Slowly, but Surely . . . and My Word for the Year

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Already, this has been an interesting year, marked by events both painful and rich. 

And it’s barely three weeks old.

A dear friend is facing into a difficult cancer diagnosis — for the third time. A young father I love just endured surgical removal of a cancerous body part, prognosis very hopeful. . . but still, difficult and frightening. Another friend discovered some challenging news about her unborn child. My mom forgot where she lived the last time I took her back to her room. And I am swiftly approaching a milestone birthday. 

On the brighter side, we have these tidbits: A grandson is off to Budapest for a semester. BUDAPEST! We have a great family vacation coming in July. I am walking, gradually building up strength and endurance, and managing about 1.5 miles every other day. This after six months of either NOT walking at all or moving very slowly and carefully everywhere I went. Also? I am swiftly approaching a milestone birthday. (Some things are both painful AND rich in this life.)

And so we inch along, moving from shadow to light, putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.

Life is like that, isn’t it? A crazy quilt of the hard and the lovely, all of it forming us, shaping us, sifting us. And it’s that sifting part that we resist, not at all sure we want to release the things that need releasing, to let that chaff be winnowed out and blown to the wind.

I’m wrestling with a few small personality issues in my life these days, letting my feelings get hurt too easily and worrying excessively about the underlying agendas at work in some of the smaller groups I belong to. I spend way too much time wondering what I should say, how I should intervene to insure that everything turns out the way I’d like it to turn out.

But here’s the truth of it: it’s not up to me, is it?

This much I know: I am asked to reflect the Savior I serve wherever I am and whomever I find there. And in each and every situation, to trust that ultimately, ‘all things will work together for good,’ that God knows what God is doing, and as long as I enter each tender place with my heart in the right space, nothing further is asked.

But I gotta tell you — for a control freak, like me? Someone who has long believed that competency, clarity and harmony trump just about anything? Yeah, well. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go, to trust that things will work out just fine, even without my intervention and/or feeble attempts at manipulation. It’s tough to keep my mouth shut when it needs to be shut and to speak when I need to speak and leave it at that.

I am a slow learner, it seems, because these are lessons I have to keep learning over and over again. This letting go stuff requires a daily — sometimes hourly — response in my spirit. Will I cease and desist from obsession, over-worry, hyper-sensitivity? Will I breathe in and out, and with each inflation and deflation, make space for the Spirit to rule? Ah, yes. THAT is the question.

So when I asked for a word for 2015, it took a while for me to hear it.

Last year’s word was obedience,  and that proved to be a tough one for me on many levels, perhaps beginning with the very physical act of relinquishment required for that foot surgery mid-year and the long recovery that followed. But there were other areas of life where I watched God do God’s thing in me, asking me again and again, “So . . . is you in or is you out??”

So in the midst of all of this, the word that came to me for 2015 was a strange one, at least to my ears. I like it, but I’m not quite sure what to make of it, and I haven’t a clue what to expect because of it.

So you wanna hear it? Here goes . . .

S T R E T C H

After a year like the last one, that particular word felt wonderful, to tell you the truth. Yes, yes, yes! I want to stretch myself, to reach out physically, to walk more and with greater confidence. To take more trips, see more of this grand world, enjoy these years of retirement and relative good health. Goody, goody!

And then I began to remember that stretching, as great as it as, as good for me as it is, can sometimes hurt. Sometimes it’s difficult to reach for something just beyond your grasp. And God has this way of pushing against the very places in me that are resistant, that curl up in a ball and hide away from the light, that whisper self-protection, isolation, and fear. 

Maybe I’m going to be asked to stretch in ways that are scary, to step outside my very familiar comfort zone and do some things that I’m afraid to do. 

Am I willing?

I want to be . . . I think. 

Interestingly, the very first way in which I think I’ve been asked to stretch is to take a step back, to unsubscribe from a long list of blogs that I’ve read for the last 4-5 years. Not because I no longer wish to read what I find there, but because I sense I’m being asked to simplify, to pare down.

