Intention Word for 2021

A few years ago, I picked up a common practice of choosing a word to pursue for that year. One of the first years I added this practice to my routine I chose to focus on the word was grace. In that year I intentionally practiced giving and receiving grace for myself and for others. At the time there was no way I could have realized I would walk through one of the most difficult years of my life. I’m thankful that I established that practice because grace became a necessity as my dearest friends, my faith community, and I walked through a period of deep and unrelenting loss and grief. 

After focusing on grace I found myself needing to change my focus to health. What started as a one year journey actually spilled into three years. Health is more than a number on a scale. For me, I had allowed many unhealthy practices to enter my body, my mind, my emotions, and my environment. Health in these areas remains a journey in process, but great strides have occurred and continue to occur. 

Enters 2020. 

Last January, consumed with fresh ideas, I thought I was ready to launch into those God-given dreams. I made preparations, I was organized, and I was on a path to financial and emotional freedom that would allow me to launch. But, as we moved into the year, I found that everything else would have to be put on hold in order to stay alive. 

And I’ve been working to stay alive ever since. 

In many ways the practices I established during my years of grace and health were threatened, but I was fighting to stay alive. I found determination to live, but often that determination to live become determination to win wars which is entirely two different things. 

And now, as we collectively begin to take up space in 2021, I feel fear to publicly or privately state an intention word for this year. However, even in fear, I feel the necessity to openly declare a focus word. I keep telling myself, “You need to do this. You need to press in. You need to stop putting off what you were created to do. You need to step into the plans you felt so compelled to make.”

In reality, identifying and owning my word for 2021 will require me to reclaim much of the grace and health that I lost in my fight to stay alive. But somehow I’m ready to do that. I’m ready to live with grace for myself and for others. I’m ready to be healthy emotionally, mentally, and physically. I’m ready to LAUNCH into destiny. 

I read somewhere last week that it’s okay to go away until you feel ready. But I’ve been gone long enough and now I’m ready to LAUNCH. 

Welcome back, me. 

Staring at the Ceiling

I'm just going to be honest and tell the world; last night I was in a very dark place.

I had finished my evening routine combing through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter doing my nightly "research" (if you know, you know, and if you're female, you probably do), when the most incredible, deep sense of hopelessness came on me.  Honestly, the hopelessness is always there just creeping below the surface of my conscience mind.  Usually I keep it at bay with noise and lots of distractions.  Last night was just a fluke.  My routine failed to keep the darkness at bay.  On my wilderness journey I have noticed my frustration does show up in my attitudes.  Thankfully, my closest friend and my family usually can over look my negativity and judgmental attitude with grace.  Then again, it's my tendency to retreat into secrecy during stress causes me to shut out those people I need the most.

It's just this vicious cycle.

But, last night, in those moments of inaudible, breathless wails, pounding my fists at the sky, I began to understand Moses's great sin--the very sin that prevented him from the Promise Land.  In the account recorded in Numbers 20, I don't believe that Moses ever intended to disobey God.  I do, however, believe he was frustrated and angry and sad and very, very lonely.  I think the pressure of the people demanding water in a wilderness--a literal desert--was a little too much for him.  I think the grief of burying his sister, Miriam, the girl who watched through reeds in the Nile, weighed on his heart.  Moses and Aaron were gaining in years, and I sure the pressure of mentoring a replacement for his brother and himself consumed his thoughts.  So, when God tells him to speak to the rock rather than to hit the rock as he had in Exodus 17, I can understand the mess up.  I don't believe it was intentional.  I believe his actions were the result of pent up emotion and passion.

Whatever his intention, the act of striking rather than speaking to the rock disqualified Moses from the Promise Land.  God still miraculously provided the water, but Moses would never step foot into the Land of Promise.

Knowing these results of Moses's mistake frightens me deeply.  I don't want to miss my Promise Land because of my obedience in the wilderness.  To take a cue from the popular Tik-Toc video, I wish there was a switch I could flip that would change my feelings, and I, for sure, wish there was a switch that would change my circumstances.  Right now, I desperately miss the carefree, fun-loving, adventure seeker that lives on the inside of me.  If I knew how to find her I would chase her down and capture her and never let her go.  Part of me thinks I left her on a mountain side staring head first into the wind tempting fate to just try and blow me to the rocks below.  And maybe I did leave her there.  But how do I get her back?  How do I find my way back to that place?

I still believe that light will always find me.  I still believe that God is for me.  I still believe that God is good and gracious and loving.  I still passionately believe He possesses all of those qualities.  I still believe that God is fighting for me.  I still believe He's working.

It's just last night...last night was a hard night.  And I'm thankful that God is okay with my hard nights.  And He's okay with yours too.  He's strong enough to shoulder them.  And you know what else?  He's still working even on your hard nights and the mornings after.

This morning, I woke up, looked in the mirror at eyes that were a little more swollen and red than usual, and then I moved on.  I'm going to be faithful.  I'm going to pursue His presence.  I'm going to strive for holiness.  I'm going to trust God even if it's a little darker than normal.

When I do think about Moses and his mistake, I have to remember this: he didn't set foot in the Promise Land, but he did get to see it.  He looked down off of his mountain, wind blowing in his face, and saw the Promise Land.  There was grace for his dark place too.

Light vs. Darkness: The Light Always Wins

Bursting through the colored glass the light splashed across my face.  The kaleidoscope of colors twisted and turned as the clouds pushed and pulled rays of light through the sky and across the cracked walls and crevasses of war marred stone.  Though slightly chilled from the brush of wind on my back, the light warmed me through and through--all the way to my cold bones.

