Word of the Year

If I’ve established anything in my two years of blogging, I hope it’s that I don’t exactly go about things the typical way. I’m the girl who trashed my list of what I want in a future husband. I’m the girl who doesn’t believe in five-year plans. And when it comes to New Years resolutions, I laugh in the face of 2013. Because there is only one thing I know about this coming year: It won’t be anything like I would expect it to be.

I know people—several people—who assign words to their years. One year they will focus on joy and the next, courage. It’s a great idea in theory, and it seems to be working out for them. As for me… Like I said, I’m not typical.

I took a look through the journals that document this year of my life and was surprised by what I found. Because I had expectations for 2012, and I didn’t find them in the pages of this year. In the midst of  unrealized dreams being realized and falling in love with a new job and discovering Hannah Brencher *squeal*, I also found that birthing dreams is hard and messy and not at all like I once imagined it would be.

“Every day is different,” I find in January. “As fickle as the emotions of the four-year-olds I work with. One moment they’re spitting at you; the next moment they’ve wrapped their arms around your hips and nuzzled their face into your side.”

There was a dream coming into being, but there was also opposition and confusion and heartache and goodbyes.

“God, it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” February claims. “I don’t know how it was supposed to be, but certainly not like this.”

Because if I could have chosen a word for this year, it would have been something about stepping out. Something about dreams coming true and hopes being realized. It would have been the year my purpose unfolded and my ministry skyrocketed. And it did. In so many ways, all of those things were true. But God was doing something deeper beneath the surface. Something I didn’t realize I needed until it threaded its way through the pages of my story and, eventually, onto the face of the internet.

Vulnerability.
Approachability.
Trust.

Those were the words God would give me this year. Words I didn’t even realize were missing from my vocabulary until He whispered them into my heart. Those words lingered beneath the surface of my reality, begging to be fully realized.

I had finally allowed entrance to those two crazy guys who only ever wanted to befriend me, but it took a little longer for me to understand that there was more to letting them in than finally agreeing to go to their stupid Christmas party two years ago. That’s where it all began—the vulnerability, the learning to be approachable, the willingness to open myself up and trust that they’re not going to hurt me.

“Here’s to becoming approachable,” I wrote in June.

“Here’s to being vulnerable,” followed in September.

And November hit me with the weight of it all: “I’m going to put myself back in the arena. Open myself to more wounds, more scars. And more grace.”Here's to becoming approachable.

It’s not what I would have thought—what I would have chosen—for this year, but it is what I needed. And I have no idea what my story will be in 2013. I have no words to define this year I’ve yet to know. But I’m certain that it’s going to be something far beyond what I would ever dream for myself. Because God… He’s awesome like that.

Here’s to another year of walking hand in hand with the God who knows me better than I know myself.

Something About Dating…

So, I wrote my third guest post for Devotional Diva. One thing I really love about guest posting for Renee is that it is always challenging. I’ve had to step outside the box and/or delve into some issues that I don’t spend much time talking about. First she had me write about becoming approachable… which I’m not—I’m totally not. Then she had me addressing some issues with my skinny little body… which I tend not to talk about because most people don’t understand that “skinny” isn’t a good thing. Today, I’m talking about dating… which is laughable.

But, you see, someone asked me how I felt about not being allowed to date until I was sixteen and, for the first time in my life, I actually thought about it. And the answer I came up with was really quite beautiful. It made me want to hug my dad (and I probably would have if he weren’t 450 miles away).

So here’s my thoughts about dads being involved in their daughter’s dating life: Get all up in the middle of it, please. Even if she tells you she doesn’t want you there. Because she’s lying. And here’s why I believe that.

The Five Year Plan

A friend and I were recently talking about the problem with the question, “What’s your five year plan?”

See, it sounds like a decent question to ask someone in an interview, but here’s where the question falls short:

What was your plan five years ago?

If you tell me that you’re actually living it, I’ll be surprised and more than a little impressed. Because I, too, thought I had a grasp on what I’d be doing with my life today. But if you had told me five years ago that I would have stopped working at Advancing Native Missions for any reason other than marriage, I would have laughed in your face.

Five year plans aren’t bad in and of themselves. It’s good to have goals. It’s good to have an idea of where you’re going in life.

But when you’re so caught up in those plans you made five years ago that you can’t see how God is reshaping your dream, your plan becomes a problem. Your goal becomes your god.

And that’s where I was a little over a year ago—living the only dream I had ever dreamed. It was all I ever wanted from the time I was eight years old and read a story about Amy Carmichael and her beautiful brown eyes that saved the lives of countless children. I know, I was a rather ambitious eight year old. But those ambitions remained for the next ten years until I could finally touch them. I was there. Doing everything I ever dreamed I would be doing.

And then one day I realized I wasn’t dreaming anymore. Maybe in my heart of hearts I still wanted to be an Amy Carmichael, but somewhere along the line, my idea of ministry had changed.

When you dream one dream for twelve years, it can be absolutely terrifying to let it go.

I wrestled for months with the knowing in my heart. The knowing that it was time to let go and move on. But I was afraid. I was ever so afraid of dreaming a new dream. I was absolutely terrified of giving up the familiar.

This was uncharted territory I was exploring. This was never in the plan. Well, it was in The Plan, just not my plan.

And in the past year I’ve learned that it’s okay to throw my plans out the window. It’s okay to admit that I may have been wrong about the timing. And that maybe my dream wasn’t supposed to last five years after all.

Because I’m not the girl I was five years ago. Nor am I the girl I once imagined I would be.

But I’m finally coming to terms with that. I’m finally deciding that maybe this is where I was meant to be all along. And maybe life has grander adventures in store than the ones I conjured up with my limited imagination.

