Recounting My Ways {The Grove: Passage}

Each birthday I ask God for a passage to focus on for the coming year. That particular portion of Scripture becomes a companion, traveling with me as a challenging, comforting, transforming friend. And like a friend, as the months go by, shares more and more, revealing insights, subtleties and layers of meaning.

This is what I think of when I read Paul’s words, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Allow a chunk of God’s Word to become more than an idea or sentiment, letting it take up residence in you, kneading truth into your being. Let one particular passage infuse your thinking, your prayers, your rhythms, your formation as you journey along with it.

Psalm 119:26-35 was one such passage shaping my soul a couple years ago. Within were two segments that especially struck me: “My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your word.” and “I recounted my ways and You answered me.”

This passage surfaced near the end of a long stretch of valley, a wearying season of sorrow spanning several years, marked by the long goodbye to my mom, the passing of Sam’s mom, launching children into adulthood while halfway across the world, multiple friends departing the field, significant changes in our role, and shifts of capacity in body and mind.

Like a personal debriefer, God came alongside as I recounted my ways in this valley. The question I wanted Him to answer was, “Where were You?” The tone of my question wasn’t doubt. I knew He was there, but I also knew my weariness had often caused me to miss seeing Him. I longed to gratefully acknowledge His presence, especially in those moments He was quiet, simply present, waiting, not forcing conversation.

The process of recounting my ways and looking for Him became my Sabbath project that year. Each Sabbath I spent time creating and praying through a timeline covering this valley season, starting in a year when much shifted and left my identity adrift. (The focus passage at the time of those shifts, by the way, was Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”)

Over months of Sabbaths, I recounted my ways, looking back over life events and my responses to them. I bought an art book for my timeline, filling it with events, verses, and prayers, pouring over old calendars and journals. Then I began sitting with God in those events, pondering, journaling, and sometimes unpacking them with a friend.

The very first notation in my timeline marked a trip our 18-year-old Sara and I took to Thailand to change her visa status. While there we snorkeled in an enchanting cove. As we slipped into the warm sea, the colors and movement under the surface were breathtakingly beautiful. Tiny transparent jellyfish, barely visible, were also in the water. At first, we hardly noticed the occasional harmless sting because of the beauty of our surroundings. But eventually, the effect of those little stings accumulated, draining our desire to stay in the water.

This image became a metaphor of many of the events on my timeline. Those “harmless” little stings of losses contributed to a deluge of grief. Each hug goodbye, each parting, each leaving, each tug of missing, accumulated into a sea of sorrow. God was gently shepherding me back to those memories to generously measure out His restoration and rest laced with compassion and lovingkindness.

Significant to this process was the sense God wanted to be with me in these memories, to bring light and understanding to where my heart was and the ways He was tending my soul at that particular time.

“I recounted my ways and You answered me.” This passage has been woven into my fabric, a part of my being and understanding of God’s presence and work in me.

How about you? What passages have journeyed with you over a season? We want to encourage you to consider a passage of Scripture to focus on this year, letting it dwell in you richly and sink deeply into your being.

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Join us at The Grove by either linking up your blog post or share your passage or a way you have found to let the Word dwell in you richly in the comments. And don’t forget to share your images on Instagram using #VelvetAshesPassage

Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesPassage. You can add yours!

10 Comments

  1. Amy Young January 12, 2017

    I love this Patty! This year for me it is a verse from Psalm 37. In part, “Verily, I will feed you.” It’s the verily that gets me :). God will feed me. Body, mind, and soul. I don’t need to worry. Verily.

    1. Patty Stallings January 13, 2017

      Verily! What a beautiful, powerful word to hang your trust on, Amy!

