Theme Word for 2017

Do you choose a word for the year?

I follow several bloggers who do this, and my folks do it, too – chose a theme word for themselves. A twist on New Year’s Resolutions, the word or phrase is something that they’ve chosen to represent what they’re looking forward to with God in the next 12 months. They pray about it, toss ideas back and forth, and eventually come to a one word or short phrase to sum it all up – their theme for the year. Examples: Return. Quiet. Finish strong. Happiness. Balance. Go bold. Rest. Pause.

I’ve been thinking – but only halfheartedly – about a word, and sort of praying about it when it crosses my mind. So I’ve not put real effort into this, but it seems that God is trying to get my attention anyway – He keeps giving me “contentment;”  the word fills my mind and Spirit. As if God is whispering to me, “Be content, my child. Stop yearning. Stop planning. Simply be with Me, and find yourself settled.”

Being content in my current circumstances – living in VA, working in my job, days of solitude, as empty-nesters, in the position of participant instead of leader, in parenting adult children, in long days of just me and the kitty until my husband comes home.

None of these things define me. They are simply where I find myself right now. God defines me, and He’s telling me to rest in Him. That I am His beloved, His daughter, His joy. I’ve entered a new season of my life, and He wants me to do that with Him leading the way. I’m to trust Him and what He says, and He’ll take care of all the details for what’s to come.

I do this by spending quality time with Him. Opening the Bible to see what it tells me about who God is and how He sees me. Praying His Word and my requests – bringing my honest self to our time together, and letting Him fill my heart with His love. Replacing my fears and insecurities with the truth about who I am in Christ.

Contentment will bring gratitude. Thankfulness for so many blessings of my life: my wonderful husband, my delightful adult kids, my home, my job and the opportunity to serve others, a church to worship with fellow believers, a Bible study to meet women who love the Lord. Living in a country where we can gather without fear for our lives as we worship and study and pray. For family. For friendships old and new and still to come.

Contentment will bring peace. Settling into my new hometown. Adjusting to my new roles. Not longing for the past or trying to figure out the future, but living in the present. Learning new things, new places, new people.  Being open to who and what God has for me each day, one day at a time. Paul said it in Philippians:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13, NIV

I can be content because God promises to give me the strength to do so.  If I have any success in my word for the year, it will be because He helped me do it – to Him be the glory.

Loneliness

I’m writing what’s going on in my life. Which feels like nothing.

I am alone for hours. During the day, the time stretches in front of me like barren land. Some days I sleep in just because there is nothing to get up for.

I’m used to being busier than this. To having more social interaction. To conversations. To people. The silence is so loud!

I need a hobby. Or a volunteer spot. Or a good book. Or a Bible study. Something to do with my time. Perhaps if I filled the hours with reading. Or knitting. Or studying God’s Word. But I haven’t, so the hours drag by.

I’ve scheduled my week so that I get out around people most days. Three times a week, mid-afternoon, I go to my very-part-time job and talk to a few people. One morning I do the same. Another morning (for a couple more weeks anyway), I go to physical therapy for my back, so at least I talk to the PT.  But all of those appointments are an hour or so – not much in my long days.

I don’t really know anyone yet. My job doesn’t lend itself to getting to know the other trainers – we’re each busy with our own students. Joining an evening Bible study didn’t work out this past session due to the job – I’ll try again after the New Year. I haven’t found one that meets during the daytime. A small group would be a nice way to get to know others, so I hope that will work out.

How can I use this time – and I have lots of it – to bring glory to God? What can I do with this time and solitude?

Firstly, I need to receive it as a gift, not as a curse of loneliness. I need to shift my attitude of self-pity, and instead practice gratitude for this time. My life may not always keep this slow pace.

Secondly, I need to use it wisely, and in a way that honors God.  Letter writing, Bible study, praying for others. I do these things a bit, but perhaps if I’m more intentional…

Finally, I need to ask God to give me purpose for this time. To write about my depression experience. To study God’s Word as He reveals Himself to me.  To relax into a good book – my Kindle is full of them. To knit a new scarf, maybe even learn a new stitch. I have lots of choices to choose from!

I need to trade the “I’m so lonely” for “now it’s time.”

Back Pain…

Everything was fine on Monday. Beautiful sunny day, a tad warmer than I prefer, but good. Had appointment with my new psych doc – I really like him. Got X-rays for the chiropractor. Stopped at the grocery store. A decent day.

