Framework:2017

We made it. 2017.

It’s bright and shiny and the last sparkles of confetti are lingering in the air. That means it’s time to start taking our plans seriously.

If you are like me, you’ve given up resolutions because, well, I’ve never met a person who has actually kept them. So, instead, I’ve taken up the practice of creating a framework for my year. My framework is made up of a word and a verse that serve as boundaries for the choices I make in the coming year.

As a strategic thinker, I need the blueprint. Detailed plans don’t work for me. I get restless and forget why I had begun. So, this framework approach works well for me. It isn’t a firm, unmoving checklist of expectations. Instead, it is the outer edges of the space in which I live. A word and a verse that keep me coloring inside the lines.

It’s 2017 and my word is BEYOND.

I am very well aware of the truth that what this year will require of me will be beyond anything I’ve ever done. As I continue to search for a job, I know whether I continue on in vocational ministry or take on a new career, it will be different than any work I’ve ever done. My health choices will require discipline and self-acknowledgement beyond what I have previously practiced. Spiritually, I have already begun to see doors open that I am choosing to explore despite the fact that these journeys will take me beyond where my faith has previously been comfortable. I want to live beyond myself, to love beyond what I naturally do, to look beyond what is right in front of me.
That brings me to my verse.

Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.

Philippians 2:3-4 (The Voice)

Last year, it was my word that took some time to emerge. This time around it was my verse. I knew my choice for the coming year needed to be others-focused. As I searched and prayed, it became clear that these verses from Philippians 2 were the perfect words for what lies ahead.

As much as I wish that we were a nation and a world headed toward peace, I do not believe that we are. I believe that we will continue to see our world, our country, our churches, and our families divided over opinions and agendas. It is easy and natural to put our own agendas first. It is common to protect our own interests. And yet, that is not the way of Jesus. I don’t know what it will look like yet for me to live this way. I am not able to see from here how to love someone and seek their interests when the reality may be that I disagree with them. I am certain that in 2017 and for the rest of my years, I want to lift my head to extend love to others. I want to get beyond myself. I want to be sincere. And I want to live in such a way that those who live in fear may find security.

There you have it. The framework that will shape the person I become in 2017. I will live it imperfectly. I will struggle to move beyond on the days I most want to be comfortable. But I will continue to trust that it is the Holy Spirit that enables every ounce of beyond within my bones.

What about you? Do you have a framework for the coming year?

Watermarks:2016

It has been 51 weeks since my last post. Yes, 51 weeks since I have written anything other than Bible study lessons and seminary papers. So, hello again.

What better way to re-enter the world of Bedrocks and Borderlands than to reflect on 2016 and the last thing I posted. I had chosen a word and a verse for my year and I had no idea how they would take shape.

At the end of 2015, I acknowledged the natural tendency to shake off the past year and storm headfirst into a new one, with a fresh start.

Out of my way, you no good history!                                                                                            I’ve got a new year to dominate!

More than most, 2016, seems a good year to cast out of mind. With so much death, of icons of Hollywood fame and those who would become icons of hashtag fame, who wouldn’t want to forget about this year? With disheartening campaigns, nation-consuming wars, and the civil issues of past centuries revealing themselves to be just as alive as ever, even the cheeriest of optimists must be ready to escape the suffocating grip of 2016. But, as it is with every year, there was hope mixed in with the pain. So, let’s not rush to slam the door shut on the last 365 days. Let’s sit here, with the extra second that earth’s rotation has provided for us, and reflect. Let’s do the dirty and worthwhile work of excavating and unearth the treasures of this last year.

Before the clock strikes midnight, take time to marvel at the days that have passed.

The verse I chose for 2016 was Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

My word was “sacred”.

And y’all, I had no idea.

