Looking Back - The Year of Courage

My word for 2012 was courage.

It's just like me that the first time I write about my word for 2012 is also the last day of 2012.

I am good at making plans. Not so good at remembering them. I had plenty of plans to write about courage this past year. And here I am, looking back at my plans and laughing, because plans to write about something don't amount to a hill of beans compared to actually living it.

And actually living courage is, well, sometimes not a lot of fun. But it sure makes a difference.

Here's Princess Me being courageous and taking a silly picture... because I am a daughter of the King!

I expect that what requires courage for me is different from what requires courage for you. It does not take courage for me to drive across country with my kids and no other adult. But I have friends who can't imagine it.

Courage for me looked like...

- inviting total strangers to share a room with me at a conference. And making two lovely new friends.

- running my first retreat for my bible study ladies and doing it my way, not the way I thought others would have said I "should" do it. I wrote the retreat, hosted, cooked the food, and led it. I was nervous, wondering if some of my ideas were silly. But I did it anyway. It was one of the most intense projects I have undertaken - exhausting and incredibly rewarding.

- running. As in actually running with my feet. I did a couch to 5K program in the spring and it was unfun and I felt so silly, but I did it.

- not giving up on a writing commitment that I felt thoroughly unqualified for, only to find that I was qualified in ways I had not realized

- pitching ideas to a group unlike any that had been suggested before. Being an introverted right-brained person in a left-brained group can be terrifying. I usually keep my mouth shut. My ideas were embraced... a good lesson for me to be who God made me to be

- taking the crazy wild idea of a website for girls and making it solid enough to pitch to my husband. Going out on a limb and converting that idea to a family project that required a major chunk of our homeschooling efforts for the fall. Not giving up in November when everything seemed to be falling apart and even my husband had begun to question whether or not I could see it through to fruition. And finally telling the whole world about it (so scary!!)

- taking photos my way, and allowing others' ideas of the "right" way to float gently about without feeling them as criticism.

Those are some of last year's acts of courage that come to mind. Really, they all just required courage to be who God made me to be. Which seems silly, doesn't it? Shouldn't that be easy?

But those were not the only places I had to live courage.

In the moments when I just did not want to keep going, when it all seemed too much, too hard, too endless... I had to choose courage.

When I had to gently speak a hard truth to a difficult person... I had to choose courage.

When I felt I had failed and knew I must tell someone who it affected... I had to choose courage.

When the odds were against me and things truly were unfair, but I wanted to end well... I had to choose courage.

And when I looked up courage in the bible? Mostly I found it relating to times of believers girding one another up by sharing their testimonies.

For the first time this year I noticed that "courage" is part of "encourage." I have long known that one of my strongest spiritual callings is to encourage others. I hadn't thought of it as giving others courage, but it makes sense. And perhaps I fall into this naturally because I am so needy for it myself.

I know my word for 2013. I've known it for two months. And it is going to require I take courage along for the ride next year too. I already have some glimmers of projects I am called to next year, and some of it I don't want to do. Waaaaay too far out of my comfort zone.

Which seems to be where God most likes to guide me. And bless me.

Tomorrow... says the girl who is good at making plans and not so good at remembering them...  I will tell you my crazy word for 2013.

What about you? Did you have a word for 2012?


Little Lights Shine Bright, Even on a Threadbare Tree

It sits crammed in the corner of a room that has no extra space.

Wall and bookshelves show in the wide gaping spaces between its spindly arms. Homemade ornaments bob when we pass by, a mere breeze causing whole branches to shake.

The golden star perching aloft bows toward the ground, its weight just too much for a tender stem to bear.

This is our Christmas tree, and it's much like all the trees we've brought into our home since moving out to the Texas countryside.

My husband and I are New Englanders, people who grew up with lush firs and pines. People used to snow at Christmas.

Our children are Texans. On our homestead there are two Christmas tree candidates. Tall loblolly pines, precious trees we'd never cut, especially now that fire has ripped life from so many of them. And eastern red cedars, about the closest thing you can find to a weed tree. So each year the kids and my husband hunt the fields for a cedar tree that is small enough to fit in the house. And each year they drag in a spindly wonder.

I love our bedraggled tree.  The ornaments that cover it each bring a memory. Kids can't reach everywhere, and I don't worry about the thick clumps of ornaments or the bare places. The lights are strung haphazardly... our arms resisting the scratch of the needles, we throw them hither and thither.

