Start the New Year Prepared

Start the New Year Prepared

January 2, 2017

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)

Devotion Graphic

“I’m not doing this again,” I proclaimed, and I meant it with all my heart.

Just a few days before, I spent a dark, rainy weekend packing our lives into boxes and then unloading them into a new place in a new city.

Though the bulk of the work was behind me, I felt exhausted and unsatisfied. I didn’t look forward to new memories and planting roots, because this new place had no more certainty than the last one. I feared another weekend much like the one I’d just experienced was all too close.

So, I announced I wasn’t doing it again. But my husband’s career requires us to relocate often, so although I knew I couldn’t cling to the idea of never moving again, I could purpose to do it differently the next time.

Why do we need this lamp? There are perfectly fine lights on the ceiling. Who needs headboards for the beds? The wall will be support enough. This dresser isn’t necessary. We can stack clothes on the shelf in the closet.

And so it went. One thing at a time, I whittled away at our stuff and created a simpler, much more manageable life of mobility.

In today’s key verse, God talks to His people, the Israelites, as they begin a journey. After years in captivity, they rejoiced at the freedom to return to their homeland. But to get there, they would have to travel a long distance.

Their travel would look quite different from ours — no plane to catch and no trailer to haul their stuff. So you can imagine the challenge this nation would face when they found themselves standing in front of deep waters or difficult rivers.

Men, women, children, livestock and all their belongings would have to find a way through these physical obstacles.

Though we may not come upon an actual river, we will likely encounter something this year that mimics a rushing current or suffocating smoke. Notice how our key verse says, “When you go through deep waters … When you go through rivers of difficulty … When you walk through the fire of oppression.”

When. Not if.

The nation of Israel was guaranteed to encounter all of these on their journey, and I think we can count on it too. So let’s prepare for it, shall we?

When I realized the uncertainty of my family’s future, I purposed to get rid of all of the extra, unnecessary things that weighed us down. The things we absolutely could live without and would ultimately free us up to follow God wherever He chose to lead us.

Since that day, my family has moved every single year. And that’s okay. Our things are now so simplified we can do it in a matter of hours. Our last move demanded my husband and me, and about two hours of our time. That’s it.

Consequently, I no longer dread future moves, because I know we’re prepared for it.

We all have extra. Sometimes in our physical surroundings. Sometimes in our spiritual ones. To face the troubles sure to surface, we need to get rid of the extra.

When the water is deep, your feet can’t feel the bottom. And your body is tired, but the other side is still so far away. That one thing you don’t need could be the one thing that drags you under.

Of course, no matter how prepared we feel, we’ll never be able to conquer our troubles alone. God didn’t just warn of potential problems ahead, He included promises to stand on in the midst of them.

God will be with us. We will not be overtaken. We will not be utterly consumed.

As we head into a new year, let’s start this one prepared, so when we face the trials of life we will stand. Undaunted by deep waters. Ready for rivers of difficulty. Fearless in the face of the fire.

Dear God, thank You. Thank You for the smiles and laughs and songs and prayers all shared in 2016. And thank You for the promise of Your presence as I travel through 2017. Through deep waters and difficult rivers and oppressive heat, You promise You will be with me. May my actions prove Your promises this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:2-4, “Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line — mature, complete, and wanting nothing.” (VOICE)

What if God gave you the chance to forget your past and start over? Begin building a strong, faith-filled future based on God’s vision for your life instead of your own, with our upcoming First 5 study of Joshua and Judges. Get the Experience Guide and get started on the First 5 app with us today!

Stop by Katy McCown’s blog for some practical ways to throw off the extra and embrace tests and hardships this year.

Are you clinging to something that may be weighing you down and preventing you from fully living in God’s promises?

Ask God to show you some things you can throw off to help you be less exhausted and more effective this year.

© 2017 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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  1. Patricia Williams says:

    Wow! Can you please come and help me downsize my house, Please?

