How I’m finding the me I didn’t know was lost

I used to be the kind of person who would snort-laugh and roll her eyes if anyone would have used the phrase, “I need to find myself.” Humor and sarcasm are coping mechanisms I’ve cultivated over the years, and the truth is that I was afraid and maybe jealous.

Because for a lot of years, I didn’t really know who I was.

Mikael Kristenson | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Mikael Kristenson | Creative Commons | via unsplash

That never seemed like a big deal until I started to figure it out. Now, it’s like new doors of possibility are flinging open and chains are dropping off my soul.

I didn’t know that the first step in finding yourself is acknowledging that somewhere, somehow you lost yourself. Once you know you’re lost, you can get on with being found.<Tweet that.>ow_whole

I can’t tell you the day or time I realized I was lost, nor can I pinpoint the start of the “finding myself” journey. But I know that so far this year, my year of “whole,” has been unlike any other. As in years past, when I’ve picked a word to focus on for the year, I see the theme in a lot of places. And those previous years of “release” and “enjoy” were important. But this year is becoming transformational in a way I couldn’t imagine.

I’ve been mulling this quote in my mind for a few weeks now.

When we are fully ourselves, He (God) is fully glorified. – “Longing For Paris,” by Sarah Mae

I think I’ve wrongly believed that God is only glorified when I behave a certain way or follow His lead. And He is glorified in those ways, but I never really considered that the me He created me to be brings Him glory, even if I don’t look anything like what I think a child of God should look like.

I have this same problem with my definition of what makes a good mom. My therapist listed out on a white board all the characteristics I thought would make me a good mom and none of them are realistic or accurate. There were a lot of “always” and “never” type of descriptions. (Always happy, never yells, has a clean house, etc.) She reminded me that God picked me to be Izzy and Corban’s mom and who I am is not a mistake for them. (Summer is giving me all kinds of mom guilt because I’m not crafty or entertaining. It’s draining on this introvert mama, and yet I want to spend time with them.)

Being the mom God created me to be brings Him glory and is much better for my kids than trying to become some other kind of mom. And being the woman He created me to be is a far better way to  live than trying to stuff my personality into a box  or conform to a mold that doesn’t fit.

Trying to be anyone other than who I am doesn’t lead to a happy life. It just makes me tired and frustrated. I am finding freedom and joy in saying “no” to what is not good for me and saying “this is who I am” about other things. It’s not always comfortable, but in the end it is good. It is good to admit that I love my kids AND I need a break. That I love Jesus AND I am full of doubt. That I’m glad I am married AND it is hard work.

I must also say that this self-discovery journey is not a solo project. I am grateful for a husband who gives me space and time to be who I am and discover who I am. (Even when that means he’s uncomfortable with my occasional swearing on social media.) The same goes for our church family. There are no boxes that we must fit into to belong. We are free to explore our faith and wrestle with our doubts in the community of saints who gather each week. We are guided and corrected when necessary but no one is turned out because of who they are. (Or who they aren’t.)

This is a gift we can give each other: the space and time and freedom to figure out who we are. It’s an ongoing process, I’m learning, and I’m not sure when or where it ends. All I know is that I want to keep figuring it out.

I recently read, in the span of  day or two, Glennon Melton’s Carry On, Warrior. I’ve been a fan of her Momastery Facebook page and blog for a little while but hadn’t taken the time to read the book yet. (Aside: YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.) Her vulnerability inspires me. Here’s one (of many) quotes from the book that spoke to me, especially in this experience:

We find out early that telling the whole truth makes people uncomfortable and is certainly not ladylike or likely to make us popular, so we learn to lie sweetly so that we can be loved. And when we figure out this system, we are split in two: the public self, who says the right things in order to belong, and the secret self, who thinks other things. (Carry On, Warrior, p. 51)

Her story is in the context of addiction and mental illness, but it’s all of us who do this. And  I’m not saying that everyone, everywhere needs to know our deepest thoughts all the time, but there is a way to make the two line up. I think. I hope.