As I mentioned, and perhaps you noticed, this blog went silent for the last year. I wanted to write. But I could not. I thought it was because my writing energy was being funneled toward grad school. That may be the cause in part. However, it was about October when I began to realize that I could not write because I write about my life, the lessons I’m learning, the joys and pains I’m experiencing. This year was full of fodder. But I had asked, through choosing “sacred”that The Lord help me honor those around me. And so, through a most painful year, The Lord took my words. I would not have been able to write about 2016 with kindness, not while it was happening. On January 6th, I wrote:

“I want to simplify, to listen, to honor. I want to create and explore and rest. It is the sacredness of creation that ties all of this together. To listen to others, to not hold their sins against them, is to treat them and the relationship as sacred. To honor who I am created to be, to not compromise myself, to fight for the life that is in me is to honor the sacredness of God’s design. To create sacred space in my home and enjoy the sacred space of God’s creation, these are not the extras of a godly life. They matter. In 2016, I want to learn to see all of life as it is, set in place for the glory of God.”

Reading that paragraph, that prayer, fills me with a somber gratitude. I wouldn’t have chosen to learn of sacredness in the way that I did. I did learn to honor who I am created to be, and it cost me. In the pain of those days, I wanted to write to tell my story, but more than that I wanted to honor the others involved and I feel I have even if imperfectly. Sacred space was created for me as I’ve navigated the last few months and I was given the sweetest gift of enjoying the sacred space of creation in the best way, Autumn in the mountains of Northern California. The Lord took my words so that I could learn to do as Mary did, “treasure all these things” and “ponder them in my heart” (Luke 2:19).

And the verse, well that one is slightly more obvious, isn’t it? The immediate connection is the change that occurred in my employment. I didn’t know my ministry in Kingwood would come to an end when it did. But I still believe that my time there was intentional and purposeful both on my part and The Lord’s. This verse goes beyond my time in Kingwood though. My time in California was purposeful as well, though short-lived. And of course, it was a tumultuous year in our nation and world. I believe that I am here, alive and in the U.S. for such a time as this, to speak truth and hope with conviction and kindness in the midst of polarizing days.

So, yes, I am ready for a different year, a year full of new opportunities and, dear Lord, more joy please. But, I am thankful for a year that taught me of the sacredness of all days, the ones marked by hot tears streaming down my cheek as well as the ones marked by a crisp mountain breeze rushing over my river-soaked toes.

Here’s to you, 2016. May the lessons you taught take root as we stumble, exhausted yet hopeful into 2017.

Framework:2016

Perhaps we will just call this week-late New Year’s post a tradition. I thought long and hard this year about what word and verse would make up my 2016 framework. I just could not seem to land anywhere. Between December 1st and January 1st, about 20 different words came into view…and immediately vanished. They just all fell short. Many felt close to being the right focus but still left glaring holes in the vision I am working towards. The funny thing is, my word was staring me in the face the entire time.

The verse came much faster. Actually, it was the first one I thought of and I dismissed it early on. And yet, it kept showing up so I knew, this was it.

Are you ready for this?

My word is SACRED.

My verse is Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Why sacred? All of the other words that I had been sorting through were about how I relate to others, to myself, to my belongings. I want to simplify, to listen, to honor. I want to create and explore and rest. It is the sacredness of creation that ties all of this together. To listen to others, to not hold their sins against them, is to treat them and the relationship as sacred. To honor who I am created to be, to not compromise myself, to fight for the life that is in me is to honor the sacredness of God’s design. To create sacred space in my home and enjoy the sacred space of God’s creation, these are not the extras of a godly life. They matter. In 2016, I want to learn to see all of life as it is, set in place for the glory of God.

And Esther? Well, she and I have had a bond since my childhood. (I dressed as Queen Esther for Halloween one year.) To be honest, I’m not sure why this is my verse. I don’t know what exactly the application is for me, other than it is a constant whisper of God’s sovereignty. Our world is a mess, but you and I were born into it at this time…perhaps we have come to the world for such a time as this. I don’t know how that unfolds for you or me. I do know that I want to be a part of relief. I don’t want to abdicate my place in that story because of fear or any other reason.

Building the framework keeps me contained. When life gets hard or I feel disoriented, having a word and verse to remind me of the boundaries that, together with The Lord, I have chosen for myself, keeps me steady. It reminds me not to try to build the kitchen in the closet, so to speak. There is a design to help me decide where moments, thoughts, sorrows, and joys fit.

What about you? What is your framework for this year? Any goals or resolutions?