the power of an encouraging word

I was sort of a part of a rather long conversation centered around Psalm 12 tonight. (And as a side note, I will say that I am slightly amused that the notes under the heading mention that the psalm was given to the director of music - the idea of singing about the themes in Psalm 12 is... well, I'm just not sure what sort of music you would quite put it to in a modern context. It would make for an interesting morning in church tho.) :)

The conversation wandered largely along the lines of how our words affect people, the differences between "flattery" (as it comes from a deceitful heart (not to be confused with genuine compliments)) and "encouragement" (which can include genuine compliments, and comes from a heart of love). Someone asked if we could think of a time when someone said something, even in passing, that caused us a lot of hurt. Mmm-hmm. But then, I can also think of times when people have said things that have encouraged me so much that I've either memorized the words, or saved them somewhere I know I can easily find them again.

"There are more colours on the palette of your soul than you have even begun to paint with."

"You have deep gifts and a deeper heart, and God will not allow you to go unused in His kingdom."

"I am so proud of you."

"You're one of the good ones."

"Recording with Happy is like coming out of the shower on a really cold day, wrapped in a really soft bathrobe, and walking into the kitchen to find that your mom just made you chicken noodle soup for lunch."

"It's not about marketability; if it was, Happy would have been married 10 years ago."

"Girl, you've got chutspa!"

"You are one of the most loyal people I know."

"God does have a plan for your life, Happy, and it is greater than your dreams."

I have had the very good fortune of having very good friends. And I have been so blessed by their speech. I wonder if they even know that? I hope so.

Just this week I got a letter from one of my favorite people - who actually is responsible for four of those quotes, plus countless others. Most of it was just newsy - but what made me smile was the way that after 4 years of distance in a 9 year friendship, he's still cheering me on, and believing in God's plan for my life.

Do I do that? Do I speak life into people? Do I tell them what they do well? Do I cheer with them when they see a victory, no matter how trivial it may seem? I hope so. I try to. But I'm sure I can do better. Something to think about anyway.

What "good words" have encouraged you? Tag, you're it. I want to hear about it. :)

just when you think you've seen everything

you generally find out you really haven't. my friend Jenn says this is one of those things that falls under the heading of "alrighty then..." i think it's hilarious. allow me to introduce you to my new favorite international sport: Extreme Underwater Ironing.

(no, there's no sound.)

i actually saw somethng on the news the other day about this - there's a group of 86 divers in the UK that just beat out the Australian world record for most people involved in a dive.

and it turns out extreme ironing isn't only a water sport...

i wonder if this will ever catch on in the U.S.? :)

international women's day syncroblog/syncrosermon

Julie over at one hand clapping has suggested a syncroblog for International Women's Day, which is March 8th. As Julie writes, "Too often in the church not only are the voices of women not heard, but the stories of biblical women remain untold. But the Bible is full of inspiring examples of women faithfully following God and making a tremendous difference for the Kingdom" - so why not celebrate the day by retelling some of those stories and the impact(s) they have had on our lives?

If you'd like to participate, please follow the link to Julie's blog and leave a comment on her post, so she can include your blog on the list of participants. Here are the "official" guidelines, as Julie has posted them:

"Synchroblog - on March 8 post something on your blog about biblical women. This could be your experience (or lack thereof) with learning about these women, a reflection on the life of a particular woman, an exploration of the ways women led in scripture, or a midrashic retelling of the life of one of these women. Have fun with it, push yourself to discover new things, and let’s tell these stories together.

Synchrosermon - these stories of women are rarely told from the pulpit, so I encourage those of you preaching or teaching on March 8 to include the stories of biblical women in whatever you do. The church often wont hear about these women or learn from their example, unless pastors and teachers make a deliberate effort to dwell on the mothers of our faith as much as they usually dwell on the fathers."

I'm really looking forward to partcipating in this, and to an excellent day of good reading. :)

healing, community, and the poverty of availability

I've had an incredibly sweet week in my devotional life. I've been using a website called Sacred Space, a prayer site run by the Irish Jesuits. Every day, it takes you through a 10-15 minute prayer journey that includes a passage on which to read and reflect, and then there's another page called Living Space that includes other suggested readings and commentary on those passages. In spite of occasional theological differences (as I am not Catholic), I have been richly blessed by this site - God has spoken to me so clearly and compassionately through it this week.

