My One Word for 2015

Just over a year ago, I was introduced to the idea of choosing a word at the beginning of a year that would be the focus for that next 365 days. The idea is that instead of a list of resolutions, you find one word that encompasses all of your goals for the year, and you strive to live that word for the year.

I know it’s a bit late in the month to be writing about my one word for 2015, but I have known it since before this month started. I have hesitated to write about it because it’s a bit uncomfortable to share, but I think it’s time. I will add a disclaimer, though. I tend to be a visual person, and words create pictures in my head sometimes that I wish I didn’t have. God also speaks to me through imagery a lot (which I suppose makes sense since that’s how my brain works). I promise there won’t be vivid details or descriptions, but for those whose brains also assault them with unwanted images at times, proceed with caution because my word for this year is… Birth.

No. I do not expect to physically give birth this year. There are some risk factors for that particular condition that I do not have. However, God has been developing things inside me for several years, and He has made it very clear that it’s time for those to come into the world, so to speak.

God told me repeatedly that last year was a time of transition. I’m not sure what you know about the birthing process, but the transition portion of labor is said to be the most intense. It is also the part just before the active pushing begins. (Mothers, I am writing only from a clinical knowledge, so please don’t be too harsh if I don’t describe the process or experience accurately.)

There was certainly a lot of transition in my life last year as I moved around the world, and established a new life in a different country. Now as I’m settled in, I feel like God is urging me to push forward in bringing forth the things He has put in my heart – twin dreams of ministry release and the start of a new family.

It is scary to put this out there for the world to read because if these things don’t happen this year, then I might look like a failure. I really believe, though, that this is what God is speaking to me, and I must trust His word more than what I see. My verse for this year is Luke 1:45, “And blessed is she who believed, because there will be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

That verse is in reference to Mary, and although I’m obviously not physically carrying the baby Jesus, I think it fits. I, too, am expectant with things that can change the world and bring the Kingdom of God to earth. I don’t know what these “babies” will look like, but I believe they will one day make an impact in the world.

As I meditated on this word at the start of this year, something else struck me. It seems rather obvious now, but I had this moment of revelation that birth doesn’t mean they are complete and ready to change the world. If anything, birth is when the real work begins! But it’s also when the one who has been carrying the baby no longer has to do the work on her own; it’s when others can really begin to be hands on in the process of nurturing and raising this new life.

That may seem an odd thought by which to be surprised, but in my mind these dreams have always emerged mature and ready to change the face of the planet. I have carried them for so long that certainly they must be fully developed already, right? Yes, they are fully developed in the same way that a full-term newborn is fully developed to the stage it should be at birth, but not to the point that they are ready to move out and thrive on their own with minimal assistance from me and others.

Up until now, these dreams have developed largely without much active input from me. But beginning this year, it is time to push, to birth these dreams, and then to nurture them and help them grow. Now is the time that the real work begins, and I’m so excited to see what they will look like and who God will bring to help in the process!

Understanding Dawns

If you’ve read previous posts, you may have noticed a slight obsession with finding out why God brought me to Ireland. I spent 3/4 of last year asking God that very question, and lamenting the fact that He seemed silent on that particular issue. I LOVE living in Ireland, and wouldn’t choose to be anyplace else, but that question nagged constantly at the back of my mind.

In mid-December I had a good friend visit from England for a few days. We spent hours talking and processing, and God began to stir my heart for a couple of things I’d never really given much thought to before – things like songwriting and recording music. During one conversation in particular, my friend was talking about how much she enjoys visiting new places and seeing what God’s redemptive gift in each land is.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth I had to pick my lower jaw up off the floor. It was as though someone had just flipped on a switch in my brain and I felt I suddenly understood a major reason that I’m here. The phrase “land of saints and scholars” flashed through my mind, and I felt that while I may minister to a lot of people here, God brought me here for what this place has to offer me rather than what I have to offer it. This land has a history of learning and teaching, of arts, of stories and legends, of writing, of community, and of spreading the gospel to the nations beyond its borders. Those are redemptive gifts in this land, and I need those things to fulfill what I believe God has asked me to do.

