"I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man."
Proverbs 24: 30-34
I bounce between hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure or self-indulgence) and sloth (laziness), particularly when it comes to following Christ. One moment I am in pursuit of something wonderful, blissfully and full of glee I run towards things that I mistakenly think will bring me pleasure or happiness. Then, after what seems like days and lifetimes of running, I collapse. No sign of a finish line anywhere in sight it seems. And quickly into acedia, sloth, I fall. And just as quickly, I start wondering what the point of it all is. I was running and running -- and never found anything. I start to wonder what the purpose of my wandering is.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51 is the cry of my heart. I pray for mercy, forgiveness, cleansing, restoration, and a sustaining spirit. All along the running way I've been staring at my sin that surrounds me on every side. Yet, with every stride, I've been crying out, "Give me a new heart, God. Renew my spirit. Don't leave me in the dust! Come and sustain me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation!"
The joy of salvation. The joy! I keep repeating it with every step. The joy! Run. The joy! Run. The joy! I keep repeating it, hoping to understand it more. To take hold of it better. To better understand the joy of knowing my Savior. To experience His graciousness, forgiveness, and redeeming of my soul in new ways. I keep crying out as He listens and renews, restores, and sustains me. And as He does, the joy of salvation comes closer into view. All I want is to get closer, even if just to touch a corner of it. Like the bleeding woman who pushes her way through the crowd, straining with all she has, to just touch the edge of The Healer's cloak, I push on, hands outstretched, to take hold of the joy that replaces and repairs my brokenness.
"As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 'Who touched me?' Jesus asked...'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.' Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.'"
What else am I to do with this brokenness? These pieces are all I have to offer Him. The stone wall is ruined, what hand could rebuild it? Only the mighty hand of God. And to my amazement, He accepts my sacrifice of broken pieces, the only thing I have. And it pleases Him, because He is able to shine through the brokenness. His Light shines through the cracks!
Even a little sleep, a little slumber, a slight pause in the run, will make me stop for longer than I want. If I stop, I'll completely stop running before I even reach the reason I started running in the first place. And because I couldn't see it then, I may never start running again.
But, I must. Because the pursuit of something beautiful ends when I find Him. Finding joy in Him is the purpose of running in the first place. I must simply choose to start running. Sluggard and broken no more, but strong, firm, steadfast.
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen."
1 Peter 5:10-11
I've followed with the trend of picking a word for the past couple of years now. Wait. Better. Fear. Those have all been some of my past chosen words. And here we are, time for another picking. I've been slowly making a list of goals and things that I would like to accomplish in 2017. After looking back on my goals for 2016, I realized that...well, I didn't do nearly half of what I wanted to. That bums me out, but also makes me want to worker harder in the new year.
2016 was the year of fear. The year of fearing the Lord and striving to know Him more. Some dreams fell away and some old dreams returned, ones that I had forgotten about or chose to ignore in the past. So, I re-circled those dreams. The Lord has put them on my heart for a reason and I believe, in one way or another, He will bring them to fruition. I'm excited to see that happen and it makes my heart flutter just thinking about it. And I know that I'm still not close to some of those dreams becoming reality, that the season of waiting continues. However, I'm more content in the Lord than I've been in years, and that I realize, is what makes the waiting easier.
The later half of 2016 sent me on a search to find rest. I started a new job in 2016, one that I never thought I would be in, but love. With that comes new routine and changes. I found myself mentally tired, more than physically tired. For a couple of months, it seemed that things just came one right after another. There was no slowing down, no moment of calm, before something else popped up that needed to be taken care of. I needed rest. I needed renewal. And the Lord gave it to me. He showed me that He is my rest and where I find all rest. In that place, in Him, is everything I need. As long as I look to Him, as long as I put Him first and allow Him to be all that I need Him to be, there will be nothing more I need.
I began that in 2016 and I want to continue it in 2017. There are things I would love to do this year, dreams I would love to keep circling and prayerfully see Him answer, but most importantly, I want to choose Him. I want to be about the things He is about. I want to daily look to Him, I want to find my rest in Him, I want to follow Him to wherever He has me to go.
Spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically, missionally, daily, big things, little things, in friendships, relationships, in my writing, at my job, in everything! He needs to be a part, because all these things are for His glory, and I want to do the best I can with what He has given me. So, I will choose Him. In every step of the way, I choose Him. Simple.
You know, when I was thinking about what word to pick for this coming year, I was struggling with it. I wanted it to be some amazing thing, because I felt like it had to be perfect. I thought about flourish or cultivate. And while those are great words, they just seemed too fancy for me. I'm simple. And I like that. I don't need eloborate things, the smallest things make me happy, and I don't need grand gestures. I need simple and easy. As I was doing the Advent study with Sacred Holidays in December, something that Becky Kiser wrote stuck out to me. She said, "There isn't a magical formula to following Jesus. Following Jesus is simply choosing to actually follow Him. This following looks different for each person because we are all different." I love this, because it is simple and true, yet I often forget it! I get caught up, thinking that my time with the Lord, or my life even, has to look a certain way because that is what other 28 year olds are doing or what it looks like on Instagram. My call is simple, choose to follow Him. So, simply choose Him I will.
The word for this year and the word that I pray is for every year? Choose.
Have you chosen a word for the year?
What is something you want to do in 2017 that you didn't do in 2016?
