About this time last year, I had just finished a bumpy year in general (2013) and a really rough two months specifically. (If you want to read more, I wrote in this blog post about the ache of 2013, and how I was praying for 2014 to bring relief.)
As January 2014 began, I read a devotional about choosing one word for the coming year. I had heard of people doing this before, and using their One Word to direct their intentions all year long. I had never done it before, but decided it might be good for me in 2014. I was already in a dark spot and the year ahead of me looked bleak and painful, so any shred of hope seemed worth grasping.
I prayed about my word. I read my Bible trying to find my word. I even did some Praying in Color to help me select my word and doodled down all the words I was pondering (yes, I have A LOT OF WORDS rattling around my head!), and thought I had settled on a few “finalists.”
So at the end of January, on the night before my 40th birthday – which I was considering the true start to my year – I sat down and told Dan all about my Words. I showed him the art I made and which finalists I had chosen. And then, he told me none of those finalists were MY Word. I was a smidge irritated, because, really! How would he know what MY Word should be?!
And then, he said my Word: REST.
[You can see from my doodle art that the word “rest” actually was on my list, it just wasn’t one of my top words.] Dan had watched me crumble and crack and fret and try. to. hold. it. together. all through 2013, and he knew I needed to stop striving. Stop trying. Stop fretting and controlling and freaking out. He knew my soul desperately needed rest. Simple as that! I saw the wisdom in Dan’s reasoning, and decided to trust his suggestion. I selected rest, and then spent the next 11 months of the year choosing it intentionally. In fact, the very next day was my 40th birthday and rest became a HUGE part of the event. Dan whisked me away on a surprise trip, which you can click here to read.
Rest helped guide the remainder of the year for me, too. When we returned from Mexico, I spent the first part of February in a post-vacation high. When reality set in, I realized I would need to make some changes in my life if rest was going to become more than just lip service for me. I prayed about the status of my life, asking God to show me what areas I was overfunctioning and needed to rest. I had already been praying since November about what direction He wanted me to pursue in relation to my job, so I already knew there might be some changes coming there.
I started seeing a counselor to help me make sense of the mess on my plate and discern what God’s best for me might look like. Around the same time, a job opening became available at my office/church. I decided to apply for it, because it wouldn’t require me to work weekends and it was in one of my favorite ministries.
My counselor and I also talked about what TRUE rest would look like, even considering if I had no job at all. At first, I bristled at the idea. In our American society, being unemployed isn’t exactly a goal. And in my mind, being unemployed would be taking a step backwards. I had already been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years prior to this job, so leaving the job would mean losing ground. Wouldn’t it?! But there was that word again: rest. In my conversations and my sessions and my prayers, I slowly realized this truth: If I am truly secure in my Father’s provision for me and can trust His direction in my life and define myself based on who He is (not my paycheck), then I am able to step out of my known into His known (even when it is unknown to me).
It turned out the job opening I applied for was removed, and it was no longer an option. That left me in a job where I worked weekends, which had started making me feel like I was shortchanging my family. I wrestled with rest. And my job. And my standards and expectations of myself. I wrestled in my prayers and my conversations with Dan and close friends and my counselor. I kept trying to make my current situation work, but kept losing ground in patience and peace and margin for my life.
The morning of the day I found out the job opening was not an option, I met with a new friend of mine who is an author. That morning, she asked me to share my story and she listened intently. At the end of our time, she asked me, “What is your dream?” I told her about a book. And photos. And a few other things. And she said, “I want to help you make that happen.” Words can’t describe the hope I felt flooding my heart after our conversation. It was a turning point, and hope gave me something to hold.
I had been trying for nine months to find rest on my own. I was ignoring the danger signs that I was getting to some unhealthy points in my life, and was blatantly ignoring things God was whispering to me because I wanted to keep trying to make things work MY WAY.
That frustration mixed with this new hope, and I finally saw the way things were going were simply just. not. going. I realized the thing my counselor and I had talked about needed to become reality: it was time for me to step out of my job. I sat on that decision for a while, and waited for God to affirm it. He did, so I gave my resignation at the start of August and was unemployed by September 1.
My Word for the year didn’t just upset the proverbial apple cart; it totally upended it! But by mid-September, I could tell God was already changing me. Rest was now reality, and I was blossoming while I rested in His arms. I say that in past tense, but it is still present tense for me: I am blossoming while I rest in His arms. I have spent intense and intentional time with God these last 4+ months, and it has changed me. The overachiever, performance-based part of me has struggled with being unemployed, and I wrestle with her when she says I should “Find a job!” and “Start contributing to society!” She’s right, but only partly. I am learning that “contributing” doesn’t mean you have a W-4 and a paycheck. These days, contributing looks like:
- Being home when my kids get off the bus, and being rested enough to welcome them and be a place of refuge. (I used to be frazzled and snappish.)
- Catching some of the balls Dan and I were dropping while I was working.
- Having someone over for coffee so we can talk about our struggles.
- Ministering to the grieving.
- Studying the Bible.
- Listening to my husband and engaging with him in person. (We used to handle lots of stuff over the phone.)
- Sitting in my Tent of Meeting for as long as my Daddy wants to talk.
- Taking care of household business: carpool and groceries and meals and laundry and Christmas-gift-buying and planning and organizing. (And, man! I’ve done some much-needed purging of cabinets and stashes!)
- Spending time intentionally: with myself, with my family, with my friends, and with God.
Within the first two or three weeks of my unemployment, I had eight people say to me: “You look happy.” and “You look peaceful.” One person even said I was glowing, like a pregnant woman. But the best affirmation of my decision was when Katie said these two things a few days apart: “I like that you’re an energetic mommy now when I come home!” and “I had a fun weekend. I’m sort of glad you’re not working anymore.” So I’m learning to do less wrestling and more resting. I know it’s good for me. I know my Father wants me to rest and sabbath and find Him in my peace. Some days it is a struggle because I want to be doing-and-going-and-frenetic again. I had to fight that feeling even today, and spoke to a friend who talked me off the ledge. She reminded me that God will tell me when it’s time to start a new pace for my life.
2014 has ended and it’s time to consider my One Word for 2015. I haven’t selected it yet, but I do have some words already floating around. I have to admit I’m a little gun shy about choosing one because of the radical changes last year’s Word invoked, and yet I’m a tiny bit eager to see how God will breathe life into me this year when I bind my intentions to His.