On Wednesday I had a wonderful chance for three hours to get away and reflect on this past year. Our organization asks us every year at this time to take some time away and think through how we are doing – emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. I always look forward to the process, and in particular using my journal and study notes to pick up some of the major themes and lessons of how God has been at work in my life.
There are a number of themes that emerged that are helping to direct this year. As much as in some ways I have felt like we have been in a “stalled” mode for awhile in terms of our mission and our church, it was refreshing to see ways that God has been at work, and fulfilling some of the vision that He gave us awhile ago. Since we moved to Sanda six and a half years ago, I have been praying about starting more of a ladies’ outreach; starting a parenting class for moms; helping to facilitate a movement of prayer for believers in Sanda to pray for our city. We have also had a dream of starting some sort of a coffee shop that could be a safe place for people to come and hang out and rub shoulders with Christians. This dream is still out there, but I am seeing God at work in the other three areas. We had our first ladies’ tea at Christmas, and we are praying about doing this next month before Easter, as well. My friend Yuko and I have started a parenting class this January, and it has been a wonderful, safe place for seven women friends from our community to study biblical principles and apply them practically to our lives. And, we are still praying and working on the possibility of an easter sunrise prayer gathering in Sanda for Christians from the different churches in our city. God is at work; He hears our desires; or rather – He is at work forming His desires in our heart and fulfilling them in His time and purposes.
Another theme this year was summarized by a mentor friend Beth who said, “continue trusting God even when He doesn’t give me what I want.” It has been really disappointing this year that God has not opened up a new home for us. It has made us redirect our prayers; relinquish our desires; examine our lives; and continually seek out contentment. But the most important factor has been – to continue trusting God. Even when we don’t get what we are asking for.
Every year I prayerfully choose a theme verse for the coming year. This year I have chosen a theme verse and a theme word. The verse for this year has struck me particularly because of the translation, and already has been great at crunch times and challenges throughout my day. “I am equal to every lot, through the help of Him who gives me inward strength” (Phil 4:13, Way). Love that; love the promise of God’s inward strength to me.
Finally, I read a blog in late January about a woman who came up with the idea of choosing one word as a theme for the year. The idea caught on, to her surprise, and has been helpful for me as well (read more about it here, particularly entries in January). The word I have chosen for this year is “higher.” I have been thinking a lot about Isaiah 55:8,9– God’s ways being higher than ours — his way of thinking on such a different plane. And I have found it so helpful to continually ask God to lift my thinking above my own shallowness to His ways, asking God to continually lift my thoughts, my actions, my words, my heart up to a way that is so different than my natural tendencies. Oh- such a long way to go have I – I just failed miserably with my husband on Thursday. But it has helped significantly in dealing with areas of hurt; times I have wanted to respond out of pain or anger; seeking to think like Jesus would. It needs to sink in more, but I have found this one word tool to be one of the ways that God is at work in my life this year.