JOURNEY:2018

Words are powerful. For the past few years, I have chosen a word for the year as a grounding post. This ritual has become a rite of passage, a mark of survival, a victory cry, a hallelujah for the days gone by and a prayer for what lies ahead. Today, I share with you where my soul is finding comfort and strength.

I do not choose my word lightly. It feels as if this moment of intention has become more profound each year. I find myself wanting perfection and harmony within the rhythms of my life. More so this year, the weight to choose THE word has been heavy. This word is an intention, it is a breath of Spirit over my days and it is a prayer for whatever may be coming into my life. That’s big stuff!

We left on January 1st for a trip with my family. I married into gold. Seriously, I have the most supportive and encouraging- and just all the things- second parents, thanks to Lucas. I call them Mom and Dad, and it is not a flippant use of these special names, but instead a tribute to the beautiful fullness that they add to my life. Of course, we also call my FIL Goat, and it fits him in the best ways possible.

They knew that the previous few months had worn some bare places in my heart, so as a gift to my girls, we decided to surprise them with a 6 person adventure. We all love to cruise, so we booked a last minute quick trip to Cozumel and back. We never put on a swim suit. We had on more sweaters than sunglasses. We never walked into the theatre on the boat. We didn’t even go out of the port in our backyard! We drove on January 1 to avoid the ice, spent the night in a hotel eating the happy hour free food for dinner and watched football. We played Scrabble and read and ate and slept and watched movies and slept and laughed and laughed some more. It was absolutely perfect.

Our cruise looked nothing like most. No one in our group had alcohol, we didn’t gamble, we didn’t go dancing or to late night games. The teens never went to the teen club, we were happy to sit and talk (and eat all the soft serve ice cream) with each other. Lucas happily worked out with Ally every morning and AJ and I gladly slept late. We found a lovely lounge with British royalty paintings and books and comfy chairs for hiding. We sat at meals together with no electronics and heard stories about family members and friends. Stories that I thought I knew, once again, found fresh ears as my children heard of the legacy of the past.

It was rich. It was right. It was good.

During this trip I began a new book that I have been excited to read. Alexander Shaia recently released the second edition of his 2013 book, Heart and Mind. As I read, I thought I knew my word for 2018. As I began to unpack the ideas in this gem, I realized that my very intentional walk into a new year is beautiful because I set out on this adventure with one plan in mind. Most years, the destination is completely different than I would have ever guessed.

Just take 2017. I thought it was about physical wholeness. It was time for me to make peace with my body. And in many ways, that happened. But in the end, wholeness encompassed the WHOLE of my being. All of the things that I thought were settled and good and well, suddenly fell apart. The things that were growing and full of life, they needed some pruning. And other areas, things that I had let go of, came back to me in full, wonderfully new ways. Wholeness looked so different than I dreamed, but it was exactly right.

So where will 2018 lead? That’s the million dollar question. There are some hard things coming. So words like hope and longing and grace would be well suited. There are also some things that I am already fighting, so I tried to cling to words like surrender and release. All of these would have been lovey focal points for my prayer and attention.

But when I started reading this book, the fullness of my word came into focus. JOURNEY.

There are going to be celebrations in 2018 and there are going to be struggles. There are going to be precious moments of family, and there will be hard decisions in leadership and parenting and calling. There will be moments of spiritual drought and there will be moments where the well of hope will be overflowing. There will be moments when I sit on my bathroom floor to write and I have words and other moments that my fingers are frozen in pain and fear and exhaustion. And to welcome the JOURNEY is my prayer for 2018. All of it. The ups, the downs, the hurts, the parties, the tears, the losses, the moments when God feels so close there is a buzz in the air and the moments in the night when darkness wants to take over. JOURNEY is about taking the adventurous leap into ALL that 2018 has for me. This is my prayer:

God of the Universe,

Grant me the wisdom to set aside my expectations and preset ideas of the year ahead. Instead, may I welcome the JOURNEY that you have for me. Allow me to be present in growth and maturity and service as I feel and embrace and dwell in the real work that you have for me this year. Don’t let my looking back or my longing to move forward prevent me from the present of today.

