In 2012, I decided to forgo the usual resolutions. At least the formal ones with bullet pointed lists scratched importantly into my journal. Every bit as earnest and hopeful as ever, but soon another loss. I could fill entire journals full of my failed attempts.
I can’t be better. I’ve tried. I’ve dashed hopes against February’s first days.
So in 2012, I prayed about one word for the year. Stripped. That word faithfully provided me with one of the most painful years of my life. You can read the recap here. The Muck and the Glory: A recap of my one word.
After that last year, I couldn’t imagine picking another one. I had no resolutions to make, no energy to produce or plan or dream anymore.
I felt as empty and broken and stripped as I’ve ever been. And in all honesty, I was scared what another word might cost me.
I’m not sure what 2013 was. Maybe more of the same. I suppose when you feel God stripping you down to bare parts and joints and marrow, the only thing you know for sure is that you know so little.
But new things are happening this year. It’s time to move forward and the irony that to do that means to stay put is not lost on me.
This verse kept skimming across my mind. Floating to the surface as if buoyed to some deep unfathomable tether.
Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.- Psalm 37:3
What does this mean for me?
I’ve canceled or declined any and all travel plans that take me away from home for this season. No blog conferences or retreats or events, with the small exception of a local Faith and Culture Writers conference in Portland, IF Local, and (in)RL which keep me firmly planted at home.
When I said I was staying home for a season, my daughter put her arms around me and said, “Yay, mommy. You’ll be with us everyday!” 12 days in Africa and a flurry of conferences and events the past two years have taken their toll.
I need to stay here. Be a mommy. Have coffee with friends without frowning over my schedule. Have friends over for dinner. Get to know our new church and find ways to serve.
This year I want to cultivate faithfulness in my life.
In Africa, I felt mastered by so many things.
Everywhere I looked I saw the spindly fingered grasp of oppressive poverty. I heard and saw and breathed in a life where poverty is the cruelest master. The one that takes lives of children, starves bellies, drags fresh faced girls into dirty sheets and shame and the burden of despair.
On our last day in Ethiopia, I looked to the heavens and saw a world where hope exists and trickles down like sun rays slicing through storm clouds, lighting up the sky.
I believe God loves and ransoms the poor.
I am poor.
We are not so different, Africa and I.
I live worlds apart. I live in opulence with running water and clean-ish toilets.
I live with an overfull belly.
I came home to the long lines in Costco and the carts overflowing with food for Thanksgiving feasts where our country would gorge ourselves and give thanks to the same God who seems so absent in the hungry children’s eyes lining the roads of the villages.
I came home thinking of the things that master me. Maybe it’s not poverty. Maybe it’s prosperity. Maybe it’s gluttony.
Maybe I’m poor in spirit, weak in flesh, small in faith.
Maybe I am so very poor. Stripped. Maybe these past few years, or indeed a lifetime have taught me that I can only ever approach God with empty hands and naked spine.
Africa was so many things. But for me, in the weeks since I’ve been home, it’s been a love song.
A melody that sways inside me and reminds me that my God is God over all the earth. Over all His people.
He sees into the thatch roofed huts along the rutted trails where mango trees reach toward the African sky. His hand is over their lives, reaching into that poverty, releasing chains and setting His people free. I’ve seen it.
And He is here, reaching into my life, clothing me and calling me whole. He is in the raw grief and pain all around me. He is in the promises to never leave or forsake. To always be my salvation and my song. Redeemed.
I’m staying close to home. Close to my family, cuddled up next to my husband watching ridiculous sci-fi movies which I hate but he finds interesting, because it feels good to be a wife.
I’m taking time to practice faithfulness in areas of my life where God has shown me I’m already free. I’m slowing down to savor. You can’t dwell in a hurry.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 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: 14-19 ESV (emphasis mine)