Why?

Because I am being ever-so-gently-but-ever-so-firmly pushed to tackle some things that are (to me, at least) big projects. These are major challenges to me, they are the Large Overwhelming Anxiety-Producing Things. And in order to stretch into those areas, there has to be some give in my schedule, and in my spirit. 

I promise to keep you posted as the year progresses. Should be interesting, right? Let me know your word for 2015, if you have one, and tell me what you think it means now, as the year is new. Maybe we can check in again at mid-year and in December and see what we’ve learned. What do you think?

Linking this with Bonnie, the FaithBarista 

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Comments

  1. ‘Stretch’ brings so many positive images to mind, Diana, really. How delightful and encouraging it is to hear that you are willing. Encouraging because I think we’re on the same, slow journey with our very patient Saviour.
    God can bring his directives but saying ‘yes’ makes all the difference.
    Even if it’s a tentative yes, eh?

    • Yes, Jody – almost everyone I know is on a similar journey of being asked to trust, to stretch into whatever it is God is doing in us. And yes, ‘YES’ makes the difference — and I’m counting on a tentative one being close enough. 🙂

  2. What an intriguing word the Spirit has given you for 2015, Diana! I’m thinking you’re going to discover ways of stretching your mind and spirit that you didn’t know existed–like discovering muscles you didn’t know you had, after stretching them beyond their usual levels. But that’s how a body becomes strong, and I imagine your spiritual strength will grow even more this year (although it’s awfully well-devleoped now! 🙂 )

    ‘Looking forward to hearing more about “stretch” as the year unfolds.

    P.S. My word is “trust.” I keep coming across it in my reading–feels like it chose ME.

    • I sometimes think that ‘trust’ is my word-of-a-lifetime — it always comes back to that, doesn’t it? Blessings as you lean into that one this year, Nancy.

  3. I’m giving thanks that God did NOT give me STRETCH for this year. TRUST is hard enough. I ran from my word several weeks. As the 78 yo caregiver (with my own health challenges) to my 91 yo husband and special needs adult daughter, I have often pouted and cried and worried and screamed, “I don’t know what to do. J just don’t know…” With each outburst, TRUST quietly touches my soul. Thank you, Diana, for your honesty, openness, and for the lessons you teach me. My little family can seldom attend public worship. You are one of my sweetest cyber ministers.

    • Liz – thank you so much for giving me a tiny glimpse of your own story with these few words. WOW, that is a very full plate – and I so, SO get those outbursts. I’ve prayed those through the tough times, a LOT. And I’m grateful that whatever paltry offerings I pour into this space bless you in some small way. Delighted to have you unlurk a bit today.

  4. Donna Chapman says:

    enjoy your posts, good reminders that while God I’d working in me He is also still working in other seniors……I am not the only “slow learner”. I’ve never had a word for the year before….but I’ve felt my word for this year is to be PEACE. The last three months of 2014 were pretty turbulent so I welcome PEACE.

  5. I love your word choice, Diana! Stretching can, and might be, unpleasant at times, but when we allow God to stretch us, invite Him to in ways we never could imagine, we can’t help but grow.
    My word for this year is “Wonder.” I want to observe God’s world through the eyes of a child, expecting miracles around every corner.
    Blessings to you!

    • One of my very favorite words – wonder. (Can you guess by looking at the name of my blog??) Have fun living into to that one, Martha!

  6. Diana, I love reading posts on the words God brings to different ones. I have come to realize that no matter which word He gives us, it is going to grow us if we are faithful to focus on what He has to teach us. I chose “believe” >>”Do not be afraid, just believe…. (Luke 8:50). May we both look back on 2015 and whatever it held & be able to say, “It was a good year of growing more deeply in Him.” Blessings!

