It's that time again! Time for our word of the year. We always pick one based on a scripture, and this one is quite a bit different than the others we've turned to in the past.
Effectiveness of Our Last Word of the Year
Last year we chose the word LIGHT. We prayed for our burdens to be lifted. Our family desperately needed to stop feeling buried by the deep, dark heaviness that resulted from my sister's death. We hoped for guidance and a renewed sense of brightness spilling into every crevice of our existence. We were seeking a way to be buoyed up.
I look back at photos of us over the last couple of years and I see a certain glazed zombie-like presence in them. We're there, but we're not there. We were going through motions. The second year of loss was SO much harder than the first, as numbness slowly subsided and the pain was raw. Agonizing.
Every shred of familiarity stung us to our core, so we went through a massive process of upheaval. I dug into our business and what we WANT to be about: not just what we happened to fall into based on convenience and monetization. We donated or sold 90% of our possessions.
It was a terrifying, bizarre process, but God put the right people in the right places. Every time we were in true need of help or encouragement, someone would appear out of the blue with the exact words that needed to be spoken into our lives.
As a former Type A control freak, I'm astonished to be reporting that I've learned to mostly let go and let God.
The light that we prayed for…happened. It just didn't happen in the way I anticipated. I'm not sure what I expected, but what transpired was a complete unfolding of our entire lives. Nate left his job in law enforcement, we started full-time homeschooling all the boys, we abruptly decided to buy a “second home” on a lake near Boise. We immersed ourselves in nature. And then, just as abruptly, we decided to let go of our first home and become Idaho residents living an entirely new, refreshingly unfamiliar, debt-free lifestyle.
Not only did we start seeing our place in the world more clearly, we became lighter all-around. Nimbler. A weight was lifted off of our shoulders. I'm not saying that life is easier by any means. We have our work cut out for us. Our land has no property on it: we're currently living in an RV and saving to build up our dream home, fixing up an old gas station to serve as our studio in the process. It's daunting. But the path, for once, is clear. We have our sights set firmly on the future, and for the first time in a long while, it looks bright.
Our New Word of the Year: Progress
For a long time, I've been studying the major characters of the Bible. David, Moses, Peter. I viewed my life in light of many of their actions, questioning: relatively, am I a good person? Am I a bad person?
Eventually I realized that those stories are few and far between, and none of it is about us anyway. Nate and I have a grand love story, but in the end what really matters is how we impact our community. The question isn't really one of human frailty, success or even redemption. It's about furthering God's word. It's about fellowship.
I stumbled upon the story of Joash, who became king for forty years at just seven years old. His reign saw him facing many of the same triumphs and temptations that many humans face. He starts with a promising future, and then loses a beloved priest and father figure named Jehoiada. Without clear guidance, he fell ultimately into idolatry – exemplifying how a weak man without the proper foundations in place can fail.
In the midst of it all, however, he took it upon himself to restore the Lord's house. He turned to his community for help and – in spite of his ultimate downfall – he managed to serve the Lord through a span of devoted actions that served to build up and reinforce God's temple, ultimately leaving a more fortified nation to his children.
The workmen did their work, and through them the repairs progressed.
They restored God’s temple to its specifications and reinforced it.2 Chronicles 24:13
Joash came from a tumultuous family with a horrifying history, and he came into rulership as a child. To me, his story shows the grey area in what is often interpreted as black-and-white humanity. Joash ultimately died in a bloody massacre that had atrocities on all sides. He was not what you would call a “good” man: he fell to the wicked inclinations of people around him.
That said, he did manage to further God's kingdom in some very positive ways. I view this story as a warning, and a call to action. I look at our family and see striking similarities. Parallels of loss and power, hopelessness and greed could easily lead us down a similar path. We need to remain mindful of the influences around us, and remember that we aren't here to be the judges of others or to win in any sort of game.
Making progress is enough. Providing stability for others? It's the most admirable thing that people can do – especially when they're emerging from a background of brokenness and strife. In contrast, one of the very worst things we can do as people is to fail to extend grace to fellow humans. Love others as yourself is the “golden rule” for a reason. The moment we seize upon opportunity and use our position to exert power over others, we've truly lost sight of what's important.
We all have choice. That's the beauty of this life. None of us are predestined to a particular path. Most will meander. When we're given the gift of clarity and guidance, that's when it's most critical that we keep our faces to the light.
Looking over our words from previous years, we have a lot of guiding terms that have led us to the place we are today:
In looking at the current state of our life objectively, I'd say that we're well-positioned to make a ton of progress. Looking over the past year, we've started saying “yes!” to a lot of amazing speaking opportunities that we usually didn't prioritize due to our busy schedule.
We've started focusing on one-on-one conversations that slipped away in the midst of hectic lives and skewed priorities. We've learned to sit in quiet contemplation and to put out messages that are helpful and true to ourselves.
When you're emerging from a background of destruction and tragedy, sometimes you may look around and see nothing but shattered dreams. Try to reframe and see that instead as a clean slate. A chance to rebuild the temple. A chance to make progress, on your OWN terms.
And then keep a SHARP eye on who you let in and who you listen to. I truly do believe that this period of time can be a great catalyst for change and spreading a positive message – and it can also be a time of intense vulnerability.
Work. Make progress. Restore.