I've mentioned this before, but in 2016 I decided to trade in my laundry lists of New Year’s resolutions for a word. Just one. One I could write down, pray over and learn to walk in.
I should be able to handle one word, right?
In 2016, my word was Full.
That was the year I graduated from college, moved to a state where I knew no one and started navigating this whole adulthood thing.
In 2016 I learned that to live Full, you have to make a concerted effort to remain Thankful.
Last year’s word was Confident.
I started 2017 as a single woman for the first time since I was 14. I will always remember 2017 as the year I just shrugged my shoulders and went all in with my faith journey. Nothing else was working, and I knew there had to be more than happy hours and wrapping yourself in the fleeting comfort of fickle people with their fickle promises.
Last year, I learned that to live in Confidence, you have to Trust.
Trust a promise of salvation, identity, worthy and value. A bunch of stuff you never deserved, but that you get to walk in anyway. Trust in a Word that promises that when you go all in and mean it, you will find more than what you're looking for. A Word that couldn't be fickle if it tried.
I decided on my word for 2018 about halfway through 2017. It floated around my mind for a few days before I really noticed it. But when I noticed it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Freedom.
My word for 2018 is Freedom.
Now, I could have written this post at the end of December and made it go live right on January 1st. It was a Monday, after all. How perfect would that have been?
But here's the thing- I gave up on serving y'all perfection a long time ago. I pushed that aside and settled for real. I can do real.
So, we will start with this. Last fall, I joined a "Freedom" small group at my church per recommendation of our pastor and everyone I had asked about joining a small group.
So, every Thursday I went to this woman's house at 10 AM and sat on a couch drinking coffee and eating pastries with about nine other women. We each had a book with specific lessons and curriculum, all with the purpose of pursuing freedom in the way the Bible mentions so often.
At first, I was skeptical. I was open, but skeptical.
I've never thought of myself as “not free”, honestly.
But I kept going. Each week. More coffee. Another muffin. Pushing myself to commit and praying for more hunger and more transformation.
And each week, He delivered.
Messages about guilt, shame, past hurt, the words we use, the hearts we hold and all the things that can hold you hostage in a way you don't even directly notice. Man, oh man.
The semester ended with a conference in December. A Friday night and Saturday morning dedicated to bringing together the hundreds of people who had selected a Freedom small group. Hundreds of men and women gathering for worship and to be prayed over for freedom from the very real, specific things that hold so many of us back.
A Friday and Saturday I just knew I couldn't go to because the holiday season leaves a newsroom short-staffed and I am a fill-in, and weekend, anchor. So, I went through the semester praying to get to go, knowing it just wasn't feasible.
Well, on the weekend the conference was scheduled for, a "snowstorm" blew its way through Alabama. I use quotes because I lived in Missouri for four years. However, it was a really real thing for the sweet folks of Alabama. So, the conference was pushed to mid-January.
I'm going to say that again, in case you missed it.
The conference was delayed because of a snowstorm in Alabama. Right.
Well, as I mentioned, January 1, 2017 was a Monday. I have Mondays off, so I was able to trade my holiday pay for an extra day off...which I asked to use on the Friday of the new conference weekend. I figured I would get to go Friday and just leave early Saturday to make it to work in time to prep for the 6 PM newscast.
The Thursday before the new conference, I got out of the shower, after a really rough day of work to a text from my Saturday producer. She had texted just to let me know the 6 PM show was canceled on Saturday because our network was showing a sporting event.
I went from not being able to go, to being able to go to the entire thing and take a nap before going in to anchor at 9 and 10.
And y'all, that conference changed my life. Tears, worship, prayer, realness and heart swells. Tearing down walls of pride, greed, self-hate, insecurity and resentment from the past. Being prayed on one-on-one by people who didn't know me, but didn't care. People who just wanted to lift me up and pray for healing from my hurt. Even the hurt I didn't know about.
My life was changed by a conference I never thought I'd be able to go to.
I learned Freedom that day. Freedom from schedules, limitations and the way that circumstances can fill you with an idea about how things have to be.
I am humbled and overwhelmed that my 2018 started that way. I am also humbled and overwhelmed that the woman I mentioned earlier, whose house we gathered at for our group meetings, asked me to co-lead the same group with her for the spring. I said yes. It starts this Thursday, and I am so thrilled.
Anyway, I also started my year with my church's 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. I used the Whole30 for my fast (more on that later), but the prayer part was my biggest concern.
You see, these 21 days of prayer are intended to start the year by giving the very first of each of the days to God. And by first, they mean being at church at 6 AM to worship and pray for an hour Monday through Friday and at 9 AM on Saturday...so, like, yo first first.
My church does this twice a year, and I had dabbled...coming once or twice on the weekday I was off of work and on Saturday.
This year, though, I wanted to go all in. I wanted to grow how I pray and seek our Lord. I wanted to put Him first, so I decided to do it. The only issue is, I get off work at 10:30 and usually go to sleep at 12:30.
So, I prayed. For energy to make it there, energy not to pass out later that day at work and an overflow of coffee beans (hello, amen).
Waking up wasn’t easy at first, but it got better. I didn't love walking through my cold apartment parking lot at 5:45 AM, but man I loved the energy of hundreds of people who were tired but grateful. Sleepy, but re-energized by a heart for praise and worship.
It's contagious, y'all. The Spirit of the Lord is contagious. Joy is contagious. Praise is contagious.
So, I made it every morning with the exception of two nights I slept at work because we were iced in during snow coverage. Those mornings, I watched online and spent my hour praying in an equipment closet.
It got easier, and I started waking up before my 5:25 alarm. I did the last week and a half without coffee (perhaps the biggest miracle of all), and felt more energized each day.
The last day was this last Saturday, and I am humbled and grateful.
I learned to pray with everything I have. I learned to really receive a blessing. I learned the beauty and joy of praying fully for other people, especially strangers.
I gained a kind of momentum, energy and peace that I cannot explain. I can only say it's not from me, and it's certainly not from the things of a world that glorifies busyness, more coffee and quick fixes.
I say all of this to say that I am overwhelmed with joy to spend this year pursuing Freedom.
Now, I won't say I've got it down completely. I will say, though, that I know what it looks like now. I know what it feels like. I'm starting to understand how to be filled with it.
You see, Freedom isn't turning 16, getting a car, stuffing your face with whatever you want or even having enough money to buy whatever you want.
None of those things address the dark corners that can build up within you and hold you hostage, keeping you from joy, peace and self-love.
You cannot buy your peace of mind, friends.
You cannot buy the transformation of your heart that will allow you to love people who have hurt you, laugh when everything is going wrong and look your flawed, broken self in the mirror and genuinely say "I love you; you're still enough".
You cannot buy that.
11 days into 2018, the Lord showed me that to live in Freedom, you have to let go. Not of your dreams, passions and hard work...but of your guilt for the ways you fall short, the shame of where you've been and all the fears that tell you that you can't. You have to give that up.
You have to look at those things and firmly say they have no place here. They really don't. There is no southern hospitality to be had for the things that try to drown out your purpose.
Go all in this year, y'all.
Do the things you've decided you're too sleepy, weak or busy to do. Do those things first.
Make lists, pray prayers and wake up earlier.
Fall down, then stand up and go again.
Don't compare, don't try to measure up, just do it.
Do it, and be grateful.
Be thankful, trust and let go.
Be full. Be confident. Pursue freedom.
With Love & Glitter,