    • I agree Patricia! I would love help downsizing my home! 🙂 I have an awesome husband, two 12 yr old children, and a dehabilitating desiese, MS. Sometimes I get so overwhelmedwhen I walk into the laundry room. Then, I think about having to unload and load all the dishes. Not to mention dusting, vacuuming, and FOLDING ALL THAT LAUNDRY, then putting it away! I try to remind myself there are many people who don’t have dirty dishes because they don’t have much food. So I need to remind myself to praise God for the food and the dishwasher He has provided. I praise Him for the clothes we wear that need to be washed. There are many who only have the clothes on their back, and no laundry room for them to be thrown into. I praise and thank my Heavenly Father for my 2 children. There were years when we weren’t sure if I would be able to have a child. So we adopted, and three months into the process, I’m pregnant! Now it’s time to praise Him for the job my husband has to provide for our family.

      So now, when I start to get overwhelmed, I remember WHY. I believe these are the deep waters, test, with a few hardships here and there, that I face daily. So I embrace theses test and use them to remind me where my strength comes from. MY STRENGTH IS FROM THE LORD!

    • Over the past 4 months, I’ve gotten rid of about 50% of my personal belongings in the name of downsizing and decluttering. I’ve gone through everything I own and asked myself, “does this add value to my life?” If the answer is no, I pitched it. I feel cleansed and more relaxed with less stuff. I have become stronger mentally and spiritually because I have more time to spend with the things that truly add value to my life.

      • muralartist says:

        Congratulations Allison!
        The last several years I have purged, and purged many items. If I needed it or didn’t need it. I sold it, gave it away, or helped several people who had nothing and was need in of what I could bless them with.
        When I sold items, it was because of several severe trials and tribulations that was needing dealt with. The way to deal with the trials and tribulation was with cold cash. I had several “throw away” yard sales. To where I set up whatever I could carry out of my house, the items I wanted to purge and the items I knew I could live without even if I felt I needed them. I only set a price on a few items. The rest was up for whatever someone wanted to bless me with. I had even told those visiting the
        throw away yard sales, what trials and tribulations was set in my pathways that I needed cold cash. The Lord meet my need several times. And then there were times there was still a need of cash to deal with what trial and tribulation was set in my path way. But the biggest thing was it allowed me to witness to people that didn’t understand.
        When you purge you are letting go of many things in your life. Whether it is mentally, physically, spiritually, and materialistically.
        The reality is you can learn to do with less. It’s a matter of mind over matter. Once you get in the habit to let things go, the more you will feel freedom.

  2. I have been through many tests over the past several years and some unthinkable trials. I would like to be able to throw off some of the weight of being the family scapegoat and having to take the blame for so many things gone wrong. I need a loving supportive family not one that turns its back on me and betrays me in my darkest hour. It has been an agonizing journey walking through fire alone. I have always believed the most sensitive family member gets the bulk of the problems to deal with because they are usually the most caring one while the rest walk away. I feel the way Jesus did when his disciples abandoned him.

    • Praying for you, Deb; that you would be able to Lean into the strength of Jesus, Who always went to His Father, and always received instruction from Him. May you lean into the Hope of Jesus as well, casting your care on
      Him for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7) I know that is not easy, but it is possible. We must set aside time to listen for God’s voice and focus on Jesus and not the circumstances. I am speaking to myself, too. 🙂 Here is 1 Peter 5:7-11 in the Amplified Bible: “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully [Ps55:22] 8 Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. 9 Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset – rooted, established, strong, immovable and determined] knowing that the same (identical) syfferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the dominion (power, authority, rule) forever and ever. Amen (so be it). Remember you are never alone – Holy Spirit is within, and Jesus is always present – ever interceding for you – if you have received him as your Savior and Lord.
      Love, hugs and prayers, Because of Jesus, Cindy

    • Deb, I too have been betrayed by my own…. a pain I never imagined on anyone.. Truly a end time verse brought into reality… I am going on a year now of not seeing them. I am broken… Staying in prayer and Gods word will sustain us… I will be praying for your strength today… as well as others that blogged today.