Standing amazed--stunned even--the light helped me to see mysteries and truths hidden in the darkness of time, hurt, and weariness.  The light and the wind pushed aside the internal cobwebs birthing clarity to hidden visions and dreams.

That was the experience I had at the century old Chuny Abbey, France, as I walked on the stones and tiles that priest and lay-people alike walked on, knelt on, prayed on.  Somehow in the ruins of this bombed out Abbey the light still poured through the remaining stained glass.

I felt the light and it changed me.

It's impossible to hide from light.  Light will always find you.  As a child, my mom rarely shouted me awake.  She just turned on the light.  And that was enough to pull me from slumber into awareness.  Even with my head under the floral sheets, knowing the light was on was enough to stir me from sleep.  I wished that light gone.  I wished those frosted globes dark.  But no amount of wishing would turn those lights out.  Morning had come and it was time to wake up.

Our need for light is never attached to our desire for light.  We will always need light.  Just like water, a plant needs light to complete photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis creates oxygen.  Oxygen is the very breath in our bodies.  Light is just as much a necessity for life as water or oxygen.

But desire?

Desire light?

Desire is an entirely different thing.

God brings light to our lives in many ways.  Sometimes through people.  Sometimes through situations.  Sometimes through heartache.  Sometimes through nature.  Darkness brings a form of ignorance.  Darkness allows us to blissfully reside in complacency, fast asleep, hiding from reality.  But, just as it was in my childhood, once the light is on, escaping the light is impossible.  There is no amount of wishing that will turn that light dark.

Now that I've stood in the light, there is a great fear in me.  I'm afraid the cold black will haunt my heart again.  Can I be honest?  Sometimes I feel the icy fingers of darkness creep toward my heart threatening to shut out the sun.  But I've lived in the light, in the warmth, in the joy.  There's no way I can ever be satisfied to live in the dark or even the dimness of light's embrace.

In someways, I feel like a little child again...the one we all were when the lights first went out.  The one we were before we grew accustomed to the dark.  I'm scared of the monsters that might be under the bed or behind the door or just inside the closet.

But even if that darkness does come back, whether it's for a night or for a long while, I know that I'm not alone in the dark.  The Holy Spirit is with me bringing light to every dark place in my mind, my body, and my soul.  He will warm the cold places.  He will bring clarity to my vision.  He will give me passion to reach for my God-given dreams.  And, even though I'm in the darkness now, He won't leave me in the dark forever.

Learning to Walk Through the Open Door

Everywhere around me I’m being told that strong women are self-reliant, hard working, unstoppable forces. I cannot tell you how many Instagram posts I’ve seen featuring sloganed materiel with the phrases “make sh*t happen,” “girls run the world,” or “girl power.” The list of idioms is pretty much endless. 

When I first started seeing these posts, I double tapped with furver. I believe in the power of women. I believe that women can change the world. I believe that women are unstoppable forces. I believe women can and should be able to do everything a man can do. But now, years later, I have to wonder if the women’s rights dialogue is doing us any good. 

While there’s plenty of truth to the importance of a woman believing in herself and supporting herself and supporting other women, I’m afraid this dialogue has failed at its original purpose. Instead of empowering women to partner with men, cross gender boundaries, the only success I see is making the hearts of strong women hard and unkind and the minds of weak women stubborn, unteachable, and completely self-centered. 

Before we start calling for pitch forks or a Handmaiden’s Tale stoning please read with my heart’s intent. I believe women are entitled to as much education as they want. They should grow their knowledge and their understanding. They should have equal paying jobs. They should have meaningful work that employs their strengths. They should find fulfillment in their life’s purpose. 

As a woman in full time ministry, I clearly see the social injustices on women in the professional world. I live in a man’s world. I know, from personal experience, the loneliness I feel when I walk into a room of ministers and pastors that are all male. I’m excluded from conversations, given polite smiles as the token woman, and never recognized for the importance or influence of my life’s work to the people I love and serve. Instead, I’m recognized for my beauty, my "female" talents, my personality, my social media charm, or my father or grandfather’s ministerial success. 

It’s hurtful. It’s painful. And it’s wrong. 

But, I have to tell you, I have difficult time believing that just getting my masters in an all female cohort or just joining a support group where my grievances can be aired or just demanding attention from my leadership will do any actual good. In fact, I believe it does more to hurt my reputation than anything else. 

Women have the power and authority to be anything God has called them to be. But, I know God’s character enough to know that He did not create any woman or man to be hard, unloving, closed-minded, self-centered, OR self-reliant. God created us for relationship with each other and for partnership with God. 

My parents raised all their daughters to be individualists. There’s a bunch of family dynamics that play into my personality and the choices I’ve made. But, just so we don’t muddy the waters, let’s just say that I am generally very strong, slightly stubborn, and hard working. I’m pretty blunt and definitely determined. I’m not a perfectionists, but excellence is a personal value. To top that off, for many reasons, I’ve been in a season of singleness for quite awhile which essentially means, if necessary, I can change a flat tire myself. I rarely allow anyone, man or woman, to assist me. 

Recently, my closest guy friend and I retrieved lunch for ourselves and a few friends. It was my turn to drive and I happened to be carrying the take out meals that we had purchased. Purse on my arm, keys in my hand, I had a plan on how I was going to get in the vehicle. I would just put the drinks on top of the car, open the backseat door, throw my purse and the food in the backseat, and then put the drinks in the cup holders in the front. That was my plan. I was ready to make it happen. 

And then my friend did something I hadn’t
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