I so wanted to have this post up on Monday, however we were having horrible weather which made for horrible internet. Then, Tuesday I rented the new Jason Bourne movie and watched that instead of blogging. Because, y'all, the Bourne movies are some of my most favorite and it hit Redbox this week! On to today's post: around the end of the year, photos and videos start popping up on social media, giving a recap of everyone's year. The best nine typically is found on Instagram, so I checked out what mine was going to be. The website just generates your top nine based on numbers of likes. While I liked all the photos, I didn't feel like it really showed what 2016 meant to me. So, I chose my own top nine. You may have already seen it on my instagram, but here is my top nine, with lessons, moments, and memories I want to remember as 2017 begins.
We were only three months into 2016 and I found myself moving into a house with my already roommate and two practically new to me girls. I was a little iffy on the whole move at first, I am anytime that I have to move. In college and the couple of years after, I never blinked an eye to moving around or changing places. Yet, the older I've gotten, it's something I don't want to do as often. I like where I am and I want roots. Roots can't grow unless they've been planted somewhere for awhile. At the same time, I don't want to be unwilling or unopen to whatever and wherever the Lord may lead me. Ultimately, my roots are in Him alone and in 2017, I want those roots to grow deep and strong.
This is straight from the Instagram caption of when I shared this picture last May: "Four years ago I graduated from college. My life looks completely different four years later than what I thought it would be. But, I'm resting in the fact that God's ways are higher and better than mine and I'm so thankful for that and praise Him for where He has put me. These years have taught me to take risks and have adventures, to take care of myself and cultivate good habits, that moving back home wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and the importance of finding community. So, here's to the next four years of navigating the sometimes unfamiliar adult life. My time at Bama taught me a lot, these last four years have also, and I'm sure the next four will as well. Roll Tide to the adventure that awaits." This year, 2017, marks five years out of college and ten (10!) out of high school. You guys, that seriously feels like a lifetime ago. Even as I read that caption and this post again, all of these things still ring true. I want this year to bring more adventures, more risks (the good kind!), more community, and more cultivating those good habits.
I think THE biggest lesson that 2016 brought me was experiencing forgivess and reconcilation. Not only in extending it, but being offered it as well. I finally broke through a wall that I had built and continued to fortify for six long years. That wall did nothing but keep people out and allow my heart to harden. And when the silence of six years was broken, I found freedom. There was reconcilation, yes, but there is still work to be done. And I've never been so happy to see work in my life. If there is one post I want you to go back and read from 2016, it is this one. And I pray that if there is someone on your heart, someone you've had silence with, someone you need to forgive, that the walls will come down and freedom will come in. Never have I understood Ephesians 4:32 more. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
It's funny to me how quickly friendships can form and how I don't often remember the first time I meet someone. I just remember all the times after and the stories and moments we can relive. My last year at college brought me two of the greatest friends. We had been in school with each other for years already and in the same college ministry, but one summer we were all still in town when it seemed everyone else was gone, and we've been in a group message ever since. ha! Last fall, I got to watch one of those sweet friends get married. It was one of the best weekends and greatest celebrations. I love weddings, because they are like mini college reunions. And when one happens in your college town, you get to walk along the same streets and eat at the same restaurants at late hours and just reminiscence about how much you miss things. And realize that you miss it a lot, because of the people you were with the first time, and it just wouldn't be the same if you moved back without them. We may not all be in the same town anymore, but I know that they are literally only a phone call or text away.
Remember when I moved into that new house at the beginning of 2016? Well, it brought two new people into my little community. We are #Casa605 and we only have good vibes, #Casa605Vibes. And one of those girls got herself engaged and married in 2016. The other has become one of my dearest friends and we are practically the same person, except she is way extroverted and I am way introverted. So, it makes for interesting times.
One of the best books I read in 2016 was Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I knew the moment that I saw it announced, it was a book I needed to read. I immediately pre-ordered and wanted to devour it the moment I got it in the mail. Instead, I took my time, did an online Bible study with Proverbs 31 ministry and worked my way throug the book, chapter by chapter, week by week. And there were some days I didn't want to keep reading, because it cut so deep. I'm pretty sure Lysa had seen some of my posts here or maybe a journal or two that I've written in, because this book was absolutely for me. It will frequently be pulled off the shelf and most likely re-read each year. One of the biggest take aways from this book was the practice of replacing lies with truths. I realized that I am not unworthy or alone, invisible or ignored, uninvited or defeated. My God sees me, knows me, and wants me. The same is true for you as well. In 2017, get rid of the lies and practice putting on truths.
In 2016, I discovered what resting in the Lord looks like. And how following Him is simply choosing Him. It's not always going to look perfect and it won't always be grand. But, all I have to do is simply choose to say yes. No longer do I want my laziness, lack of perfection, or comparison to other believers distract me from following the Light. I read this verse with new light in 2016 and I want to carry it with me into 2017: "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." I'm declaring and committing to that verse (Psalm 27:8) in this new year.
2016 also made me an aunt for the sixth time! I got to welcome and meet another sweet nephew into my heart. I swoon over every picture I have of my neices and nephews and wish ALL of my free time could be with them. I'll settle for holidays, praying that I make the most of the time that I have with them. And pray that they know how dearly loved they are. I will never understand how my heart can love so many places and so many faces. How much more is the Father's love for us!
And finally, 2016 saw the end of the golden year. I said goodbye to 27 and hello to 28. What does it hold? Only God knows. I've stopped with birthday wishes. Instead, I just thank Him that I'm able to blow out candles for another year and pray that I will enjoy every moment and honor Him as much as I can.
Happy 2017 everyone!
What lessons, memories, or moments are you bringing with you into this new year?