“Please Don’t Leave Me,” Jesus

I am a huge fan of P!nk. For more than 15 years, I have listened and memorized and given my heart and soul to behind the wheel performances of my favorites like “Just Like a Pill” and “Don’t Let Me Get Me” and “So What.” I resonate with her angst and general irritation at people and herself. There is one song that I have claimed as my personal anthem in times of chaos. 2017 would certainly fall into that category. So, here is my ode to 2017, in true P!nk form:

This used to be a funhouse
But now it’s full of evil clowns
It’s time to start the countdown
I’m gonna burn it down down down
I’m gonna burn it down
Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, fun
“Funhouse”

For those of you that are all in fans, you know that I have left out a word or two in this quotation. But please know, I am singing a goodbye tribute to 2017 with the passion of the unedited version. This has been a year. I made a vision board in January and chose the word WHOLENESS to set my attention for the year. Every morning I would come into my bathroom and see this image:

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My morning meditations called me to “Try” and be present in growth. I knew that I was going to need the rhythm of wholeness in January. I didn’t know why, but my spirit told me then that taking care of ALL of myself would be key. I also took this picture from a selection by Walter Brueggemann in January. Let this be a warning that when you breathe in prayers, sometimes God answers in ways that can make your life really, really uncomfortable.

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I would say that my “nicely arranged patterns of security” were certainly rearranged in 2017. Oh, they were. Here is just a brief recap, any one of which would have been excitement enough:

AJ’s hives cover her eyes, Ally’s hip injury, January 20th, oldest started driving, CA adventure includes emergency intervention for hives and airway constriction, one of my best friends and ministry partners moved away, HARVEY, my oldest faced a life threatening illness, I spent time in the ER with more people than I would care to count, my dad went into complete kidney failure, we got a puppy. Sure that last one would be seen by many as a positive, but it was ONE. MORE. THING.

Of course, there have been many wonderful things, but it is hard to see them, so let me make a quick list to remind myself. AJ began dreaming with excitement about college, Ally had the opportunity to swim at her first national meet (and meet Winter), we celebrated an amazing Lent and Easter complete with a 40′ table, we went to Passport Camp, I met a Merman, I went to California on retreat, the Astros, The Table, “Glitter (in the Air)” and Evergreen.

These things were lovely, but the overwhelming pulse of this year has been so heavy. As P!nk said so well, “It’s time to start the countdown” because I am ready for 2018. There are many parts of this year that have provided much pain for so many people that I love.
So many texts calling all of my praying people to their knees.
So many sleepless nights of worry and listening to rain and tornado sirens.
So many hard conversations that I never wanted to have. This is the pounding story of 2017.

And while I am ready for newness, I fully recognize that just because the calendar has a new last number, the reality of a broken, human life (especially when you love deeply and with your whole heart) means that pain will happen in 2018. “The Truth About Love” is hard. As my better half tells me all of the time, “loving people is hard.”

It is hard because when you see them hurt, you hurt.
It is hard because to love, you have to trust. And you will be disappointed. You will.
It is hard because I cannot change people, places or things.
It is hard because I hate cancer and injustice and depression and so many others life-suckers.
It is hard because I have to fight the hardness of heart that wants to win after years like 2017. In 2017, “I Have Seen the Rain.”

“So What,” I go back to Jesus and P!nk. Her newest album has just been released. I will see her live again in April. And let me just tell you, her concerts are a little piece of church for me. In those two hours, I feel all the feels. I say all the words. I “Raise a Glass” of Coke to the music of my soul and I see WHOLENESS in songs that were written about a person and yet I hear the great hope of my life, my Healer.

It was you
The pill I keep taking
The nightmare I’m waking
There’s nothing, no nothing, nothing but you
My perfect rock bottom
My beautiful trauma
My love, my love, my drug, oh
“Beautiful Trauma”

Perhaps only an addict such as myself sees the glory of these words. But what you must know is that when I deconstructed the God of my understanding in my journey of recovery, the Power that keeps me “Sober” has a very important job. My God has be to more powerful than my favorite drug and give me a better high than anything my veins could love. God, for me, is more intoxicating than my best drunk.

And without the WHOLE power of God at work in my life in 2017, I would not be standing for 2018. “I Won’t Back Down.” So here we go. I will pray the prayer that has carried me daily for the past 10+ years and hourly some of 2017. I will cry out to Jesus – Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.

2018, let’s “Get This Party Started”