  7. I sense that you are harder on yourself than anyone around you And that word, STRETH is enough to both knock you out of unhelpful self-criticism as well as put before you some real challenges. I think it is a good word for you, friend.
    Newell

  8. Sandy Hay says:

    I can hear your lovely voice as I read your words. I’m so glad God crossed our paths last year.

    I’ve been wrestling with my level of commitment at my church. I’m being pulled…or was…in a couple of different. Both areas I love and am capable of working in yet there was “something” astir that I couldn’t shake. One day while reading a Henri Nouwen book, a word, my word for 2015 jumped off the page….Friendship. The wrestling stopped. I knew exactly what direction I was headed. Again a different word than the usual but one surely God ordained. Friendships and deepening friendships. And so off I go.

  9. It’s good to get in touch again Diana. I understand that “letting go” process. I’m a world class controller (or at least my best attempts to be). I, too, must learn hourly – it’s painful sometimes. We’re facing so many big things, and I long for the peace that comes in truly trusting Him.
    I don’t have a specific word for this year. I have felt the Father whispering over and over again that I must simply draw near and rest in Him.
    I’ve done the same thing with my blog list, and I’m spending less and less time on-line. I don’t know what the future of blogging is for me. For now, I just feel a bit weary of it all. Not the friends – they are so precious. That’s the part that I find difficult – finding that balance.
    I’m so glad your recovery is going well.

    • I am sorry it’s been a tough season, Linda. I hope you won’t disappear, my friend – I always value your words and love to see your sweet face.

  10. Ahhh. Diana. I always come to the end of your words to find I don’t know exactly where to begin a response, but that mind is engaged and my heart is resounding – and I appreciate, always, your candor. What strikes me is the thing about lovely words like yours – stretch – is that they are so multifaceted. There is the part of stretching that we lean into for the ways it feels so good, and the stretching that we must first be uncurled from to let it do its work. Both are so beautiful in their own ways. My word for the year, resurgence, feels like it offers some of the same dilemmas for me, and I hope to embrace them all as they come, the best I can. Peace to you as you continue your walking and stretching this year, literally and figuratively and otherwise 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Amber. And I LOVE your word! You’re right – both of ours have many facets, don’t they? And I send peace your way, too. Appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  11. I appreciate, Diana, that when you turn a corner, you bring us with you as well – you are shifting, stretching already and it seems to me that in order to get a good stretch in you have to cast off the things that bind (can’t really stretch in jeans, you know), to get comfortable in a way. I’m currently in a position of needing to discern how much to say and how much to keep my mouth shut – what is the value in each and what is God asking of me? Prayers welcome 😉
    I’m grateful for your presence here, online.
    And my word – honestly I’m not entirely sure yet. I tend to find two words that somehow balance each other – or cause some stretch. Last year was “Open” and “Embrace” – open was wonderful and still remains a prayer word for me, but was quite difficult too as it allowed some long-resisted truths to surface. This year I’m sensing “Small” and needing to pair it with “Exponential” because I need to remember that small isn’t a dead-end, but more like obedience or faithfulness and trust. I want to be faithful to the small things, but not small=minded or closed-off. Anyway as an introvert I don’t usually write about my word for quite awhile – I need time for it to sink and settle, but here I’ve written a mini-blog post!

    • And I am grateful for your presence out here, Kelly. Praying for wisdom as I write (about when to speak and when to not!) I love the idea of juxtaposing two words! And I like the ones you’re considering. Blessings in this new year, Kelly. I’m deeply grateful for your voice.

  12. So glad to hear that you are able to walk so far, and that your stamina is building up. I am also being challenged to do some of the bigger projects, but I’m not yet sure of my word of the year. Hope to see you fly this year, as well as being stretched, dear friend!

    • Thank you, Tanya. Praying that this relapse is short-lived – it was such fun to see YOU fly in recent weeks. I’m back to the foot doctor tomorrow for some weird pain that I’m not sure about – hopefully, it’s just old age and not surgery or recovery related!