my mind and heart with his Word in the morning is like tying up my shoelaces before going out the door—it’s much easier to keep from slipping as I walk through the day.  If this isn’t a normal part of your life, that’s ok! Start by reading just a few verses at a time, and ask God to speak to your heart with his truth.

2. Pray as you go. It is important to have regular time set aside to pray, but as in any relationship, ongoing communication is important. I often pray in shorter bursts while I’m driving, or while I’m walking across campus to my classroom, or while I’m picking up toys in the house. I had a professor in college who prayed for a particular person each time he turned on a light switch, and I love that idea of partnering normal, daily actions with intentional prayer. Prayer doesn’t need to be fancy or long—just honest communication with God. 

3. Pause when you feel overwhelmed. This is an important one for me. There are often multiple times every day where I can feel overwhelmed, anxious, or concerned—usually about things that are outside of my control. If I take time to pause and turn to God when these moments come, rather than letting fear or anxiety overtake me, I find that he has never left my side, and He is always offering me his peace, which is bigger than any fear (Phil. 4:6-7). The time it takes me to pause and pray is always shorter than the time it takes me to be worried about something for another five minutes—or five days!

4. Listen to Truth. In our home and in our cars, Michael and I play music that reminds us of God’s presence in our lives. Music seeps into my mind more easily (and mindlessly) than most things, so if I find myself humming a tune unintentionally, it helps my soul if it’s a song that reminds me of who God is and how he loves me. If you don’t love listening to music, find a radio station or audio book that declares the truth of who God is and listen to it in your car or while you’re working out.

5. Place reminders of God’s love and presence in your home. I am a visual learner, and it helps my heart when I have visual reminders of God’s heart in my house, my office, and even in my car! You can go the fancy route and buy (or paint) a representation of a Scripture and hang it up in your kitchen or bedroom, or you can write a favorite verse on a sticky note and put it by the radio dial in your car. Choose a Scripture verse that is meaningful to you and let it remind you of God’s particular love for you and attention to your life.

How do you keep your heart close to Christ during Advent? I’d love for you to share your insights!

This post is a holiday version of a previously published blog post on my site.

Similar post: What Does It Mean to Have a Close Relationship With God

A Year Long Holiday Spirit

My newest piece, “A Year Long Holiday Spirit,” is up over at Darling Magazine. I love Christmastime, and this article explores how we can make intentional choices that enable us to live every day of the year with joy, generosity, and intentionality. It was a lovely piece to get to write, and I hope that you’ll take the time to read it at Darling Magazine!

Keeping the Spirit of Christmas in our

The holiday season is here; lights flicker on trees and in windows, friends and family feast together, and the sense of excitement — even of joy — rests on these days.

What is it that makes these weeks so special, so transcendent? The parties? The food? The gifts? Perhaps. But maybe the holiday cheer that hangs like a twinkling veil over this time of year has less to do with these things and more to do with the intentional choices that this time of year births in us. Maybe the incandescence of the holiday season happens because we are choosing to live in a manner that is outwardly-focused … and that makes all the difference.

Below are three themes that the holidays tend to portray. These are aspects of the season that we can carry into every month of the year if our hearts are open and willing.

Generosity
The holidays are all about giving. Gifts are exchanged and as nice as it is to receive gifts, we all know the truth that little compares to the joy of giving meaningful gifts to those we love. Their excitement, their surprise, their thankfulness — that is a gift in and of itself. Many of us also give to charities and organizations that we care about during this time of year. In light of the needs of the world and the spirit of the season, we are moved to share what we have, whether it is little or much, with those who have less than we do. Often, what the holidays help open our eyes to is how much we really do have, while at the same time awakening our hearts to the joy of generosity.

Generosity is less of a financial choice than a mental choice. If we have a mindset of generosity, we can be generous with others in every circumstance, year-round. Donating to a food pantry, volunteering our time at a soup kitchen, babysitting a friend’s child, tutoring students — the opportunities are endless. The good thing is that we can carry this generosity throughout the year. By giving to our favorite charity on a recurring basis or by choosing birthday or wedding gifts for our friends that also give back, we can make a without the holidays prompting us.

Read about Intentionality and Joy over at Darling Magazine right here!

5 Ways to Connect with God in a Busy Season

 

5 Ways to Connect with God in a Busy SeasonLife doesn’t stop in any season. So how can we still try to focus our hearts in a deeper way on the presence of God in our lives? How can I attend to how he is moving and how I am (or am not) responding to his love? Here are some simple steps we can take to re-focus our hearts on Him daily:

1. Start with Scripture. It sounds simple, but it can also be very hard to read the Word regularly. I have found, for me, that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day. Aligning my mind and heart with his Word in the morning is like tying up my shoelaces before going out the door—it’s much easier to keep from slipping as I walk through the day.  If this isn’t a normal part of your life, that’s ok! Start by reading just a few verses at a time, and ask God to speak to your heart with his truth.

2. Pray as you go. It is important to have regular time set aside to pray, but as in any relationship, ongoing communication is important. I often pray in shorter bursts while I’m driving, or while I’m walking across campus to my classroom, or while I’m picking up toys in the house. I had a professor in college who prayed for a particular person each time he turned on a light switch, and I love that idea of partnering normal, daily actions with intentional prayer. Prayer doesn’t need to be fancy or long—just honest communication with God. 

Prayer doesn’t need to be fancy or long—just honest communication with God. Click To Tweet

3. Pause when you feel overwhelmed. This is an important one for me. There are often multiple times every day where I can feel overwhelmed, anxious, or concerned—usually about things that are outside of my control. If I take time to pause and turn to God when these moments come, rather than letting fear or anxiety overtake me, I find that he has never left my side, and He is always offering me his peace, which is bigger than any fear (Phil. 4:6-7). The time it takes me to pause and pray is always shorter than the time it takes me to be worried about something for another five minutes—or five days!

He is always offering his peace, which is bigger than any fear (Phil. 4:6-7). Click To Tweet

4. Listen to Truth. In our home and in our cars, Michael and I play music that reminds us of God’s presence in our lives. Music seeps into my mind more easily (and mindlessly) than most things, so if I find myself humming a tune unintentionally, it helps my soul if it’s a song that reminds me of who God is and how he loves me. If you don’t love listening to music, find a radio station or audio book that declares the truth of who God is and listen to it in your car or while you’re working out.

5. Place reminders of God’s love and presence in your home. I am a visual learner, and it helps my heart when I have visual reminders of God’s heart in my house, my office, and even in my car! You can go the fancy route and buy (or paint) a representation of a Scripture and hang it up in your kitchen or bedroom, or you can write a favorite verse on a sticky note and put it by the radio dial in your car. Choose a Scripture verse that is meaningful to you and let it remind you of God’s particular love for you and attention to your life.

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Similar post: What Does It Mean to Have a Close Relationship With God

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