Peering into the Mirror of My Soul… Pondering 2013 and Hoping for 2014

It’s the closing of 2013, and I can safely say, looking into the mirror of my soul, that I do not well recognize the girl who began this year.  I’m not sure what I expected for 2013, but I’m fairly certain that very little of it came to pass.  Instead, God had better plans, more exciting plans, plans to grow me and challenge me.

To begin 2013, I chose a word (or should I rather say, God chose a word) as a theme for the year: TRUST.  The funny thing is, that’s the word that defined 2012 as well.  Apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. = ) When I prayed about the upcoming year and what word might set the stage for its arrival, God really surprised me with this one. I honestly never thought I had many issues with trusting God, and any that I had were taken care of the year before. But apparently, that was because I hadn’t been through the Refiner’s fire enough.  Too much of my life had been “in my control” and mapped out, for me to really know the life-changing impact of that one, little word.  Praise God that He didn’t choose to take me through a completely chaotic season to teach me, but He certainly did guide me through a twisty road.  A road upon which I traveled, unable to see around the next bend… or even past the next step.  Many times I felt (and feel) like Abraham, going to a land that “God will show me.” A land of promise, yet cloaked in mystery.  I am still walking this twisty road, one faltering step after another.

I started the year as a part-time freelance editor, college graduate, “in-control”, prideful woman, and most confidently of all, NOT a teacher.

Let’s just say I’m ending the year as an Associate Editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (still doing freelance), a woman who’s learning she’s not-so-in-control but can trust the One Who is, a woman who still struggles with pride, but is fighting it in God’s strength, and most shockingly of all, A TEACHER.  God sure has crazy awesome plans, overabundant grace, and a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Most incredible of all are the changes in my life that probably only those closest to me can recognize, and which words cannot adequately capture.  God is truly taking this weak soul and making it strong by His grace.  He is taking brokenness aside and making it beautiful.

This year, God has taught me so many beautiful, yet difficult truths, that I barely know where to start.  He has taught me that, believe it or not, life is not about me, my comforts, my desires, or my wishes.  Yes, He loves me and wants HIS best for me, but that doesn’t always look like MY best.

I’ve learned that life is complicated and things don’t always go as I plan, but God has it all under control.  This year has breathed a whole new meaning into James 4:13-15:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

This is a lesson I feel like I’m still struggling to learn, but God has shown me how futile it is to make my own plans apart from Him.  He’s shown me the pointless vanity in “never”s, “I will”s, and “always”s.  Instead, I’ve found that, when I submit my plans, wishes, and dreams to Him, His plans are so much more incredible than my own.

Reigning supreme this year is the all-consuming reality that God is fully in control, He has a plan, He loves me and cares about the details of my life, and that His plan is way bigger than me.  Only when I am fully satisfied in Him, fully surrendered to His plan, can I be bringing Him the greatest glory.  It is no strength of my own or self-righteous sacrifice of my desires that He asks of me.  Instead, it is acknowledging my weakness so He can be made strong, and delighting myself in Him so that all other desires pale in comparison.

I’ve also discovered that relationships are messy and often difficult, because they are two (or more) flawed, messed-up, complicated individuals joining different parts of their lives together.  I’ve found that this joining, no matter to what degree or in what setting (whether passing contact, or life-long friendship), requires sacrifice and effort.  But you know what?  I’ve also learned that it is so worth the sacrifice.  Because relationships with other people are beautiful.  They’re beautiful because God designed them, He made us to crave relationships, both with Him and other people.

God uses relationships as mirrors to show us faults in our own lives, reveal blindspots, and uncover hidden weaknesses.  But, He also uses them to challenge, encourage, and strengthen us as we grow.  Over and over, I’ve learned to give the benefit of the doubt, think of a situation from the other person’s perspective, and recognize that my imagination is almost always worse than reality.  I am beyond blessed with family and friends who have stood by me through many obstacles, challenged me to persevere, shown themselves faithful, and who make me smile and praise God when I think of them. These are the people who I have laughed with, prayed with, waded through life with, worshipped God with, and been raw and real with.  You guys know who you are; thank you for your faithful friendship.  I love ya’ll!

All of this is barely scratching the surface of what God has taught me and the ways He has turned my world upside-down, but for the sake of brevity I must end my rambling reflections here.  I pray for myself and every one of you reading this, a year in which God does whatever it takes to bring each of us to a place where He is our everything and where we bring Him the most glory.

And now, as I peer through squinted eyes into the foggy shadows of 2014, I see beams of sunlight silhouetting the outlines of what is to come.  I sense even more change and growth, I anticipate the many decisions I must make, and I eagerly taste a hint of what floats mysteriously in the air: hope.