A phrase from one of the commentaries earlier this week really captured my attention: the 'poverty of availability'. The commentary is on Mark 1:29-39, which tells the story of the time Jesus went with his disciples to stay at Peter's house, and found Peter's mother-in-law very ill with a fever. Jesus healed her immediately, and she was able to serve them and offer them the hospitality they needed. That evening, the whole city showed up at their door, and Jesus spent hours ministering to the sick and the demon-possessed. Then, in the middle of the night, Jesus got up and went off on His own to pray for awhile. Early the next morning, his disciples came looking for Him, to tell Him that everyone was looking for Him - but He told them it was time to move on to the other villages, so He could preach there too. "It is why I have come," He said.

Jesus had been preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath when an evil spirit identified Him as the Holy One of God. He silenced the demon and cast it out. Mark 1: 21-28 tells us that everyone was amazed because He taught with authority and was able to give orders to evil spirits. They had never seen - or heard - anything like it. The news spread like wildfire, and as soon as the Sabbath was over, the whole town showed up to see Him.

How incredibly blessed Jesus must have been to have a place to go before that. Peter's house must have been a welcome haven - a quiet place to rest for a bit, on that day of rest. The commentary I read suggested that He healed Peter's mother-in-law, not just for her own sake, tho certainly that was part of it - but because healing enabled her to become an active part of their community. She was able to serve them - as Jesus, in turn, served the people who showed up at the door. Her ministry mattered. It may have seemed a collection of small, everyday, ordinary tasks - but her ability to engage in them mattered to Jesus, and to her family, and to their friends.

Jesus engaged with so many people that day. The man in the synagogue and Peter's mother-in-law were just the beginning. Person after un-well person came to the door to see Him that day - hurting, tired, frightened, in need. And He met with each of them, meeting their eyes, touching their shoulders, holding their hands, casting out the demons who had so long oppressed them. How many people walked away from those encounters with new life, a new spring in their step, hope for the first time in ages? And how did their changed lives affect the lives of those around them?

But it cost Him something. Time. Energy. He needed His own renewal -and so He pursued it, quietly, on His own, with His Father. And while there were still many people who would put demands on His time, who wanted to be with Him, to wanted to talk to Him - He would not be distracted from His mission: to preach the good news of the gospel. And so He went on to other villages.

There is so much to learn from all of this.

Being available to people carries with it its own sort of poverty. It can drain you, being there for people, doing your job, getting everything done that you need to do. There are times when we run so hard and so fast that it lands us flat on our backs in bed with a fever - sometimes literally, tho maybe more often figuratively - when we are rendered incapable of doing one more thing for anybody. Finding balance is essential - not just for our own well-being, but for everyone else's as well. Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well - all the things we know we "should" do but aren't always very disciplined at pursuing - do actually matter. When we don't do them over a sustained period of time we get sick - we need healing - we become unable to serve as we could, we aren't able to "show up" - and our community - whether it's family, work, or church - suffers loss because of our lack of health. Taking time to shush, and to wait - to sit at God's feet, listening to Him speak, and resting in His Presence - is essential if we're to be spiritually healthy; if we don't do it, we end up running on our own strength instead of ministering out of His - and we "burn out" - mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually - and find ourselves again in need of healing, and our community feeling the effects.

The interconnectedness fascinates me: the idea that God heals us (whether physically, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally (correcting our wrong ways of thinking) - and there's even an interconnectedness of those four things within us!) not just for our sakes, tho He does love us that much, but so that we can be an active part of what He is doing in the world, and that time spent with Him in solitude matters so that we can minister more effectively... it's all wrapped up together - healing and rest, availability, service. And as usual, everything He's doing in me isn't about me at all, but about His kingdom... and yet it blesses me too. I love these quiet moments in my week, when I can simply get away and be with Him, resting, reading, reflecting, breathing... healing. They matter - to me, and to Jesus. But they also matter to His kingdom, tho I may never actually see how for quite awhile.

a long day's journey into quietness

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense." - Emerson

Today began serenely. It really did. And then somehow between 15 minutes of peace and quiet with God over coffee at 7:00am and now - it stopped being serene. I stopped being serene. No one really knew it, of course. I hid it fairly well. But as soon as I got away for a bit, there was metaphorical chili all over everywhere...


Well...initially I couldn't have told you, but as I've thought about it, I've realized that:
apparently I haven't come to terms with my inner Donna Reed after all
nor have I grown up as much as I thought I had
I've discovered I'm a hypocritical, snobby isolationist, as opposed to the loving person I'd like to be
I've forgotten to breathe in the unforced rhythms of grace
I've been walking around with a plank in my eye
I've worn entirely too many hats at the same time again
and I forgot that all I'm supposed to do is duck
...among other things.


