The missing key to joy {a OneWord365 reflection plus a 2015 revelation}

If you’ve been following along here for the past couple of years, you might know a little something about my OneWord365 participation. If not, you can read about the start of it here, or select the OneWord365 category in the righthand sidebar under the “what I write about” menu to see all the posts I’ve written about my words of the past two years.


In short, it’s a revolution rather than a resolution for the New Year. It’s a choice to focus on a word that leads to change or transformation. My first year, it was “release,” as I discovered the need to let go of some things I’d been holding too tightly.

This year, it was “enjoy,” as I realized my need to not be so serious or fearful about life all the time.

In a way, this year was a OneWord365 letdown compared to 2013 when I literally felt freer at the end of the year as a result of letting go. As this year comes to a close, I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed life as much as I could. Sure, there were highlights, and it’s not like we’ve had a miserable year. But I don’t feel like a major attitude shift has happened as a result of my One Word this year.

I take complete responsibility for that. And I think maybe I got ahead of myself. After my year of release, I reasoned that it would be easier to enjoy. And in some ways it was.

But I think for true transformation to happen, my 2014 One Word is going to have to work together with my 2015 One Word. (It’s coming, don’t worry.)

I start thinking about these things ridiculously early. Or maybe not, but even before this year was close to its end, I was contemplating my next year’s word. It’s not magic or a guarantee but I find having a One Word does help me focus a bit. I look for the word and its application, like a yearlong treasure hunt. And in some ways, it’s like speaking a truth over your year. This word, I declare, is what I want for my life right now.

It’s not a science, for certain.

For a month or more, I thought my word for 2015 would be “strong.” I have plans to work on my health in 2015, and “strong” is something I’ve not felt in a long time. But it didn’t sit the way the other words have. It seemed like a good concept but not the exact right fit.

So I brainstormed some other words related to “strong” and what I hope 2015 will mean for me. I tossed around “healed” and “free” and “light” and “open,” words that are good, too, but still not quite there. They were part of the idea I was working toward but none of those words by themselves represented what I wanted.

Then one day as I was leaning over the dryer pulling clothes out, a word settled in my soul. (That sounds strange, right? But sometimes that’s how it happens. The word finds me when I’m no longer actively looking.)

It’s the right word because it encompasses “strong” and “healed” and “light” and “free.”

For 2015, my word is this:


In an effort to enjoy, I rediscovered how much of me is still broken. And it’s not that I think I’m useless or need to be cast aside, but I’m certainly not where I want to be mentally, physically or emotionally.

To be whole next year means that I’m going to do some things for me, things that have taken a backseat in past years. As a wife and a mom, I’ve let others’ needs come before mine, which sounds sacrificial and maybe even a little bit spiritual but in reality, it’s put me in a place that isn’t healthy.

I’m not exactly sure what “whole” will look like, nor do I expect that in one year all the broken parts of me will be miraculously fixed and healed. For me, it’s a start. It’s a line in the sand that says, now it’s time to focus on me, not so I can selfishly demand the world revolve around me and my needs, but so that I can be the best me. It’s a gift to my family for me to be whole. And it’s a gift to me, too.

I’ve already taken a few steps toward wholeness. I’m on medication for high blood pressure, which means I’m also looking at ways to eat healthier and exercise more. I’ve started seeing a therapist because my mental health is probably as bad (or worse) than my physical health. (And it’s not that I want you to feel sorry for me, and maybe you don’t think I should be talking about these things, but putting it in writing keeps me accountable and frees me from fear.) Taking care of my mental health may also involve medication, a decision I’m still considering.

What else will “whole” look like?

Defining, and following, my dreams (and God’s) for my life. I’m an incomplete person without my writing, so that will take on a greater role in my days. How, I’m not sure yet. But I have a second kid starting school next fall, which means I’ll have five whole days a week without children starting in August. A taste of that free time this year has me dreaming about pursuing more writing opportunities.

I will start another novel next year. Though I’m not yet finished editing and rewriting the one I finished a first draft of this year, I’m desperate to start planning and plotting a new story, one that has been on my mind for years and is a completely different genre than the first one I wrote. It’s a story that I think will bring personal healing as I write it. (Expect to hear more about this next year!)

Beyond that, I don’t want to set up too many expectations for my One Word because it will turn out different than I expect. It has so far. Though I’m not a fan of surprises, even good ones, I want to leave room for the Spirit’s work in my One Word. I cannot plan what God has in mind.

