Each year I choose a word. It’s usually partly prophetic and partly hopeful – sort of like a mission statement to shape my path and direct my steps.
Like an actual mission statement, every decision and action, or lack of action, should point back to that word. It helps to ensure forward motion, even in years when the word is difficult to grasp or manage.
Last year my word was “sacrifice” and 2016 was a year of very little forward motion. Or so it seemed. We rarely see the reward of the sacrifice while it is hanging defeated on the cross.
The resurrection, and the realization, usually comes much later.
For me, sacrifice wasn’t about giving something to get something. It was about letting go and laying all of my ambitions and preconceived notions at the cross. I was asked to release everything I’ve been clinging to: successes and failures, hope, dreams, my pain, and my past.
All of the things that had laid roots in my soul, defining my fruit the way depleted soil and pesticides might add an off flavor to an orange or an apple. The fruit still blooms, and it still looks good on the tree, but if you get close enough to really look and really taste, you realize it’s all just ornamental.
This left me without a word for 2017. I was left with nothing. I had laid it all at the cross, and then I lifted my gaze to the new year empty, my hands turned up and open.
I had no idea what to expect for the new year.
On Sunday, January 1 I attended church with my husband and two daughters. It was raining and a full double rainbow – the brightest I had ever seen! – arched across the sky on the drive there.
It was a new church, only our second time attending, and somehow that seemed perfect. The rainbow felt like a confirmation of new beginnings and promises of rebirth after death, of resurrection after the sacrifice.
The first song we sang in worship that day was “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord),” one of my favorites. But as many times as I’ve listened to and sung that song, the words never hit me as powerfully as they did that morning. Particularly this part:
The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
It was like a hug from God, my loving heavenly father wrapping His arms around me to assure me that it was a new day, and a new year.
But I didn’t received my word. “Abundance” echoed, and I knew that everything I went through over the previous year would result in the abundant life we are promised in John 10:10. Three months into the new year, I am definitely seeing evidence of an abundance that has nothing to do with wealth or success.
Abundance after sacrifice is like planting in a field after a time of fallow. There’s a gentler appreciation, a sweet reminiscence and joy that can come only after you know what it is to let go.
The simple things seem brighter, and the air a little fresher as I press in to the Holy Spirit and keep my eyes on the One who led me through the storms. It is an abundance of God in my life, like a beautiful fragrance carrying me through.
But “abundance” is not my word – it’s more of a promise.
Then this morning it hit me. I awoke after a rough night, but found comfort as I slipped into my new routine of getting the kids off to school and the hubby off to work, then taking time for yoga and prayer, and finally settling at my computer with a healthy breakfast to begin the day’s work from my home office.
The windows were open, the birds chirping. My body still hummed from my workout and the nutritious food was a treat to my tummy and to my soul.
The stressful job I quit a week and half ago has started its journey to becoming a memory. I haven’t eaten badly in more than a week and I’ve worked out daily.
And I’ve come to this new awareness where I find peace and ease. As I devote myself to self-care, not secluding myself from this busy, crazy world, but learning to approach it in a new way, I find that my senses are awakening.
I’m more sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice, to my children, my husband, and to my own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
It is like a dawning, as the sun reaches over the mountain and its light kisses the blooming flowers.
I’ve been in a dark place for so long, particularly over the last year.
Today I am awakening to the light that stretches toward me, that encourages me to sing even when circumstances aren’t ideal and uncertainties toss darts at this fragile sense of awareness.
That anxious part of me threatens to take over once more, to reclaim its place in my spirit. The whispers of the enemy tell me its all useless, that it’ll just come crashing down again. I feel exposed and vulnerable in this light, like a movie scene when the heroine is happy and you just know the bad guy is lurking around the next corner.
I think this is was it means to awaken – to see all the ugly stuff and find a way to let go of my control over it. To refuse to allow the worries of tomorrow to steal the joy of today.
It means taking each day as it comes, for all of its pleasures and pressures, it’s heartache and jubilee, and seeing it as a collection of moments. And every moment is equally beautiful, from the peace of a spring morning to the shadows that come to block out the light from time to time, and every second in between.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid of it. I’m always afraid of tomorrow, especially when there are so many uncertainties for today.
But today, just for today, there is a new day dawning.
Today I am aware of the beauty, and of this awakening in my spirit and soul. And as I face the tomorrows of 2017, my word will be “Awaken.” My mission will be to make decisions, take action, and take times of rest in order to light within me this awakening sense. To awaken to what God has for me, and to the needs of my family, my friends, and myself.
And eventually, God willing, to reawaken to the ministry opportunities that have not yet been revealed, as well as a resurrection of those that have.
Have a beautiful, blessed day, my friends!