    • Deb,

      I pray for our Lord and Father in heaven to surround you with His presence and give you peace, strength and comfort. In Jesus’ name amen.

  3. Thank you, Katy, for your message today! I have often protested in times of my life saying, “I am NOT doing this again!” I huff and puff and…eventually calm down and come to my senses. I love the idea of letting go and de-cluttering in order to become closer to God. I love His promise. It is so uplifting to read His word, and it gives me hope for the future. Thank you for highlighting God’s word today and his truths. God bless you and yours!

  4. Thank You. This was pointed right at me today as for the last 5 years, my husband and I have lived abroad and I myself have struggled throughout – often daily, and not embraced fully God’s plan for us during this adventure.

  5. Thank you Katy!!!! I needed your devotion this morning. I have stated many times that I have been going through a storm for the past six years. Every year I think will this be the year I get a little relief but something else seems to happen….too long and personal to explain. I like it when you said the verse doesn’t say “if”…it says “when”. I cling daily to God’s truth that he will not allow me to get burned while walking through the deep waters and he is with me. Isaiah 43:2 gives me strength. Another scripture that came to my mind is Matthew 7:13-14 as I have to remember that the narrow gate doesn’t allow me room enough for ALL my “stuff”, extra baggage this materialistic world has to offer, etc. This may sound like a strange analogy but when I am walking through the deep waters and I’m weighed down by the world’s “stuff”, I am more exhausted. So, I am trying to rid certain things in my life so I am not weighed down by this world. Yes, I have God while passing through the waters and I want to be able to enter the narrow gate and have the life God has promised me to have. I hope this makes sense as this was on my heart. ~Lisa~

  6. Gwendolyn says:

    Thank you Katy for this beautiful and timely message. I am in the midst of starting over; retiring from a career to embrace my “what’s next?” You have reminded me that God is always with me and will be with me as I cross the rivers in the days ahead. Glory to God…..

  7. Lord you say. “When…the storms come”. Why is it that I live my life like a dodge ball game…. dodging the difficulties of life and looking at You as my opponent. Disappointed in God… yet as your Word says these “diffulties” are the very thing that refines me, shapes me, molds me… as I look to You to do the impossible … surrendering life… knowing I’m not in control… but preparing my heart each day that I can weather the storm with Your help. Carry me Lord

    • Wow, Mish! Thanks for what you have shared. Much food for thought. I have to really think about looking at the Lord as my opponent. Whew! May be in ways I haven’t thought of, I do that. Yes, we must surrender fully to God. May God continue to bless you richly, as you prepare your heart each day – I want to do that, too. I do, but
      want to do it more knowledgeably and fully. 🙂

    • Beautiful words, Mish. God is on our side! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Camilla Avila says:

    I am so encouraged by this message and will be more able to encourage others.Our Father has brought His promise of always being with me in several different ways this morning. I praise and thank Him and how He has used you.

  9. Elly Smith says:

    I just love the image of standing on God’s promises in the midst of deep water! It is just tucked in there like a pearl in an oyster! Thank you.

  10. Beautiful, anointed devotional! Thank you and bless you!

  11. Hi, Katy: Thank you so much for sharing this devo. I do indeed want to be prepared – daily, and get rid of unnecessary stuff that “drags me under.” Wow! The place I work will be closing in March, and I want to find
    another job. I have become so comfortable there, and I can’t say I look forward to starting afresh. But, as you have said here, I can be prepared – for that, and for so much more. It has been a blessing reading this devo and the responses, and replying to the comments as God leads. I pray that those replies will be beneficial to many. May God continue to bless you richly.

