Friday, January 13, 2017


(art print from Ashley Rose Roe Design on etsy)

I am a words girl. I didn't know this about myself until about four years ago when I stepped down from my role of helping to coordinate the Mothers of Preschoolers program at my church. The women on my steering team knew me so much better than I knew myself and as a parting gift, put together an amazing book for me, filled with words and personalized messages of encouragement. They wrote about how they saw me, how I had touched them. It was the most meaningful gift anyone could have ever given me - the gift of their words.

I probably shouldn't have been but I was taken aback by how moved I was. I looked at my dear friend Amy, who had coordinated the book effort, and through teary eyes, I clutched the book close to my chest and told her how much it meant.

"I'm a words girl," I said.

It was both a statement and a realization. I had no idea how much words impacted me until that very moment. Amy just looked at me and laughed.

"I know," she said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

So here I am, a words girl, finally just now for the first time jumping on the recently-made-popular bandwagon of choosing a word for the year in lieu of a new year's resolution. I was posed with this challenge by some of my girlfriends - to choose a word that I want to live into this year, a word that encompasses my hopes and dreams for how I long for my life to be. The beauty of this exercise, they tell me, is that you can't fail when you choose a word in the same way you can if you were to choose a more traditional resolution say to lose 10 pounds. No one can judge you on whether you achieved your word. It isn't measureable. So you simply can't fail. This seemed like a good endeavor for me, me the master of identifying and then being down on myself for all the ways I fail.

I am also the kind of girl who likes to do things "right" and of course it was no different in my pursuit of a word for the year. Immediately one popped into my mind. I prayed over it for a few days. It felt unoriginal. In fact, I already had a necklace with this very word engraved on it. It was given to me as a gift and I loved it then but the word didn't really resonate with me personally just yet.

Determine to come up with my own word, I perused through the concordance in the back of my Bible, I made a list (in alphabetical order) of all the words that jumped out at me. I looked up multiple definitions and synonyms for each word and then wrote them out on a piece of paper. Then I carefully crossed off the ones that I no longer deemed fitting.

I wanted my word to be either "radiant" or "delight." I wanted this to be the year that I shine bright with joy and hope. I wanted to beam. I wanted to enjoy and savor each moment and all of God's gifts. But yet I felt unsettled about both. The day came and went when my group of girlfriends were to share their words and still I was undecided. I told them I was considering "radiant" and then I accidentally gave them another one as a runner up, the one that I didn't want but that I already had engraved on a necklace. I totally blanked on even telling them about the word "delight."

It bothered me tremendously that the new year was beginning and I was still undecided. I tried to practice tenderness with myself and allow myself to begin the year slowly and continue to ponder what word the Lord had for me. I was listening to a sermon while I was mopping my kitchen floor when I heard the pastor say the following:

"What has happened in the past often enslaves us and prevents us from experiencing what might happen for us in the future."

His words gripped me. They resonated to my core and immediately I knew my word for the year.

This was undoubtedly my word for the year, the very one that came to mind initially, the one I already had engraved on a necklace.

The word "free" is defined as: not obstructed or impeded; not restricted to or conformed by conventional forms. Set at liberty, released from bondage, imprisonment or restraint; not limited or controlled. No longer a prisoner or enslaved; allowed to leave a prison or place where one has been kept; released from something that is unwanted or unpleasant.

Many might look at me and wonder what I could possibly have in my life that I need to be freed from. Oh my gosh the list is endless. This has been my ongoing battle ever since I can remember.

As people-pleaser, I have so long lived under the bondage of the views of others - what they have thought and said about me. I have operated in the way I thought I was "supposed" to. I have worked tirelessly to conform and to look like everyone else. I've exhausted myself to no end trying to keep up my image, to avoid failure. I've always done what has been expected of me. I've followed the world's rules. I've bent over backwards and shoved myself into all sorts of awkward and uncomfortable positions to fit the mold that other's created for me. I stayed quiet when I should have spoken. I've convinced myself it wasn't good or right if it wasn't hurting. The handcuffs tying me down have been rubbing pretty raw.

Whether I skewed the message or whether it was preached inaccurately is not the point. The bottom line is that what I took to heart from this culture we live in is that my performance is directly correlated to the amount of love I receive. And so I have performed. My whole life I have performed, as if on a stage in front of a grand audience. I have operated out of a deep fear of losing the love of those I care about dearly.

So my word for this year is free.

I am free.

God gave me a beautiful passage of scripture (pictured above) to go along with my word. I immediately found an artist who designed the words beautifully and I printed and framed them to display in my home:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland."

Isaiah 43:18-19

I am free from the judgement of this world. I am loved unconditionally. The way I have operated in the past is behind me. I am being made new! Parts of me that felt so barren and empty can well to life. I am free and I am tasting the unearned, undeserved favor from God. Grace. I am free from the power of sin in my life. I am free from the domination of the law, from legalism and all the world's rules. And most importantly, I am free to experience God's limitless love. I am free in Christ. I can't get over how beautiful that is.

Is there a word or phrase God has laid on your heart for this new year? Have you been feeling Him nudging you in a particular area of your life, welcoming you in and asking you to draw closer to himself? If so, I would love to hear about it. If not, I would encourage to spend some time earnestly praying and asking Him for a word you can better live in to this year. And then share it with someone so they can check in with you about it from time to time. The new year has barely begun and I'm already so grateful for my friends who suggested exercise and for the fruit it is bringing to my life.

1 comment:

  1. There's a verse I clung to for many years after I became a Christian. 2 Corinthians 5:17 - "If anyone is in Christ, the old has gone, the new has come." You are free indeed, my friend.


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