2017 has been a great year.
But I am also extremely excited to turn the page to 2018. For the first time in recent memory, I am eager to greet the new year, not because I’m in a rush to say goodbye to the last season, but simply because I am expectant of the good to come.
Wow. That’s saying a lot.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. First, some reflections on 2017:
2017: The Year of New Beginnings
Looking back, I can say with confidence that 2017 has been one of the most crucial years of my life thus far. Primarily because I took a look deep inside. By God’s grace. It was scary, because I saw things like pride and cynicism, which I had previously been blind to. But peering down into the abyss inside was what ultimately set me free.
I think God told me this year was going to be a year of new beginnings because that was what I needed to hear at its start––I needed a frame of hope with which to anticipate the coming ear. I needed to know that He could make me new.
There were a lot of new beginnings this year, right from the start. But in retrospect, I would say that a more encompassing and precise description of my 2017 was the Year of Death. Now it seems like I should have seen it coming, for death is an important part of the process of new life.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls
to the ground and dies,
it remains alone;
but if it dies,
it bears much fruit.”
– John 12:24
2017: The Year of Death
Prior to this year, a lot of things died in me. A lot of hopes. A lot of innocence. A lot of dreams and ideas I had about life. So at the start of 2017, I was ready to experience some resurrection life. I expected it to happen instantly.
Instead, I began a year-long process of taking a hard look inside. It wasn’t time for the new life to come just yet. First, my root system needed to be rearranged.
This year, with the help of an awesome counselor, I gave myself permission to feel, to be a mess, to be honest. As I dug down deep, I unearthed fear, disillusionment, and hurt. Digging deeper still, I found unexpected roots for some of those feelings. And as I untangled those roots, allowing some to be removed, others to be untwisted, and still others replaced, my heart began to change.
I cried a lot of tears. I had a lot of emotional conversations with God. A lot of moments of feeling weak. It was a slow process.
I took a step back from a lot of my commitments and activities––even from this blog––and gave myself space to just be, to heal, to face it all. And I found that the world still kept turning without me. I learned on a deeper level that it is my job to follow God’s lead, not to fix everything.
He led me into the desert this year. And there, He spoke tenderly to me.
So why was 2017 great?
I gained a lot of clarity this year, which is more valuable to me than almost anything else. And, a lot of burdens were lifted off of me. I learned how to be more authentically myself. Breaking free from obligation allowed me to give of myself out of love.
But even to the end, it was a challenging year. When God recently proposed I make 2018 my Year of Love, I immediately burst into tears. Not out of joy, but out of the mixture of sadness and clarity I feel when He says something right or true that is difficult for me to accept.
I wasn’t sure I was ready. I felt like He was calling me out of the desert, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to leave. Love is supposed to be the ultimate goal. But I still wasn’t sure I had enough to give. I was afraid of being burdened, of getting burnt out, of circling right back around to where I had collapsed at the beginning of this year.
But He said to me, “It’s going to be different this time. Your love is going to be different.”
It took me awhile for me to get here (I can be slow sometimes), but I eventually realized that 2018 isn’t going to be solely about me giving love.
One of my core fears (which I identified this year) is that there isn’t enough love for me. I’m afraid of giving and giving of myself and finding at the end of the day that no one has any love to give to me, that I have been forgotten. This is the fear that makes me shrink back from relationships and close off my empathy. It’s the scenario that makes me want to go to my introvert cave of ideas, creativity, and solitude, and never come out.
But that’s not what this year is going to be. It’s not just going to be about me sacrificing myself and being forgotten. That is never God’s heart toward any of us.
is going to be about going deeper into the mystery of God’s unending love.
is going to be about pouring out fresh praise and love to the Lord as a natural overflow response to His goodness.
is going to be about learning to love myself more fully––to value myself and my well-being the way God does.
And then, yes, it’s going to be a year of my tender, fierce love blessing and changing others, too. My love is powerful. I’m ready to leave the cave, so to speak. He says it’s time. But, I don’t need to strive. I don’t need to fix anyone. And I am free to say no. Loving from that place of freedom and increased wisdom is going to make all the difference.
Last week, I asked God to show me my garden again. Had any progress been made? This time, He showed me that new plants were growing. In fact, they had already broken through the ground. But the flowers had not yet blossomed, they were still closed. Somehow, that vision gave me a lot of hope. Just as death took a process, new life will as well. But I believe this will be a year of blossoming for me.
I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Just as God was faithful in the desert, I know He will be faithful in this coming year, wherever He takes me. And as I found Him so close to me in my confusion and weakness, I know He will be with me in joy and discovery, in celebration and silliness, in the creating, building, and dancing we will do.
For my part, I don’t want to forget what I learned in the desert––how to be still, how to listen to my own heart, and how to lean on Him.