    • muralartist says:

      Cindy, Look at it this way with the new job you will be needing. You may be a “witness” of the Lord’s Goodness and Mercy by being a testimony of his Word and Will in a new mission field. We often think of the mission field as those that go off to far countries and try to teach the Word of the Lord to those unsaved. But daily we are in a mission field around us nd we don’t ever know what or who will encounter in our pathway that we could be a missionary and teach or be a witness too of what the Lord has done for us. Many times we get earthly bound by the despair of knowing we area loosing one job and in need of another. But if we have faith and remember the scripture in the later part of Matthew 6 and believe the Lord will take care of our needs and be satisfied with what he provides for us materialistically, then we have hope that we know we will make it through all that comes our way.

      • God spoke to me through this. God bless you and cause you to keep on growing in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

  12. Decades ago, hubby and I were houseparents at a Christian facility for wayward adolescent boys. Each child had a “target behavior,” a problem he was working to improve. The counselor insisted that we phrase it in positive terms: “Bill will use words to tell us how he feels,” not “Bill will stop throwing temper tantrums” or “Bob will do his chores cheerfully,” instead of “Bob will stop whining.”

    What I see here, Katy, is the positive response: “Katy will cheerfully plan to move,” not “Katy will stop complaining about how hard it is to move.” And the lesson for all of us: “I will joyously do God’s will,” instead of “I will stop complaining about what I give up for God.” And that, dear ladies, is a glorious resolution.

    • Sherry Huddle says:

      I really needed your positive words. I had to switch jobs in July 2016 due to our company selling and closing. I loved my job and hated to leave. God provided a new job immediately and I know He blessed me with it. However, the new job I have has been so very stressful because of constant chaos, complaining, and fighting among my younger co-workers. It makes a very hostile work environment. I pray daily that God will use me to be a light in the darkness of their lives. I am the only Christian in our office. I have to pray continually for God to strengthen me and to give me wisdom and discernment in how to respond to every conversation so that He is shown to them. It’s easy to get discouraged and feel overwhelmed by the negativity. I love how your examples turn each negative into a positive outlook!

    • How beautiful Shirlee! It reminds me of the words in Colossians 1:11, “endurance and patience with joy.”

  13. muralartist says:

    We all have things in our life that we hold onto, whether spiritually, physically, mentally, or material. When we start opening each of those areas and “purge” in a mighty way, we can feel released of many things.
    If you lost everything you had materialistically from some form of a disaster, you would sooner or later restart building your material things all over again. If you look around your house and learn like the writer of this devotional said, and start purging what you can live without. You will find a more simple way of living. It will give you a freedom from not having to deal with the clutter, the obstacles, and anything else that may be weighing you down. Once you purge you will find more time to enjoy other things in your life. Think what you will release material wise can be a great benefit to someone else than what you feel you need to hold onto. The more you purge the more you will feel better. Let alone you are blessings someone else who may need the items.

    When the storms of life hit us hard, and we bow down in bended knee, we know that the Lord is there with in our circumstances that seem to weigh us down. But many times we want the physical and mental help from someone else being their for us in a mighty way. We need to pray for the Lord to send people to uplift us and for us to lean on during the difficulties life brings our way. We ourselves have to hold onto that we can get through the “mirey clay” and move onto whatever path lays before. When Daniel was thrown in the lions den. He was alone with some mighty fierce hungry lions. But he prayed, and he concentrated on what the Lord was going to do for him. In the end the Lord sent Angels to protect him. Many times we don’t see the Angels the Lord has with us to hold onto us or protect us from whatever obstacles are coming are way. When the disciples were in the boat with Jesus and the waves of the oppressive storm was making the disciples fearful. Jesus was their to shush the wind and have the storm stop. He is there with us many times even when we go through the storms of life in different ways.