It’s a slow death, but I’m gradually trying to kill that public self who only wants to say the right thing so she doesn’t get rejected. This is what it means to me to be my whole self. To be unafraid to let my secret self have a voice every now and then. To open the door a crack so that others can see that what they perceive is not how it really is.

This whole self stuff leads to relationships. Like, honest-to-goodness ones that survive the hard times. Melton also says:

I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness, my emptiness, and my life-as-a-wild-goose-chase-to-find-the-unfindable. (p. 21)

Knowing and accepting who you are makes you more approachable. Some of my best moments of connecting with other moms are when I talk about how I struggle and we find out we’re all struggling in the same way.

Just one more book quote that’s been helping me along. (If you didn’t already know this about me, books are my community, too.)

Part of becoming yourself, in a deeply spiritual way, is finding the words to tell the truth about what it is you really love. – Savor, by Shauna Niequist

This devotional by Niequist is one of my favorite things ever, and her writing touches a deep place in my soul. She said this in the context of admitting how much she loves to make and prepare and serve and eat food around the table with people. When I can say without embarrassment or hesitation, I really love to do this, then a part of me opens wider to the world around me. I used to think as a certain kind of woman I had to enjoy all the same things as other women. But I don’t. It’s okay. And my love for one thing does not have to cancel someone else’s love for something else. We are uniquely created by God, and our love for the things He has made us to love is lovely to Him.

What are your thoughts about “finding yourself”? Do you know who you are? And who you aren’t? What has helped you in this process?

When the path to ‘whole’ takes an unexpected turn

I will confess to having high expectations and a buoyant hope when I began the year focusing on the word “whole.” ow_whole

After all, it sounds so good, this idea that after years and years of feeling broken and worn down that maybe this would be the year some of those things could be mended and repaired, that the areas I’ve felt were lacking would somehow find completion.

We are one month into the year, and I am now discovering that this journey to becoming whole is going to be a lot harder than I thought. And sometimes it feels like this:

Why wasn’t she ready to fully release all the pent-up sorrow and pain? Because she feared if she fully acknowledged what she’d been holding inside for so long, it would overwhelm her, flood her, and she’d break. She wasn’t strong enough. She was getting by, but healing took work, courage, strength she didn’t have. — Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey, p. 166

But, I’m also discovering that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it might make it that much better than if it were easy.

Tom Butler | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Tom Butler | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I still have hopes for transformation this year. I’m taking positive steps toward wholeness, like counseling and medication and acknowledging my needs and grieving losses. But on the way forward, I’m finding that I have to look back. And sometimes in looking back, old hurts resurface, and wounds I thought were healed prove that they were only temporarily numbed.

As I’ve sought “whole” I’ve stumbled onto a lot of “broken.” And I’m seeing that this will be the first step in my healing–to break again. Not as a consequence of poor decisions but as an act of healing.

Sometimes on the road to healing, you must reopen an old wound. It will hurt again, maybe as much as or more than it did when it was first inflicted, but as you reconnect with and embrace the healing process, it will begin to hurt less. … That’s the only way it can heal. — Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner, p. 318

For the deepest wounds I’ve suffered, I realize I’ve merely done the barest amount of work to survive. I thought I had healed, but I only covered them up. Like a broken bone improperly set, I haven’t healed the right way and so I must break again so that I can restore full function to the broken parts.

It’s terrible. Sometimes.

It hurts. But it’s not pointless.

And though it’s early in the process I can already feel the difference in the healing.

I covered over my hurts, my heart, my feelings which kept the bad things from hurting but also held some of them in. And it kept the good things from penetrating the barrier.

Sometimes, when you’re broken, light shines through the cracks. And the pieces you thought were holding you together get rearranged to make something else.

I was so moved by this song and video when a friend blogged about this idea of being shattered. I might have to add it to my list of theme music for the year. I’m also now totally obsessed with this violinist.


My pain and sorrows have festered in the darkness, and it’s time to let the light in.

But light hurts sometimes, too. When you’ve been in darkness, light has a way of shocking your sense of sight. Blinding almost.

