Words have a lot of meaning to me as you may have guessed. This blog, my books, my own personal journals; they all help me to express myself in different ways. Words can heal us and help us vent, they can challenge us and give us new direction. Words are so powerful. And for me words also guide my spiritual walks. Each year as the new year rolls around, my sister, mother, and I pray individually and consider the new year.
What is God showing me? Where is He Directing? What do I feel him calling me to? These are all questions I ask myself as I consider what word will guide me in the new year. We've had words like journey, wait, hope... there really is no limit.
My word for 2014 was Restore. At the beginning of the year, that was what I felt God wanted me to focus on. Over the years, I've reached the very lowest point of my life thus far. My entire family reached that point actually.
When the trials come, it definitely tests your faith. But when the trials last for ten years, it tests everything.
You give up a lot of things when your family is low on money like mine has been. You give up cable tv (not that we ever kept it regularly. We used to buy it in preparation for the Olympics), you give up Internet (and with that goes connecting with out of state friends), you give up luxuries like fresh fruits and vegetables (they are more expensive than you might realize), sometimes you give up nicer clothes (because it's more important to have “practical” clothes), and if you're struggling as much as my family has, you might be forced to cut down on showers, heat, and AC.
When you go through trials like that, life changing trials, you never come out on the other side as the same person.
That was one of many things I came to discover. And so for me, 2014 was about restoration – healing from all the experiences and finding a way back. Now granted, anyone who has ever been through the fire knows that you can't really go back. You are changed forever. You can't ever go back to the way you were. But I noticed that I had lost some pieces of myself along the way. Pieces that I felt were worth saving. For one thing, I lost my peace. Over the years, I adjusted so much to the daily turmoil and pain that I became used to it. So when the noise finally stopped and when my spinning world came to a stand still, all I could hear was the empty void. For weeks I felt lost. The silence wasn't calming, it was nerve-racking. As my sister often says, it's like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Imagine you are in the middle of a cyclone and when the noise subsides you think, is that it? Is it all over? And just to be safe, you stay in your safe haven longer than necessary just because of the fear of it. You think there is still more to come, so you wait. But eventually, you do come out. And when you do, the silence can be deafening. That's how I felt this past year.
Because of all that, I wanted, no, I needed to be restored. I needed to find that place where I could feel some normalcy again. But through the first half of the year, that didn't happen for me. As I often do with my word of the year, I looked it up in my bible and did a study on it. There were some verses about restoration but they didn't impact me the way I expected them to. And I spent several months dealing with that feeling of bewilderment.
Until it came. God gave me a new word. That is something that has never happened before. Normally, I pick a word and God directs throughout the year. Usually that's the end of it. But 2014 was different. Halfway through the year, a new word popped up. Then I saw it again, I heard it in a song, read it in a book, or had it enter conversations. The word was Sovereign. I'm nearly crying right now just thinking about it. The more I thought about it the more I realized what God was teaching me.
The only way I was going to find the restoration I craved was by seeking God.
Yeah, I did a double take on that one. What do you mean? Haven't I been seeking him the whole time? Wasn't I calling out to him in my family's trials? Hadn't I prayed and sought him daily for strength to make it through? I was seeking him even in my first word of the year, wasn't I? I read my bible and everything.
Then it hit me. I couldn't restore myself.
God. Is. Sovereign. That means He's the one in control. Not me.
I knew that. Ten years of trials forced me to see that. But I guess that once I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I thought I had it all under control from that point on. I could see what direction to go again, or at least, I thought I could, and somehow I forgot that I still needed God even when I could see the path ahead.
So, if I couldn't restore myself and only God could, that meant that I needed to keep relying on God. Always. Even when I knew the way by heart. Even when the trial is over. Even in the coming years when I don't need to be restored anymore. We need God on the tops of life's mountains as much as we need him in the low valleys. We need Him every minute of every day, not just in the hard times.
By seeking God and remembering his sovereignty, I have begun to restore. And I've realized something extremely important. You can't restore yourself. But you can experience restoration. Maybe not full restoration. The scars will always be there. But you can find a new kind of peace and life. If you'll only keep looking to the one who has the power to heal.