This is the third year I’ve chosen a Word of the Year, or One Little Word (concept by Ali Edwards), and I’ve come to really appreciate this approach to a new year versus choosing some New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions don’t seem to last very long, and with that comes a certain sense of failure. But I think choosing a word that describes the direction or focus you plan to take in the upcoming year takes a little pressure off. It’s not a list of do’s and/or don’ts, but rather just something to continually keep in mind and work towards throughout the year.
The word I have chosen for 2016 is RENEW.
Before I go on to explain this word, because it’s part of the story, I just want to take you back to 2015 and my word for that year, which was CULTIVATE. You can read about my One Little Word for 2015 here, and for 2014 here.
These types of posts always get a bit lengthy for me. Sorry. you can skip all the words if you want, but I just feel like I need to give a little back story.
I’m just going to be bluntly honest and say that 2015 sucked. In so many ways.
When I chose the word cultivate, I have to admit I had something totally different in mind than God did. My idea of cultivation was less intensive, less invasive, a little more surface, not so deep. A lot nicer. Much more pleasant. I kind of have to chuckle and think that just maybe, when I chose that word, God just sat back, gave a little nod, and said something along the lines of “Well, if cultivation is what you want, my child, then that is what you will get.” And so He did. Cultivated me, that is.
2015 was so challenging in so may ways. And that is why you haven’t seen me updating my Cultivate album. I kept it up for over half the year, and then it just got too hard. I couldn’t even find the words to write what I was feeling inside. Maybe sometime I will show you the pages I have completed but haven’t shared yet.
Early on in 2015 when I got a hint of the challenges to come, I felt like God was saying that He wanted to go deep. He said something like “Brenda, it’s not enough to just cultivate above ground, to look good. But I want to make sure your roots are strong.” I had no idea what that would look like, but I found out.
The Devil likes to kick us when we’re down, and that’s what he did. He went after us when we were already facing challenges and gave us one sucker punch after another until I wasn’t sure I’d survive. I think every area of our lives was affected, except for our physical health, thankfully. We stayed healthy all year, except for a small ordeal with Lymes with one of our kids. But it was very clear to me that we were under some sort of spiritual attack and engaged in a spiritual battle.
And I began to realize that God had a whole other idea of cultivation than I did. Like barren soil that breaks up under the farmer’s plow, God wrecked me. He poked and prodded. He pulled up weeds and tugged at the stones.
And I I stood and wondered “Is this what the soil feels like after it’s been cultivated? Broken, vulnerable, wondering what in the world just happened.
But one thing I know is that God doesn’t wreck without a reason. He doesn’t break something unless there’s something better to be had. He always, always has a purpose. God wants us to thrive and grow, but sometimes He needs to get rid of the junk first.
Like the grape is crushed to release its sweet juices. Like a rose petal crushed to release its pleasant fragrance. Like a diamond is formed under pressure. God breaks us open so he can plant a new seed and begin something new, something sweet, something wonderful.
After the storm comes a rainbow. Out of the fire comes pure gold. The heart that goes through times of trial is purified and strengthened for whatever lies ahead. The trials will make us or break us. We will either respond by hardening or hearts and shutting down, or by opening up and allowing God to do what He wants to in us.
And so after a year like 2015, I feel so much like it’s time for something new. My spirit has been so weary this past year from so much struggle. I need RENEWal in so many areas of my life. I need God to come and breathe a fresh breath of newness in my spirit.
I looked up the word RENEW in the dictionary. It means:
verb (used with object)
1. to begin or take up again, as an acquaintance, a conversation, etc.; resume.
2. to make effective for an additional period
3. to restore or replenish:
4. to make, say, or do again.
5. to revive; reestablish.
6. to recover (youth, strength, etc.).
7. to restore to a former state; make new or as if new again.
verb (used without object)
8. to begin again; recommence.
9. to renew a lease, note, etc.
10. to be restored to a former state; become new or as if new again.
I also looked up some synonyms, and these are some that I really liked:
- begin again
- breathe new life into
Yes, Jesus! Yes! That is exactly what my heart longs for! I hope I’ve been adequately cultivated. I hope my heart stands soft and workable enough for Him to use to nurture and grow something useful and beautiful.
All I have to offer is clumps of dirt falling through my fingers. But I lift it up to the Father and ask Him to do something with this. To RENEW me. That the seeds He’s planted this year will spring up a fruitful tree. One with deep roots.
The dirt, after it’s been cultivated, doesn’t show any signs of growth at first. An observer has no idea what kind of seeds the farmer has planted deep within the soil until the shoots begin to emerge. That is where I am right now. Freshly (and hopefully thoroughly) cultivated. Ready for new life and renewal.
I have no idea what will come out of this period of my life. I have no clue what seeds the Father has planted or what He hopes this will yield in me. I’ll have to wait and see. But I know He’s not going to waste it. He’s done work on me this year. I’ve had some glimpses of some good things that have come about because of this year of cultivation. And I expect to see more glimpses along the way. Until one day I can look back and see something flourishing and growing as a direct result of what God has been doing. Some day it will be evident. For now, I wait and draw close to God, waiting in expectation for the RENEWal that I know will come soon.
I’ll leave you with this verse that speaks right to my heart.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
And this quote by Vance Havner:
“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”
And this one by Daniel Abram:
We say that flowers return every spring, but that is a lie. It is true that the world is renewed. It is also true that that renewal comes at a price, for even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested.
The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.
And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.”