But at the end of the day what it all really comes down to is: I've been self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed... self, self, self. I've been thinking about myself far too much, and not nearly enough about God's goodness, greatness, majesty, power, mercy, compassion, justice, righteousness, presence. I lost sight of love, hope, joy, peace... I forgot to let Him grow patience in me, gentleness, kindness, ...ha. self-control. It's a fruit of the Spirit - something He does in you - and not something you do by yourself....

Oh, Jesus. I'm so sorry I lost sight of You today, and of the things in life that are truly important. Thank you for this opportunity to lay them at Your feet - to return at the end of this long day's journey to quietness, serenity, peace... hope. Thank You for tomorrow, and all that You will do in it. And for bringing me face-to-face with my pride, and rebellion, and the striving from which I need to cease now, that I may know that Thou art God. I repent for my childish, self-centered attitudes and behaviours, and turn to Your ways. Teach me how to walk in them, Lord. In Your Name and for the sake of Your glory, I pray. Amen.

gimel: enduring love

"Do good to Your servant, and I will live;
I will obey Your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in Your law.
I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide Your commands from me.
My soul is consumed with longing
for Your laws at all times.
You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed
and who stray from Your commands.
Remove from me scorn and contempt,
for I keep Your statutes.
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
Your servant will meditate on Your decrees.
Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors."
-Psalm 119:17-24

Context, context, context.

So much of this portion of the psalm seemed at first to be so disconnected... but I've been thinking about it off and on all day, and I'm not sure after all that it is...

The first verse tripped me up a bit. It seems like David is attempting to strike a bargain with God - "if You're nice to me, I'll do what You say." Eek. That doesn't seem like a good attitude with which to walk into God's presence... He's God. He can do anything He wants, and because He's God, He's the King, and we're His servants, and we should do whatever He says... but then I got to thinking about God's character. "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever." (Psalm 107:1, Psalm 118:1, Psalm 136:1) God is good - His goodness is part of what makes Him God... So maybe what David is saying is actually more of an observation of fact. "Do good to me - not so You get the response from me that You want, but because it is who You are... I know You'll do good to me - and as a result of Your goodness towards me, I will live." So what about when times are hard? Well, what we see isn't always actually what's true - you can't see air, but it's still there... so maybe on those days when we have trouble seeing the goodness of God at work in our lives, we either need to put on new glasses (redefine our misunderstandings of what God's goodness really is) or simply trust that just because we can't see it today doesn't mean it isn't true anyway...

"Open my eyes so I may see wonderful things in Your law." "I need You to do that."

"You rebuke the arrogant, who are cursed and who stray from Your commands. Remove from me scorn and contempt..." "I see those tendencies in myself, God... I could so easily become arrogant - but I don't want to be. Help me... " How does God help? By showing us the good way so we can walk in it (Jeremiah 6:16) ... His laws, His statutes, His decrees, His promises.... guideposts, streetsigns, maps, directions...

"Though rulers sit together and slander me, Your servant will meditate on Your decrees." "I don't care who mocks me for this; I'm going to live my life Your way..."

Oh for that kind of passion for God's Word, and for that kind of dedication to following Him...

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God..." - Psalm 42:1
"My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times..."

I want this to be true of me.

institutional whatnot

Manuela asked me the other day if I was in or out of the institutional church, and referenced the fact that my oh-so-informative profile lists my "industry" as "religion." I have to say that really, I think that's kind of funny, tho there's a sense in which it's true, but I guess it all does bear a little more explanation, especially for a few of my newer readers, and actually for almost all of you, as I have some rather exciting news, which I can finally share. ;)

The past year has been quite a journey. I am rather amazed at some of the unexpected twists and turns my road has taken; I would not have seen any of this coming. So Sara - remember how about a year ago you said my life would look totally different by Christmas? I stand by what I said - you are too prophetic... lol. :)

I left what I suppose you would call the "institutional church" last May. I didn't mean to. It was sort of an accident. I wrestled with it some over the summer (I wrote about it here), but for the past few months I have been pretty much at peace with it. A year ago I started leading worship every other week for my church - but between that and grad school and working full time and being the worship director for Torch - I was too busy. All of the things I was doing for God were taking so much time that I didn't have enough time to spend at His feet, and I, to put it quite simply, burned out. So I quit. I quit pretty much everything I was doing except my job and what I do for Torch. I started biking. I took a week-long road trip with Jesus. And what started as just taking a break from the Sunday morning routine ended up being a more permanent thing. I just never went back.

