Word of the Year – 2021

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. – Jeremiah 31:25

As has been my tradition for the past few years, once again I am reflecting on the past year and selecting a word to define and focus my intentions for the coming year. I have selected a word that feels a little ambiguous but I always find that it takes shape as we go through the year. 

Certainly that was the case for this past year as I chose the word “serve.” My dear friend made me a bracelet to help keep this word at the front of my thoughts–it simply said SERVE. I wore the bracelet on my right wrist and had it constantly before me as I walked through the year.

I cannot remember a greater time of need for virtually everyone I know and for the world. Between CoVid 19 paralyzing us in March through the rest of the year, and the unrest with racial disparity, and the most tumultuous Presidential election, and real, heartbreaking needs in my own family, I have been stretched to offer myself in a hundred ways, to serve, while sometimes tearing my heart at its core as loved ones suffer and deal with difficult circumstances.

One thing I have taken away from this year is simply that serving is pouring your heart into another. To serve is to invest in another’s hardship, and to unite two hearts in purpose and kindness.  I also have found such joy in being about others. Places where I certainly could have felt self absorbed, I found  practical ways to give purpose to this senseless time. One more beautiful part of the equation this year was finding much of the world’s despair and difficulties were too big for me, and I learned surrender and trust. An inexplainable peace accompanied me. Certainly God was the one Constant as the world teetered on insanity in so much uncertainty. I went about each day doing what I could and letting the rest go, letting small accomplishments be enough. Simplicity was another bonus. As life slowed down in quarantine, much of the peripheral busyness in my life ceased. And I learned I was just fine without it. That opened the door to serve where I previously had been too busy.

I have found that single verbs are especially good words to focus in the year, as they inspire action on my part. So, my word for 2021 will be RENEW. I already see this focus lending new and fresh optimism to areas of my life including my thought processes, my relationships with friends and family, and my spiritual life. Where else it will lead, who knows but the Lord above, whom I pray will lead and guide and show me new paths that grow me and refresh others with renewal and revitalized joy, motivation, and perspective.

Pearl Girls blog tour

pearl girls

Pearl Girls, Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, compiled by Margaret McSweeney,  encourages and gives glory to God by telling courageous women’s true stories of how God turned their life’s grit into pearls.

 “We’re all Pearl Girls,” states McSweeney, “With His love and grace, God covers  unexpected pain and transforms this pain into a pearl. Each of us has been touched by God’s gift of love and grace, and it’s a gift that I want to share with others. That’s why I am launching Pearl Girls.”

Pearl Girls resonates within the Christian woman’s soul. As I drank in the pages of Pearl Girls, I heard the voice of faithful Christian women spanning the ages humming a low, soulful  “Amazing Grace.”  It sends a powerful message that with God’s tender mercies, we have hope during and through every trial. Pearl Girls contributor, Maureen Lang notes, “It is the hard moments in life that are undeniably tied to those things that make us strong.” Each story holds its own amazing gift of courage, and as a whole, Pearl Girls weaves a mighty story of faith and sisterhood. This book is a drink of Living Water for the tired and thirsty soul.

Pearl Girls proceeds benefit two charities.

When you purchase Pearl Girls, 100% of the royalties go directly to two charities: WINGS  (proceeds help fund a Safe House in the Chicago suburbs), and Hands of Hope, (proceeds help build wells in Uganda for school children.) 

Tell your own “Pearl” story.

Inspired by the many women who opened their lives and shared their stories in Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, a sister site has been created to share your own pearl stories at  Post-a-Pearl. Collaborating is an important purpose of Pearl Girls. We connect to make a difference in the world.

Pearl Girls may be purchased online at Amazon.com.

oh me of little faith

 Every once in a while, when going to church becomes a half-hearted act of obedience and doubt floods our thoughts, we get a big God hug that shakes us to the core. This was the case last Sunday, as I recorded the 21st of 24 scriptures to commit to memory for the year. I had approached the whole endeavor as I do most commitments. I tell myself “Anything is better than nothing.”  It’s no great wonder that I can’t find one Scripture to back up this philosophy.

I woke up Sunday, knowing my memory verse would be Isaiah 47:10.  Before the wedding, I had actually dreaded the day, worrying about so many things. Being “on” for a big crowd isn’t my favorite thing to do, and letting people see my anxiety is especially not fun for me. Because of this, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to my daughter’s wedding. However, after God saw me through with such Peace as only He can give, I knew my approach to the wedding (and most of life) was  filled with unbelief and fear. Afterward, when I came across this verse in my reading, I knew it was for me to claim.

As Sunday approached, I also became convicted that either I believed what Scripture said and let it change me, or my faith was just a hobby to fill my time. More and more, I realized that one of the biggest obstacles for me to rest in Christ is that I carry a negative, worrisome attitude. Sunday was the day to either let Isaiah 47:10 form the sturdy core of a belief system that would make me stronger in Christ or simply be a mental exercise in futility.

On the way to church and as I walked into the sanctuary and sat down, a wave of fear consumed me. As the music started, tight-clenching anxiety started its familiar progression. I felt the awkward catch in my throat, the inability to swallow, the subsequent shallow breaths and pounding heart. Every muscle tightened and my thoughts became  filled with doubt, I hardly can admit how low I sank. Satan had me by the neck, and I wasn’t doing a thing about it. Finally, a small, weak voice inside me started to sing, “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord…wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord…”

It was right in that moment that I looked up on the screen for the next words to the song, and right before my eyes were the words to Isaiah 47:10

“So do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right Hand.”

Now, you need to know that our church has never done that before that I know of, or since. One verse, right in the middle of a song, of all verses–my verse! Only seconds before, I had wondered if I was praying into thin air, if God, if He was God, cared. The next moment, I was swept into a flood of compassion–His compassion–for me.

Tears streamed as I sang, “You’re the defender of the weak. You comfort those in need…You lift us up on wings like eagles.”  My heart broke as I remembered my doubt, my fragile belief, and His most tender and personal mercies for me, a sinner, saved over and over, and again this day, by His everlasting Grace.