Before I end this post, I need you to know that this is the scariest One Word yet for me. I’ve been thinking about the passage in the Bible where Jesus asks a man who has been an invalid for 38 years if he wants to get well. I always thought it was a ridiculous question. Who wouldn’t want to be well after being not well for so long? But it’s interesting how we adapt to our unwellness. It becomes comfortable and we know how to function, how to survive. Throw us a curve and make us well? Then we have to operate in a new way.

Next year, I turn 37. (That’s eerily close to the 38 years mentioned in that passage.) And while I’m not sure if I’ve been “unwell” that entire time, I know that next year marks a turning point if I truly pursue wholeness. And it scares me a little. Because wholeness will change me, and even if the change is good (and it will be), it will be different than what I’ve known.

Still, I don’t want to offer excuses to the Lord for the reasons I’m not well. I want to hear his call to wholeness, pick up my mat and walk.

It’s sure to be a shaky journey, and if you aren’t afraid to walk it with me, I know I will need your support.

I also can’t end this post without asking you to consider choosing one word for next year. You don’t have to make it official by registering on the site although that does have the potential for community and accountability. You don’t have to blog about it, either, or publicize it on Facebook. But if you take some time to think about it and a word settles in your soul, will you tell someone about it so they can ask you how it’s going?

You can a leave a comment here with your word, too, and we’ll encourage each other along the way.


The one thing I didn’t expect to release

I began 2013 with a withered soul. The soil of my heart was dry and cracked and the weeds of disappointment and bitterness were choking the life out of me.

On the outside, I wasn’t much better.  My words were unkind and pessimistic, evidence of the slow hardening of a heart that had been dealt one too many blows. I was barely holding on.

My husband had graduated seminary six months earlier and was jobless in his field. We were raising two kids under the age of five, 800 miles from family, and we were not even getting by.

This wasn’t the life I’d imagined.

Mad at God. Disappointed with my husband. Embarrassed to be asking family for help.

And that’s where I was when I found OneWord365.


Today I’m guest posting at the OneWord365 blog. Read the rest of my 2013 OneWord experience here.

How I need to remember that change is gradual

I woke up feeling unwell in body and spirit. A challenging sermon on holiness at church yesterday and the onset of a cold that’s making its way through our family have left me drained before I’ve even started today. That, and the need to do EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE IMMEDIATELY.

Tell me your Mondays are like this.

With piles of laundry mocking you as a failure.

With kitchen counters covered in dirty dishes singing “You’re no good, you’re no good, baby you’re no good.”

Back to school. Back to a sometimes routine. The first full week of a new year.

And I’m blowing it already.

While it’s true I no longer make resolutions, I still feel the need to make changes in my life every time the calendar turns another year. Maybe I’m not calling them resolutions, but I’m still taking the opportunity to change.

And there’s plenty of opportunity for change.

As the first of the year dawned, I pledged to myself (again, for the third time) that this would be the year I finish my novel.

Last year, I felt mostly bland about my writing. Frustrated. Discouraged. Sure that I’d never make anything of myself. I chipped away at the story, adding words here and there without regularity.

Give up. Give up. Give up. The voices told me lies, but I wanted to listen.

Nevermind that my husband switched jobs and we moved and our daughter started school. Transition upon transition.

And when I dared to look at how much writing I’d actually done, I was surprised to learn that in all of 2013, I added 20,000 words to my novel.

It felt small and like nothing when it was happening. But at the end, it had amounted to much more.

I tried on three outfits before church yesterday because I’m having a love-hate with my body. I have some clothes I’d like to wear, to rediscover, and they.don’ Curse them.

I had a plan for Christmas Eve, to wear this purple dress I love and got on sale and haven’t worn in two years. It looked awful, which in my mind means I feel like I look awful.

But Christmas is full of holidays and eating so I allowed myself the feast, knowing that there would be a season of less come January. On December 31, I started a new plan. I would get up early. I would exercise. I would intentionally eat healthier. Oatmeal instead of a bagel. More fruit. More salad. I love all those things but they take more time to prepare. More effort. And, of course, I have to have them in the house in the first place.

As of today, I’ve worked out four times in the last week, which is four times more than all of fall, I think.

Yet I feel like a failure because there are no results.

It’s only been a week.

Time. Discipline. It won’t happen overnight.

(And for the record, I’m not aiming for a weight or a size but a healthier lifestyle overall. The older I get the better care I want to take of myself so I can enjoy my kids and life as a whole.)

A few months ago while sorting through some old newspaper clippings of columns I’d written back in my mid-20s, I had the urge to wad them all up. Or burn them. Something destructive.