Tuesday, I could hardly move. My lower back locked up and the pain was excruciating. I made it ten feet to the pain reliever in the bathroom – moaning as I dragged myself there, grasping along the side of the bed as far as I could reach, then flinging myself to the door jamb for something to hold me up. I used my left arm to support myself on the counter as I slowly lowered my body to the bottom drawer to grab the pills. After gulping down a few, I reversed the process to get myself back to the bed. Once I was laying down, I panted and moaned until the sharp needles stopped poking me. I texted my husband and told him I was having back spasms.

I laid in bed awhile, then napped a bit, and when I woke up, my back felt a little better. I decided to head into the living room – I’d been in bed all morning. This time, I rolled my body upwards as I swung my legs over the side, and standing was almost painless. For about five seconds. But it wasn’t causing me to gasp, so I staggered to the cushy chair. Big mistake.

The moment my tailbone went lower in the seat than parallel with the floor, I cried out in pain. And now I was truly stuck. No arm rests. No tall table. Nothing to push up on. I texted my husband and told him I needed help.

I sat there for 15-20 minutes, pushing my feet against the coffee table to try to lift my lower back and ease the agony. Finally, I couldn’t wait for him anymore – the pain was just too much. So I fell out of the chair and began to crawl to the bedroom. I cried out with each “step,” but I got to the edge of the bed. Now I had to pull myself up and get on top. I was making childbirth sounds by this time, and I rolled and moaned until the spasm relaxed enough that I could lie flat.

My husband got home about 15 minutes later. He crushed up some ice and I laid on it, fell asleep as the ice slowly melted and melded to the shape of my lower spine. I woke an hour later and my back had unlocked. I laid in bed and thanked God for breaking the hold on my spine.

I was able to be up and about the rest of the afternoon and evening. And while my back has continued to spasm all week, it’s not locked up again. I saw a doctor yesterday – she gave me meds to help with relaxing the muscles and the pain. I’m on the mend.

There wasn’t much to do when laying flat on my back, so I prayed a lot. Not just for my pain, but for the pain in the world, for pain that friends are experiencing, for the pain of life. Because there is pain, and many are hurting. And sometimes crawling through the pain is all we can do. Until God breaks the pain lock. He specializes in relief. And Jesus’ death and resurrection has broken the pain for eternity. All of earth groans for Christ’s return. All of creation longs for the pain to end. And God’s Word promises that it will.

Order to my days

Aimless.

Days without structure.

Nothing in particular

to do.

Long hours stretch out before me.

Flipping channels.

Flipping pages.

Nothing holding my attention.

Reinvention?

Put a schedule in place.

Start my day with God

– read, pray, study.

Then exercise.

And errands

or phone calls

or tasks

or swim. 

There. A plan.

Sense of purpose.

Getting My Attention

I just love it when I realize that God is teaching me a lesson, when He speaks to me from several venues, but always the same message. And when I get it, I say “Ohhh. I’m listening now, Lord!”

A couple of days ago, I was reading my devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I love this book – such a great way to start my day. The point of her message was that when I chose to spend time with God, meditating on His Word, He will give me His peace to replace my fears and worries.

I then opened my email, read an e-devotional by Ann Voskamp (A Holy Experience), and was reminded that I am not what the media would tell me I am, but that God is the One who sees me as beautiful. When I think of myself as fat or out of shape or unattractive, I was encouraged to replace the messages from magazines and TV with the truth of God’s Word, that He calls me Beloved. He sacrificed Himself for me, He loves me unconditionally, completely. He sees the inner me, and I am beautiful in His eyes.

A couple of emails down, I read my e-devotional from Jennifer Lee, and it reminded me about taking my thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). So when I’m thinking that I don’t measure up, I wish I had a better body, I feel inadequate because my days are long and I don’t see how I’m contributing anything to anyone, then I need to recognize that these are not thoughts from Christ.  They are lies that cause me to question my value. But Christ says I’m valuable, I’m treasured, I’m important, I’m loved – so much that He died for me. And His words are Truth.

After journaling about these lessons and finishing my morning emails, I flipped on the TV as background noise for while I was knitting. Enjoying Everyday Life with author Joyce Meyer was on, and I found myself watching instead of knitting. She told the audience to be careful with thoughts, that dwelling on the negative ones is contrary to how God wants us to think. “Ohhh, I’m listening now, Lord!”

I recalled Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 

Four separate venues, but all to get my attention. God wants me to think truth, not lies, and when I do, I will be flooded by His peace (You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3).

God reminds me that I am His treasured child and He has a plan all worked out for my good. I don’t need to fret about our relocation and living situation, or my body image, or what my future holds. I am to spend time with Him in His Word, and keep doing what He gives me to do. And when I choose to release my worrisome and negative thoughts to Him, He will give me His peace to replace those thoughts.

I’m so glad He got my attention.