It’s the same with the kind of light that penetrates the darkness in your soul. One of the hardest things about my therapy sessions is when my counselor says life-affirming things to me. Things like “You are strong and brave” and “You are worth it.”

Those words sneak through the cracks and light up the darkness and even when I try to push them away, they settle in. And push the cracks open a little more.

I’m no gardener so I don’t know what kinds of things thrive in the darkness, but I know that my heart is not one of them.

Leon Ephraïm | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Leon Ephraïm | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I need light.

And sometimes the light needs an opening.

And sometimes the opening has to come through a crack or a break.

Falling, breaking, failing–it all used to scare me because I thought it meant the end.

But I think that’s wrong.

More often than not, the breaking is just the beginning.

Are you pursuing a OneWord this year? How have you seen it working in your life?

For more information on the OneWord365 movement, visit oneword365.com.

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.

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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:

ow_whole

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.

Where joy and pleasure meet

At my husband’s workplace, “my pleasure” is the standard response to “thank you.” Not “yep” or “no problem” or “you’re welcome” but “my pleasure.”

I never noticed it before he worked there, but it makes a huge difference in my attitude while dining out. And over time, I believe the team member when they say it.

I know that everyone has a bad day, but I also know that a bad day doesn’t have to ruin everything. Even if I started the day grumpy and didn’t want to serve people, if I HAD to say “my pleasure” throughout my day, eventually, I think it would be true. It would be my pleasure to serve.

Generally, it is not my pleasure to serve, especially when it comes to my family. I get tired of the endless laundry, the sticky juice spills in the kitchen, the clutter, the daily decisions of what to feed them and when. Some days, it’s more my pleasure than others, but most days, I’d rather serve myself.

Our son, whose ability to absorb the words and behaviors of those around him is like a superpower, has picked up on this phrase, my pleasure. If you say “thank you” to him, his four-year-old exuberance will reply “my pleasure!” He also says this when he sneezes, coughs and farts, and I won’t pretend to understand this boy humor.

Pleasure.

It’s a tricky word. One we might want to avoid because it sounds so worldly. I mean, can a Christian really experience pleasure without it sounding dirty? Instead we talk about joy and delight and occasionally happiness.

But those don’t quite capture the same emotion as pleasure. Merriam-Webster even uses “enjoyment” and “happiness” in its definition of pleasure. It adds “satisfaction,” and that’s part of it. There’s a sense of contentment in pleasure.

I’m not sure why, but I still bristle a bit when using this word.

I’m much more comfortable with practical. And purposeful. And functional.

Which is part of the reason my OneWord for this year is enjoy.

OW_enjoy

Because practical, purposeful, functional, I can do. Enjoy, not so much. This, then, is my challenge.

When we moved to this house, our landlord said we could plant flowers if we wanted to. I’m no gardener. I have more of a black thumb than a green one, but I’m increasingly interested in growing our own food and herbs.

Functional stuff.

Flowers, though? I don’t know. What’s the point?

Then this week I was reading in Genesis, about the garden God planted in the first days of creation. “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.” (Genesis 2:9, emphasis mine)

Say, what? God planted trees that were pretty and ones that produced food? I’m no Bible scholar so I can’t tell you if these are descriptors of two kinds of trees or if the trees that bear fruit are also pretty, but it made me pause.

Because beauty is its own purpose.

How gray and drab and dismal would the world be without the variety of flowers that grow. Can I really say that they serve no purpose because we can’t eat them or make medicine out of them? And maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten their uses. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Because we need beauty, especially in a world that is increasingly ugly. Beautiful, pleasing things are subversive. A quiet revolt.

I think we might plant flowers. And grow herbs.

My focus this year is to “enjoy.” To say “yes” to fun when all I want to do is work. To rest in this place of bounty compared to the wilderness we just left. To trust in the goodness of God.

God knows it won’t be easy for me, and already, He is refreshing the dry land, drenching me with joy drops.

Words like these from Isaiah 62

As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you. (verse 5)

Me? He will rejoice over me like a groom with his bride?

