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Asking Questions


How to navigate the unexpected in 2024


How do we follow up our beloved annual goal series? With a swift kick in the pants and a reminder that no matter how much we plan this year, will hold something unexpected. 

How will we show up? 

You’ve heard it said, we can’t control everything that happens to us but we can control how we respond to it. Annoying words, right? I instantly want to tune them out because it implies things won’t work out according to MY plan and I’d rather just live in ignorant bliss thinking my plans will happen to the T. Is that too much to ask? 😝

how to navigate the unexpected by valerie woerner, 2024, goals, new year, how to respond, using scripture to fight feelings, anxiety, fearBut they won’t and that can be really exciting, like I mentioned in my 2024 Goals post but it can also be really scary too. Because of that, if we keep our attention just on tackling our own plans and not consider how we might respond when not our plans happen, we’re only preparing for a sliver of 2024. 

Instead of spending the bulk of our time on things that may not happen, we’ve got to get intentional with how we will respond when the unexpected comes.

Do your thoughts feel like an untamed beast? Is your mind essentially the Wild Wild West, where anything goes? Does it call you to have wild swings of emotion? Do you feel like you’re on a hair trigger with everything that comes your way? 

Will today be filled with anxiety or peace? Melancholy or joy? Stress or calm? 

We really won’t know until life happens, will we? 

What if we could know? What if steadiness were the norm because we tamed the beast we thought we’d never tame? What if our minds became a safe place instead of one we attempt to avoid by filling our minds with constant noise?

I am a natural melancholy as well as a self-diagnosed hypochondriac. That’s a bummer of a combo, friends, but it’s forced me to stop piddling around with something as important as my thought life. I’ve lived on edge so much that I think it’s part of the reason I’ve experienced the degree of stress I have and subsequently health issues caused by stress. 

If you’re tired of feeling at the mercy of every circumstance just waiting to be told whether you’ll feel anxious or depressed or stressed today, stick around. I want to share some things I think will help! 

Here are 5 tips for responding to the unexpected when it comes this year.

1. Stay present

You know how telling yourself Stop thinking about _____ only makes you think about it more? Staying in the present is a quick detour back to reality after you find yourself in the land of ‘what if’s’. In her book Raising Worry Free Girls, Sissy Goff shares the 5-4-3-2-1 technique which is asking your child to focus on their present environment:

  • 5 Things You See
  • 4 Things You Can Touch
  • 3 Things You Hear
  • 2 Things You Can Smell
  • 1 Thing You Can Taste

Maybe we adults can benefit from it too when our circumstances have us spiraling. Is this going to work if you’re in a burning building? No, but my guess is much of our reactionary responses come as we dread the future repercussions of an unexpected situation. We didn’t plan for this to happen so we start calculating what’s to come next.

2. Combat with Scripture memory

I’m not sorry this is on the list even though I know it’s old news for many of you. The Bible tells us to meditate on Scripture and delight in it and put it on our doorframes repeatedly for a reason. We need to know truth. We can combat lies, we just need to study the truth so we can recognize the lies. When we’re panicked because the kids are sick and we can’t get done what we thought God was calling us to do, we don’t need to assume that the world is spinning off its axis. We can know God’s plans prevail (Proverbs 19:21), to not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), that His ways are higher (Isaiah 55:9), that this too we can do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). I didn’t even dig. This is just what came to mind. Imagine if you search Scripture for how to handle the unexpected? You could have a rolodex at your fingertips (or in your mind!) to remind yourself when things go sideways.

3. Take an inventory

Ok, so I don’t really subscribe to the idea that to identify a counterfeit dollar you study the good dollar bill, not the counterfeit. Why can’t you do both? Obviously it most important to study the real thing (the Bible) but I think it’s also important to recognize how a dollar bill can be counterfeit. Is it the weight? The texture? The pictures? Let’s pay attention to the lies for a minute. What thoughts are ALWAYS destructive no matter how you slice it? Take time to think through this. Imagine a negative scenario happening. What would your gut reaction be? Write a list of everything that comes to mind. You can even ask others to give you feedback as you say them out loud. Keeping a running tab of those phrases you say that are harmful will help you recognize them sooner. It’s like knowing right away you’re eating poison. You’ll spit it out as soon as you get one whiff if you’re familiar with it already. 