Because the girl who wrote those words has changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Some of it was her choice. Some of it wasn’t. But she’s different. I feel like that girl barely exists in my memory. I wanted to shake her. Or punch her in the face. And tell her that she had no idea what she was talking about.

Life wasn’t like she thought. Faith wasn’t what she thought.

It was like looking in a mirror and seeing a reflection of me 10 years ago. And I saw not only how I looked on the outside but what I thought on the inside.

The urge to destroy passed, and now I’m grateful for the look into the past.

Because change has happened. It has taken years. But the differences are obvious to me. Ten years seems like a long time, but with those clippings in my hands, I felt like no time had passed at all.

A week is not a worthwhile measure for change.

It is good to want to change. It is good to have a plan. It is good to pursue what is better and whole.

It is not good to expect immediate change. But oh, how I want a quick fix for everything.

It is not good to expect perfection. But oh, how I want to do it right the first time.

It is not good to give up after only a week. But oh, how I want to say “forget it” to all my plans and intentions.

Here is what I am learning. Slowly, but I’m learning.

Change can’t happen alone. I need community.

Part of my writing plan was to join a group for word count accountability. Nothing happens if I don’t meet my goal, but I can be encouraged by what others are writing and knowing I’m not the only one struggling.

As for the other areas where I want to change and need to change: community applies there too. But that’s hard. I can’t go to a gym right now. But I can let someone else know my plans.

Invitation is a key to transformation. I have to let people in, and that starts with talking about my failings. Then it moves to sharing my plans. It continues with commitment. And it doesn’t end with failure.

The One Word I want to live this year

Yesterday I recapped my first OneWord365 experience, a year of releasing and letting go.

A month or so ago, I started thinking about my next One Word. What did I want to experience, live and be challenged by in 2014?

My soul settled on the word “enjoy.”

That sounds lovely, right? And on the surface, that might seem like not so much of a challenge.

But it is.

See, for several years now, I’ve not really been enjoying my life. I’ve been tolerating and surviving and plodding through to the next thing. Which is why “release” was so important to me this year. I was carrying a bunch of baggage in my heart, soul and mind.

Now that I’m free-er, I find myself in a season of goodness.

I love the house we’re living in. Our lives are full of good friends and supportive community through our church and this new city we’ve moved to. For the first time in years I can say “life is good” and mean it. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s so incredibly different than the past five years that I almost don’t believe it’s true.

So, for the coming year I want to enjoy. I want to trust in God’s goodness and not worry about the future. I want to live as though we’re going to be here for a long time instead of being constantly on the lookout for our next move, our next house, our next job.

I want to play with my kids and say “yes” more often to the fun things instead of being bogged down in the drudgery of chores and “have-to.” I want to “want to.”

I’m already scaling back the number of books I’m going to review on my blog because I want to enjoy reading and not feel obligated to read. I’m weaning myself from my coffee habit so I can enjoy a cup of coffee for the pleasure of it instead of feeling like I need to have it to survive.

And these are just the beginning stages. If 2013 was any indication, I have no idea what God has planned for my year when it comes to “enjoying.”

I’ll post throughout the year about what I’m learning and experiencing along the way. I’d love for you to follow along and share your stories, too.


And if you haven’t signed up with the OneWord365 community, there’s still time! Choosing one word for a year is the most effective change I’ve experienced for an entire year. I’d encourage you to give it a try.

Just one word: My OneWord365 year in review

I’ve been a maker (and breaker) of New Year’s resolutions for as long as I can remember.

Eat better.

Exercise more.

(My favorite sin) less.

I’m always sincere. Generally I have a plan. But inevitably, I fall short.

I forget.

I lose heart.

I give up.

And nothing really changes.

ow_250x250This year, though, something did change. And it started with a new approach to the new year. Instead of making a resolution, I chose one word.

I stumbled onto the OneWord365 movement through a blog I read. And the idea appealed to me.

Pick a word for the year. Something you want to become. An area where you struggle. Something God is speaking to your heart.

And let that word guide your year.

It sounded easy enough. And for a few weeks toward the end of last year, I mulled a few words that I knew would define my year.

What I ended up with was the word “release.” OneWord2013_Release

2013 was all about letting go for me, and while I expected certain things to be part of that, other things that happened this year caught me by surprise.

Now that the year is almost over, I can look back and see actual real change that happened this year, all because of one word.