And

It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,”

Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”;

But you will be called, “My delight is in her” (verse 4)

I know He speaks of Israel here, but that God is capable of delight and rejoicing over people is astonishing to me. God enjoys His people, whether they behave themselves or not. As He created trees that were both beautiful and nourishing, so He creates people who are both a delight and useful. But even if we weren’t “useful” to Him, is it wrong to think we might still be a delight to Him? If my children do nothing for me, don’t I still delight in them?

And this from Psalm 18

He brought me out into an open place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (verse 19)

Life in the last few years has felt closed. Confined. Dark and cold. The last six months have been an emerging from that darkness. I feel as though I’m now standing in an open field with sunlight streaming down. Life is open. And I am free. I want to run and twirl and leap without looking over my shoulder for trouble.

This, then, is where joy begins. With God’s delight. His pleasure. His joy. In this He says, “Follow me. Let me show you how to enjoy life.”

And this will be the verse that leads me:

You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:11)

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!

This is who I am (today)

I’m struggling right now.

Overwhelmed.

Discontent.

Stuck.

Too many changes, too fast, and I haven’t caught up. I may never catch up.

I crave order and simplicity, yet my life feels messy and complicated.

There are things I want to do–feel like I need to do–but I can’t figure out how to make room for them in my life.

Physically, spiritually, emotionally, I am spent.

That’s okay, right?  So, why am I not okay with it?

—-

Last week I was experiencing some social media envy as writers I know and whose books I have read converged on Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. There was no way for me to make it this year, no reason really for me to go. I don’t have anything close to a finished manuscript. I’m not even sure where I am in the writing journey right now. (Stuck. I feel stuck.)

While I was trying to convince myself my jeans had gotten smaller over the summer months (and that it was not my body that had gotten bigger) I was obsessing over pictures of writing friends dressed up for dinners and an awards gala.

As I mopped up yet another bathtub overflow and cleaned up messes around the house, I let myself believe that I wasn’t living the life I want to be living.

The truth is: I want to be writing. A lot. Way more than I am now. And I’m torn between the camps who say “if you really want to, you’ll find a way” and the ones who say “don’t rush it; your time will come.”

Because I see people just.like.me living their writing dreams. They have kids and families and some of them even homeschool. They’re my age or younger and somehow, they’ve made it work.

So, I wonder: what’s wrong with me?

The weather took a turn toward fall, finally, and I was so excited to get my jeans and sweatshirts and long-sleeved shirts out of hiding.

But months of inactivity (mine) have led to several wardrobe disappointments. I totally wanted to make this shirt look cool.

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I certainly felt cool in it. But let’s just say it’s more flattering for a different body type.

Here’s another place where desire and reality can’t seem to meet.

I want to work out, or at least do something more active than laundry and dishes, but I can’t figure out how to find time in the schedule.

I’m just a mess of excuses right now.

We probably spent 10 minutes trying to take a picture of me in this shirt so I could send it to the author whose writing it represents, and I walked away from that “photo shoot” with the conclusion that I am just not photogenic.

This, to me, was the best picture we took.

me crazy face

Izzy was in charge of the poses at this point. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to look scary or silly.

Sigh.

“Mom, you really aren’t that good at parking. Dad is better.”

The 3-year-old in the backseat made his position clear after I pulled into a tight spot at Costco. My husband was in the car, too, and on that particular day, the statement didn’t cause a war.

Because, let’s face it, I’m pretty horrible at parking. I think I was better when I drove a sedan. The van, however, is like a boat to me, and I’m convinced I’m going to ding someone in the parking lot if I don’t leave a ton of space.

I laughed and told him he was right.

This is progress.

Part of my One Word journey this year has been accepting what I’m not good at. Parking, driving. Those are a few of my weaknesses.

I’m okay now with telling you what I’m not good at because I can’t be good at (or pretend to be good at) everything.

(I used to think I was good at remembering birthdays and sending cards. Here’s a confession: I’ve had the same card sitting on my desk for my father-in-law’s birthday two years in a row. Also, I’m pretty sure I still have a birthday card for our daughter that is unsigned. Her birthday’s in March.)

