I changed my word of the year four days in.

I changed my word of the year four days in.

It’s true. Four days into 2019 I changed my word of the year. In December I was prepping  my PowerSheets, and I came up with the word establish. I liked that word. It linked up with my goals for the year–things I wanted to accomplish–like establishing our new home, establishing a new training plan for the races I wanted to complete this year, establishing better rhythms with my girls in the morning and at night. These things felt very good to my Enneagram 1 self. Changing, Improving, Reforming.

But then on January 4th I was at my counseling session. (I started going back to counseling in October.) I was telling my counselor that the blindsided feeling I faced when Ethiopia announced their suspension of inter-country adoption right after we got our last piece of paperwork to go get our girl was following me. A couple more things happened last year that reinforced that blindsided feeling–losing my uncle eight months after he was diagnosed with ALS and some stuff that happened at our old church. I realized that I was waking up every morning waiting to be blindsided again, and that wasn’t a healthy spot for me to be in.

My counselor asked me to talk about when I feel most at peace, and I told her for me it’s on a run or a bike ride. Somehow when my legs are doing a repetitive motion, my brain gets a chance to see the big picture, and somehow being outside surrounded by things growing, the Holy Spirit starts weaving things together for me so I can see God’s sovereignty over my life in new ways. My counselor asked me what I felt at the end of a run or ride. I thought for a second and the word that came to mind was held. I feel completely seen and completely loved, not because of any pretend perfection but just because I have a Father who loves me unconditionally. I feel secure not because I know what hard things are coming but because I know I have a Father who will never leave me.

I left my counseling session and ran to Lowe’s to pick out paint chips, and while I was comparing various shades of greige I realized my word of the year needed to be held. With my personality, there’s no worry that I might not achieve this year. No worry that checklists might not get made or tasks accomplished. No, I wake up ready to go on those. But I realized what I might miss out on was being held by my Heavenly Father. Taking my fragile broken heart and letting him heal me. Taking my racing, to-do list self and letting Him give me rest. And a very literal holding of hands with my man and our girls.

So, while it’s the most normal time of the year to accomplish and achieve, this year I’m letting go and leaving undone. Every day I want to not finish something or mess something up. A strange goal, I understand, for personalities different than mine. But this feels necessary and healthy for me because all of this links up with my understanding on a heart level the grace my Savior bought for me when He died for me. To live striving for perfection is to abandon grace. When I say something awkward and wonder if people will still like me, when I really, really burn the meatballs for dinner, when I tell someone about counseling, when I have to apologize to my girls or my husband, when I admit I need help, every one of those is an invitation to be held by my Heavenly Father.


My Word for 2018

My Word for 2018

Altar. A year ago when I chose my word for 2017, I could not have imagined just how that word would come to encapsulate this past year. It really wasn’t until the last few days in December when I sat jaw-dropped in front of my Bible with the Holy Spirit putting all the pieces together before me. I chose the word altar because that’s what I desire for my life, a place to meet with God, a place to draw near to Him, a space for awe and worship. During the final days of Advent, I was reading about Abraham and his testing, of his carrying his miracle child, the one he prayed and waited so long for, up the mountain and on the altar. There was the word I had focused on all year. And the pieces came together. The things we had walked through the past twelve months resonated with Abraham’s journey. While Abraham’s faith was mighty, mine certainly has never felt mighty. But I have a mighty tribe. I am surrounded by mighty warriors of faith who held me up when I was faltering. Who pushed me on when I didn’t think I could keep going. I got teary seeing Eve’s picture in the #bestnine photos of friends and family at the end of the year. You climbed the mountain with us. You believed in our Jehovah-Jireh alongside us. You let us borrow your faith when ours felt so weak. Together, we invited God to meet with us in our fear and begging. And He did. He drew near to us in ways that can’t be described.

And now we find ourselves in a new year, and I find myself thanking God for the ways He revealed Himself last year and praying for the ways He will reveal Himself this year. This word I pray for every year is no small thing. This year’s word is one the Holy Spirit kept bringing to my attention for several months, since my birthday in September really. Matt gave me a beautiful framed print by an artist whose work I love. In Clare’s tiny handwriting at the bottom of the painting is the title of the piece–Hidden. Reading its title reminded me of the book I had recently finished by Sara Hagerty called Unseen.

“Noticing and tending to my roots–my inner and hidden life with God–seemed secondary when there were important ministry branches to climb and spiritual fruit to produce and pick. But God was ever so gently inviting me back to the soil. To hide in Him rather than perform for Him, to shift my attention from branches to roots, from my visible work for God to my unseen life in God.”

Last year felt very much like a time for reaching–giving God my yes and letting Him take me far outside my comfort zone. But this year I’m feeling an invitation for rooting. Digging in. Planting. Nourishing the soil. Giving God my yes and letting Him hide me. My prayer for this year is that my greatest work will be done within these four walls we call home and within these four girls we call daughters. And that His great work will be done within these four chambers I call heart.

