Tuesday, January 2, 2018

My 2018 Word of the Year (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

The beauty of Wonder is that it opens your heart to new and different, because you are not operating out of a need to prove yourself. The risk of Wonder is that it opens up your heart to new and different - which might lead to the desire to prove yourself.

By the end of 2017, I found myself operating out my old habits of needing to prove myself, and I felt like I was failing on many levels. It led to a strong desire to just hide. To quit showing up. To pull away. The Year of Wonder had drawn me down new paths that were overgrown and unfamiliar because I had never taken them before. I felt anxious and weary.

I sensed God's invitation to simply rest during the month of December. To quit striving. (Not sure how to do that during a month like December?  I have a little course I could tell you about. 😆)

And in the stillness, He met me.

I read this post in mid-December and these words resonated deeply with me:

"Anxiety is a function of divided attention...Inner peacefulness requires single-mindedness...Peace isn’t a matter of circumstances — it is a matter of focus. Singleminded centering on Christ gives a singular peace."

Then He reminded me of a verse that He gave me way back in the early 2000's as I was preparing to leave my teaching position in Seoul, Korea to return to the States.

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations...and I will give you an undivided heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh..." Ezekiel 11:16-21 (And yes...I pulled out my journal from that year to find it.)

Not long after this reminder, our pastor preached on a very similar passage (Ezekiel 36:24-27). Then a few days later, a friend gave me a Christmas ornament with those very verses inscribed on the tag.

His call to an undivided heart continued to beckon. My focus returned to Him and to His promises. I made space to repent to God and to others the ways that I had allowed my heart to become divided, the ways I had turned to anyone or anything else to prove myself, rather than trusting His love for me.

Shortly after that, I journaled "I'm back at a place of WONDER today." The wind began to return to my sails.

A few days later, I woke up with this word the very first thought in my mind:


Then the next day:

Keep showing up.

Then a couple of days later, I woke with these lines from a song in my head:

"When fears are stilled, when strivings cease." 

I had to start back at the beginning of the song to remember where those words came from.  Oh yes. "In Christ Alone". Interesting. We haven't sung that in a long time, how odd that it would be the first thought in my head.

We sang it in church the following Sunday. 

I will be honest. I'm not completely positive what the purpose is of those words. But that's ok because I'm receiving them with Wonder, rather than a need to prove anything.

I do know they all reflect the desires of my heart and maybe God is giving me permission to wonder again about who I am when I am free. Maybe He is reminding me that they are His desire too, and will fully be met in Him alone.

So, friends. This post sharing a bit of my story is my first step toward showing up. Away from hiding. Toward an undivided heart. Away from fear and striving and toward connection.

(Also, according to my INFP personality type, one of my New Year's resolutions should be to open up to the world. Here you go, world.)

And so, the word that I am choosing for 2018 is Wholehearted

I am asking the Holy Spirit to show me what that truly means. I certainly don't have it all figured out yet. But I do know I'm missing the mark if I'm living disconnected, out of fear and striving or not showing up.

And will I fail at living this out? You bet. Daily.

But as my friend Christine shared with me this year, "No matter what steps I take forward in God's economy, it all gets used." Even steps that fail.

(And yes, I journaled that. 😊)

Happy 2018, friends. May we all show up this year. 

Reflections on my 2017 Word of the Year

There is something about the end of a year that makes me want to write.  Friends might call it processing, a somewhat annoying endearing trait of mine.

I prefer to call it reflecting. Taking a glimpse at the past as a springboard for the future.

Truth is, I do this almost on a daily basis. In recent years, I've learned to call it 'paying attention'. Noticing. Contemplating.

Journaling is a lifeline for me in engaging this practice. I can see three journals that I have filled in the past two years right from where I'm sitting. A friend has informed me that the very first thing she is going to do when I die is read through all of my journals. I'm not sure whether to be flattered or terrified.

So usually my reflecting is a personal practice between God and me. He is super nice about my ramblings.

But occasionally, I get the courage to share my reflections with others. So I've dusted off this old blog of mine and started pounding away at the keyboard before my courage fades - or I find something new to process, whichever comes first.

My word for 2017 was Wonder. I have never so fully embraced a word. I jumped into Wonder with both feet, heart wide open. I wanted to give myself space to wonder about who God is and who I am because of Him. I wanted to let go of my old ways of proving myself and simply show up. I was wondering what that kind of freedom might look like. 

This meant I tackled my preconceived ideas about who God is and who I am because of Him through conversations with dear and wise friends and sisters, spiritual guidance, books and asking God about the questions stirring in my soul.

I attended retreats, visited churches unlike my own, participated in a weeklong relational healing training, engaged with people as safe and known as my pastor and as diverse as a Catholic sister and a charasmatic preacher. I helped start two different prayer groups, and began to pray freely with friends, for friends, with my kids, for my kids, with my husband, for my husband. I spent many hours talking with my husband about the learnings of this journey. I learned to feel comfortable with discomfort as I asked questions I never considered asking before.

My thirst for Wonder was almost unquenchable. It was joyful, unsettling, exciting and frightening all wrapped into one.

But by the end of the year, my attitude had shifted. I came limping into the last months, beginning to notice a change in my focus. Instead of wonder, I was back to striving. Instead of joy, I was caught in the throes of deep angst. Fear of failure was close at my heels in multiple areas of my life.

All of this wondering had opened my heart wide to God and to others and to showing up in ways I had never shown up before with my family, with my friends and with my church.

But suddenly I just felt a strong desire to hide. It was a year of big emotions and I was tired.

Click here for part 2