Today if you ask me my five year plan, I’ll tell you to ask The Man Upstairs. Because I’m done making plans for Him to interrupt. I think maybe it’s best if I just let Him lead me step by step.

Define “Beauty”

Human beings have a really bad habit of comparing ourselves to others. We also have a horrible habit of declaring some people more beautiful than others. As if we have a right to declare one of God’s masterpieces more perfect than the next. And maybe it has everything to do with the fact that I have an extremely vulnerable post going up on the Devotional Diva website tomorrow, but I want to take a moment and talk about beauty.

If you’re like most women, you probably don’t believe that you’re beautiful. You don’t believe you’re valuable. And I’m willing to bet that you have features you hate.

Because someone once told you what beautiful was, and you never quite fit the mold.

Two months ago, I stumbled across a post on Good Women Project that recommended I write my body a love letter. It was more of an apology. For all the years I took it for granted. For all the times I convinced myself not to care about my appearance. For all the years I resented my body because I knew what the genetics said I could have been. But after twenty-one years, I finally penned the words:

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Because we all have our idea of what beautiful is, and you were never mine.”

And I told myself I’m beautiful. I praised the features I love rather than critiqued the ones I hate. It was a healing experience. A powerful experience. An experience I would recommend  to every woman on the planet.

Write your body a love letter. Because you’re beautiful like that.

Because for years and years, you’ve fed yourself lies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and you deserve a little truth in your diet.

You deserve the kind of truth that Hannah Brencher weaves into her blog post about bullying our bodies.
You deserve the kind of love letter that compares you to a breathtaking sunset.
You deserve to know that God made you beautiful.
And you deserve to hear it from yourself.

So write your body a love letter. Be honest. Be kind. And be sure to tell yourself you’re beautiful.

Because you are.

#10 – Wear it on Your Heart

You’ve written my name on the palm of Your hand, but until You revealed it to me, I had no idea it so closely resembled a nail-shaped scar.

I have a slight obsession with names. Seriously. While I love the names Silas and Gideon, I refuse to use both of them because the first means “forest dweller” and the second, “tree cutter.” That’s just asking for World War III to break out in your home.

Names are important. Your name is what defines you. That’s why I’m glad my mom was kind enough to name me “devoted and cherished.” And maybe that’s also why I was so touched when I read this article about Indian girls changing their names.

Here are a group of young women who have known from birth that they were “unwanted.” But on this one glorious day, they decided to make that change. They decided to transform the way they saw themselves and force others to see them in this new light. I wish I could have been there to watch these 285 girls receive the certificates that would restore them with a sense of worth. I wish I could have been there to see their smiles, to cry their happy tears.

But here I am, half a world away, talking to you. And I’m sure you have labels – names – that define you. And I’m sure there are words bouncing around in your mind. Words like: worthless, stupid, failure, unlovable… and God only knows what else. But you know what? You don’t have to go by those names anymore. You don’t have to see yourself as alone and unwanted. You don’t have to believe that your life has no value.

You are:

a child of God. (John 1:12)

chosen by God. (Ephesians 1:4)

valuable. (Matthew 10:31)

beautiful. (Psalm 45:11)

delivered. (Psalm 34:4)

endlessly loved. (Isaiah 54:10)

God knows your name, and He loved it enough to inscribe it on the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 49:16) He wears your name like a tattoo. I’m not really into tattoos, but I love the thought that I’m a permanent part of the Almighty God.

When the world screams that you’re unloved, unwanted, and undesired, God throws a renaming party and totally redefines you. Wear your new name on your heart as God wears it on His hand, and know that you are so much more than the words that define you.

#9 – Mere Existence

How’s this for a New Year’s Resolution?

There’s a big difference, you know, between living and existing. I think that if you were to ask anyone, they would tell you that they want to live. But how easily we fall into that horrible thing called “existence.” How often we simply trudge through the mundane. And how sad it is that we need a reminder to live and not merely exist.

Today I present you with the wake-up call I need on a daily basis. Here’s your reminder to step outside your mere existence and truly start living.

#8 – Letting Hope Out of the Box

I’ve found that the reoccurring theme in my life recently has been about taking risks, trusting the unseen and embracing the unfamiliar. In pondering all these things, I’m brought back to the lesson of Pandora’s Box.

Now, for those of you who haven’t brushed up on your Greek mythology in the past few years, Pandora is the woman who is accredited for releasing evil into the world. See, Pandora was the guardian of a box. A box that was never to be opened. Of course, in this mythological twist on the story of Adam and Eve, Pandora’s curiosity got the best of her and the box didn’t stay closed. The moment it was opened, a myriad of evil creatures rushed out into the world. Pandora struggled to shut the lid and revoke her bad decision, but it was too late. Pandora had been burned. And what’s a girl to do when she’s just released a whole horde of evil into the world?

Then came a tiny voice, begging to be set free. But Pandora was afraid. She had caused so much harm already. What if this made it worse? But for some reason, Pandora decided to take the risk. She decided to trust this thing that she couldn’t see. Tenaciously, she opened the box… and hope floated out on butterfly wings.

Now, I don’t believe for a moment that this is truly how darkness entered the world, but pretend for a moment that it was. What would have happened if Pandora had allowed her original mistake to keep her from trusting the small voice? What if she had been too afraid to risk again? To trust again? What if Pandora had left hope in the box? What kind of world would we live in today?

It’s so easy to become embittered by life. When bad things happen, we harden our hearts. When people hurt us, we close ourselves off. We’re afraid to risk again. To trust again. And so we leave hope in the box.

Today I encourage you to learn from Pandora. Set aside your disappointments, disenchantments and past mistakes. Take the risk, trust the unseen and let hope out of the box.