But what I said in that post about Torch was very true - it has been enough. Torch was the college and young adult group at my church, and I've been its worship director for almost two years. We have a Monday night service, and on Tuesday nights I go to what we call mini-church - a small group, essentially, just a few people who get together and talk about life and study the Bible together. Every other Thursday I go to a more formal study group called Fierce, and we meet with our pastor and study things like prophetic ministry and teaching. Once a month a larger group called Joshua's Army, which is many of the core leaders of our ministry, meets for dinner and talks about a book - we've read books about everything from leadership to finances to pursuing a deeper walk with God. Add in all the phone conversations and dinners and hang-out nights and outreach projects and prayer meetings, etc. - and it's been church. Church, in many, many ways, as it should be. We pray, worship, work, play, live, study, laugh and cry together. Are we perfect? Far from it. But this amazing group of people with whom I've been doing ministry are my church family.

And now they're officially so. As of January 1st, Torch is no longer a ministry under the umbrella of a larger church, but is, in fact, a church plant! For awhile, nothing will look all that different - we will still meet on Mondays rather than on the weekends, and we will still do everything else that we've been doing. But this summer we'll start weekend services, and who knows what God will do with us? :)

It's going to be one exciting journey.

So, yes. I've been "out" of the IC for awhile, and now I guess I'm back "in" again - and yet... I haven't been out of it, either, because really, at the end of the day, the church has never been a building, or a place to go. The church, as the song says, is really just people... You know the old fingerplay: This is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors, but where are the people? Well, God willing, they're out there. Living life, being a community that radically loves each other and reaches out to be the hands and feet of Christ to their friends and neighbors. I know that where Torch wants to be. And while I am dreaming of the day that we have our own space - a place to gather and to worship - a place to store all my chord charts other than my closet (lol) - and a place from which to send people out (all over the world!) - in the meantime, it's actually kind of cool to not have a building. Tho not having an address makes filling out some of the paperwork a bit interesting... ;)

beth: the richness of God's Word

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to Your word.
I seek You with all my heart;
do not let me stray from Your commands.
I have hidden Your word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.
Praise be to You, O Lord;
teach me Your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from Your mouth.
I rejoice in following Your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on Your precepts
and consider Your ways.
I delight in Your decrees;
I will not neglect Your word.
- Psalm 119:9-16

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago that I can't stop thinking about. Some friends and I were walking down this country lane, just talking and enjoying the day together, and suddenly I noticed an object laying in the road as we walked past. "Hold up a sec, you guys," I called, as I turned around to go back and pick it up. To my surprise, it was my old study Bible, tho the cover was missing now, and it looked rather beat up. As I stood again and turned around, suddenly scattered all over the road there were Bibles, covered in the dust of the road, and my friends were going around, picking them up, and together we collected as many as we could, with the intent of returning them to their owners as quickly as we could, so they could be used again.

As I've prayed about it, it seems to me that one of the things God was speaking to me through that dream is part of the answer to my prayer for understanding of my purpose and my calling. It's about restoring God's Word to people - returning it to its rightful place in our lives, in a sense. My Bible in that dream had been neglected, abused, forgotten, left to collect dust, and trampled a bit on a road - which in both dreams and metaphor generally seems to represent
the idea of "journey," or life. In the dream, as soon as my Bible had been restored to me, I was able to see the other Bibles on the road. And in real life I know every one of those people I was with in the dream to be men and women who esteem God's Word highly, and it was sweet to know that this call, this task I've been given, was a shared task.

I love the imagery in these verses - the simplicity of the questions, and the answer. How do I live a good life? How do I keep my way pure? How do I not sin? By doing it God's way, and not mine.

"I rejoice in following Your statutes as one rejoices in great riches."

What if we really believed that? What if we really felt that way? What if, instead of just saying that God's Word is a treasure, we lived out that truth? What if we truly were that glad to have God's Word with us - to read it, to memorize it, to talk about it everywhere we go and all the time (Deuteronomy 6:4-9), to think about it, and to do what it says (James 1:22-25)?

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all that he had and bought that field." - Matthew 13:44

I want to treasure God's Word that much. "I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your word."

Teach me to delight in Your word. Amen.

aleph: the beauty of grace

"Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they who keep His statutes
and seek Him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
they walk in His ways.
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying Your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all Your commands.
I will praise You with an upright heart
as I learn Your righteous laws.
I will obey Your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me."
- Psalm 119:1-8

If you want to be blessed, be blameless.

