Several months ago I was standing in an upstairs room at our Mississippi church leading a discussion group on Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. As we talked among ourselves about some of the things that helped us be more focused and grateful, several of the women began to talk about choosing a “theme” for their year so that they could really focus on different areas. One lady said her word for the year was “simplify”, another said hers was “organize/declutter” and still another talked about just choosing small things to write in her journal each day to help her focus on being grateful.
I’ve had friends who did these kind of things before–my precious #2 (hey, Patty!) chose to do several years in a row focusing on individual fruits of the Spirit. I know of others who have done year-long projects on other topics, as well. I think we all have–in fact, I’ve done it myself, but it has been awhile. I stood there listening and, honestly, feeling a bit jealous of their abilities to do these focused things this year. My year had been anything but focused…unless you count all the going from crisis to crisis-mode and focusing on those as they came along at what felt like a machine-gun pace. I was ready for a break…and we weren’t even half-way through the year.
We had already faced multiple new and major healthcare issues, seen God provide amazing care and protect us physically as well as financially in the midst of them…and yet I often felt scattered. I was so scattered at that point, that I racked my brain and couldn’t think of a single thing that I could focus on right then. I think I hid it more than I showed it, but maybe not. Does that even really matter? Maybe it used to, but not so much any more. I think I will look back on 2013 as the year I turned into the Velveteen Rabbit (the one at the END of the story and not the one at the beginning!)…out of necessity rather than by choice. God stretched me thin in so many ways that I’m hoping He was more visible and I was less so…I’m absolutely certain I was “less so” in a lot of ways.
This was the year I finally couldn’t keep up. I was forced to depend on friends and even strangers that God placed in my path to cover me in prayer for the strength to just breath at times. I’m not used to that. I’m much more comfortable being the pray-er than the pray-ee. (Somewhere up in heaven, God just laughed out loud, elbowed an angel and said, “Look at her! I think she just learned something!”) If ever there was a year of prayer, this one was it! From the early days of 2013 in a hospital room or waiting on an ambulance to arrive to care for my beloved husband to the subsequent diagnoses, treatments and strengthening that followed to a totally unexpected move, new job and a brand new house here at the end of the year, this has been an amazing display of God’s ability to care for, surprise, provide, entertain, amaze and just BE GOD in stunning ways for me. Once again, I’m so relieved to be His and so amazed to know that He is mine.
I’ve thought back to that Sunday night discussion several times over the past few months and finally decided to choose a theme of my own for 2014–one that will allow me to live out what I was supposed to be teaching that night–one that will allow me to live out the rest of Ann Voskamp’s title: “daring to live fully right where you are.” As I prayed about how I should approach the coming year, God reminded me of a quote I’ve always loved by missionary Jim Elliott, who said:
“Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Right now, life isn’t really any calmer than it was back then. I’ve got a house for sale in Mississippi (it is really fabulous if you need one!), a temporary apartment close to my husband’s work and a new house with a lot of things that need to happen to it before it will really be mine in the way I envision, movers scheduled, visitors who have already come and gone, more planning to come soon and a few new challenges thrown into the mix for good measure…and that’s all just fine. I still need a lot of prayer and I’m still grateful that God knows everything I need before I do…and that He’s also got a plan for providing it. Most of all, I’m grateful for a God who sees my mistakes and short-comings and still provides me with new opportunities to try again.
Here’s to 2014: I’m all in and I’m all here…holding on to God and looking forward to whatever He has in store. Buckle up, world, I think we’re in for a really incredible ride!
(By the way, if I read the blog note correctly, this is my 250th post! Thanks for joining me, for sticking around, for encouraging and praying and just generally being fabulous! I pray God blesses you REALLY BIG in the coming year and that, in turn, you’re able to pass some of that blessing along to those around you, as well! Grace & Peace!!)