I never would have thought something this simple could have such an impact. But throughout the year, because this word, this idea of letting go, was in the forefront of my mind, I noticed it everywhere. I read books and the words “release” and “let go” jumped off the page. In experiences where I might want to hold on for dear life and control, the word “release” whispered to me, and in an act of trust, I did. In the Bible, this theme presented itself to me again and again.

And I can say here, almost 12 months later, that I feel lighter. Less burdened. More like my hands are open instead of fisted.

And I can’t wait for 2014! (Check out tomorrow’s post to find out what my One Word is for next year.)

Want to join this movement? You can sign up here.

And here’s what I wrote throughout the year about my OneWord365 journey:

Change awaits, and it’s simpler than you might think!

One word to guide my year

I’m bad at making–and keeping–resolutions. Who isn’t, right?

So when I stumbled onto the opportunity to simplify my new year’s resolutions into one word, I decided to give it a try.

A Facebook friend blogged about her experience with Oneword365 for 2012. And I was inspired by the idea that I could spend the whole year letting one word transform my life, my attitudes, my behaviors.

It’s not a to-do kind of word but a to-be kind of word, not a rule but a guide.

I’m totally game.

So I spent a couple of days thinking of possibilities. They’re endless, you know. So many words to choose from. Peace. Grace. Joy. Love. I’d be thrilled if my capacity for any one of those increased over the year. But none of those seemed to fit.

The right word came to me in the middle of an emotional breakdown. I’d shut myself in the bedroom, asking the kids to please play by themselves in the living room or their room for a few minutes so I could have some space to cry and journal and pour my heart out to God about how yuck I feel about life right now.

He listened as I raged–on paper–and let my emotions spin wildly out of control.

Then He whispered, “Let go.”

I am a control freak, and nothing scares a control freak more than the idea that she’s not in control. Parenting has yet to break me completely of the notion that I have little to no control over anything. (Have you ever tried to get a preschooler or toddler to do anything you say? Not pretty.) But our circumstances have put me in a position to realize that I have no control. I can’t make anything happen. It’s not up to me to chart the course of our life. My job is to wait. And listen. And take the appropriate steps.

Since “let go” is two words, I wanted to replace it with a one-word synonym. “Surrender” is one, but to me, that sounds like giving up. I know surrender is a biblical thing, and I’m okay with surrender, in general, but I don’t want to put myself in a mental state of giving up.

So, here’s my word for 2013:



I’ve felt myself holding tightly to things in the last year. Expectations. My plans. My way. People’s perceptions. Excuses.

This year, I want to unclench my fists and hold my hands open and let go of what I think I need. Hold my heart open and let go of pain I’ve been harboring. Hold my mind open and let go of perceptions, of me and of others.oneword-release-rope

I’ve heard that when you’re at the end of your rope, you should tie a knot and hold on. I’ve heard, too, that there’s another option.

Let go.

And like a free fall, trust God to support you, even if you can’t see how.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1)

Release. 2013.

I’m hoping to check in here once a month about what a mindset of release is teaching me.

Have you considered one word for the year? Find out more here. And join the journey.


This year: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller by Steven Furtick

greaterword-2I’m pleased to feature these encouraging words from author Steven Furtick today. Wise advice for the new year.

I’ve met a lot of people who knew what it was to burn plows and set  out to live for God but didn’t know what to do next. They prayed, they  made a commitment—and they got stuck. As a pastor, I’ve seen it over and  over again. As a man trying to live for God, I’ve experienced it over  and over again.

I’m guessing you’ve made plenty of resolutions about stuff you needed  to start doing or stop doing. Maybe you were going to start praying or  reading your Bible more.

Or maybe you were going to stop smoking or boycott carbohydrates or  stop looking at pornography or stop saying mean things about family  members behind their backs. Maybe you decided to break away from a  relationship you knew was unhealthy for you.

The way I see it, there are two major reasons why well-intentioned people like us get stuck after we burn our plows.

One, we don’t think big enough. Two, we don’t start small enough.

I’m not trying to talk like Yoda here. Thinking big enough and  starting small enough are two sides of the same coin. So I not only want  to motivate you to dream bigger dreams for your life. I also want to  challenge you to take realistic steps of obedience that can actually  make God’s vision come to pass.

After all, our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask  or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). It is true that we often settle for dreams  and visions that are far less than those God has for us. And He wants  us to experience much more. If I didn’t believe that, the title of this  book would be Samer.

So of course God wants you to believe big—it’s in His very nature.  I’ve devoted my whole ministry to inspiring people with this truth.  Preacher Dwight L. Moody made a statement that I love: “If God is your  partner, make your plans big.” That way of thinking makes my heart race.

