As 2018 draws near its close, I’m often found in a reflective state of late, taking stock of twelve months come and gone. It’s a humbling practice, this looking back on experienced highs and lows to find the redemptive thread woven through it all.
The year began with a friend’s question, “What is your word for 2018?” I had observed this practice in loved ones’ lives before: asking God for a word for the next year and prayerfully waiting until a word resonated deep in their spirit. For some, it was a virtue to aspire in growth towards. For others, a promise to cling to through a season of waiting or trial.
My previous several years had been admittedly hard, enduring circumstances I’d sworn never to walk through and finding my faith stripped down to sure studs of grace. Something about the nearing new year struck a fresh chord, a distant tune that perhaps this year might be different. So, when I observed surveys circling during 2017’s final days, asking what my word would for 2018 might be, the question stirred curiosity of whether God perhaps held one for me.
Sure enough, whispers of a word rose to the surface of my mind, resonating as true to my wondering heart below.
On January 2, 2018, a group of girlfriends gathered around my table to celebrate and set the tone for this new year. After indulging in scrumptious offerings of cookie butter, waffle biscuits, flavorful pies and toasts to our collective health, we spent hours exploring enneagram wisdom and related spiritual formation tools. We dove deep into our stories, asking provoking questions and offering honest answers to trusted friends. What Scriptures did each of us need to cling to in the new year? What practices would fuel our faith and direct us closer towards the heart of our loving God? And, of course, what word spoke to our souls for 2018? Chalk in hand, 2018 took shape in colors and phrases before our eyes and together, we felt seen, sought, significant before our Maker.
Being an Enneagram Six, the verses 1 John 4:18 and 1 Peter 5:6-7 stood out as timely, passages on the perfect love of God dispelling fear and calling me to cast my worries upon the One who cares most. Disciplines of Scripture memorization and fasting would promote further growth while grounding practices of singing, journaling, and meditating on God’s Word would stir faith where fear often tried to reign.
As for my word, it started stirring my spirit days earlier. First heard as a whisper, it echoed in reverse, growing stronger with each refrain. A notion of new life springing forth from ashes. Phoenix.
Time passed, turning that evening’s events to memory as life for this solo working mama bustled by with ferocity. Those first few months of this new year seemed circumstantially contrary to the practices and promises scribed in chalk. Had I misheard? While “new life” remained elusive, ashes continued to abound.
In time, phoenix fell forgotten.
Now with another year nearly gone, December ushered in a new season of listening for a word. Once work deadlines and scheduled festive mania subsided, I began reflecting once again. What had transpired over the course of 2018? Did the year’s end find me any closer to those elements shared with friends back at it’s beginning?
Thankfully, the chalkboard’s goals and guiding practices had been captured that January night. I pulled out the photograph to refresh my memory. In taking stock of the twelve months past through this renewed lens, a remarkable truth emerged:
Every item listed that night had occurred in 2018.
Scriptures memorized. Seasons of fasting with prayer transpired. Fears and anxieties brought to the mind’s forefront for purposes of growth and healing. Songs sung in secret and on stage. Journaling proven essential in processing the year’s highs and lows and elements between. Lessons in casting cares onto the loving heart of God, learning to believe His love instead of loud fears (though admittedly this is still very much in process).
As for phoenix, evidence of new life springing from ashes covered the year. Signs of fresh beginnings and revived dreams: personally, professionally, and in the lives of my children and loved ones. Encouragement received and distributed in the telling of broken stories redeemed and past pain woven into provision. Though it had not taken the form I anticipated on that January evening, elements of renewed rising had indeed come to fruition by the mighty hand of God. And it proclaimed grace – all of it.
Today finds me in a familiar space, reflecting on a year gone by while holding hopes for the coming year with open hands. The new year’s word came in a moment, tucked within a conversation with my dearest friend and sister.
“Remember being brave doesn’t mean feeling brave and you are stepping into bravery with every part of this. Trusting Jesus when it feels so close yet so far. And maybe part of this is just abiding. Not doing but abiding in the present season.”
It jumped from the screen straight into my heart, echoing affirmation all the way down.
Abide (verb): to bear patiently, tolerate; to endure without yielding, withstand; to wait for; to accept without objection
I know not what this new year may hold nor how this word will take shape as days turn to weeks, to months, to another year lived. Indeed, for an impatient ginger named Patience, this call to deeper resting in my Author’s pen rather than scrambling to take control from my limited perspective feels daunting, unsettling, yet divine. Looking back to find fingerprints of God’s faithfulness has fueled my faith today to trust Him as the unknown soon unfolds.
Beneath the shadow of Thy wings
Mine now Yours, an offering
What word might He hold in store for you this next year?
In my experience, its proven worth the asking.