It’s become a tradition. At the beginning of each year, my dear friend Emily and I spend some time reflecting on the past year and sharing our goals and resolutions for the new year ahead. We’ve done this for a while now, and it’s always a little crazy to think back over what you thought your year would look like versus how it actually turned out.
Several years ago I decided to toss New Year’s resolutions out the window because I’m super spontaneous and enjoy throwing caution to the wind.
You all know I enjoy schedules and structure and sticky notes with the occasional adventure mixed in for variety’s sake.
But my point is, I don’t do a regular list of resolutions. I’m one of those people who picks a “word of the year” to focus on. I’ve blogged about the most recent ones:
My word for 2015 was fully. I wanted to be fully surrendered to God’s call and live fully wherever God placed me. You can click here to read about fully . I also recapped 2014 in that post. Here’s a chunk of it:
That’s what I desperately want. I desperately want to experience God fully. I don’t want to miss any of what He desires to show me and teach me. I don’t want to miss a moment of the life He gives to me. I want to inhale each minute, memorize each moment, learn at every opportunity. Spend less time with the social media profiles of people on my iPhone, and more time with the actual people in my life.
Learn to be small and still before God, rather than rushing to check things off a list and striving to be more, do more, feel more.
Be in His presence and know Jesus. Fully.
So this year, I’ll focus on living fully. Learning to let God’s Spirit fill me up with His love so that I can fully share that love with the world around me.
I definitely see how that word played out over the past year, and yet, another word also very much describes my 2015:
Not bravery that came from myself (I’m scared of pigeons and fish, you guys). But rather, the kind of brave you can only be when you’re relying fully on the Lord. A couple weeks ago, I curled up with my Bible and my journal to spend some time praying and reflecting on 2015. I wanted to see how fully and brave were woven into the events of 2015. Here’s a quick, non-exhaustive recap of last year:
- For the first time since I was really young, I didn’t go to school January through May. I had just graduated from college in December, so I took a semester off to regroup and catch my breath. It was so weird not being in school.
- In January, I found out my manuscript was a finalist in the New Look Writing Contest held by WestBow Press.
- In early Spring, I returned to my alma mater to do a reading from my manuscript during a Writers Weekend conference.
- I interned as a staff assistant at my home church. I was able to get to know so many people I worship alongside each week, and I got to experience a little of the behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps a church running. Loved it.
- I worked for a local snow cone franchise, driving a big truck through neighborhoods, catering events, creating new flavors, and eating a ton of shaved ice. It was wonderful and I loved that too.
- I visited a seminary over Spring Break week (it was just another week for me since, you know, no school , but other people had a break).
- In July, that manuscript was PUBLISHED and All of This was sent out into the world.
- In August, I moved away from home for the first time and began seminary classes as a grad student.
- In October, I went on the All of This mini tour, where I spoke to several groups, spoke at my alma mater, and held a release party at a local bookstore in my hometown. I’m just now realizing I never blogged about this. How, Anna, how?
- In November, two friends and I took a road trip to Nashville to volunteer at the LifeWay Women’s Forum. I met Annie Downs (author of Let’s All Be Brave) and I still haven’t recovered from how much of a God thing that was. I hope I never do.
- I met a couple of awesome fellow writers and had the privilege of talking stories and publishing and all that good stuff with them.
That’s a brief summary of some of the highlights up there. What a full, wonderful year.
This time last year, I didn’t know I’d be leaving home to go to school. I didn’t know my book would be published. I didn’t know I’d get to volunteer at a conference I’d only dreamed of attending and that I’d get to meet a writer who has greatly inspired me.
I just didn’t know.
I definitely feel like I experienced life fully. And the “brave” thing? Over and over as I faced big things in 2015, I would sense God asking me to obey. Some of these things (like moving and making new friends) were intimidating, some of these things were incredibly stretching (speaking in front of groups), and some caught me by surprise in the best way possible. Each time one of these things came up, I would take a deep breath and whisper, Yes.
Yes, Lord,I’m willing.
Yes, Lord, I’ll follow.
Yes, Lord, I’ll surrender.
And even: Yes, Lord, I’ll let go.
Yes, Lord, I’ll stop trying to fix everything.
Yes, Lord, I’ll trust You.
Because for all the wonderful dream-come-true kind of moments 2015 held, it wasn’t all so sunny. Different circumstances threw me for a loop; things I thought were constants suddenly weren’t there any more.
Have you ever had to start learning how to heal while your heart was still breaking? That’s been one of the lessons 2015 started teaching me. Or rather, a lesson God started teaching me. In 2015, He also began showing me a little more about how to let go fully and let Him have control. I am so bad at this, you guys. I like control and structure, and I like to try to fix stuff with my own effort. But you know what? It’s not up to us to fix everything. And while I started really learning that this last year, I have a feeling it’ll be a theme of 2016 as well because Anna Schaeffer can be stubborn.
Anna Schaeffer can also be dramatic, but that’s a moot point.
In summary: 2015 was a year of incredible joy and unexpected heartache. Hard goodbyes and sweet hellos. Steps of faith and dreams come true. Smiles and tears and laughter and love. A year of letting go and learning to trust. A year of all things working together by God’s grace and for His glory.
2015 was one of the biggest years of my life. I look back over it and it makes me feel tired – a good kind of tired, though. I have no idea what’s in store for 2016 (other than trying to make a “5” look like a “6” every time I write the date…), but I’m sure of one thing: God has big things planned. I’m so excited about that.
So…what’s my word for 2016?
As the Lord walked with me through a rough season this year, I had to learn to trust there is a plan at work that I’m unable to see. And yet, despite difficult circumstances, I always have reasons to be filled with joy.
A word for 2016 didn’t shout at me. It wasn’t a super-clear revelation or anything like that. Rather, the word came softly and insistently…
Joy. I want to experience the joy of the Lord in even the most trying circumstances. To look for joy in the small, everyday moments and share that joy with others. To be joy-full.
I can’t help but think of this verse:
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
– Psalm 16:11 (emphasis added)
I want to spend this year enjoying the presence of the Lord. That’s where joy is found, after all. I want to see each moment as a sacred gift and find joy in it.
Lord, may You teach me to live in Your joy this year. May 2016 be a year full of joy in Your presence. Amen.
What about you? Do you have a word for 2016? I’d love to hear about it!