In November here at Velvet Ashes, I chose to be more open and authentic than was comfortable for me. I chose to be very real about what I had been going through. I shared about how my family and I spent time in counseling this past summer.
You all responded with such a shower of love and encouragement that I never once regretted choosing authenticity. And I realize that is no small gift. Thank you.
And now as this year comes to a close, I find myself shaking my head at my One Word.
I thought I knew what God wanted to do in me with this One Word. Like I wrote at the beginning of the year, I walked into 2014 ready to “embrace.” My One Word was about embracing what comes, embracing people, and embracing the now.
And then a few months into my year, I had nearly forgotten my One Word. Embrace what?
Life at the time was straining at the seams. We had reached our capacity and beyond. Family medical issues were a huge part of our stress. I wanted to blame it all on that.
But the truth was, there were deeper core issues that brought us to where we were, to our life of little margin, to the thick fog of exhaustion, to the strain in our marriage and our parenting.
I don’t know exactly how it began. Perhaps it was with the phrase that we all grew up hearing, “Just do your best.”
Somehow that line warped itself around my soul, pressing me with the lie that my best always meant a little bit more. Give more. Try harder.
Wanting to “just do my best” in every area of life, to please God, to please people, to meet all the huge needs out there, I became shackled to a set of expectations in my mind that told me what I should be doing, that governed what I had to do.
This is what a good Christian should do…
This is what a good mother should do…
This is what a good cross-cultural worker should do…
This left an impossibly long list that had me frayed, forever feeling not enough. But what were my options? Fail or try harder.
So, as I shared, we went to Link Care, in hopes we could pull ourselves away from the brink of burnout.
During our time there, a sweet friend of mine sent me a birthday gift. I opened the tiny box and saw the word embrace engraved on a beautiful necklace.
“Hmm, ‘embrace’, that’s an interesting word to put on a necklace…” I thought. And then it hit me, “Oh, wait… that’s my One Word for this year…”
I sat there looking in the box wishing that this word held more depth of meaning for me.
And then in the week that followed, I reached the really intense part of the counseling program, the part that had me ugly crying in the counselor’s office. I didn’t know what it meant, but it felt like a wretchedly wonderful release, an admission of all the ways I was not enough, and a dawning that perhaps that was completely okay.
When we finished the counseling program, my counselor typed up a summary for me. I never mentioned to her that my word was “embrace.” But she ended the summary by saying that as I move forward my life needs to be about embracing “good enough.”
And with that my One Word came to life.
In the months that followed our time at Link Care, God gave me these two verses,
“Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 MSG
“As we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.” Romans 8:4 MSG
These words felt written for me.
It’s a slow journey I don’t pretend to be done with, but change is happening.
Perhaps you noticed I pulled back from writing at The Grove as much as I had been. We pulled back from other areas of our overextended life.
My instinct chafes at this pull back. The voice in my head lists all of the things I should be doing, needs I should be meeting. But I am growing my under-developed “no” muscles, learning to reign in my hyper-active “yes.”
And you know what’s happening?
I’m tasting freedom. Freedom from the need to DO ALL THE THINGS.
Freedom to turn away from that which crowds out the intimate space in my soul, the space reserved for what matters and for Who matters most.
Now when I look at my necklace, when I hook it round my neck, I melt at the word. Because in it I feel the embrace of Jesus.
I sense his words,
“This right here, this intimacy is the source of life.
If you but catch a glimpse of how I see you, you would know that you are complete.
That nothing could please me more than you embracing what I’ve done for you.
It’s done. It’s enough.
Be released from the shackles of ‘should’ and ‘have to.’
You are FREE, love.”
Anyone else forget about your One Word during the year? Did it sneak back up on you later?
Has anyone else wrestled with the shackles of “should” and “have to”? How are you learning to embrace freedom?