During my months of searching for this answer, I’ve lost count of the times when I have uttered the sentence, “I could work on my book anywhere.” Perhaps that is not the case; maybe, just maybe the anointing that God has put on this land will play a part, whether big or small, in the progress of the ministry to which God has called me. As I continue to write, now not only a nonfiction book but perhaps new stories and songs as well, I look forward to being a tiny part of the legacy of the arts in this land that have served to build the Kingdom in the nations for centuries.

I may never have complete understanding of why I’m on earth, let alone in Ireland, but with this piece of the puzzle comes renewed passion to get all I can from my time here, however long that may be, and to give all I have in the process.

The Joys(?) of Living in Ireland!

I can’t believe that I am nearing the 10 month mark of living in Ireland. (Well, minus those 6 weeks I traveled as a homeless wanderer through the UK.) Anyways, it’s been an interesting 10 months, and I thought it was about time I wrote about some of the things that this Florida/Colorado girl finds exciting about life here.

Weather – I’ve lived at least a decade in both Florida and Colorado, and though they are very different, one thing unites them. I heard it said of both of them that if you don’t like the weather, stick around for half an hour and it will likely change. That statement was true of both places too. Weather could be a bit unpredictable.

However, my definition of “unpredictable weather” has changed since arriving in Ireland – much the same as my definition of “mountains’ changed upon moving to Colorado. In the half hour before I began writing this post the scene out my window went from cloudy with a mixture of snow, hail and rain blowing in wind gusts of nearly 50 MPH, to sun with little or no wind, to rain and hail with the sun as a backdrop, and then to cloudy, windy and dry.

My friends, if you don’t like the weather here, too bad. It will change any second, but that change will probably last a minute or ten at best. You might as well just layer up, make sure you’ve got a raincoat, and move along with your plans. It’s not often dry, but it’s usually exciting! 🙂

Taps – When moving to Ireland I expected things to be different in some aspects. I expected to be confused at times, but I had no idea that sinks would be a culprit. In my experience, most sinks have a single tap with two separate pipes delivering water to it. One brings cold water, and if you’re lucky the other brings hot. By using the valves controlling each supply correctly, you can achieve a comfortable temperature at which to wash your hands or complete whatever task has brought you to the sink.

I have found that many sinks here in Ireland missed out on the memo that both hot and cold water could be delivered through the same tap. The result of this is the user being left with a difficult – sometimes painful – choice. When washing my hands in my bathroom, I can choose to cleanse them with water that feels as though it was just delivered by a passing glacier OR I can decide that I’d rather try to get a thorough clean by sterilizing them with water that nearly rolls out of the tap at a boil. Happily, the hot tap does take a bit of time to reach those temperatures, so if it has been long enough between uses and I am quick enough, I can get clean and warm hands without the necessity of burn cream.

Language/phrases – Ah, the English language. Anyone who has traveled even to different areas of the USA (or any other English-speaking country) knows that speaking the same language doesn’t guarantee understanding. I knew many of the words and phrases that I would encounter when coming here. I knew that if I wanted a cookie, I should ask for a biscuit. If I want something similar to what I would normally call a biscuit, I should get a scone. Most things didn’t take me long to switch in my brain.

The first phrase I discovered that was completely new was a way of stating a time. Where I would typically say “six-thirty” if I saw 6:30 on a clock, people here said “half-six”. That makes perfect sense, but it still took some getting used to.

Another phrase I hear a lot from some people is “yer man”. When watching a tennis match with a friend, she kept saying, “yer man’s playing very good” or “oh, yer man slipped”, etc. I didn’t say anything at the time, but I was so confused. The running monologue in my head went something like this: “I don’t have a man. He’s not mine. I’m not even cheering for him. I want the other guy to win.” After subsequent conversations with this friend and others, I have realized that this is a generic phrase to refer to any random guy. Thankfully, I have realized that all of the men my friends mention do not in fact belong to me.

The final word that continues to confuse me is tea. When someone invites me for tea, I still have to figure out whether I should expect a cup of tea or an evening meal. Obviously the time of day is a clue, but if it’s getting near evening hours, I’m lost. I will admit that I have on occasion eaten a small amount of food before visiting my friends because I figured if I am served a meal the small salad I ate at home will not keep me from enjoying a portion of the dinner; however, if I am offered a cup of tea and biscuits, I will not starve or eat an entire plate of “digestives”.