I’m not good at everything. Nor do I have to be.

Some days, I can say that with confidence.

So, where’s the hope in all this?

Because if you’ve read this far, I’ve got to give you credit. I feel like what I’ve written is kind of depressing.

The truth is I’m not on my A-game every day. Some days, I’m not even sure I’m in the game, whatever the game may be. And that’s okay. I read this post by a classmate from my hometown and breathed a sigh of relief. Permission to be uninspired, granted.

Are there things that need to change in my life? Yep. Do they have to change today? Nope. Does feeling this way today mean I’ll feel this way forever? Absolutely not.

Some days I just need to give myself permission to be human. And weak. And needy. To not have it all together. To not be where I want to be.

There’s a part of me that wants to fix whatever is broken in my life today. Immediately. And all at once.

That, in itself, is overwhelming.

So, today, I say: this is who I am. These are my struggles.

Tomorrow, who knows? I might be different. I might not. Or maybe I’ll be different in subtle ways I can’t see until further down the road.

All I know is that today, I need the grace to not have to be anything more than I am right now.

The fruit of ‘release’

Eight months ago, I planted a word in my heart, hoping it would grow into something I could see throughout the year. OneWord2013_Release

In the beginning, it sprouted visible shoots. I started seeing evidence of something happening, something I couldn’t explain or coerce or make happen. I’m no gardener, but I’ve known the thrill of planting a seed in the soil, watering it, and faithfully waiting for growth. This One Word 365 process has been a lot like that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I chose “release” as my word, but I knew it would be a year of letting go. In big ways and small ways. And as the months have passed, not only has my awareness of “release” grown, but I’ve changed.

And now it’s August. And I haven’t reflected on “release” in months, but I’m finding that the tender shoots I saw months ago have grown into full-blown fruit-bearing plants.

Release is alive, and my life is bearing fruit. <Click to tweet>

I’ve seen it on Twitter.

Forcing the question: What am I holding on to that God wants me to release?

In the past two months, we packed up the house we’d been living in for almost five years and moved to a city about 30 miles away. To a new place, a new community, a fresh start. We’ve taken load after load of stuff we no longer use or want to thrift stores. We junked more than I’d care to admit. In our last house, we experienced a flood that forced us to let go of things we cherished. Even now, I’m learning that memories are the best treasure.

Most surprising, I think, has been the recent revelation. That “release” doesn’t only apply to me. That sometimes I have to release others to their actions and behaviors, to God’s grace and mercy, because it’s too draining for me to carry their burdens for them. “Let go and let God” was one of the first pieces of Godly advice I ever received, and it fits in some circumstances.

release-free-jewelquote

I can’t change other people, so I’ll lend my strength where it can do some good. First and foremost, in me.

“Release” was everywhere over the past few months. I found its influence in numerous books.

In James Rubart’s Book of Days.

Letting go wasn’t letting go of her. It was releasing himself to live whatever life he had left, with whatever memories he could hold on to.

And in Julie Cantrell’s Into the Free.

It’s hard, letting go of the need to control things. My instinct is to want to feel safe, to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes open for signs of danger.

In Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine.

But if the last few years have taught me anything at all, it’s that the very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them.

I’m still chewing on those words.

As I am these ones from Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel.

The grace to let go and let God be God flows from trust in His boundless love.

And pages from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Here are just a few of her words that touched me.

Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust. I can let go.

I humbly open my hand to release my will to receive His.

And in this passage from Winter in Full Bloom by Anita Higman:

You know a long time ago when I was younger and more daring I went zip-lining across a canyon. I don’t remember a whole lot about the experience except something the guide said to me before I stepped off my safe little perch to fly across the canyon. He said, ‘Trust the harness.’ And that helped me to let go. I wasn’t nearly as afraid when I went across that chasm. You need to trust me, Lily, but more importantly, you need to trust the One who made you. The One who has you safely in His arms … sort of like trusting that harness. It really makes the letting go a lot easier.

Well said.

The year isn’t over, yet I can already taste the sweetness of this fruit.