how to navigate the unexpected by valerie woerner, 2024, goals, new year, how to respond, using scripture to fight feelings, anxiety, fear4. Journal

I have found journaling through a particularly rough hypochondria moment really helpful to bring back my rational mind. In our house, we call it “spiraling” when one negative thing sends us tailspinning in a negative direction. Asking yourself questions is like a pilot pulling back the yoke when a plane is nosediving. It sets you in a safe direction even if you don’t know where you’re going. Put them on a post-it note in your prayer journal and you’ll be set up when an unexpected circumstance threatens to derail your year. 

  • What is the thought I’m thinking? 
  • What is it making me feel?
  • Why is it making me feel ___? You may not know but if you do, it’s helpful to address here. 
  • Is this thought true? 
  • Who benefits from me thinking like this? The enemy? Easy no.
  • Has God given me a way out of temptation? Ok easy question but I put it here so we remember it in the moment. Read this post on temptation if it feels impossible. 

5. Live surrendered 

We need to recognize that what we carry is an educated game plan (if we’ve prayed and asked God what to do this year) but it’s not the map. God holds the map and doing life daily with Him will make all the difference in the world. In Pray Confidently and Consistently, I shared this: 

Imagine how silly it would be if you asked for directions and some kind sir gave you a detailed map, telling you about all the twists and turns and mile markers. Then as you thanked him and started to leave, he said, “Wait, I’m coming with you.” Wouldn’t your reaction be, “Well, then, why did you give me all those directions if you’re going to guide me personally?”

Doesn’t it make more sense that we don’t get the full story? The journey is intended to be walked with our guide. When we don’t prioritize prayer and an intimate relationship with the Lord, it’s like we’re telling God we can go this road on our own with just a few instructions from him. What gives us such confidence? We don’t have the map. We don’t know the roads. We need God. That’s always been true, but we forget it often. 

This is why you don’t have the full plan. God intended to go with you. If we decide we don’t want Him guiding us, that’s just foolish. 

Expect the unexpected this year, but do it with God by your side and it will transform your 2024 and you! 

We’ve got two resources to help:

1. Grab a prayer journal

If you haven’t grabbed a 2024 prayer journal, get one today! I don’t care what all you’ve already tried, your prayer life is worth continuing to try and believe me when I say, this is the most practical format on the market and the one you can stick to. I’ve been blown away by how many of you have used our journals in the past and skipped last year for one reason or another (finances, tried something new, didn’t think you got as much as you wanted out of it) and you came back and said you’d never leave again. 😲 We’re so grateful to see our journals make a noticeable difference in your prayer lives even when you don’t use them perfectly. That’s really the whole idea! So grab one now and you won’t regret it! Then watch this live prep to help get started!

2. Where Prayer Meets Science class

This Wednesday at noon (CST), I’ll be talking more about our thoughts, what gurus promise, what they get right and what they miss. This might be some of the most important content I’ve ever shared with you for free. Yep, you read that right. Over the past few years, I’ve worked on developing a healthy mindset (getting rid of anxiety, stress and negativity) and I’ve been overwhelmed with the information that’s out there.

I saw headlines like:

  • How to reprogram your thoughts to get what you want
  • 3 Mindset shifts to get out of your own way and hit your goals
  • How to master your mindset

It can be a minefield of trying to figure out what is actually Biblical with headlines like these. And it can be scary to even navigate this because we don’t want to veer into some weird and ungodly approach.

So, I started looking into Scripture and getting all into research mode. 🤓 I wanted to find the line between where prayer meets science, where what we can humanly control comes together with the work that only God can do.

Can prayer really change our minds and thought patterns? And on top of that, how can it possibly change my thoughts from anxiety, dread and stress to ones of peace, joy and calm?

What I found, I think has the power to shift our mindsets and change our days and I’m so excited to be able to share all this research with you in the format of a free web class. So, grab a notebook and a hot cup of tea and allow yourself to get nerdy with me for a second as we dive into the science of how God transforms our minds.

Sign up here to join us live or watch the recording later. We’ll have an exclusive bonus for watching live if you can make it!


Tools to navigate 2024

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