christian blog

The Year of Surrender

If you have been around my blog for a little while, you might know that each January I seek a faith-based word to focus on for the year. In the past four years, I’ve gotten trust, give, patience, and then for 2018, I got surrender.

51k1v-ci0sl._sx357_bo1,204,203,200_To kick off the year, I bought this book on Amazon. It has one devotional to read for each day of the year, and I figured surrendering 5-10 minutes a day to read them was a good place to start.

I had tried this a couple years ago, not with a devotional, but with prayer each night before I went to bed. After hearing so often at church how important it was to set aside time with God, I decided I’d get down on my knees every night before bed and pray.

Initially I was very nervous. Praying out loud, to me, has always felt a little bit like public speaking—which I hate. I always get self-conscious that I’m not saying the right thing or that I’m not saying enough. Sometimes when we pray in groups at church I spend so much time worrying about what I’m going to say that I miss everything everyone else says.

After a while though, I got the hang of it. Each night I’d kneel down on a blanket and just talk candidly. Most of the time I legitimately started off just by saying, “hey,” like I would if I were talking to a friend, and then I’d just tell Him what was on my mind. When I would close out prayer—I’m not sure why or when I started saying it—I would always ask that He hold my hand.

Just hold my hand, please. Hold my hand and lead me.

I so desperately wanted—and still want—direction of where I should take my life, and I think I just liked the image of being led that way. It made me feel safe, the way a child might feel when their parent takes their hand to cross the street or when a friend takes your hand to guide you through a crowded room. It lets you know that even amongst the chaos, you have someone with you, guiding you forward, and I sought that kind of direction from God.

So as I started this year of “surrender”, I again approached it with that mindset.

I am here, I thought. Show me the magic of this word. Lead me.

As the year went on, I had my share of encouragements and reminders. When my mind would start to slip, surrender would make its way into my sights.

One particularly stressful afternoon, this song popped up on my Spotify:

And there was never a shortage of blog posts, podcasts, Bible verses, etc. that kept finding ways to remind me to let it go. Let it all go.

But perhaps the biggest encouragement, the biggest reminder that not only was letting go okay, but that it was necessary, refreshing, unburdening, and most of all safe, was found in my daily devotional. For amongst the passages—most of which I marked up, circling and underlining and making notes in the margins—I found one phrase over and over:

“I am holding your hand.”

I didn’t just find it once. I found it 32 times.

My own words. My own request. My own prayer handed right back to me over and over again.

I am holding your hand, it said.

And it was in reading those words over and over that I realized what it would truly mean to surrender.

I pictured myself walking up to the front door of my house with my arms riddled in grocery bags (because #onetrip). With the keys in my purse and the doorknob unable to unlock and open itself, I would most definitely have to set a bag or two down. I would have to empty my hand to get what I needed.

All these years, though I asked, pleaded for God to take my hand and lead me, and grew frustrated when I didn’t feel that presence, that hand, it wasn’t because he wasn’t by my side reaching out, it was because my hands were full. Full of everything else I was worried about or focused on. Even though I wanted to take his hand, I wasn’t willing to first let go of the things I was holding onto.

And so, 2018 saw me finally start to loosen my grip. No longer am I trying to win any awards for carrying the most weight all at once. No longer am I trying to balance one grocery bag on my knee and the other on my elbow as I try to reach in my purse to grab the keys. I’m setting the bags down, one by one, and I’m freeing that hand, because I know that His hand is right there, waiting for me to take it.

The Year of Patience

As my final wrap-up post for 2017, I want to talk about my word of the year. As mentioned in this post, each January my mom, sister and I seek a faith-based word to focus on for the upcoming year. In 2016, my word was “give” and this past year my word was “patience.”

Ouch, right?

I had tried my best not to hear “give,” but when I started hearing the whispers of “patience,” I all but invested in earplugs.

“Don’t you know…” I asked at the start of the year. “Don’t you know I’m not really in a position to be patient right now?! Don’t you know I have things I need to get done and questions I need to get answered? I need to move, I need to work. If anything, my life could use a heavy dose of impatience.”

These prayers however, did little more than assure me that not only was patience my word, but it was also, unknowingly, my greatest need.

I am at a point in my life when there is pressure coming from a lot of angles. Some of it real, some of it imagined. Pressure to move forward, pressure to settle down, pressure to make a name for myself and start on the path I was meant to follow. And while I’ve been desperate for answers, I’ve also been too impatient to hear them.

To me, patience looked too much like hesitation and sounded too much like indifference, and I didn’t think I had time for that. This world has us convinced that life is passing us by. That if we don’t move fast, we’ll miss the opportunities given to us. But the truth is, opportunity is everywhere, and the only way you’re guaranteed to miss it is by not looking—or in my case, not listening.

I am a creative person, with a lot of hopes and dreams of where I can use the gifts I’ve been given. As a result, I’ve tended to make plans of where I want to go, how I want to get there and how fast. Then, when I sit down to pray, I essentially lay out blueprints and ask for a signature.

Newsflash, Kim: that’s not how it works.

And while I knew this, it was clear I needed it spelled out for me. And so it was:

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Over and over…

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…and over and over again…

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If I were to give God the voice of a millennial teen, it would sound something like, “YO, CHILL. I GOT THIS.”

And while it took me a while. A LONG while. We’re talking most of 2017 type of while. In the last few months of the year, I finally started to listen. And even more, I started to understand.

