One word to sum up the year. That’s the challenge of reverb‘s Day One prompt: “Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?” Each year in January, my constant inspiration Ali Edwards posts the same challenge for the year ahead, but I rarely consider that same word when looking back. In fact, I realize that I’ve rarely considered my one little word(s) at all since I began participating. Sure, it comes to mind from time to time. I have passing thoughts about how little I’m reflecting on it throughout the busyness of the weeks and months within the year. But I’ve never truly reflected. The truth is, I don’t enjoy the reflection because it brings with it a guilt of how another year has passed without any action on my part. And I find myself here again, at the end of yet another year, with nothing good to report.
I initially chose SAIL as my word for 2010. But as I reflect back upon the months since then I realize I’ve done nothing of the sort. I’m sure an argument could be made that I have sailed through the difficulties and unexpected circumstances, but as I ponder it I’m more apt to say “docked.” In fact, I’m more inclined to say “shipwrecked” than anything else along the nautical line of thought. I’ve felt stuck, stagnant, still for quite some time. Yes, much of my own doing, but stagnant nonetheless. But what an ugly word to sum up a year!
It could be worse, I suppose. The thesaurus suggests “moribund” as an alternative: dying, expiring, not long for this world. Sheesh. I certainly don’t want to take it that far! But “lethargic” rings true. “Stationary” is appropriate, as well. And “dormant.” Dormant seems the best word. And dormant brings with it a HOPE. It brings to mind that beloved caterpillar, lying still and lifeless in its warm cocoon, just waiting for spring’s breezes to crack open the outer layer so it can break through with its butterfly wings. Yes… I like dormant. 2010 has been dormant. And looking forward, one year from now, what word do I hope to use in describing 2011? I think it could be as simple as “Walk” or “Move” or even “Persevere.” Some sort of action is all I’m hoping for, all I’m planning to do. That alone will vastly improve upon this difficult 2010.
“There’s two types of fear. There’s the kind that makes us work harder, that drives us. We dig deeper. There’s the kind that makes my heart come up into my throat, that makes me, at the cost of my own sanity, look for answers. Because I can’t let up and miss them.
That’s good fear.
The bad fear is the kind that makes us stop working, paralyzes us, makes us stay in bed all day and hide.
The bad fear doesn’t make you a bad person.
It just means you shouldn’t be working here.”
— James Badge Dale as Will Travers in Rubicon
originally posted November 29, 2007
I had one of those mom-daughter conversations today in which my perspective changed as a result of one little comment made by my mother. This isn’t the first time, of course, and parents are apt to do this without even realizing the effect they have on their children. A seemingly innocuous statement can often have profound implications for the future. And I have experienced this phenomenon before, in exactly this same way, with my mother. But today, it really did sneak up on me.
The conversation was quite casual and was not intending to be of any great consequence as other conversations have in the past, but Mom went on to tell me that she had spoken with my campus pastor on Sunday following our Romania reflections service and the conversation led to a comment about my desire to return there full-time. Mom related that she and my dad said, “We’ve always believed Jules would be a missionary of some kind. We’ve always sort of known this. She’s the strongest of our children.”
The strongest. I was surprised to hear the words, surprised further that my parents feel this way. I don’t feel this way. I have never felt this way. My first reaction is almost always fear. Of everything. Certainly of anything that is new or different from what I know. But that is not how my parents see me. They see strength. And upon turning this over in my mind today I have come to understand that what they see is who I truly am.
I can live in fear. It’s easy to live in fear. But several years ago I decided to make a conscious effort to not choose fear. It’s an effort. Still, it’s my first response to most every new situation. I first choose to be afraid, and then I choose to push past the fear. But fear always comes first. I’ve prayed over this stronghold for many, many years, yet I still experience this emotion before any other. But now, with my mom’s words echoing in my heart, I understand that I am not truly afraid like I thought I was. It’s not fear that I’m overcoming; it’s actually fear that I’m choosing. I am choosing to be afraid first, and then I’m making the effort to overcome it. But fear is actually my crutch. Fear is what I choose to fall back on instead of tapping into my strength and stepping forward to do the work. In the end, I always step forward, I always accomplish that which I first shy away from. But first I allow the fear.
I am amazed at how simple these answers come, and I’m awed at God’s faithfulness to answer my prayers. Long have I prayed to conquer fear in my life, and now He shows me that it’s been conquered all along. At my core I am not a fearful person; I am a strong person. And that is how I need to live. This is who I truly am. I now see the lie that has kept me down for so much of my life. How glorious to step back into the Light and have the blinders removed! How awesome of God to choose this very moment to remove this hindrance from my heart! The Dream Giver speaks about stepping through the “invisible wall of fear.” How can something invisible be of any consequence to me?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
I’ve mentioned here before how much I love bright, shiny things and how tempted I am to make impulse purchases and spend far too much — even when spending for a valid reason or good cause. It is my nature to want and to do more. I’m the first to tell you that I have an obsessive personality. Just enough is just not enough. It’s too little. I work to perfection, I overdo almost everything, and I’m always thinking about what else there can be rather than settling into what already is. I’m the kind of person who can easily miss what’s right in front of her. And I often do. It’s not easy for me to be still and just live in the richness of the moment. But God is always at work in me.
During the past year I’ve become deliberate in how I view the world around me. I’ve taken time to unplug from the busyness, and I’ve challenged myself with a daily project designed to turn my focus outward and see all the beauty that exists around me. I’m learning to appreciate the moments of each day. And I’m learning to make do with what I have right now. I’m still obsessive and still have an addiction to “want,” but God is helping me channel those traits into more productive outlets. For now, that’s enough.