The Word I Forgot that Changed My Life

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?

See you tomorrow at The Grove where we’ll all share our words for 2015!  Check out OneWord365 to see what it’s all about.


  1. Jessica Hoover December 31, 2014

    Oh sweet friend…If you’ll remember my word was also embrace. I’ve had to embrace some unexpected twists and turns too. We should have known, right? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how saying yes to God in our journeys is simple trust that He is always saying yes to us. Even in our worry, wanderings and questions. That has encouraged my heart deeply. He is for us. Love you.

    1. Danielle Wheeler December 31, 2014

      Yes, I remember we were word sisters. 🙂  Aching for the twists you’ve had to go through, friend.  That truth… that He is for us… always, no matter what.  That is hope and comfort right there.  Love to you.  Looking forward to hearing your new word.

  2. Pat Duff January 1, 2015

    I just read your Oct. 30 post and appreciate your honesty.  One line struck me, and I wonder if you realized you’d written it:  “I’m learning to embrace my limits rather than fight them.”  Great advice to us all.  Settling down to think of my word for 2015.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 1, 2015

      Thanks, Pat.  And yes, that’s a line I keep coming back to.  Praying the Father shows you your word.  Would love to hear about it at The Grove.

  3. Elizabeth January 1, 2015

    I LOVE those verses in the Message! Had never read those particular verses that way. I had noticed you weren’t writing for the Grove as much as before, but i hadn’t put two and two together until now 🙂

    I, too, went through a time this year where i had to battle the idea of not being Enough. For awhile it seemed this idea was everywhere in my life. And oh my, yes, all the shoulds. So.many.shoulds. There is only one thing for it, but to rebel. Rebel against all the shoulds, and embrace our limits. I love that you even acknowledge the limits.  We are human beings with physical bodies, but too often we are reticent to acknowledge those limits. So Cheers! Here’s to living within our limits in 2015 🙂

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 1, 2015

      Yes!  Cheers to our rebellion. 🙂  Embracing our limits truly is freedom, a freedom the enemy doesn’t want us to have.

      And I love the Message for the way it makes me see verses a new light.  These verses are so dear to me now.

  4. Wendy van Eyck January 1, 2015

    It’s funny how these words somehow pick us rather than us picking them. Thank you for sharing how your word #oneword365 impacted you in 2014.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 12, 2015

      Hey Wendy, just now getting back to the comments here.  I absolutely felt like my One Word chose me!  Both this “embrace” for last year and “rooted” for this year.

  5. Erin January 3, 2015

    Dearest Danielle,

    As always, thank you for your honesty…Father is doing such a mighty work!





    1. Danielle Wheeler January 12, 2015

      Thanks for your sweet encouragement, Erin.  So blessed by you!

  6. Cecily Willard January 3, 2015

    Danielle, I want to just write a word to encourage you because I see the Lord’s orchestration.  The Lord gave you the dream of Velvet Ashes.  And, from what I think you are saying, Velvet Ashes was birthed from a painful place.  (What else is new, right?!)  Then, after giving birth to this beautiful thing that God put on your heart, you had to step back.

    Now, I am not rejoicing in the painful things that caused you to have to step back, but I rejoice in how the Lord orchestrated the development of Velvet Ashes during its first several months online.  It is evident that VA is the Lord’s dream, and that you play a very important role in it.  But, in your stepping back, the Lord has taken this dream and vision and He has carried it and sustained it.

    What a beautiful thing for you to rejoice in!  To know that you heard the Father’s heart concerning VA and that you were able to rally all of your God-given gifts and talents to bring to birth something that is so clearly of Him.  And now you have been able to step back and watch Him work in His newly created work.

    I don’t know if this makes any sense, but may the Lord give you a heart of joy about what He has done through you!

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 12, 2015

      Thanks, Cecily.  Yes, I love to see how VA has grown so beyond the dream that I had, that is it is not centered on me, but has become this incredible tapestry of gifted women.  It truly has been his dream and his work.

  7. Monica January 7, 2015

    Has anyone else wrestled with the shackles of “should” and “have to”?  How are you learning to embrace freedom?

    Yes, I have.  During this sabbatical time the Lord has really released me from the all the ‘should haves’ and the ‘doer’ mentality I’ve carried all these years.  Oh the freedom! Believe it or not, I’m currently enjoying weekly sessions at Link Care, and it’s blessed my husband and me in so many ways!  When you talked about the ugly-crying… I know what you mean!  This post was so beautiful Danielle, thank you for being authentic, sharing your heart, and pressing on in FREEDOM.

    1. Danielle Wheeler January 12, 2015

      Monica, I love reading your words here, connecting in our shared feelings and struggles.  I pray your time at Link Care is deep and life-altering.  So grateful for them!  Relish and rest in your sabbatical!

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