Tag Archives: new year

4 Lessons from 2014

4 Lessons from 2014

As 2014 winds down, I like to reflect on the year and all the ups and 4 Lessons from 2014downs it brought. I’ve learned the purpose of life isn’t our happiness or comfort, but rather our character development, so when I look back on the year, I don’t just think of what happened, but rather what I learned.

Here are a few lessons I learned this year (Last year I suggested 5 questions to ask yourself at the end of the year, give it a read, it’s helpful):

Step out in faith.

When we take a step of courage, God responds. He meets us there. It won’t be easy as we continue to move forward, but He’s there, working with us, working on our behalf. Often times we think we are supposed to wait on God, but most of the time He’s waiting on us to make a decision or make a move. The moment of certainty never arrives. There will always be questions when it’s time to make a decision and doubts will persist initially. But God has given us a sound mind, free will, and faith. That’s enough to make decisions. Some of our choices will be wrong. That’s fine. Some will fail. That’s fine, too. Grace is big enough to overcome our errors.

Never underestimate prayer.

For some reason, I slacked off in prayer. I attributed it to laziness, but Pastor and author Mark Batterson said it best: “Our lack of prayer is less about laziness and more about overconfidence.” I just thought I could carry on. I thought if I missed a day or two I would be fine. But I learned prayer isn’t important; it’s essential. It’s as essential as eating and sleeping. I need it. Here’s why: Not because I’ll falter without it (though that’s probable), but because there are people God is depending on me to pray for. There are specific people He has put on my heart for a reason. These people are important to God and He has required me to pray for them. It’s fine if I want to be reckless and not pray for myself, but when my lack of prayer impacts others, it becomes dangerous.

Be open.

Over the years, we tend to view things through a preconceived filter. The older we get, we tend to get more set in our ways and our thoughts. I’ve learned to challenge my beliefs and patterns through books I’ve read and conversations I’ve had. Not all of them changed my thoughts, but they challenged my preconceived notions. (As far as books go, I highly recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath as my best reads of 2014.)

Embrace the adventure of the unknown.

One of my best experiences this year was going to a conference in Chicago for a few days. I was apprehensive about going because I was making the trip alone and didn’t know anyone attending the event. I’m somewhat social, but not always comfortable in situations like that. Well, I ended up making great friends and connecting with people not only at the conference, but also through random encounters with strangers around the city (people are quite friendly over pizza, beer, and sports). I almost didn’t want to leave, and many of us stay connected and continue to encourage each other.

What have you learned in 2014? How can you apply those lessons to 2015? Think about it and feel free to share your thoughts. Also, sign up to receive my posts by email here. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See in 2015 friends.


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photo by losmininos via compfight creative commons

5 Questions to Ask Before 2013 is Over

By Kevin Howell

photo by losmininos via compfight creative commons
photo by losmininos via compfight creative commons

It’s December, so it’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year. Since I have a December birthday, I like to reflect around that time, reviewing the ups and downs and accomplishments and setbacks of the year, as well as get a head-start on New Year’s goals.

I was journaling on my commute to work and asked myself five simple yet honest questions in order to give account of my year:

What have you learned?

How have you grown?

Are you stronger in God?

Did you value family and friends?

Did you live a meaningful life?

These aren’t just “yes or no” questions. These are questions that caused me to probe how I spent the past year. Notice, I didn’t ask what I accomplished, if I met my goals, how much time I spent in the Word, or what my net worth is. The questions that matter most aren’t quite measurable. They’re less black-and-white, more gray. But the answers often tell you more about yourself, and whether the year hardened you or developed you.

There was good and bad in my responses (which I’m keeping confidential). And I tell myself to build on the good, and forget the bad. No time to harbor guilt or regrets, they’re quite unproductive (and destructive, too).

So with roughly three weeks left in the year, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions (or whatever variation you choose). Take time in answering them. You may have done better or worse than you thought. Either way, build on the positive, move on from the negative, and let it all move you forward into the new year.

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Moving in the Stillness

Moving in the Stillness

By Yodit KifleMoving in the Stillness

It’s the rush of the New Year. The excitement hasn’t worn off quite yet. Our minds are still fixed on the goals and resolutions we’ve put in place and we are ready to charge towards them.  We are determined to make this a year of movement and we’ve been encouraged about that.

Before we thrust ourselves into the busyness of this year, I believe there is a goal we need to set:

Be still and know that He is God! (Psalm 46:10)

You’re probably wondering how we can deem this year to be a year of movement yet set the goal to be still. We often equate being still with not moving. But when God tells us to be still and know that He is God, I’m beginning to see there is more movement than we think.


I am sure that there will be times during this year where we will allow our “doing” to consume us to the point of feeling overwhelmed.  I am confident that we will in some way experience disappointments and confusion as well. However, to heed God’s command to be still and know He is God is His way of preventing these moments from shaking our foundation and taking us to a place that we don’t need to be. We don’t need to be overwhelmed. We don’t need to sit in confusion.