Patience is not laziness. It is not indifference, confusion or failure. Patience is listening. It’s waiting. It’s breathing. It’s listening for what you need rather than demanding what you want. In being patient, you are being proactive. For patience is not a pause in productivity, but a path to it.

I will always be someone who wants to make plans. Who wants to move and work and make something of myself. But what I’ve learned this year, and what I hope to keep close to my heart in the years to come, is that I need not worry about the plans, for they are not really mine. And while that may be scary to accept because it means I’ll never have the blueprints, and I’ll never know all the steps, I can be comforted in knowing that the steps I do take are in the right direction.

So as I move into 2018, the year of…wait for it…SURRENDER. I again turn to the words I’ve been handed so far. Trust and then give and then patience. They all add up, and they all have purpose. For they are the steps. They are the answers. They are the plans that I’ve been looking for. And I need only listen to let them lead me forward.

The Year of Give

For the last two years my mom and I have rang in January 1st with the One Word devotional.

The idea is simple: focus your attention on one word for the entire year. This is not just any word however. There is no reaching your hand into a bowl and pulling out one of 20 words you and your friends wrote on scraps of paper, and there is no eyes closed scroll and point in the dictionary. No, the word doesn’t even come from you, and often it is the last word you might expect.

Leading up to the start of 2016, I was feeling very overwhelmed. My finances were a disaster and I was constantly worried about whether I’d be able to make loan and rent payments on time, let alone afford groceries and the electric bill. So you can imagine my surprise when I came to find my “one word” was give.

GIVE.

As in, take what I have (which I felt was very little) and pass it on.

I mean, seriously? This had to be a joke.

But there was no denying I was seeing and hearing the word everywhere: in movies, on signs at the grocery store, in almost every casual conversation. I started to wonder if I was making myself crazy, or if perhaps this was all some elaborate prank by my subconscious. Give couldn’t be my word. No. I was pretty sure God wanted to give me a much better word like “whimsy” or “quesadillas.” Spread the good word with quesadillas, Kim! Let that light shine through layers and layers of cheese!

Unfortunate spoiler alert: it wasn’t quesadillas.

About a week after I finished the devotional, I was standing in the middle of my kitchen, knife in hand as I made myself a sandwich for lunch. I was listening to a podcast recommended to me by a friend, when suddenly the host started repeating herself. “Give give give,” she said, “that’s all you can do is give give give.” I couldn’t help it, I laughed. “Really?” I said out loud. Then I set my knife down and leaned my hands into the counter, letting my head fall, my chin hitting my chest. I thought about the balance in my bank account, a number I constantly found myself focusing on, and I thought about the bills that were sure to be on their way. A tear pooled up in the corner of my eye and fell, wetting the paper towel my unfinished sandwich lay on.

“But…” I said aloud, “but what if I don’t have anything to give?”

Suddenly a feeling of peace washed over me, not only relaxing me, but reminding me of the word I’d focused on in the previous year: trust. It too had been a difficult word to accept, as the events leading up to the start of that year had knocked me down hard and left me feeling broken. But now, as I stood in my kitchen a year later, stronger and more confident in my relationship with God than I’d ever been, I was again reminded that He doesn’t make mistakes. This new word was not a joke, and the order in which I’d been given the two words was purposeful.

I nodded slowly. “Okay,” I said, “I trust you.”

A few days later, I doubled my weekly tithes, assuming it was a safe first step. In church, one of the most obvious forms of giving is the offering, and so I figured, why not show God I’m up to the challenge of “give” by leveling up in that very area of my spiritual life?

“I get it,” I told God, “you just wanted me to trust you with more of my finances. Lesson learned.” Mic drop.

[Insert God laughing here]

As you can probably guess, this wasn’t the lesson. And while this shouldn’t have surprised me, I still found myself frustrated when I realized God wanted more from me, much more.

Over the next few months, I started trying to do extra favors for people. I wrote encouraging notes here, I bought small gifts there; I did my best to give people more. And while at first it seemed straight forward: I give, they say thank you, I began to realize the many different ways I could give and even more, the many different things I was receiving in return. In making people happy, I was given happiness. In offering people compliments, I was given compliments. In serving others, I was given humble gratitude.

So often when we are put into a position to give something we’d rather not, be it tangible things: money or gifts, or intangible things: patience, encouragement or respect, we do so with the sole intent of getting something back. But with this intention comes expectations and with expectations often come dissatisfaction. And though we’d like to blame the dissatisfaction on the ungrateful nature of those whom we believed we did a great service to, it instead stems from our failure to give properly and what’s more, our inability to receive.

When God handed me “give”, or rather wrapped it up in a box on my doorstep and rang the doorbell 12 times, I thought: I don’t have much, if anything, to give. But when I really started to commit to it, I realized I have absolutely everything to give and even more to receive.

It wasn’t always easy. In fact, there were times when I found myself at a loss, telling God that I honestly and truly couldn’t find a way to keep giving. I was tired, I was stressed out, I was hungry. Remind me again why you couldn’t have given me the word quesadillas?

But every time I was met with doubt or attempted to push the word aside to prioritize those I’d rather focus on, God always found a way to bring it back to the forefront of my attention, once again reminding me how much I’d received from “give.”

Now, as The Year of Give comes to a close, I sit, patient and confident in the new path God will lead me down in 2017. I don’t know what it will look like or the trials that await me in its curves, but I know it will serve an important purpose. For I wouldn’t have been able to make it through this year if I hadn’t first gone through the last. In learning to trust I was able to give and in giving I was able to receive more than I ever knew was possible.