Word of the Year 2017

Word of the Year 2017

Back in September when I was struggling in our wait for E, I read Psalm 43.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:3-5 ESV, emphasis mine)

The word altar snagged in my mind like a thread pulled so that you notice it over and over again.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord(Genesis 12:7-8 ESV, emphasis mine)

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. (Genesis 35:1-7 ESV, emphasis mine)

These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7 ESV, emphasis mine)

And in the middle of the hardest days of this past year, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that the altar isn’t about my getting what I want. The altar is where God reveals Himself to me. The altar is His grace-covered invitation to dwell with Him. And when God reveals Himself, the only reasonable response is awe and worship. The altar is stacking the stones where He has shown Himself faithful.

Since those hard days of September, I’ve had the word altar lingering. I’ve been looking for it and studying its uses.

Merriam-Webster has these two definitions for altar. 

1:  a usually raised structure or place on which sacrifices are offered or incense is burned in worship 

2:  a table on which the eucharistic elements are consecrated or which serves as a center of worship or ritual

That first definition stands out because of the reference to incense. In Luke 1, a favorite passage for me, when Zechariah’s name was chosen to go into the temple he has a special encounter.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. (Luke 1:8-11 ESV)

When I was writing about my prayer journal, I started studying the relationship between prayer and incense, especially in the tabernacle. In this passage, we find Zechariah at the altar of incense praying when he encounters an angel with a message from God. God revealing Himself through prayer has been a huge theme in my life the past few years, and especially as we have walked this adoption journey. Also, “the whole multitude of the people were praying” reminds me of our tribe who prays so faithfully for E.

The second dictionary definition reminded me of the words I wear on a leather cuff around my wrist many days–break and pour. A visible reminder of my mission to break and pour like Jesus did.

I’ve got all of these thoughts swirling around as we begin this new year, and I’m excited to dig into them over the coming months. One thing I know for certain–He is always, always worthy of my worship. Gathered with my church family with beautiful songs or circled around the dining room table with my family or simply when I open the backdoor to see the sunrise–no matter my circumstances or my emotions, I can always go to the altar of God. I worship and remember and praise Him not only because of what He has done for me, though certainly the weight of that flattens me, but because of who He is.

Practically, I’m looking at our morning routines and changing those up a bit. I’m looking for ways to start our mornings with more meaning, more worship. My daily time with my Bible cracked and hot coffee in the morning has become my manna, my sustenance from God. I want to invite my girls into a morning space of worship as well. And when God gives us the call with a court date, I want our hearts and home to be full and ready to be a safe place for E to experience the love and joy of our Great God. For certainly He has used our journey to her to reveal Himself in new and life-changing ways. I pray this year you find us stacking stones and moving with eyes of wonder. We aren’t just building a life or a legacy. We’re building an altar. For He is Worthy of our praise, forever and always.

Psalm 43 says it well, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.”

Word of the Year 2016

Word of the Year 2015

Word of the Year 2014

Word of the Year 2013


My Word for 2016

My Word for 2016

You know how when you get a new car, you suddenly notice that car far more than you did before? I remember when I got my black Volkswagen Jetta my senior year in high school. Suddenly, I noticed every Jetta, every VW logo, every flip-out key. (I loved that flip-out key.) It seemed like they were everywhere. That’s how I feel when I pick a word for the year. My eyes are alert to the word. I can see connections I wouldn’t have noticed before, lines drawn from one verse to another like doing a connect the dots picture. At first, you only see a bunch of numbers but later after the lines are drawn you can see the whole picture.

A few weeks ago, I was writing a new verse in my prayer journal. As I wrote I stopped at the word dwell. As I looked through my journal that day, I realized this word was in many of the verses I pray. And I knew it was my word for 2016. In her book The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp says, “We can have as much of Jesus as we want.” That’s what I think of when I think of the word dwell, and that’s my prayer for 2016.  That I would want more and more of Jesus every day.

dwell \ˈdwel\ – to remain for a time, to live as a resident, to keep the attention directed, to speak or write insistently.

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. Leviticus 26:11-12

But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 2 Chronicles 6:18

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created through him and for him . . . For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 1 Timothy 1:14

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:5

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

New Year, New Word

New Year, New Word

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetLast Saturday was a dreary day–wet and rainy–as we made our way back home. The younger girls were asleep and Lydia was listening to the story of The Horse and His Boy from The Chronicles of Narnia. I was thinking about my word for this year. I had one in mind, but it didn’t seem quite right. As I was listening to the story and staring out at gray interstate, I heard it.

“‘Child,’ said the Voice, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.'” ~Aslan in The Horse and His Boy

And that was my word–Story. The word has much meaning to me because I love to write. I have a sweatshirt that has the words “Be True” on it, and that’s my greatest goal with writing–to be true. But when I heard that quote from The Horse and His Boy I was reminded how much I struggle comparing myself, trying to prove my worth by stacking myself against others. And how often I feel like I fall short. This year I want to enjoy the story God is telling me with all its plot twists and story lines. I want to cherish the characters in my story, those unique people who make up my village. I want to face my fears and take risks because every great story needs a protagonist who puts it all out there. And I want to live a story that compels my girls to want to know their Author. A life that beckons them into its pages and gives ink to their own stories.

“He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away. And He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'” Isaiah 49:2-3

Cheers to a new year and the story it holds!