A friend of mine recently read a book I wrote a few years ago titled, Victim of Grace.
In the book I wrote about how I ask God for a banner word every year and how He always gives me one. It becomes a theme for that year. She asked if I would share with her the process that I go through each year and this is what I wrote back to her. I wanted to share it with you.
I love words. You probably guessed that.
It seems that throughout my journey with Jesus He has chosen to give me words because He knows it’s my love language.
The words He gives me always remind me that He’s with me. He loves me. He sees me and He knows my heart. The process in which I receive a word from Him has been different each year. It’s a sweet mystery.
The first time I asked Him for a word was a few decades ago. I was in a needy place. I wanted reassurance and direction from Him. I remember sitting in my snuggle chair in the corner of the living room by the fire place, opening my cupped hands to Him like a beggar and whispering, “Please Sir. Can I have a word?”
He gave me what I asked from Him. A word pressed on my thoughts the way the palm of a mother’s hand gently presses on the forehead of a feverish child. I felt instantly calmed. The fever was still there, so to speak, but I felt His presence. I knew He was taking care of me. And I had a word to hold onto.
Other years the word has come and settled on me like an affirmation. Those times it’s been more like a relaxed conversation with a best friend while sitting under a beach umbrella. The friend says, “You know, you really have been faithful lately. I like that about you.” And I say back to my Friend who-is-closer-than-a-brother, “No, you’re the one whose been faithful.” And then it’s as if I close my eyes, lean back to relax and think, “Hmmm. Faithful. That’s a good word.” I’m going to write that down.
And there it is. The word for the year.
Some years I’ve waited and waited and it’s felt like being in a waiting room at a hospital watching for the doctor to come through the doors. The news can be either good or bad. I never know. I’m hoping for good. But I’m preparing for bad. The door in my heart opens, the word is presented and it is mysterious. Beyond my understanding. I feel solemn, hopeful.
A few times when I’ve stopped everything, sat before Him and asked for a word, it has come immediately. The word resonates in my spirit, echoing off the walls of my soul. Those times I’ve cried the sort of tears that come with no sound, no effort. They roll down my face and stop only when my heart whispers, “Thank you”
Since I love words, I’ve kept a journal each year as long as I can remember. They are like treasure chests filled with words. Every year when I set aside the time to be with the Lord and ask for a word, I do so with two journals – the first journal is from the prior year and the other is a new, blank journal for the year ahead.
Last year at this time Ross was recovering from having his quad muscle reattached to his knee so my “sit and wait before the Lord” time was choppy. It didn’t matter. I slipped out on the lanai early on the first day of the new year and as the morning came, I felt a settling sort of peace in the midst of all that had been so unsettling. The word sort of floated up in my thoughts like a soap bubble. It was as if I reached out and caught it and quickly wrote it down.
The word was “wait”. Who wants to hear that word ever? I liked it. I wanted it. I took it and held it close.
Two years ago I was more purposeful in having a day set aside to be with the Lord. I wrote it on my calendar. “Word Day”. The morning began with lots of distractions but I stopped everything and got in the car with my Bible, two journals and a beach towel. I drove to Coffee Bean, got a yummy coffee and kept driving south. I thought I was going to Big Beach.
The doors were open. I left my slippers at the door as if I was entering the home of a friend and went inside. The trades were happy that morning. They ran through the open doors like children at play. I sat on one of the hard wooden pews and listened. I drew in the sounds of the steady waves curling and uncurling, the palm trees giving a shimmy and a shake and the doves cooing contentedly.
It was a lavishly holy moment.
I sang it to Him. Just to Him.
“Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee . . .”
Then I tried it in Hawaiian, reading the words in the hymnal.“He Hemolele ‘Oe, Iehova”.
I sat in silence for some time. Waiting. Expectant. Feeling worshipful in every pore of my being.
Two tourists came in. They took pictures of the altar. They asked me if I worked there and wanted to know how much further they had to drive to get to the lava fields and if there would be a gas station on the way.
Less than thrilled with the answers I gave them, the visitors left, arguing quietly.
I pulled out my Bible and journals. For the next half an hour I read my journal from the year before. Every time when I saw something listed that I’d prayed about, I wrote the update and/or answer next to it. I shook my head at all the silly things I’d worried about the year before. I smiled at all the surprises God had given me and thanked Him for all of it – happy and sad, good and bad. It all came from His hand.
In the new journal I wrote out a prayer of thankfulness for the prior year. I listed all the things He had done. I listed concerns and questions I still didn’t have answers to. This has been a typical pattern each year when I ask for a word. I look back at what I journaled about during the prior year and sort of make peace with all the unsettling and unresolved pieces.
It always feels like I’m untangling a knot in my stomach. All the crazy-making ropes are still there but they’re no longer intertwined and pulled tight. They are just there. I leave them to Jesus.
After I wrote my prayer of confession and thanksgiving and resolve, I knelt and prayed in the church. It was difficult to do because the pew space is narrow and I’d been sitting for over two hours.
When I rose and sat again on the pew, the word for the year was in my heart. It fell on me like a seed that had been planted in prepared soil. I easily traced the letters in my fresh, new journal.
A banner word for the year ahead. “Receive”. That word permeated my thoughts all year long. No striving. No shame. No complaining. Just receive all that the Lord chose to give to me. Double portions. Gifts. Forgiveness. Instruction. Wisdom. Hope.
I wrote out a long prayer of preparation and expectation in my new journal. My spirit was reset.
I was ready to dream again in the year ahead. I felt happy and I felt brave.
As this year is coming to a close I feel an eager rustling in my spirit. I want to get away and be alone with Jesus. I want to listen and sing to Him and write a new prayer in a fresh journal.
He doesn’t have to give me a word. I always tell Him that. I’m not demanding it of Him. I’m not seeking marching orders. I know what He has asked of me. I want to do it all.
Every year I ask.
Every year He gives.
Every year I grow to love Him more.
I don’t yet know what day “Word Day” that will be this year. I don’t know where He’ll invite me to meet with Him. It’s a sweet mystery. Just like the word for the new year is a mystery, too. I feel the butterflies of anticipation and it makes me feel young and alive and very much in love with the One who calls me His own.
He knows me.
He sees me.
He loves me.
Sweet, sweet mystery.