Setting intentions for your day, your week, your month, and your year serve to center your mind and connect your heart and your mind to each other. Many people use the approaching new year as a time to signal goal setting and intentionality. For some people, this manifests into a word or a mantra, something easy to remember, repeat, and return to as life inevitably brings the unexpected.
For me, this process has always worked in reverse. I don’t choose a word at the beginning of the year instead about this time every year, the word that has followed me throughout the year finds me. Last year, the word grief found me. As I reflected on the amount of grief our family had experienced, I began to understand that what we had experienced and what we had walked through together would shape who we were as individuals and as a family.
This year has been a year of strength. I spent much of the first three months of this year running and training. I was able to move back up to running five miles at a time, something I hadn’t been able to do since I was in seminary. I began to understand in a real and deep way the role spiritual abuse has impacted me. I walked more closely to my incredible partner as I wrestled with my past and began to recognize triggers and address longheld hurt that I had buried deeply. I started a certification program in spiritual direction to engage the Divine in deep and ancient ways. We found out we were pregnant and wrestled through the grief and uncertainty and memories it brought back of our loss last year. This year has ended with an invitation to step out of my comfort zone and serve as the pastor of Garden of Grace UCC. Truly, this year has been one of strength.
After a year of grieving, these opportunities to experience the Divine and to connect more deeply to my partner and family overwhelm me with gratitude. Gratitude that the invitation to grow and learn still exists. Gratitude that the Divine still calls and invites us to participate in the bringing the kingdom of God here on earth. Gratitude that we are never alone in our journey and that even when we can’t comprehend or understand where our story is going, we are still surrounded with the love and presence of Creator God.
To be sure, this year has asked me to dig deep to places I didn’t necessarily want to go, but strength comes from the deepest and darkest places. There were tears and soreness and growing pains, but as I stand on the edge of a new year, I know I am walking into that newness and this new season stronger than I have been. This makes the journey worthwhile.
I can’t wait to see what 2019 holds!
I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Ben understands better than I do. When we pull aside the curtain of privilege and systematic discrimination, surely we will find the light. Light that offers challenging self-examination, light that offers hope, and light that offers healing, but not until we admit that we have been hiding behind curtains.
Elisabeth and I talk a lot about being women entrepreneurs. We talk about the stress of trying to secure work each month in order to pay the bills. We celebrate the good times, and we allow each other the space and grace to share the times we mess up and give up.
More than anything, we provide each other the permission to be ourselves.
Creating something new and different, something that is your own is unnerving to a lot of people. It makes them wonder and question how you spend your time. It makes them challenge you and try to doubt yourself because it’s so different and unusual.
But here’s the thing. No matter what anyone else says to you or about you, you have the deciding power to let it dictate who you are and how you see yourself. When we do take on those names and labels that other people try to put on us, we are giving up our voice to decide who we are. No one really gets to decide who we are except the voice inside of us.
Sometimes you need permission to be yourself. Sometimes you need permission to do the things that center you, that remind you of who you are, what you believe in, and the people who are important to you. Sometimes you need permission to say, “I am a good writer. I am a good pastor. I am a good partner. I am a good mom. I am a good sister. I am a good brother. I am a good dad.”
You have my permission to chose one of these statements and wear it instead of whatever label other people have tried to put on you.
One of my favorite parts of being the Editor-in-Chief at Harrelson Press is conferecing. I know that many authors and have worked with many authors for whom this is not try. They would much rather be huddled at their computer making stories and characters come alive, but for me, the one who gets to edit those stories and transform them into books, the best part of the publishing process is sharing the wonderful stories I receive with other people.
This week I am Dallas and am anxious to share Stacy Sergent’s book Being Called Chaplain with a national audience. She writes about the difficulty of residency and the strains of finding your faith as a chaplain. I think she thought that her audience would be mainly chaplains, but what has been so incredible for me to watch as her publisher is the way her story of trying to find and maintain her faith in the midst of life transcends the walls of the hospital to being relevant to anyone who is trying to find his or her faith in the midst of life.
It’s not easy when we encounter tragedy and pain to believe in God, especially when that tragedy and pain is so close to our own hearts. Stacy’s honest reflection and struggle demonstrate that it’s still possible, and it’s still worth the wrestling.
Read it and believe again. And if you’re going to be in Dallas, come find her at the Chaplain’s breakfast at the CBF General Assembly!