Last year the Lord gave me four words. These four words (or technically six, but the concept originated as four words from Shauna Niequist, so that’s what I’m calling it) felt like they were to teach, to comfort, to encourage and to grow my heart in new ways as circumstances unfolded, that only the Lord knew I would find myself in this year. As I reflect on what I’ve learned this year, these collection of words feel like the perfect summary of what the Lord has done in me over the past months.
Uncertainty almost always brings fear to my heart. I like to know what the plan is and how I fit into it. It was kind of the Lord to give me these instructions right from the start, knowing that much uncertainty awaited me this year.
I was afraid to leave my job and it’s title and familiarity. I was afraid to leave the certainty of healthcare and a steady income. I was afraid to leave the places and people we knew for something totally new. I was afraid to start over. I was afraid of what the Lord might do if I gave him free reign over my life. I was afraid of not being in charge. My heart was truly afraid.
Yet, in the midst of that fear, the Lord spoke the truth to my heart again and again that I was not alone. I did not have to be afraid when he was the one who held my hand. I did not have to be afraid when he was the one who directed my steps. So, I said yes. To the one thing I wanted least of all. Leaving my job, our home, living near family for a life across the country that was totally uncertain.
I love that line that Aslan speaks to Susan, in Prince Caspian, telling her that she has been listening to her fears. My fears were loud this year, but I think Jesus was so kind to give me truth that was louder. He can be trusted. He is a good father. He takes care of his kids. He is telling a good story. He may not be safe, but he is good. I don’t have to be afraid when those things are true.
I never noticed how often this phrase appeared in the Bible before the Lord gave me these two words. It is always used about things that are the utmost importance, like marriage, trust in the Lord or the Lord’s commandments. I’m so grateful for these words heading into a season with a lot of loss. I felt like these represented the truth that all sorts of things might be taken from me, but I get to choose if I hold onto the most important. I get to choose if I will tell the story of what the Lord has given me, not what was taken away.
I think there were a few months where I read these verses from Hebrews 10 every day:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
These verses were powerful for my heart. What a grace to have these words reminding my heart that it is possible to be hopeful and confident in the Lord, because of who he is. No matter what circumstances might be like, I can hold fast to the Lord because he holds fast to me. He is faithful. He can be trusted.
In a season of working full time and newly receiving the title of “mom,” I often found myself in tears, certain I was failing someone I loved. If I was doing well at work, I felt certain that I was failing my family. If I was giving my family the care and attention that felt needed, I felt certain that I was failing those who counted on me at work. And if by some miracle I was doing well in both of those areas, I was certainly failing as a friend, as a sister, as a daughter…the list goes on and on. The story I was telling was one of accomplishment and productivity, a story where I was never enough. Every night before I would go to sleep, I would ask myself how much I accomplished that day. And almost always, the answer was “not enough.” I would think about all that hadn’t gotten done: notes I hadn’t written to friends, emails and texts I hadn’t replied to yet, tasks yet to be done, phone calls I hadn’t made, songs I hadn’t sung to my daughter, books I hadn’t read. As all those things would flood to my mind, I would feel like I had failed and that I wasn’t enough.
I was meeting with my friend and boss, Sarah and confessed to her all the ways I felt like I was failing. She asked me what I think about before I go to bed each night. After hearing of my to-do list and perceived failings, she told me I need a new question. Instead of asking myself about my perceived success or failure, I needed to ask myself a question that was more aligned with what matters to Jesus.
“Did I love well?” If the answer is yes, thank Jesus, trust that the Lord will help with the mountain of all that is still to be done and go to sleep. If the answer is no, ask for forgiveness and for the Lord’s help to do better tomorrow and go to sleep.
So I started asking myself that question. “Did I love well today?”
I’ll be honest. It didn’t take effect right away. For quite a while, I still felt like a failure and could recite a long list of ways I hadn’t met my expectations for myself. But over time, something in my heart started to shift. I started telling a different story. Instead of a story of how much there was to do and feeling overwhelmed by it all, I started telling a story of loving the people Jesus gave me, one day at a time. I started telling a story of gratitude for the Lord’s kindness to me.I started telling a story of the Lord being enough, even if I wasn’t.
I think I could have easily ended this year in a pathetic heap, overwhelmed and exhausted. That may sounds dramatic, but it is the truth. There were many dark days believing I wasn’t enough, marked with many tears and a weary heart. But the Lord didn’t leave me there.
He told my heart truth that I’m not supposed to be enough or perfect. Only he is that. But he’s on my team. He is for me. It is because he is enough that I get to be.
This one gets me choked up even to write about. Home was something I was so afraid to lose this year. I hate moving and really didn’t want to move, let alone across the country. I told the Lord that the only way I would do it if I felt sure he wanted us to do it. He did.
When the Lord gave me this word, it felt like a hug. A hug that said, we’re in this together. You’re not alone. I will help you find home wherever I take you.
In the spring, only a few weeks after we decided that we would be moving, but weeks before it was actually happening, the Lord gave me this verse from John 14: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. I remember tears running down my cheeks as I felt the Lord whisper to my heart, I will be your home. When my child obeys me and goes where I ask and loves who I ask of them, you will never be without a home.
This was the year I left the first home we shared as a married couple, the first home we brought our daughter to. This was the year I said goodbye to being near my childhood home. This was the year I said goodbye to so many people who feel like home.
But in the midst of that, I didn’t lose my home.
My heart gets to find home in the Lord.
My heart gets to find home in his people.
I might have lost some tangible, physical homes this year, but I did not lose my home. If anything, I think I might have found my home a little more this year than ever before, by losing it.
I’m so grateful for these words that reflect the Lord’s kindness to me. He is a good father and takes good care of his kids. I have seen that firsthand this year. I may not have liked everything that happened over the past months. I have cried more than I ever would have chosen. I said good-bye when I didn’t want to. But that pain and loss did not define my year. The Lord used my difficult circumstances to teach my heart truth that I needed more than I wanted to be comfortable. I’m so grateful for his kindness to me in 2015.