Daylight – Having spent most of my life far closer to the Equator, I’m used to the sun being a bit more present during the day. Of course there were months when it wasn’t bright outside as early or late, but I don’t believe it was ever like this. At the moment, I must admit it is a bit difficult to get moving in the morning because the sun doesn’t show itself until nearly 9:00 am. While the days are beginning to get longer now, and the sun stays out until about 4:30 pm, the evenings still seem long. Just think, though, in a few short months I get to look forward to days that go from about 4:00 am until 11:00 pm again. I know there are many places in the world where this is the case, but it’s new to me, and it has taken some adjustment.

Home – That’s nearly enough for now, but I’ll mention one final thing that caught me off guard in moving to Ireland. I had no idea how quickly this place would become home. I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I do know that if I leave, a part of me will stay behind. I will always love Ireland with its quirks and even its frustrations. This is my home for as long as God will allow it be!

Faithful

What a year! As I reflected during this week about the past year, a common theme emerged from the many memories made during 2014: God’s faithfulness.

I have seen God’s faithfulness throughout my entire life through surprise financial gifts, boxes of food left at the door when we had none, friends made just when I needed them, encouragements from unexpected sources and so much more! I know He is faithful, so that is not a new revelation. However, this year, I have seen it perhaps more than ever before.

Most recently, He showed up in a Christmas card from friends here. I had spent every last cent I had for the month of December, and it was only the 23rd. In fact, the cashier at Tesco forgave the 32 cents I was short for the purchase. I have some money in my account in the States, and I can go to the ATM whenever I need to, but I try to make it through each month on what I pull out at the start of the month. I’ve had to withdraw cash early a couple of times because of unforeseen expenses, but for some reason I was more upset at the prospect this time.

Anyway, less than 12 hours after I spent the last of the cash I had, I received a Christmas card with 50 Euros inside. I nearly cried because it was just another sign from Jesus that He cares and He is faithful in things both big and small! I am so grateful to the friends who were so generous with their gift, but more than anything I am grateful that they were the hands of Jesus to me that day!

As I thought about the many times I have seen God’s faithfulness this past year, I felt like God said that a large part of the reason that I saw Him show up in big ways this year is because I let Him. I allowed Him to take me to places where He was plan A, and there was no plan B. If He hadn’t come through so many times this year, I might have slept on the very cold ground or in a bus station in any number of places around the UK, I would likely be wallowing in depression, and I’d still have no place to call home, among other less than desirable circumstances.

I left home on a one-way ticket for a place I’d never been before. I followed God all over the UK for 7 weeks with no plan and a real possibility of sleeping in a bus station at some point. I gave up looking for a place to live and left it up to Him to plant me somewhere. I came across the pond with no clue about what I would do, and hoped He would open the right doors for ministry. I moved to a place where I knew no one. I answered a challenge to not only get out of the boat, but to walk far enough out that I couldn’t reach back to the safety and security of the boat if I get nervous. Jesus is the only rescue if the waves get high.

I heard in a sermon recently that faith is spelled R-I-S-K. I think that’s true, and I have come to realize that we are most able to see and experience the faithfulness of God when we live lives full of faith. When we have no plan B, He has room to show up and even show off on our behalf.

There is a place for wisdom and caution and counting the cost before starting to build to make sure you don’t get stuck in the middle. It’s not bad to be prepared. Those are all Biblical ideas and good things. The danger is that we mistake the world’s idea of wisdom for God’s idea. Wisdom according to Proverbs is fear of the Lord. That has very little to do with living a safe life and factoring in a flotation device in case the water cannot hold our weight or the waves get too scary.

So, as we venture into 2015, I want to continue to let God lead me into the deeper places with Him. He has proven Himself faithful and trustworthy. I don’t know what the year holds, but I know who holds it. I want to do big things for Him and His Kingdom this year, and I think the best way to do that is to keep Him as my only plan and my only life-preserver.

As I was dreaming about the coming year, I felt like God told me that heaven would look different because of my time on earth. I still can’t get my mind all the way around that thought, but try with me for just a moment. You and I have the power to change the landscape of heaven! I don’t know what it looks like, or exactly what kind of change we can affect, but I can’t help but remember the quote from Gladiator: “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” I don’t know about you, but I want this year to echo loud and clear that I trust God and He is faithful… Always!