That can feel like such a tall order sometimes, can't it? Particularly for those of us (yes, my hand is quite sheepishly still in the air on this one) who are perfectionists, who "must" get it right...

Oh, but grace! :) And these verses from Ephesians: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing that is in Christ. For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, according to the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." - Ephesians 1:3-8

I love the language in that last verse - the word picture of grace being lavished on us. It feels so luxurious - like you can just go roll around in it, and it's this strange (in a foreign-to-you way, not in a weird way), exotic thing, and someone just brought it all away across the world just for you, and there's so much of it you don't know what to do with it.... and there's a very real sense in which that's actually true! Grace is abundant. God has treasure houses jam packed with it, that He simply pours out on His children, whom He knew ("with all wisdom and understanding") would need it. And because of that grace - once we have rolled around in it and come up simply dripping in it - we are holy and blameless. Something happens when you put on grace - it's like dressing up in a costume and becoming a fairy princess or a knight of the Round Table - except when you've dressed in grace you actually do become a new person. The person you were created to be. And words that describe you now are "holy," "blameless," "blessed."

In spite of the fact that you just totally screwed it all up five minutes ago, this is actually true of you. And oh, yes, there's still the question of repentance and sanctification - you need all that too - but if you are a follower of Jesus, you are as much in the reality of being holy and blameless in God's sight as you are in the reality of growing towards it. It's mind-boggling, isn't it? :) But such is the mystery of grace. Oh! If we only understood this sometimes - how much more grace would we be able to give ourselves?

"Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying Your decrees..."

I find myself praying that as I read it.

" not utterly forsake me."

That jumped out at me when I read it. We are not dependent on "works righteousness" - following a legal code in order to earn God's favor - our righteousness comes by grace, and grace alone. "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 1: 8-9) So the connection between, "I'll obey your decrees" and "do not forsake me" struck me as something that didn't quite follow at first... and what David meant as he prayed it I don't really know, but I know that when I chose to walk in God's ways and do what He says (even in the moments when a lot of the currently-less-sanctified part of my nature would like to do quite otherwise), I do it because I love Him. And when I find myself praying anything along the lines of "do not forsake me," it is simply because I know that on so many levels I would deserve that, were it not for the grace of the Lord Jesus.

But I want Him to stay, because I love Him. I want "to do better" - not because it would earn His relationship, but because it would please Him. Because I love Him, and I want Him to be happy - and because I recognize the truth that when I walk in His ways - when I live my life His way and not my own, often-foolish way - I truly am blessed. And when I pray, "do not forsake me" - as a child of God, I can know that His answer to that is always, "I will not." In so many ways, that prayer is simply an invitation for Him to remind me of His promise: "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5)

I love the way the Message begins this psalm:

"You're blessed when you stay on course,
walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You're blessed when you follow His directions,
doing Your best to find Him." - Psalm 119:1-2

Whatever life holds for you today, I pray that you'll be blessed, my friends.

another year, another crossroads

This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' - Jeremiah 6:16

Last year I wrote a post on New Year's Day - not about the resolutions I would make and not keep, but about what I truly longed for God to do in my life over the course of the coming year. I have seen Him do all of it - and while I will grant you that there is still room to grow (and probably always will be, this side of eternity), I have seen His faithfulness. So I can't help but want to revisit the idea. :)

Last years' hopes, as posted:

1) I would like to see God's hand at work in the development of my character. I want to become a more humble person, more caring, more compassionate, more honest, more trustworthy, a better friend, a kinder person - more like Jesus. I want to love God and my neighbor not because I "have to" or because it's right, but because it's an honest extension of who I am. I cannot become those things on my own. I need Him to refine me.

2) I want to recognize God's voice more clearly and more readily. To do this I need to spend more time in worship, more time in His Word, and more time in His Presence. I need Him to teach me how to hear His voice.

3) I want the Lord to teach me how to trust Him more deeply than I already do. I am aware that this means He will likely lead me into (or allow) circumstances that will require me to trust Him. Remind me I said this, but I'm okay with that, if it means that I truly learn to trust Him for everything I need, materially, emotionally, spiritually - everything.

