Many years back, I jumped on board with picking a word to focus on. For me, it is the practice of choosing a word, idea, or verse to dig into and pursue for the year. Each year I would pick a word and listen for the sacred echoes. I would look for verses and read books on the topic. The first bunch of years was great because I would also find a magnet and mug, a plaque, or even a bracelet to go with my word. It was fun, and added life, especially to January as I hunted around for my word. Those were the years of grace, hope, and love. I learned a lot and was challenged but something changed a few years back when I spent time praying and pondering about what my word would be. That year the word that kept coming to me was “fear.” Fear? How about “fear not?” Nope, just fear, I tried to barter for fearless, but it kept coming back to the word fear.
The year of fear was interesting, no mugs, or plaques, plenty of books and verses, but no real glitz was added to my word of the year. I felt like God wanted to teach me some of the deeper truths that I did not know I needed. I learned about my own fears which I really did not have an awareness of before that year, and then the fear of the Lord. I practiced asking myself the question of what kind of fear was driving me. What does it look like to walk in the fear of the Lord? What does it look like to admit my fears and allow God to show me what was deeper in my heart. The year of fear was followed by the year of “be.” Just be… no be still or anything else that comes on mugs or plaques, although a dear friend had a bracelet made for me, and I found a sticker on a bridge that became my plaque. Be is such a little word, but God had quite a bit to unpack from it for me. It was a word that morphed through the year, first God teaching me to just be, and then be still (a lesson God continues to have to reteach me often), then be joyful, be merciful, be loved, be faithful… each one came with lessons, sacred echoes, and opportunities to practice what that being looked like.
After the year of “be”, I was hoping it was time for a year of jubilee or hope or something that had some pizzazz. This past year has been the year of learning to persevere. That was my word, persevere. Another word that one does not usually want to drink tea from a mug that is decorated with the word persevere. The year started with a very oppressive few situations that made persevere seem appropriate. Although I did not want to persevere, or learn what that meant in the situation, I wanted to pack my bags and take my toys elsewhere, preferably a tropical island, possibly deserted. As the year progressed I started realizing that I had defined persevere as a suck it up, and keep going, when in reality it is an abiding, and maturing. It is a growing of trust and deepening in a walk with God, not a press forward, grit your teeth, but a peace that passes all understanding as I choose to set my heart and mind on things above. December with Advent brought a new angle to persevere, wonder. As I persevere it is important to be still and ponder and wonder at God and His plans. Christmas was a very good time to practice being still and wondering at all that occurred in the fullness of time just the way God had said it would even if many would miss it. I did not want to miss it, and am trying hard to continue not missing it. Persevering in wonder, persevering in being still, persevering in fear of the Lord, they all tie together.
As I have been pondering this new year, and piecing together the last bunch, I have been wondering what my focus would be, or maybe there would not be a specific thing. I am learning to hold a bit looser and wait for God as He leads me to the next lessons or new angle of an old lesson. I was thinking maybe it was peace, since a bunch of verses have jumped out at me on this, or maybe beloved. I have been reminded of this and how far I am from really grasping that, and wanting to learn to walk in that. As I followed that train of thought it lead me to identity and that is where I stopped. Again with a word that is not made for bracelets or mugs, but I believe it is a powerful word that holds more than I am aware. I feel like not getting a specific piece of identity like beloved or daughter, or something specific like that, has more to do with God wanting me to persevere in abiding. It seems that we will be taking a walk through identity, and what does that really mean? What does mine look like?, as Michelle DeRusha calls it in her latest book True You, finding my truest self. How does God define my identity, and how do I walk in it? What does it look like day to day? What parts are solid and unchangeable, and what parts are moldable and should be changing and growing? So another year of no mugs, or bracelets, no plaque or magnet, but I have learned that those words are the words that are true gems worth letting God lead me to dig out the treasure to be mined, that does not look as shiny and easy to gain as others, but ends up being priceless.