One Word for 2019
Trust

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I used to. But I was as successful as 80% of Americans who, according to U.S. News, make and break their new year’s resolutions by mid-February.

So several years ago I gave up resolutions. Instead, I began the practice of adopting one word for the year. One word to help maintain a right focus. To filter my experiences. A word to help me grow emotionally and spiritually. In past years my words included release, joy, hope, and gratitude.

It seems my one word becomes more challenging each year. Last year began with gratitude—a word that tested me in ways I could not have imagined. Because of great loss, part of me wishes those events never happened. But I also witnessed—and learned—a sense of gratitude that plumbed the depths of my spirit and carried me to new heights as I watched God glorify His name.

This year, my word is the most difficult one yet.

Trust.

Even typing the word is a bit scary.

I’ve always thought I was pretty good at trusting God. Good at encouraging and teaching others to trust Him, too. And no matter how complicated life became, I knew God was in control.

But now? Now is (cliché alert!):

  • when I put my money where my mouth is.
  • where the rubber meets the road.
  • when push comes to shove.

You get the idea.

This is the year where my ability to trust God will be tested more than ever.

The year in which everything has changed and nothing’s the same.

When most decisions I make will lead me into uncharted territory.

Where I must trust God for not just the things I need, but to be my husband and father. My encourager and comforter. My All-sufficient One.

And the year when listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will be more important than ever.

I’ve trusted God for eternal life. Now 2019 will reveal the depth of my trust in Him for everything else.

Do you choose one word for the year?


One Word Update – Wrong Word for 2018?

Gratitude

By most people’s standards, I picked the wrong word for 2018.

For several years now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I’ve practiced selecting one word to focus on each year. Actually, it’s not so much that I select the word, it’s more that it’s the word I believe God gives me.

As I posted this past January, my word for 2018 is gratitude.

My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of 2017, and after chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemo, was declared to be in remission by October. When I selected gratitude as my word, we had not yet learned of the remission. Still, as we waited for my husband’s PET scan results, I knew the choice I had to make. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Sadly, the cancer returned with a vengeance early this year. It metastasized, yielding a terminal prognosis. We are walking that journey today.

If gratitude is based solely on pleasant experiences, then I did, indeed, select the wrong word for 2018.

But despite the hurricane-force winds ripping through my circumstances, one thing will never change. Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will always belong to my heavenly Father. And I have the comfort of knowing my husband has the same assurance.

We’ve been given the gift of eternal life. The incomparable gift of eternal life. A gift that will always eclipse our physical circumstances. It overshadows the worst diagnosis and outlasts the saddest prognosis. And it speaks hope into our brokenness.

So yes, gratitude is still my word for 2018. It’s still the right word for 2018. I’m grateful for the forty years of life my husband and I have shared together. Despite the terminal prognosis, I’m grateful for the remaining time—however limited—we do have, whether months, weeks or days. And I’m grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is upholding and strengthening us during circumstances that would otherwise be unbearable.

Surely that is reason enough to always be grateful. Grateful for what I have, regardless of how long it will last. Grateful for who I have, regardless of the soon-to-be fulfilled prognosis. And grateful for who I—and we—belong to, because He is holding us close and wrapping us in His love.

Did you choose “one word” for 2018?
Share your update…


My One Word: Hope Leads to Gratitude

Gratitude

A new word for a new year. A word I knew—last September—would be my focus for 2018.

Last year, my One Word was hope. Holding on to hope carried me through a difficult period. Hope held fear at bay when hubby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hope carried me—and us—through months of chemotherapy and radiation and more chemotherapy. And hope strengthened us as we sat with the doctor to hear his prognosis at the completion of the treatment protocol.

My One Word for 2018 is gratitude. I became convinced of it after Hurricane Irma and before we learned the results of my husband’s last PET scan. Regardless of the test results, I knew my One Word for the new year had to be gratitude.

Here’s why…

I’m learning a thankful perspective has nothing to do with whether I get what I want. What I’m wishing for. What I’m hoping and praying for. A thankful perspective has everything to do with what I already have.

Someone once asked me, “If God never answered another prayer with ‘yes,’ would you still be grateful?” Still love Him? Still serve Him?