I love our tree because it as far from perfect as I am.

It fits, in this house all stuffed with books and yarn and papers and half drunk cups of tea. It sparkles like the eyes of my children. There's no pretending of perfection, no symmetry to provide an unrealistic counterpoint to our haphazard journey through this life.

When the windows are dark and the lights low, the tree twinkles a cheery goodnight. When I rise long before dawn, the tree glimmers as I wrap in a blanket on the couch and settle the Word on my lap.

All those little lights... little disorganized lights on a threadbare tree... they still shine.

You are the light of the world... let your light shine...
Matthew 5:14, 16

Merry Christmas friends. This word girl hasn't the words to express the deep joy I have known in writing here and elsewhere, in meeting so many of you both online and in person, and in experiencing the fellowship of sisters... daughters of the One True King. You are one of God's tender gifts to me.

I finish 2012 with a deep sense of fulfillment and God's provision. I am so grateful.

Thank you for shining bright and beautiful in my life.


When the Darkness Tries to Overwhelm

We did something crazy this week and launched a website.

Right in the middle of the frenzy of December we did it.

It was scary and dangerous and risky to pour ourselves for months into a little dream and not know what would come. But when we opened wide the doors on Monday there was dancing and there were squeals as person after person responded with such kindness and encouragement.

I am not being metaphorical about the squeals. Or the dancing.

And we chitter chattered and bubbled both at home and online and it was so bright and shiny everywhere.

Then yesterday morning all fell heavy.

The darkness fell as I read about tiny people, beloved by family and God, ripped from this world.

I couldn't do anything but fall silent and fall on my knees. To feel the fingers of ice, the specter of hopelessness.

I stilled my online words. I grabbed the faces here with all their messy hair, and kissed cheeks. I looked into bright eyes and found my own eyes bright with tears.

Then in the afternoon we went to the zoo. The zoo, of all places.

It was a birthday party that took us there, in the gray December fog, with drizzle threatening. A tiny zoo in the middle of the Texas nowhere, filled with rescued and endangered animals. Our host, the birthday boy, had wanted to see the lions.

We were expected, our small party of homeschoolers, and had the zoo to ourselves. The owner had held off feeding the big cats so we could watch.

The time came, and the lion was ready. Past ready. Meal time is usually in the morning.

The low growl of a lion waiting for food send chills up your arms. You want to step far back from the double fence, to grab your babies and cower.

The zoo owner stepped between the fences with a bucket of raw chicken and made the lion show off by raising the chicken above his head so it had to stand on two back paws. While the lion feverishly crunched through bones, the zookeeper educated us.

He told us how male lions have the hardest life of all animals. How fights are to the death. How they eat people.

The lion was slinking again, low growl saying "more, more."  The keeper raised another chicken leg to the fence and it was snatched in a flash.

The zookeeper continued, telling grisly tales that did not seem birthday party fare. Then more growling, more chicken.

And as I listened to the mingle of growls and crunching and horror stories, I heard quiet but strong in my heart:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  - 1 Peter 5:8

Like a roaring lion.

We can not be blamed for looking at lions and feeling fear. Nor can we mamas avoid the sharp knife of terror for our own babies that is mingled with the devastating grief we feel to our core for the mamas who have lost little ones.

We have an enemy.

To dismiss this is to live a delusion.

It is right to recognize danger.

But we who belong to God must also know this truth: Perfect love casts out fear.

As a tornado of death and lions and bright beginnings and Christmas swirls through my mind, simple words take over.



I remember what Jesus said...

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. - John 16:33

And wouldn't the lion that prowls and brings trouble want us to cower, to hide? Wouldn't he want to chase us into dark corners, to hold close what is dear, to squeeze eyes and not look?

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. - 1 John 1:5 

That which is evil must have light shone upon it. We must shine that light.

You are the light of the world... Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14, 16

The slinking lion darkness and evil is all about, yet we can choose to look to the light. To not cower, to not squeeze eyes. To set our faces firm toward God and be lights in this world.

We are only lights because of Him. All we do is reflect. But we must choose to be open to reflecting. To be alert, to stand firm, to shine back His glory.

Little eyes are watching how we choose. If we speak despairing words little ears hear. If we make fearful choices little hearts wonder.

I am determined to choose love.

I have this one living hope...

Shine, mamas, shine His light in you. Be alert. Stand firm. And shine.

candle photo copyright
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...