Word of the Year: 2020 to 2021

Processing perspective, forecasting fulfillment.

For the growth-minded individual, 2020 begs to be reflected upon. I would contend that each of us has witnessed the thresholds of our disappointment tolerance rise; then, at times, at least, the capacity of our hopes fall. I am certainly no exception. Nonetheless, in reflection, I choose to delight in the ways God has sustained me and transformed the way I think, even through a year like 2020. I remember that to Him, a year is like an infinitesimal fraction of a day.

The word I dwelled on to guide my year was “perspective.” Perspective is the way we see things, and for me, this particularly meant the way I see the world and interact within it. What a timely word to enter my spirit before I would step into a season where fundamentally, everything I perceived about the year to come would dissolve into incessant unpredictability. In tandem, the desires I had for the trajectory of my life began to unravel, revealing impure and often indeterminate motives. Navel-gazing is a fitting term I’ve learned for the way I spent prior months of planning egocentrically disregarding how there might be more to the desires I had possessed. In my physical isolation in a small town, my perspective began to shift to one which is global and eternal. God was trying to answer a persisting prayer–I only had to pause and listen.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

Slightly over three years ago, I went to the beach at sunrise nearly every day, praying the same prayer. Definitively, I didn’t know what I cared about in life. It seemed like everyone around me, especially within the realm of believers I had newly entered, knew exactly what mattered to them–which of the world’s problems they were going to solve and how. Given, in hindsight, I recognize my perception did not accurately reflect reality. Still, I knew I wanted to figure out God’s purpose for my life, disparate from the narrow plans I had left Him out of. So I asked God to give me a dream. Over and over, when I didn’t know what else to pray, a desperate plea of “please give me a dream for my life” became my mantra (often followed by, “because I don’t know what I’m doing!”).

I have gradually but radically changed over the last couple of years. But even after getting involved with organizations and causes of many backgrounds, I did not find one which settled into my spirit the way I trusted a dream would. In those years, I was circumspect in pursuing or even admitting inklings of dreams I’d had out of fear of misperception, lack of support, and failure. I thought my dreams might be lofty and therefore unattainable; so I pulled them back under the covers to sleep, not to be awakened unless by happenstance. Then, it was through forced seasons of rest when I learned that rest was the very thing which would rouse my purpose.

I am burdened by the way the world’s dispositions to time, work and rest have fallen so far from the rhythms God designed and modeled since the Genesis story of creation. I am burdened by the lack of boundaries in a seemingly endless work week. I am burdened by how infrequently I find two or more people who are truly present with one another, free of distractions and ostensible multitasking. In response, I’ve begun to practice a weekly Sabbath. I’m working toward continuously learning what this has looked like biblically and historically, and what that means for today. Although I am wending my way to concrete steps forward, God has expanded my faith to believe there is hope for change, and I can be a part of it should I offer myself freely to Him.

2020 taught me to dream. God answered many of my prayers this year in unexpected ways, as He does so well. My perspective has been entirely renewed and I have a number of dreams I might have laughed at a year ago, that I wholeheartedly believe I will see fulfilled. Rest seems to be a central theme through them all. In 2021, I am choosing to meditate on the word “fulfillment.” There are two definitions I consider here. “The achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted” serves as encouragement to hold onto hope to see dreams come to fruition. I can trust God’s character of grace and generosity to remain. “Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character” demonstrates fulfillment as more than achievement, but contentment with progress. I want to find fulfillment in the things I pour my time and energy into regardless of circumstances, because my character has much room to develop through them all.

If I’m being honest, many of the dreams God has put on my heart this year scare me. Unless I put them in perspective and remember who gave them to me, I often feel overwhelmed by and alone in them. In many ways, that is all the confidence I need to know I am headed in the right direction, knowing any plans may only be accomplished through Him.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12

Peace and blessings to you in the New Year.

Word of the Year: 2019 to 2020

Entering a new decade with a new perspective.

Choosing a “word of the year” was never something I did until I went all in for Jesus. In 2018, I hardly chose it anyway—it was a repeated whisper of the word “bold” that ended up echoing so loudly, I decided to invest in it. Since it was encouraging the first time, I prayed for another word to come to mind for 2019. That word was “hope,” and though I didn’t think much of it at the time (due to how commonplace it felt), the Lord used it as my heart’s preparation for the unexpected.

Something I’ve prayed over my life countless times is for God to surprise me. For Him to do wild and unexpected things in order to refine my character and allow me to know more of His own. 2019 was FULL of surprises for me—an answered prayer in unexpected ways in and of themselves. At the beginning of the year, I imagined “hope” would mean my prize for holding onto it would be the relationship I’ve craved my entire life. Perhaps a salaried job, more friends, and certainly more time to enjoy Colorado. So much to be hopeful for, right?!

