The New Year is a reminder for all of us.
A reminder of a fresh start, a beginning.
And beginnings can feel a mix of emotions.
There is sometimes a nervousness, induced either by excitement or the unknown, sometimes both. There is sometimes a desire to change, to improve, to be better, to grow. And, there is, not sometimes but with every beginning, a letting go.
For, every "yes" is met with a "no." When we say "yes" to something, we are also saying "no" to something else.
The New Year is a reminder of the yeses we need to say, but it can be so hard to keep these yeses, these resolutions we are determined to make, because it involves saying no to things that have become habitual in our days.
For this reason, I have learned to let go of the practice of making resolutions and instead prayerfully choose one word to lean into for the year.
As you may remember, I shared a journey of authenticity with you this time last year.
It was a word I would not naturally gravitate towards. To say it another way, it intimidated me. It challenged me.
But, I'm thankful God led me to this because I wouldn't be the woman I am today, the one writing to you and sharing my vulnerabilities with the masses, without it.
Yeah, the power of one little word.
2021 held a new word for me.
A small word.
A positive word.
One that induces hope within you when you hear it.
This makes me smile now knowing the path I walked these 365 days before. This was no coincidence. God knew I needed hope. But, before I get too ahead of myself, let's back up a moment.
The days leading up to the New Year, I pray and ask God to reveal one word to me. I don't want to choose the word. I want Him to choose this for me. Only He knows what the year will hold.
The word that was laid on my heart in those times of prayer was "open."
To be Open
Initially, I was excited for this word. I immediately thought of the adjective form - Yes! Open doors, new opportunities. This sounds like such a great word! Yes, I'll take it! (When you're not the one in charge of choosing the word, you don't get to control it, so a word with a positive inclination is a welcome word indeed.)
And open doors and new opportunities there were! To say God blew me away with the doors He opened for me is quite the understatement.
But even more, this word changed me eternally - not only in the adjective form but the verb form - to be open.
Sharing this word with a dear mentor of mine, she sent this verse to me,
So train your heart to listen when I speak and open your spirit wide to expand your discernment. - Proverbs 2:2 (The Passion Translation)
(I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to say - friend, seek a godly mentor. Your life will be made so rich with this. Having someone who prays and shares wisdom with you is a gift we all need but few seek out and receive.)
Reading this verse, it hit me - "open" may not be the altogether fun word I initially imagined. This may be hard. This will take effort and diligence as I train my heart to hear God's voice and there may be many weary days of seeking discernment, but this journey of opening my spirit wide to more of Him will be good and He will use it for His glory.
The Weary World Rejoices
In the same way a yes is often met with no, this process of opening my heart was repeatedly met with closing my heart to other things not meant for me.
In this, there were moments of confusion as I couldn't see the whole picture. Yet, I learned something I may not have otherwise. I learned a faith that only trusts God is good when the outcome is good is a fickle and unreliable faith, but a faith that trusts wholeheartedly the goodness of God regardless of the outcome is a faith that is tested and true.
Although a closed door may feel like God has withheld from us, instead it is an extension of His grace so the fullness of His faithfulness can be beheld in our lives.
This means we can rejoice before doors are opened.
These seem like nice words to say but actually doing this, oh friend, I know... it's hard. Had I not been spending regular and intentional time with the Lord, I likely would have overlooked reminders He was providing to practice faithful rejoicing. These reminders were ordinary, rather small moments. Yet, small as they may be, these time and again grabbed my heart and left me still.
Completely still and thankful.
For instance, there is something not quite right with the door between my bedroom and bathroom. Though I try, I cannot get the door to stay open. I've always assumed it had something to do with the natural settling of the house. Yet, one day I woke up from a dream and my eyes were placed directly on this door.
As if being held, it was set perfectly still in its most open position with the morning light shining from the window, radiating a soft glow through the doorway. I stared at this door in amazement (and then snapped a picture). The door I could not keep open even with my best efforts was now wide open. The light seemed to say with a most inviting beam, "Come! Walk through."
Huh. I rubbed my eyes. Something in this ordinary moment told me it was not so ordinary.
Another time, I was driving down a familiar road. Weary, I found myself praying for strength to continue waiting upon the Lord. My prayer that day sounded something like, "God, I could really use some encouragement today. I'm tired but I trust You see what I cannot." Almost before I could finish my thought, a truck pulls up to a stoplight. At first, it was quite routine. This happens all the time and means nothing. But, there was something in this altogether normal moment - a reminder only heaven knew I needed.
My eyes were drawn to the load. Realizing what was in the truck bed brought an involuntary pull on my heart.
Friend, it was a doorframe. And not just an ordinary doorframe but one for French doors. Once in place, the opening would not be typical width with ample room for walking through but spacious and generous with more than enough room for more than one person to walk through at once. Thinking of the prayer I had just spoken, it was more than encouraging - it was faith-fueling - to see a doorframe that was in route to its intended placement.
For, before a door can be made open, a doorframe must be built and put in place. Reminded to rejoice in the weariness, I began to thank God for the work He was doing, for the doorframe He was building, for the door He intended to open for me, for His perfect timing, and for building it in such a way that He could walk through with me.
Friend, let us remember we can rejoice even in the weariness, for God is a God of order and is making preparations to show off His glory in our lives.
Practicing Hope and Stillness
The more He opened my heart through love and even disappointment, the more He helped me realize how I desperately needed to practice hope.
We practice skills and tasks, but hope?
And me?! The eternal optimist? The one who sees the glass so full she needs another glass? I need to practice hope?
Thankful my hope was not on "E," but, for me, even being below half a tank felt empty enough. I wanted to hope and trust the goodness of God, but how could I when I trusted Him before and it only led to another disappointment?
Believe For It by Cece Winans became my anthem. (I sound nothing like Cece, but I think she'd be proud of my attempt.) I'd praise God and ask Him to help me believe Him again.
It didn't happen overnight, but that's not the point. The point is it happened.
Through this journey of open, I've learned -
Hope has a name.
And His name is Jesus.
Practicing hope looks like keeping our eyes and our hearts open. Only then can we see the shift in colors, a sign that a change in season is coming. And when we see this, oh dear friend, we believe.
Because daring to hope is daring to believe He is good regardless of the outcomes. He gives us the grace we need to believe and deepens our trust in Him. And friend, this trust, oh how sweet it is.
It leads to peace.
In the stillness, we find gratitude renew our hope, and this hope becomes fuel for our faith to believe for greater things.
This holiday season, my heart has come to know -
Stillness and peace are a gift.
Sometimes it’s in the unlikely package of an early morning interruption, sometimes it’s found in a tender embrace. The wrapping may be different each time, but like the packages under the tree, it’s wrapped with a bow and has our name written on the tag.
Let's not leave this gift unopened. Let's gently tug on the bow and unwrap this gift of His presence as we remember God is peace. He sent His Son so we could know peace on earth. When we experience peace, we experience Jesus.
There’s so much to distract us this Christmas season and all the 364 other days of the year. Lord, tune our hearts to be aware of Your nudge and Your invitation to Your presence.
Let’s choose to be still and soak in these moments with Him.
Friend, what word is God laying on your heart for 2022? Spend some time in prayer today and throughout this week. Ask Him to make it clear to you the word He needs you to lean into this year.
One little word.
God is the potter. He can use even this to shape us and build our faith and our trust in Him. If He did for me, He'll do it for you, too.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. - Isaiah 64:8
May we find strength in prayer and relationship with Him. May He renew our joy and peace as we are made open to His holy presence. May we find true rest as we trust His goodness in all things.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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