But we’re not going to see God’s bigger vision fulfilled in our lives  just because we spend more time thinking transcendent thoughts. We  don’t attain greater things simply by lying on the couch and  concentrating on the possibilities of a better life. Alas, sitting for  thousands of hours with my headphones on listening to Guns N’ Roses and  imagining I was Axl Rose didn’t translate into my being the lead singer  of the world’s most dangerous rock’n’roll band.

You do have to be willing to think big. But the active ingredient of  God’s greater work through us is our willingness to start small.

I want to show you an incredible image in one of the first main-stage  miracles Elisha performs after Elijah departs and leaves the ministry  in his successor’s hands. It demonstrates the principle that small steps  and hard work precipitate a move of God. That human action prepares the  way for supernatural favor.

It comes from 2 Kings 3, and it goes like this:

King Joram is ruling over Israel during the years when the kingdom is divided. When the king of Moab rebels against him, the frightened king enlists King Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom to help him. Their combined military force should be fearsome against the Moabites—but they almost immediately run out of water for their armies and animals. Now they are preparing to face a terrifying foe while facing an even more terrifying fate: dying of thirst.

Par for the course in Israel’s history, the crisis drives King Joram  to look for divine help. He isn’t desperate for God, but he is desperate  for a solution. King Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet who could  consult God for them. A servant reminds him of Elisha, the artist  formerly known as Mr. Plow. So the three kings and their entourages go  looking for Elisha.

Elisha confirms to the kings that water will flow from Edom by the  time the sun comes up the next morning. Their armies and their animals  will have plenty to drink. The drought is almost over. God is going to  deliver Moab to His people just as they prayed for. Hallelujah,  somebody?

But he tells the kings to take a small, ludicrous step first.

This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. (verse 16)

Why would anybody in their right mind dig ditches to hold rain that isn’t even in the forecast?

Because that’s the way faith works. When you know God has promised  you greater things, you don’t wait for a sign to appear before you  respond. The kings wanted a miracle. They would get their miracle. But  first they got a work order: This is no time for the power of positive  thinking. Tie a bandanna around your head and pick up a shovel.

It would have been great if all the army had to do was sit around  thinking hydration-related thoughts or had a few guided exercises to  help them visualize the water. But that’s not how God operates.

It’s as if God says, “If you really believe I’m going to do what I  told you I would do, get busy. Show Me your faith, and then I’ll show  you My faithfulness. Do your part. If you will do what I asked you to  do, I will be faithful to My word.

“If you’ll dig the ditches, I’ll send the rain.”

The entire nation must have pitched in and dug all night, because  they got it done. The next morning the water arrived. As promised. As  always. The newly installed ditches were full of water, the armies and  animals were refreshed, and the joint army easily overtook the Moabites.

I think Elisha used the process of ditch digging to teach Israel this important paradox of great faith:

Only God can send the rain. But He expects you to dig the ditches.

It really comes down to this: What small steps and practical  preparations is God asking you to make for the greater life He wants you  to live? What ditches is He asking you to dig?

You can’t expect God to entrust you with a big dream if He can’t trust you to make a small start.

You can’t have the apostle Paul’s walk with God overnight. Big dream.

But you can pray ten minutes a day beginning tomorrow. Small start.

You can’t entirely mend a broken relationship overnight. Big dream.

But you can have a conversation and open the door, write the letter, make the call, say, “I’m sorry.” Small start.

If your kid is far from God, you can’t bring him back overnight. Big dream.

But you could start praying for him every day. Small start.

Notice what Elisha doesn’t say; he doesn’t tell the kings to dig one ditch. No singular ditch digging on this prophet’s watch.

Instead, make this valley full of ditches. Plural.

Believe that God is going to send a lot of rain.

If we really believe God is an abundant God, ready and willing to  bless our lives in greater ways than we could ever imagine, we ought to  be digging all kinds of ditches. In our relationships. In our careers.  In our ministries. In every area of our lives, there ought to be  heavy-duty equipment on site. Moving dirt. Making preparation.

And we ought to dig ditches using every means available. We can dig  ditches with our words. With our prayers. With our expectations. Even  with our thoughts.

How many ditches are you willing to dig? How deep will you dig them?  You’re not digging alone. And it’s not in vain. God has a downpour  scheduled in your near future. The deeper you dig, the greater the  rainfall has the potential to be.

Adapted from Greater by Steven Furtick with permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.