I will be the first to admit that I most definitely did not want to leave Colorado—and even less did I desire to move back home. The way God led me to make the decision to do so still confounds me every time I think about it, and I‘ve craved that unprecedented feeling of being led by the Spirit more each day since. Even so, the transition of moving back home left me, well… sad. As much as I knew I was being obedient, it wasn’t what I wanted. I had to learn how to set pride aside, do what I was called, and trust that God knew what I needed.

The new season after moving to Virginia began with a misguided hope focused on my selfish desire for a relationship. Within a couple of months, I met an incredible guy with a laundry list of qualities I had prayed to find. Everything from the serendipitous way we met to the community I was becoming surrounded by were affirmations of what the Lord had promised for the relationship I desired, when I learned to trust Him with every aspect. But (there’s always a but), that relationship wasn’t “it.” I may not have wanted to admit it, but I knew it was true.

Sometimes God allows people and situations into our lives so He can use them to awaken us—and, just as I prayed for, to refine our character. That relationship opened my eyes to an entire world beyond the self-centered one I was living in. He probably has no idea how much his perspective on the world changed my own. And that leads me to my word of the year for 2020: perspective.

I had never viewed the world the way I see it today: an arena of spiritual battle, one in which followers of Jesus are called to put on their armor and become mighty warriors. God has transformed my declaration of trust into a dedication of my life for His purposes. There is so much more to this life than what we can see, and it is so much less about our own lives that it hurts to recognize how long I unknowingly lived as though it were.

New boldness. New hope. New perspective. The exhilaration of a new year—a new decade—has me anxious in the best way to see how God will continue to surprise me. I can only imagine and joyfully anticipate how my perspective will shift as a result of experiencing the things to come this year—how I might gain a perspective a little more like Jesus’.

Word of the Year: 2018 to 2019

Be bold as you continue hoping in the Lord– He will never let you down.

Although my “word of the year” didn’t come to me until about April, it was clear that the Lord was leading me to embrace the word BOLD for the rest of 2018. That challenge for this year was immensely thrilling, albeit challenging for me.

2018 was a huge year both professionally & personally. I:

  • Finished all my classes at UNCW (a year earlier than planned)
  • Moved to Colorado (best state ever)
  • Graduated with my Bachelor’s degree after a 3 month internship (REC kid forever)
  • Got full-time employment with the US Air Force civilian service (great gig)
  • Learned to be alone, but not lonely (this was important)
  • Read the entire Bible (or will have come December 31st)
  • Spent every day in relationship with God and not a man (He knew I needed this)

God stretched my faith this year more than I could’ve even imagined. I started 2018 on a trip in Phoenix, Arizona and I can distinctly remember my emotions at that time. I had not a sliver of a clue about where I would be or what I would be doing by the end of the year, but man am I glad that God left some things unknown. My grandparents prayed blessings over my future at the Prayer Pavilion of Light in an ethereal moment and throughout 2018 I watched that prayer come to fruition on a daily basis. I was bold in the decisions I made, all of which led me exactly where I needed to be, no matter how intimidating they might have been in the beginning. Whenever I could, I’d be bold in my interactions with others and I found that it would always lead to greater glory to God.

While I’ll continue to be as intentionally bold as possible throughout my entire life, I already feel the Lord pressing a new word into my heart for 2019. HOPE. It’s been nonchalantly mentioned to me by friends & family over the last couple of months, each time a gentle nudge from God telling me to hold onto it with everything I have.

This year I hoped more than I knew I was capable of with a faith I developed more each day. I had high hopes for where my internship would take me and where I might live, and that hope took me straight where I wanted to be. I hoped for healing that I would receive over many long, slow months. I hoped for things that almost happened, but ended up leaving me disappointed. I hoped for things that never happened at all.

In those not-so-happy times, I would become overwhelmed with feelings of naivety and stupidity for having “gotten my hopes up too high” about things that didn’t end up going as hoped for. There are few things I hate more than feeling that way, especially in front of people whose influence on my life mean a lot to me. But once I convince myself to move past my concern with how other people perceive me or my circumstances, I can refocus on how God sees me and my circumstances. I can begin to hear His voice again, reminding me that it’s okay to have hope. Even when it seems overly-optimistic to other people, God says “I can work with that.”

Through all of that, what I’ve learned above all is that hope in the Lord is far greater than human hope of one’s own accord. They really don’t even compare to one another. Hope in the Lord is hope that prevails even when we don’t get what we want, because we trust that God is sovereign over our lives with His own plan and His perfect timing. This year I’ve grown to be proud of myself for having hope when it seems like maybe I shouldn’t. So going into 2019, I’m going to continue to hope in the things unseen. To hope in the things I have yet to receive. And to hope in all that is to come in this new year, because I know that BOLD HOPE in the Lord will never disappoint (even when humans & circumstances do). Hold on to your hope this year.