It’s the closing of 2013, and I can safely say, looking into the mirror of my soul, that I do not well recognize the girl who began this year.  I’m not sure what I expected for 2013, but I’m fairly certain that very little of it came to pass.  Instead, God had better plans, more exciting plans, plans to grow me and challenge me.

To begin 2013, I chose a word (or should I rather say, God chose a word) as a theme for the year: TRUST.  When I prayed about the upcoming year and what word might set the stage for its arrival, God really surprised me with this one. I honestly never thought I had many issues with trusting God, but apparently that was because I hadn’t been through the Refiner’s fire enough.  Too much of my life had been “in my control” and mapped out, for me to really know the life-changing impact of that one, little word.  Praise God that He didn’t choose to take me through a completely chaotic season to teach me, but He certainly did guide me through a twisty road.  A road upon which I traveled, unable to see around the next bend… or even past the next step.  Many times I felt (and feel) like Abraham, going to a land that “God will show me.” A land of promise, yet cloaked in mystery.  I am still walking this twisty road, one faltering step after another.

I started the year as a part-time freelance editor, college graduate, “in-control”, prideful woman, and most confidently of all, NOT a teacher.

Let’s just say I’m ending the year as an Associate Editor at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (still doing freelance), a woman who’s learning she’s not-so-in-control but can trust the One Who is, a woman who still struggles with pride, but is fighting it in God’s strength, and most shockingly of all, A TEACHER.  God sure has crazy awesome plans, overabundant grace, and a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

Most incredible of all are the changes in my life that probably only those closest to me can recognize, and which words cannot adequately capture.  God is truly taking this weak soul and making it strong by His grace.  He is taking brokenness aside and making it beautiful.

This year, God has taught me so many beautiful, yet difficult truths, that I barely know where to start.  He has taught me that, believe it or not, life is not about me, my comforts, my desires, or my wishes.  Yes, He loves me and wants HIS best for me, but that doesn’t always look like MY best.

I’ve learned that life is complicated and things don’t always go as I plan, but God has it all under control.  This year has breathed a whole new meaning into James 4:13-15:

‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’

This is a lesson I feel like I’m still struggling to learn, but God has shown me how futile it is to make my own plans apart from Him.  He’s shown me the pointless vanity in “never”s, “I will”s, and “always”s.  Instead, I’ve found that, when I submit my plans, wishes, and dreams to Him, His plans are so much more incredible than my own.

Reigning supreme this year is the all-consuming reality that God is fully in control, He has a plan, He loves me and cares about the details of my life, and that His plan is way bigger than me.  Only when I am fully satisfied in Him, fully surrendered to His plan, can I be bringing Him the greatest glory.  It is no strength of my own or self-righteous sacrifice of my desires that He asks of me.  Instead, it is acknowledging my weakness so He can be made strong, and delighting myself in Him so that all other desires pale in comparison.

I’ve also discovered that relationships are messy and often difficult, because they are two (or more) flawed, messed-up, complicated individuals joining different parts of their lives together.  I’ve found that this joining, no matter to what degree or in what setting (whether passing contact, or life-long friendship), requires sacrifice and effort.  But you know what?  I’ve also learned that it is so worth the sacrifice.  Because relationships with other people are beautiful.  They’re beautiful because God designed them, He made us to crave relationships, both with Him and other people.

God uses relationships as mirrors to show us faults in our own lives, reveal blindspots, and uncover hidden weaknesses.  But, He also uses them to challenge, encourage, and strengthen us as we grow.  Over and over, I’ve learned to give the benefit of the doubt, think of a situation from the other person’s perspective, and recognize that my imagination is almost always worse than reality.  I am beyond blessed with family and friends who have stood by me through many obstacles, challenged me to persevere, shown themselves faithful, and who make me smile and praise God when I think of them. These are the people who I have laughed with, prayed with, waded through life with, worshipped God with, and been raw and real with.  You guys know who you are; thank you for your faithful friendship.  I love ya’ll!

All of this is barely scratching the surface of what God has taught me and the ways He has turned my world upside-down, but for the sake of brevity I must end my rambling reflections here.  I pray for myself and every one of you reading this, a year in which God does whatever it takes to bring each of us to a place where He is our everything and where we bring Him the most glory.

And now, as I peer through squinted eyes into the foggy shadows of 2014, I see beams of sunlight silhouetting the outlines of what is to come.  I sense even more change and growth, I anticipate the many decisions I must make, and I eagerly taste a hint of what floats mysteriously in the air: hope.

Why Hello There 2013!

