Just One Word

I used to roll my eyes when I would see yet another social media post about someone choosing a word for the year. I thought it was silly. How could choosing a word to focus on for an entire year help anyone? But then last year at this time I was so broken and parts of my life seemed hopeless and I figured what could it hurt?

Since I had never chosen a word for the year before, I did research on Google and found a Word of the Year Generator – which I unfortunately cannot share the link for because that was a year ago and I apparently did not save it. I used the Generator and was given the word Restore.

Restore. What a perfect word for what lay before me – a land mine of a life that I wasn’t sure I would survive. It was enough to spark hope in my heart – just enough hope to face the coming year.

Last year was hard. There were definitely good things throughout the year, but overall, it was very challenging. I had to give up my dogs that I loved (I literally had no real choice unless I wanted to be homeless), my classes for school more often than not ceased to be enjoyable and I wanted to quit (but I didn’t!), I got divorced from a 15 year marriage that I thought would be my forever, and I had to deal with the fallout from the trauma for me and my kids from that relationship that wasn’t at all what it looked like from the outside.

Restore. God definitely brought about restoration in my life this last year. I went from being on three different anxiety medications – one as needed, two daily – to next to lowest dose of only one of them (with my doctor’s help – never try to do it alone), and I should be completely weaned off anxiety meds entirely within six months. The anxiety and depression that plagued me before I left my marriage is completely gone. I have moments of sadness or feeling anxious – but they are normal emotions; not strong enough to require a diagnosis.

I was not allowed to keep my dogs but we were allowed to get our bearded dragons because they don’t make a lot of noise and they are not destructive. I still want to have dogs again someday, but you’d be surprised just how much my little scaly babies like to snuggle. Our dragons have brought us a lot of joy and laughter, and will continue to do so.

I passed all of my classes and am set to finish this fall. I will have to really focus and become more organized in order to do so – I will be doing school full time, working, and being mom. Fortunately I do school online so I am still home with my girls.

At the beginning of 2019, I had a good job, but in June I was able to start a career-worthy job. I have been told multiple times that I would make a great supervisor, but I cannot commit to that level just yet. My kids come first, and I also need to graduate before I could consider something like that. When I left my marriage and my girls and I moved into a domestic violence shelter, I really didn’t know how we would make it. I knew I would do what it took, but I never thought I would have a job that I love – one that is so much more than paying the bills. And while I don’t make the big bucks, I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

At the beginning of the year I was trying to find a church but just couldn’t find one that was the right fit for my family. A few months ago I found home, and I am so grateful that God led us there!

I’m not going into details on my finances, but suffice it to say that God is helping me there too.

And finally, when I left my marriage, I lost friendships because I finally stopped protecting a lie. I understand now that they were not my true friends in the first place. And beyond that, I have made new friends and grown closer to old friends that I had barely been in touch with before.

Restore was such a perfect word for last year that I decided to do a word for the year again this year. But now that I’m a seasoned pro (haha), I chose my own word. Truthfully, I was driving to work and singing along with my worship music playlist, enjoying my time with God, when the word came to me. That word is Shift.

Shift. According to a search on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, the first option for shift is as follows:

Definition of shift

transitive verb

1: to exchange for or replace by another CHANGE

2a: to change the place, position, or direction of MOVE

b: to make a change in (place)

3: to change phonetically

Shift. When my attitude sucks, I will shift to a better attitude. When I am being overly negative, I will shift my thoughts. When what I am doing isn’t working, I will shift to a new way of thinking and doing. I will even do a silly hand movement if it helps!

This year will have its own challenges, but I am determined to grow; determined to keep moving forward. While I choose to be content, I refuse to sit still and stagnate.

And while I’m at it, I choose to have a more open mind to the things that seem silly to me. Because they just might work.

Sow Light

When my oldest daughter was six, she referred to Good Friday as “Black Friday”. And even though I know why we call it Good, her name for it often seems far more accurate.

Think about it from the perspective of the disciples. Jesus had told them that He would rise again, but so many things He had taught while on earth were in the form of parables – which had deeper meaning than what they seemed to at face value. It would be easy to believe that perhaps Jesus had meant something else other than literal resurrection – especially as one day stretched to two, and two to three.

Even had they known for certain that Jesus was being literal when He spoke of his return to life, it’s easy to wonder if we are remembering correctly when things don’t come to pass as quickly as we expect.

I was just sharing with a friend that there were things prophesied over me before I was even expecting my oldest daughter – who will be fourteen in August – that have yet to come to pass. Over the years, and especially over the last three, I have often wondered if it was simply emotion ruling both the people prophesying over me as well as myself. Other dreams that God placed directly in my heart seemed absolutely impossible from day one. But as things have changed over the last seven months, I am now seeing ways that God is opening up for these dreams and prophecies. God can open any door, even if it appears locked and barred to me.

For many people, Good Friday is easy to celebrate. Jesus died and rose again over two thousand years ago. We know the end of that part of the story. We don’t have to experience the agony of waiting and wondering what will happen next.

For others, it’s still a challenge. Yes, we know that Jesus died and rose again, but many are still waiting for their three days to be over. And those three days could be three months or fifteen years. I don’t know about you, but I am not good at waiting. Add in stress, pain, and the unknown, and the waiting becomes even more difficult.

But the truth is that although Jesus died and the three days that followed were excruciating for most – if not all – of his followers (including his own mother), but the story didn’t end there. Jesus did rise again. He kept His word. Which means we can trust that He will keep His word in our personal situations as well.

As I was doing my devotions today, I came across a verse that I’ve read a dozen times before. It isn’t one of the more well-known verses, but it impacted me today. Here it is:

“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy name.” Psalm 97:11-12

How dark and terrifying Jesus’ death must have been! How dark and terrifying our lives can be now. But God’s Word promises us light and joy when we live for Him. We will not always feel light and joy, but it’s there waiting for us if we choose it. You will often hear me talk about choices, because I am a firm believer that our choices directly affect us, as well as the people around us.

When my day does not go as planned, I can still choose light. If I wake up in a lot of pain, I can still choose joy. When my finances are tight and I don’t know how I will pay for bills, food, or rent, I can still choose light. If someone chooses to try to destroy me with their words, I can still choose joy. And as you may have heard before, happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is temporary and dependent on things outside of us. Joy comes from within – from knowing that our present troubles are far outweighed by what God will bring in and through us on down the road. From knowing that we have a place in heaven once this life is over. From knowing that God doesn’t waste pain.

Many will ask why God causes us to go through hard times, why “bad things happen to good people”. The truth is that He doesn’t cause us to go through bad things anymore than He causes us to burn our hands when we touch something that is really hot. He allows it – because that is how we learn not to touch things that will burn us – but He does not cause it. As we are healing (and after we are healed) from the burn, He enables us to use our experience of pain to help someone else. We can warn them away, or if we find them after they have been burned, we can empathize and help them to heal.

As you go through today – whether you see it as Black or Good – know that light and joy are not far away. Once you find them for yourself, I hope you will then sow them into the lives of others, so they may find them too.