    When people are going through many mental obstacles that need relief from the trials and tribulations that one is dealing with. One has to think of when Jesus was in the dessert for 40 days. Satan tempted him, but he held strong and in the end God provided for him. The same can be with us, if we release the obstacles that are mentally and physically binding us and weighing us down, God and the Lord on High! can help us find a new direction.
    But we have to learn to surrender ourselves and purge to feel any kind of release.

    • Thank you for your words of wisdom. My biggest area in need of decluttering is mentally and spiritually. I have always turned to people for guidance and strength but for the past 3 plus years God has removed this option. I have complained and begged for Him to return friendships to me but His answer has been a resounding No. I’m learning to learn on Him through my trials and losses these past 3plus years it hasn’t been easy but I’m learning slowly that my confidence and comfort needs to come from Him alone. I’m praying that this year will be a time of quiet to allow me and my family to heal and rebuild from the trials the past 3 plus years but especially the losses last year

  14. Pat Anderson says:

    Literally started the morning clearing out old emails and electronic files to unclutter my brain. Way too much noise in my head. Then reading this showed me even more how much I’ve allowed the “clutter” of life to get in the way of what God has for me. May 2017 prove that I have listened to HIS will for my life.

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

  15. Great! True Wisdom! Thx, Katy!!!

  16. Thank you Katy for this devotional. Already this morning I am putting this into practice. When I get up in the morning and look at things I need to do, I sometimes tend to look at it as a daunting chore. This morning I stopped myself and thought…”This is a priviledge to do.” I thought of it more in a positive light. What a difference for me today! Thank you for the reminder.

  17. Oh my – what perfect timing as I have been purging & packing for a move on Sat!! Was so encouraged by this – literally made me smile as I have looked at all the “stuff” accumulated that really serves no purpose other than taking up space!! Excited about feeling a little more unencumbered as God removes unnecessary from our lives – simplifying!!! Thank you for sharing this reminding me that God is all I need & walks with me thru it ALL!!!

  18. We are a homeschooling family of 6 and we have a small home. I have sworn to downsize our stuff in the next few weeks!
    My husband also just started a job that changes locations (the last one was 12 hours away for 4 mos) too often to actually move. We bought a travel trailer and will be living in it part time at least.
    Trusting God and simplifying life are two things that are big in my life right this minute!!

  19. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you very much for this devotion! My family going very difficult time being without friends and families. My children growing up without friends and families since 6 years. I tried my best to do everything for them. All I’m today is praying for them!

  20. Sally Ann Price says:

    Thank you for this great devotional.

  21. Thank you so much for these words of encouragement and promise. There are times I feel so inadequate to deal with the circumstances that surround me and this reminds me that I may be unable to “fix” the problems and difficulties but with God I can get through it. Be thou my vision, o Lord of my heart! Have a blessed new year and thank you for your ministry. Love and prayers.

  22. I have begun downsizing some material things as well as the negative weight in my mind. Those obstacles or even people that keep me from fully praising and fully just trusting in my Lord. Its gonna be great to lighten the load physically and emotionally so that I may grow spiritually. Thank you Father God that when you spoke to me today, I was able to be still to listen, accept, and act on my next steps in growing closer to you. In Jesus name, Amen

  23. This was a wonderful message. I am asking for prayers for myself and family. I am grateful for the many blessings God has granted me and my family in 2016. I could list so many for example: our grandson was in a coma for a month (he is now 2 years old), our son was shot in the chest close range (but survived miraculously), our 4 years old grandson almost drown last summer. In the meantime, it seems there continues to be anger, strife and confusion between family members and sinful tendencies seem to be more noticeable than values and morals and Godly living. 2017 I am hoping not only for my family for peace, unity and unconditional love, but for all families. Jesus is coming back and I sometimes get so overwhelmed.

    • Sue McMahon says:

      Maxine, I know how you feel. For me, it’s heartbreaking to see my own children seeming to walk away from the Lord once they go off to college. Then there are relatives who don’t walk with Him at all, or consider themselves to be atheists. All we can do is to pray that God will soften those hard hearts in order to receive Him, that His Word and truth will penetrate their hearts and grow deep roots. God knows those who are His. Keep on praying, don’t give up, and TRUST Him.