When we set it in our hearts to consistently be still and know Him, we invite His presence to quiet our soul — the seed of our thoughts and emotions. Yet at the same time, we are allowing His Spirit to awaken our spirit to be sensitive to His voice so that we can move in the direction He is leading us.  Our soul can often get in the way of what our spirit needs to hear. It’s when we learn how to be still that God helps us align them.

Being still is not to restrict our motion but to boost our faith. It’s to help us see that God knows us — intimately — and what God knows, He watches over.

Now, He’s asking us to know Him more because what we know, we are willing to trust and relinquish control to. What we know will keep us moving. It will keep us alive.

Being still and knowing that He is God is a chance for that exchange to take place.


What you know enough of will help you refuse that which comes against your knowledge. Know Him more so that you can refuse the enemies scheme to kill, steal, and destroy.

So know His faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:13); Know His grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). Know His promise (Psalm 119:50). Know His love (Jeremiah 31:3). Know His peace (Isaiah 26:3-4). Know His hope (Hebrews 6:19); Know His way (Psalm 32:8).

He wants us to know that He is God, not just intellectually, but practically, spiritually, and emotionally.  So as an encouragement to all of us, as we are in the mind-set to fully charge towards all the amazing things in our hearts to do, let us first set the goal to consistently be still and know He is God.

And there is no need to be afraid of being still — it will only keep us moving forward.  So let our soul be still and let our spirit move in Him and by Him.


Yodit Kifle is a young woman passionate about God and the things of God. She started a ministry called WITHIN — www.thewithingroup.ning.com — focused on connecting young women to embrace sisterhood and encouraging them to become all that they are called to be. Connect with her: withinministry (at)gmail.com

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In Need of encouragement

In Need of Encouragement

By Kevin HowellIn Need of encouragement

I need encouragement. It’s not something I like to admit, but I need it. I’m not dependent on a pat on the back or on others’ validation. I feel I’m self-sufficient. But from time to time, I need words of encouragement because they work wonders.

Chances are, you need encouragement, too. And if you need it, then the co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family you’ll see today need it as well.

You probably already have some New Year’s resolutions or One Word you’re planning to live by. But on Mondays, why not make it a habit to encourage someone.

A simple compliment or affirmation can literally make someone’s day.

A former co-worker of mine used to dye her hair different colors every month. I’m talking the whole ROYGBIV color spectrum: blue one month, pink the next, orange another  (yes, my workplace is more casual than formal). One time she dyed it red. Not Lindsey Lohan red, but Taylor Swift’s lipstick red… Ronald McDonald red. Strange enough, mixed with her natural brunette hair, it looked good. When I told her I loved her hair color, her face lit up with a smile I’d never seen before.

For the most part, complimenting others doesn’t come easily. I’m a bit hesitant because I don’t want to come off as insincere. Maybe it’s just my cynical side, but I  internally question encouragement I receive. It’s almost always sincere, but I’ve allowed the culture to harden my heart, and skew my perspective. Compliments are so rare today, especially on Monday, that we just can’t see them as genuine.

But that changes today. For me… for you.

This Monday, the first Monday of 2013, set the tone for the year. Be someone who encourages others around you. As author and counselor Debra Fileta said, encouraging words “nourish, strengthen, and grow relationships faster than many other things can.”

Someone you encounter today needs some encouragement. Why don’t you be the one to make their Monday meaningful.

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New Year, One Word Matters

New Year, Only One Word Matters

By Kevin Howell OneWord365

It’s time to simplify things.

We’re all juggling a lot in life. We play many roles. We’re probably involved in too many things. And when it comes to New Year’s goals, where do we start? Your health? Finances? Career? Relationships? Or, of course, your walk with God? If you’re like me, you have plenty of areas to approve upon.

I’m big on making New Year’s goals. Last year I filled in a spreadsheet to organize my aspirations in every area of my life. That worked as well as Kim Kardashian’s last marriage.

So for 2013, I’m joining the One Word revolution. I’m focusing on one word that sums up who I want to be and how I want to live this year and beyond. One word I will focus on every day, all year.


This word has been resonating with me the past five months. I can’t escape it. I wrote about here, and then again here. God’s been drilling in me that love is sacrificial. We know as Christians we are called to love. And though there are several characteristics of love (see 1 Cor. 13), sacrifice seems paramount to me. I blame Jesus for that. Everything in our Savior’s life was about sacrificing for others and for a greater cause.

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed His life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.” 1 John 3:16

That’s what God is calling me to this year: In big ways and small ways, to live sacrificially for others. To surrender my time and resources to serve others. I’ve already been doing this in many ways, but He’s beckoning me to go deeper for something greater.

The needs are great in the world around us. Family, friends, neighbors, and strangers need our time and attention. I have my own needs. And God knows my schedule isn’t filled with free time. But if I desire to love anyway remotely close to how I’ve been loved, then in 2013, I must embrace sacrifice.

Maybe 2013 will be something special. Maybe it can be my greatest year yet. Not because I kept a resolution, or I accomplished a slew of goals listed on a spreadsheet. But because I simplified. Focused on one word, embraced it, lived it, and loved sacrificially.

What One Word can you focus on to live how you desire this year? Link up with the One Word 365 community for inspiration and encouragement, and see how my journey is going by signing up for email updates from Transparency by clicking here.



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