“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering 'it will be happier'...” ~ Alfred Tennyson
I love the quote above. Its so hopeful and very true! Last year was a great year for me and the husband. We spent a month vacationing in Australia, New Zealand and Bonaire, the husband graduated from medical school and began his residency in family medicine, I accepted a new job, we officially became homeowners, we bought a new car for the husband, and for me, friendships and relationships blossomed.
It truly was a great year, but there were definitely some hardships in there too. A lot of growing and healing took place, which I thank the Lord for that both happened and continues to happen. Last year, I chose for "grace" to be my word of the year. Looking back now, I laugh at myself because I didn't really understand what grace meant when I chose it, but it truly was fitting for me. I think God placed that word on my heart because he knew it was something I needed to understand, take hold of, accept, and heal. I am a recovering perfectionist. I have these
limitations ideals that I held for myself, and I would often punish myself mentally if I didn't meet them. Living in a fallen world, I am destined to fall short, but that didn't stop me from pain of comparison, expectation, limitation, etc.
A friend encouraged me to seek therapy from our church. I met weekly with the therapist for a few months, and she really brought to light that I didn't understand grace, wasn't accepting God's forgiveness and didn't understand who Jesus is or what he did for me. Ouch. I was mad at her. We dealt with a lot of past sins and struggles. While it was painful, it was also a blessing.
My trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Bonaire was another blessing God had given me. Such an eye opening experience that really challenged me to push my self-imposed limits and witness God's love and beauty that he had created with me. I cage-dived with a great white shark, scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, skydived over New Zealand, kayaked a fiordland, and had amazing experiences with the ocean. There was even one point, when I was praying praying praying and asking for God to let me see an eagle ray, one of my favorite sea creatures. After minutes and several diving trips of having not seen one, it appeared out of nowhere. Sounds crazy, but I know he was a gift from God.
After the vacations, it was back to real life. Back to facing the reality that I needed to learn to accept God's grace, love and forgiveness. I felt lost and hopeless. Was I ever going to really understand what Jesus did for me on the cross? Yes, he died for me, Julie. Still confounding at times that God sent me a Savior to pay the ransom for my sin, and that my Savior, who loves me unconditionally and more than I could ever know, is also preparing a place for me in heaven one day. Confounding, yes, but I can say I believe it, accept it and cleave to it. He brought me and continues to bring me healing.
I remember the day when the same friend who encouraged me to seek help, also pointed out that I had acknowledged that I was and felt forgiven. It stopped me in my thoughts. I had accepted God's grace and didn't even realize it! After all those years of agonizing over my sin and imperfections, I had accepted God's grace, forgiveness and love, and I was free. This same friend also pointed out that the healing brought forth color. I love that she noticed that! How observant. Before, I only wore neutrals, decorated in neutrals and earth tones. These were part of my "restrictions," I guess. But now, I embrace color. I wear it, decorate with it, exude it, and dare I say, even push the limits on it. God's gift of grace physically set me free in so many ways.
I can honestly say that when I cry now, its not because I'm ashamed, but because I am so filled with love and gratitude for my Savior. My fear, shame, guilt, pain, etc., are gone. Yes, of course, those thoughts of unworthiness come back now and again, but I can immediately see what is going on, and stop it in its tracks. The Lord is my strength now; I don't depend on myself for that anymore and instead can find rest in Him.
Because of all these things, I have chosen "embrace" as this year's word of the year. God definitely placed this word on my heart. The stories I read in the Bible last year were all about redemption (although aren't they all?), and one thing I noticed with all of the stories from Adam & Eve to Paul, was that they involved people embracing one another after having experienced pain and redemption. The act of embracing involved crying, hugging, holding on tightly to one another and ultimately healing. In the dictionary, it means to cherish, love, to take up gladly and readily, to welcome.
I'm embracing God this year and all that He brings me. No limitations, no expectations. I'm ready to welcome all that He blesses me with, the good and the bad, for I know that He works through all things for my good.
p.s. If you are still reading, I want to thank all who were involved in this process. Specifically, my husband. I am so thankful for his love, patience, forgiveness and encouragement. I also want to thank my parents and my friends. I am so blessed to have you all in my life, and I love you.