If He never again provided physical healing.

Or financial provision.

Or restored another broken relationship.

What if He never again answered yes?

Would that be my cue to say no to Him? To tell Him I won’t follow Him if He doesn’t give me what I want? That I won’t live for Him if He doesn’t provide what I think I need?

Or will I say yes, regardless of the number of times He says no?

Will I say thank You, even when my heart is aching…or breaking?

As we waited for my husband’s PET scan results this past October, I knew I had to make a decision. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Because whatever happens, this life is temporary. It’s a stopover—a glorified bus station—on the way to my eternal destination.

That’s the real reason I choose to be grateful. Because the most important thing God ever did for me—the one thing that outshines all else—is that I’ve been given the gift of eternal life. Nothing else I could ask for could ever compare. And added to my joy is that I know my husband has that same assurance.

The PET scan results would test my resolve. What if the cancer still hid in hubby’s body?

The news was good—the cancer appeared to be gone. And we are grateful.

Still, there will be more hurricanes. And more PET scans. And the results won’t always be what I want. But for this new year, gratitude follows hope. I choose to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. To focus on what I’ve been given, even temporarily, rather than what I don’t have.

I choose to focus on gratitude in difficult circumstances, knowing the Lord will work in me and through me by His Holy Spirit, regardless of my situation. Because one thing will never change…I belong to the God of the universe, the One who calls me His child because of His Son, Jesus.

And that alone is reason enough to always be grateful.

Have you selected your One Word for 2018? Leave a comment to share it!


I Fell Into the Teacher Trap

The Teacher Trap

I ignored the warnings for months. The first was a quiet, almost imperceptible nudge. Then came stronger recognition. Finally, last fall, when asked for a prayer request, my answer reflected a growing awareness. But still, I pushed those warnings aside.

For those who teach or preach week in and week out, you’re probably familiar with this trap. Even if you don’t bear the title teacher, you are one. You teach by example. You teach by conversation. You teach your children. You teach your employees or coworkers.

The trap is real for all of us.

The teacher trap is the belief that the lessons and illustrations you identify as you study the Bible are for the benefit of others in your life.

And, boy, did I ever fall for it.

Preparation to teach a large women’s Bible study every week requires certain routines. One of my regular practices involves identifying principles and illustrations related to the Bible passage I’m teaching that week. I’m always on the lookout for something in my own life or in the lives of others to reinforce the lesson.

Problem is, that became my sole focus.

  • Clear principle on the need to live dependent on the Holy Spirit? Filed.
  • Good illustration on the need to forgive? Noted.
  • Concise principle describing the effect of serving others? Included.
  • Effective illustration of the importance of a vibrant prayer life? Got it.

I began to sense the problem last fall when a friend asked how she could pray for me. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it,” I told her. I hadn’t planned on saying that. The words slipped out before I had time to think. I realize now it was the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention.

The culmination came this past December, when I sought my new “one word” for 2017. If you’re not familiar with the practice of one word for the new year, the concept is intended to replace new year’s resolutions. In place of resolutions that often fail to survive through February, we prayerfully select one word to influence the way we live for the year.

My word in 2015 was release. In 2016, it was joy. In December of 2016, the Lord gave me the word hope for this new year. Despite multiple confirmations, I questioned the selection. I didn’t see immediate application.

That’s when I fell into the trap. After puzzling about it for a week or so, I concluded this was to be my word in 2017 to encourage others. To extend hope for those discouraged by their circumstances. To convey hope to those vulnerable to despair.

The teacher trap.

Just a few days into January, I learned the reason for my word. My husband was diagnosed with cancer. During the past month we clung to hope as we navigated hospitalization, surgeries, tests, and more tests. We cling to hope today as we evaluate treatment protocols and weigh options. And we will cling to hope in the coming months as we do our part and trust the Lord for whatever results He chooses to allow.

God graciously prepared me for the new year with just the right word.

As I write this, I’m again reminded of my prayer request last fall. “Pray that I apply what I’m studying before I try to teach it.” Today, even more than then, it is my heart cry…first as a child of God and then as a teacher.

May it be the heart cry of every one of us who study and teach God’s Word.

What is your experience with the teacher trap?


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