It seems that these end of the year/NewYear’s reflections are becoming a tradition for me.  I think this is partly because they offer me a chance to regroup and get my thoughts on paper, but also because I love sharing how God has made Himself strong in my life each year.  The hardest part is always sorting through a whole year of lessons, joys, pain, surprises, and above all, time with my Savior, and trying to sum it all up.

 

At the beginning of 2012, when challenged to choose a word that would sum up my resolution for the year, I felt God strongly putting ‘trust’ into my heart and mind.  A year later, I laugh, thinking how little I really knew about the word at the time.  As usual, God knew, and He has faithfully taught me trust in a million different ways, from little, day-to-day situations, to what felt like life-changing decisions.  

 

Looking back, I can very honestly say that my life would not be where it is now if it wasn’t for God leading me here.  Without Him giving me the grace to trust Him, I have a feeling that I would have made some pretty poor decisions and missed out on a lot of opportunities.  I marvel at how I still fail to trust Him sometimes after He has proven Himself, not just in my life, but worldwide throughout history!  

 

2012 has probably held the most changes for me of any year in my life.  One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is trusting God, not just when it’s easy, but trusting Him when I can’t see around the next corner.  When I’m peering anxiously ahead, trying to at least see my next step, wishing He would just give me the 4 step, 6 month plan I so desperately want, that’s when He just whispers ‘trust me my child.’  If I knew my life for the next 6 months, would I have to stay as close to His side?  Would I cling to Him and seek Him every step of the way?  I’m afraid that in my sinful, forgetful nature, I wouldn’t.  So when I get frustrated that He won’t let me see my next turn, I’m learning to be thankful that He’s using it to pull me into His arms.  

 

Life doesn’t always go the way I plan for it to… actually, I’m learning that it rarely does, but I’m also learning that’s ok.  

 

Another very important thing that I’ve learned is the importance of relationships.  Not just the importance of having a lot of friends, but the absolute importance of having one-on-one, vulnerable relationships.  I’m learning that people must come before busyness or my agenda, and that the time invested in them is more precious than that spent accomplishing things or furthering my goals.  I thank God for wise parents who He has used to remind me of this and continually encourage me in many areas of my life.  Most importantly, they have been faithful to point out when I put anything in my life before my relationship with God.  It’s easy to be blind in this area, as I have been, but I’m thankful that they have opened my eyes over and over.  

 

I’m in the process now of not just saying that God is first in my life, or thinking it, or even playing at it, but actually letting Him make that true in me.  I’m learning the importance of complete, humbling surrender, and of letting go of me and letting His strength be made perfect in my weakness!  I can be so prideful sometimes, often without knowing it, and I’m thankful for friends who are vulnerable with me and unknowingly showing me this while admitting their own pride.  By thinking that I am not proud, and that I have that area of my life (and others!) under control on my own, I have been demonstrating terrible pride.  Oh, the irony of life and the deceitfulness of our own hearts…

 

It’s hard to explain, but I feel like the world has opened up to me exponentially in the past year, and not necessarily through opportunities, excitement, or enlightenment.  Somehow, I feel like I’m finally learning what it means to live, love, and grow.  I always thought I had all of that down, but it’s like God has taken what used to be concepts for me and made them deepening realities.  I’m learning the fragility of just about everything in life, and how naive I have been in refusing to believe that.  It’s like my eyes have been almost rudely opened to ‘real life’ in the past year, but God has made it a beautiful thing.  He has shown me how shallow I’ve been, how petty, how silly, and is showing me what it means to live deliberately and with purpose.  Obviously, I still don’t have it all figured out, and never will, but I’m excited to be discovering more every day!  The bottom line is that God IS good, it’s not just something we spout out in a burst of Christian excitement, but it is a lasting, recurring, vitally true statement about the very being of God.  He is unchanging in the midst of instability, and loving despite our failures.  Never be ashamed to cling to Him, to cry out to Him in the most childish fashion, or even to ask Him ‘why?‘   He’s our Father, and He LOVES us.  

 

Well, I have rambled on long enough, and could continue on indefinitely, telling ya’ll how awesome my God has been, but I hope and pray that my stumbling journey somehow encourages you.  I love you all dearly, and appreciate the influence, inspiration, love, and encouragement each of you has given me.  I truly am blessed and I apologize for taking ya’ll for granted, and even putting my ‘busy’ schedule ahead of time with ya’ll.  I want to deepen, develop, and rebuild my relationships with ya’ll this coming year.

 

I pray that God uses this coming year to challenge, grow, and humble me, and that I become more like my Savior through it.  As I continue to learn ‘trust’, it seems that my theme for 2013 will become ‘let go.‘  I need to let go of my pride, my plans, my selfishness, and well, myself, in order to let God have full reign!