This year:

1) I would love to see God continue all of that in me on an even deeper level.


a) I want to be even more transparent about the things that are really going on in my life than I currently am. I was closer to that a year ago than I am now; I wrote a few things last winter about being transparent, but I have allowed the hurt that resulted from risking in that area with some people that I trusted to prevent me from being as real as I could be with everyone. I do recognize the need for discretion. Nonetheless, I can be more honest and more forthcoming both in terms of what I choose to write about and in topics I choose to discuss than I have been, and I would like to become a less guarded person - not simply because being truthful is healthy but because it might actually help some people to benefit from my experiences, even the more awkward and less than perfect ones.

b) I want to be more practically missional. I think God has done a lot in my heart in terms of stirring compassion over the past year - but I need to get out of my little comfort zone and actually find people who need help. Or maybe open my eyes to actually see the situations that cross my path that I could do something about... even if it's "just" prayer. "Just..." As if. Prayer is where most of the work gets done, tho it's true that God often uses us to put hands and feet to the work...

c) I want to hear God's voice more often. He's gone out of His way (it seems to me, tho really, I bet He had it planned all along) to answer that particular prayer about hearing His voice more clearly. He's proven to me on so many levels and very consistently this year that I do actually hear His voice... but the hearing of it, and His faithfulness to do what He's said, has made me long for more consistent and more sustained conversation with Him. Something I have been praying for over the past couple of months and for which I am truly longing is for God to speak to me through visions and dreams. That said, I realize that my part is to listen... But I would also like to learn how to interpret what I hear rightly, as I think it's possible that some things He's said over this past year I've heard rightly, but interpreted incorrectly.

d) I want to learn to trust God for His timing. Those of you who know me best know that something I have genuinely longed for is to be married to a godly man whom I love and who loves me tremendously and with whom I can serve God in all the ways that I've been called to serve Him. It's become fairly apparent that at this point in my life, His opinion is that I'm just fine as I am - that I do, as Paul advises, serve God better, at this point in time, as a single woman. I want to be okay with that. I want to not dream of "something better" but live in the reality that because this is His path for me, it is already better. I want to stop believing the lie that there is something wrong with me because I have not managed to "land" a husband (as if it were really as simple as fishing for him) - and I want to embrace the truth that God's plans for me truly are the best ones, and remember that every "failed" relationship or crush is simply evidence that God has protected me from a path that wasn't meant to be...

2) I want to experience a deeper love for God's Word. I want a more consistent devotional life - not because you're "supposed" to have one - (I mean, really, what do Christian people in tribes who don't have God's word written out in their language yet do for a devotional life? does it mean they're not saved because they don't have "quiet times"? I don't think so...! This expression needs redefinition!)- but because it reflects the reality of a deeper walk with God. I want to walk and talk with Him throughout the day, not simply for 25 minutes before 6:15am. And I want to memorize His word, so that when I need it, it's there, in my heart and in my mind, even if the practical nature of my day has not allowed for that hour of worship I'd really love to build in...

3) I want to understand and more confidently walk into the specifics of the calling(s) that God has on my life. I think I'm beginning to put a few of the pieces together, but I'm still not sure that all the pieces are in the right place yet. I want to walk away from this year understanding a little more clearly exactly what my giftings are, what my passions are really (as opposed to the ones I've been told I should have - if there's a difference), and I want to see myself living into them more than I am right now.

and 4) I want to learn to live in a more perpetual state of Sabbath rest. Ironically, that's where this blog began... My very first post ever was about rest and my need for it and its relationship to the expectations (either self-imposed or felt) to which I felt I was not quite attaining properly... It's no secret to anyone who's been reading my blog this year that I struggle often with a sense of complete failure at "measuring up", with perfectionism, and with a "socially-acceptable" level of over-commitment at times. God has brought me a long way in all three of those areas over the past couple of years, and in the past 6 months in particular, I have seen Him at work in my heart, healing the places that need it and re-structuring the way I think and therefore the way I behave - but there's more to do. That road trip this summer was truly a pivotal series of moments. As I wrote then, "the entire trip (and this is only the briefest account of it!) felt like one great metaphor for life and this journey I - we - are on. It was about being at rest, learning to hear His voice, living out of that place of abiding in His presence even when things are busy and/or uncertain, trusting Him, following Him. It was about learning how to allow the Lord to sustain me, rather than trying to do it myself." It was like I came home with this internal meter by which to measure my state of rest - a deep, experiential understanding of what rest felt like, so that I'd know when I was there and when I wasn't. I am not yet there as often as I'd like to be.

So here's to a New Year. Last year was incredible. I am still floored that everything that happened in it really fit in one year. I am truly looking forward to seeing what He'll do this year. :)