And here we are! 2018! I can hardly believe how quickly the time does go!
I had many things to reflect on while looking back at the year 2017.
It was a year of so much "new", many "firsts" and many "gigantic leaps".
I had the most beautiful wedding and entered into an exciting new life phase, where God was ever present...and through His spirit I went into it all with shame and fear totally removed.
I learned how to be healthy for the first time since I was 14 years old.
I performed in a beautiful concert as a soprano soloist for the very first time, and even received another opportunity to do that again in this upcoming year!
My "one word" for 2017 was BRAVE...and obviously I grew a lot from that. But all I've been able to think about are the ways that I did NOT grow...the ways I ignored the word I had chosen for myself. Like, why can I not seem to get past all the fear of what other people think of me? Why did I have such joy, excitement, and peace when I first got married, but then allowed shame to bury me again, and so quickly? Why is it so easy for me to just give up on things when they get hard? Why, when I experience something very painful, is it so hard for me to talk about how I feel about it, even with people I trust? I don't think I'm a brave person at all.
But then God reminds me, "Hold on! Look at all the ways this word DID shape you this year! All of the accomplishments and opportunities that you would have run away from or been too fearful to jump into before!"
This is very true! And just because I faced some struggles doesn't mean there was no growth involved. The very existence of struggles are to get us to turn back to God, who truly frees us, and the change follows that surrender.
We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh. So death is constantly at work in us, but life is working in you. -- 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (The Voice)
As the month of December drew to a close, I could not have been more relieved, as that was the month I dealt with the most stress, when all of the things I was struggling with piled higher and higher until I felt like even one more little thing would just break me.
While on a beautiful, relaxing Christmas cruise in the Bahamas (*cue the major sigh of relief*), I had time to consider what my new word for the upcoming year should be. I wanted it to be something that would allow me to face my struggles and be stretched by them in the best ways. I wanted it to be something that would move me forward, and into new disciplines that would allow me to become a better wife and more well rounded person.
It didn't take me very long to come up with just the right word. And just like when I prayed over the word BRAVE at the beginning of 2017, I knew that THIS was the word that God wanted to use to guide this next year...
My word for 2018 is REFOCUS.
Keep your head up, your eyes straight ahead, and your focus fixed on what is in front of you. - Proverbs 4:25
My greatest temptation is always to place my focus on what I think I can't do..
I'm too exhausted and have no energy, I can't accomplish this right now.
This is too much, I can't do it.
They are going to judge me, I can't do it.
I'm just not wired the right way to be able to do certain things.
I already know I'm going to screw this up, so why even try?
But the phrase that has been thrown at me so many times, just within the last couple of months that has really altered my perspective and had me longing for change is, But what if you COULD?
The concept of "positive thinking" is actually a biblical Truth that was essentially stolen and twisted by new age movements.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. - Proverbs 23:7
THAT is my REFOCUS...
* What if I COULD find the energy to do things that need to be done...like keeping a beautiful home?
* What if I COULD tackle huge projects and finish them well?
* What if I COULD try new things and be successful with them?
* What if I COULD learn new ways to be organized?
* What if I COULD find total freedom from shame and fear of other people's thoughts?
What if I could completely flourish, as a wife...as a singer...as a friend...as a teacher...simply by choosing to REFOCUS my attitude toward literally everything that I do, or could be doing?
So many disciplines in life (whether they are spiritual, mental, or physical disciplines) may not come so naturally to us. But they can be learned, even when we know it's going to be a struggle or painful at times. And practicing new disciplines can only better us.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. -- Hebrews 12:11
And as always, while I may know how I personally want to experience growth and change with this word REFOCUS...those ideas and plans don't even come close to the way I know the Lord will want to use this word in my life! And my ultimate REFOCUS is going to be on HIM...and I don't want to ignore the things He wants to say to me anymore. I want to walk directly into His freedom and remain there. No more fear. Carrying my previous word, brave, into 2018 with me, while putting my lens on life into "refocus mode" and learn what it really means to grow.