  2. Hadassah Doss January 12, 2017

    I’ve decided to focus on parts of Ephesians 4, which describes Christian ways of living. I especially need the verses that say, “Do not be bitter or angry,” (v. 31-32) as we transition off the field and reenter life in the US. Not because of any trauma or being forced to leave. Leaving was our choice. But, simply because of some things the Lord is trying to work out in me. And I especially want to live out the part that says my words can be used to strengthen others (v. 29). I am an encourager by nature, but it seems I save that encouragement for everyone but my family. This year, I want to live out those words for my children, especially my oldest as she transitions into school and life in America. And lastly, as I let this passage dwell in me and sink in deeply, I want God to remake my old self into one that truly reflects His character (v.17-24). This is my prayer! Thank you, Velvet Ashes team, for making Scripture a priority in your lives, for sharing how it has transformed your lives in the past, and for encouraging us to do the same.

    1. Patty Stallings January 13, 2017

      Thank you for sharing this, Hadassah! What I love about focusing on a passage is the assurance that God is actively committed to cause it to dwell in us and sink in deeply as well. May He empower you and enable you to live out the words of Ephesians 4, especially as you strengthen and encourage your family.

  3. Sarah Hilkemann January 12, 2017

    Thank you for sharing this, Patty!

    There have been a couple of passages that have been encouraging my heart lately. My teammate and I have ministered in a rural village area for the last 2 years. The first year we actually lived there, and for the last year we have been traveling there several days every month. It has been hard in so many ways, and even when we visited there this last week, I found my heart aching over the darkness there and my own brokenness. But, these verses have really helped me.

    Psalm 126:5-6 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

    Psalm 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

    There have definitely been a LOT of tears over the last couple of years, but the picture of the joyful harvest is so encouraging for my soul. Perhaps I won’t get to see the harvest in this particular area, but I can put my trust in the Lord of the Harvest for what He will do. He is so majestic and yet He cares so tenderly for my heart. I’m also grateful for the chance to look back and realize that there have been seeds planted and that is not a waste. God is so good to bring those passages to our attention to minister to our hearts at just the right time.

    1. Patty Stallings January 13, 2017

      Yes, yes, yes, Sarah! I’m praying right now that the Lord would continue to infuse courage into your soul as you labor in hard soil. There is a sweetness in sowing in obedience while still waiting for the harvest that must please our Father’s heart greatly. May you and your teammate sense His pleasure in you!

  4. JulieB January 13, 2017

    My word for this year is STEADFAST LOVE – concentrating this year more on God’s character rather than what I think I need to change in my life.
    I did a quick search of this phrase in scripture and found quite a few where this phrase is used. I plan to go through the verses over the course of this year….but the verse that is my anchor for 2017 is:
    “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ ” Lamentations 3:22-24

    As I entered the new year with an unplanned 10 day trip back to the US and spent the first days of 2017 with my dad in the hospital, I was impressed again with God’s faithfulness and steadfast love for my father as well as for me. The year so far has not started as I planned….but He is always faithful and his love is unchanging. For that I am so very grateful. I am sure there will be more events this year where I will be reminded of His steadfast love and faithfulness and that will be good for my soul.

    1. Patty Stallings January 13, 2017

      Julie, focusing on God’s character and His steadfast love sounds like wisdom. Knowing you are faithfully and fully loved is foundational to making sense and integrating the unexpected events in life, huh? May you continue to see His unchanging steadfast love every day of 2017!

  5. Bayta January 14, 2017

    2017 looks to be a year of major change around me. Several dear friends and co-workers are leaving, which leaves us stayers feeling a bit fragile. Not quite sure how Berlin life will work without them. When Psalm 42 was mentioned in church last week, I knew that was my passage for the year. Nothing like a psalm to take you by the hand through the inevitable emotional ups and downs…

    Giving me permission to grieve and be sad (Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become restless and disturbed within me?)

    Remembering so many great times (These things I [vividly] remember as I pour out my soul)

    Reminding my soul what it is really longing for (As the deer pants [longingly] for the water brooks,
    So my soul pants [longingly] for You, O God.)

    And helping lift my eyes to see God’s faithfulness again, and to remember the hope there is because of that (Yet the Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song will be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.; Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him)

    I know I’ll need all of that and more!

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