    • Melissa VanOstrand says:

      I’m praying for you Maxine .

  24. Thank you for your message…I know moves are so difficult and you can help many with your encouraging words.

  25. Naida Leslie says:

    Needed to read this today. It was decided during Christmas wk that we will be moving by the end of Feb. This has been our hm for over 10 yrs. The new place is smaller and so the downsizing begins. Hard to let go of important things like my piano. Think a friend will take and be blessed by it. Trusting God to give wisdom and peace as we walk this out.

  26. Sue McMahon says:

    Beautifully said! Thank you! 🙂

  27. Melissa VanOstrand says:

    I know all to well about downsizing. After my divorce , I have lived renting a room. I have a small storage that I plan to get rid of soon…..but I also made some terrible decisions with my finances and relationships . They follow me every where I go. Sunday after church, in the restroom, a little girl said to her sister, I’m so disappointed in you. I’ve been crying nonstop every since. For her , for myself. I felt myself slipping into that place of condemnation. I got the book a better yes. Im 50. A financial mess. Shattered everything, a lot of it my fault. One day I’m walking in Gods truth , the next , I’m falling apart all over again. I just recently received the truth that God loves me . I’ve been a believer for 40 years. Please pray for me to move forward and trust God with all these messes. thank you.

  28. Thank you! Enjoyed!

  29. Thank you for this encouraging word! I am trusting God to be with me through this year, as he as always been.
    I’m trusting Him to hear and answer my prayers as I know He has proven Himself faithful to me!
    I’m trusting Him even now as I sit here with a constant back pain today…because He is my Healer!
    Bless you!

  30. One of my New Years resolutions is to declutter our home. After 45 yrs of marriage and 3 grown children, we have accumulated too much “stuff”. I’m letting a lot go and giving some and selling some. If I can just get my husband on board with this, what a breath of fresh air it would be. Too many times I’ve helped people move, or gone to estate sales and observed all the “stuff” that has been accumulated over the many years. When we move, or die, we leave others with a huge pile of “stuff” do dispose of and often that is in the garbage or recycle bin on trash days. So unnecessary and so many could be blessed by much of it. Salvation Army does good things with our “stuff” and what better way to get breathing room in our homes?

  31. God heals

  32. I think the thing I cling to most that may be weighing me down and preventing me from fully living in God’s promises is trying to do everything in my own strength, my own way. I know that God is bigger, His plans are my desire, but I’m finding out it might just be harder to let go of what I’m trying to work hard towards than I thought.
    I want to be less exhausted and work smarter instead of harder this year! 2016 was full of joy, hardships, and probably some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do, but God was there every step of the way, preparing me for this year. This year to bloom.

  33. Katy, do you have children?

  34. How beautiful Shirlee! It reminds me of the words in Colossians 1:11, “endurance and patience with joy.

  35. Melissa Schaffer says:

    This very much spoke to me!! I was divorced in 2013 after 22 years of marriage. I went from a large, beautiful home to a tiny but cozy one and then financial reasons forced us to move again in 2016 to an even smaller space. With each move I downsized a lot and it felt amazing. After the first move downsizing I was so much more able to fave the second move with a grateful heart and more ease even though I wanted to be getting a larger home and wasn’t super happy with where we had to move. In 2017 God miraculously surprised me with a huge life change and shift in finances! And I’ve been longing for change for many years as I lived 40/44 years of my life in the same town. We moved in February to a beautiful town about 40 min from our old one. We love it so much and so do our kids. We got a beautiful place to live that’s much larger than the last house and much nicer than both previous homes. I’m so blessed and excited for our future. I am feeling led to downsize possessions even more today and I’m so excited to do so!!! Thank you for this devo!

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