In November 2014, Dan and I felt like God was telling us to pick a word to embrace for 2015. We had never picked a “word of the year” before and, honestly, I am not sure what made us have the thought. When we chose the word “brave” for 2015, I immediately started writing a story in my head. We were going to get pregnant without the help of fertility drugs and then we were going to have a pregnancy with zero complications. How amazing would it be that God gave us the word brave and then we would get pregnant and fearlessly walk through that road? It was going to be an amazing story that I was going to shout from the rooftops. Days after we choose the word “brave” I started planning a pregnancy announcement that would just prove God’s goodness.
We didn’t get pregnant in 2015. God, however, used the word brave in huge ways in our lives that year. He reminded us to be brave and trust Him as we drove to an interview in Springfield, Missouri we never saw coming. He whispered bravery to our hearts as we packed up the house we thought we would live in our entire lives and drove to our new city to start over. He reminded me to be brave as I danced to worship music alone for a month in Springfield while Dan finished strong in South Dakota. We prayed bravery over our family members when our youngest niece was born. We clung to bravery when I had an unexpected surgery and waited for test results. I prayed for Dan to be brave each time he walked into an interview and then again when he started his new job. We joked about being brave very time we tried new churches, restaurants and stores in our new city. Finally, we finished the year praying bravery over our family again as our oldest niece traveled to London. Looking back over the year, the story God wrote was so much sweeter than any story I could have wrote myself.
In 2016, we chose the word “faith”. Again, days after choosing the word I had dreamed up a story for the year. Obviously, we were going to get pregnant! A year after moving to a new city, we would have a story to tell about big faith with a sweet ribbon around it. Again, I started planning a huge pregnancy announcement that would prove God’s goodness to the masses. It was going to be so good and would probably be shared a billion times. Maybe we would even name the baby Faith to just mark all that God had done!
We didn’t get pregnant in 2016. Instead, in 2016 we learned to be steadfast. One definition of steadfast is “firmly fixed in place” and I truly feel 2016 was a turning point in our trust in the Father’s promises to us. We fully expected the Father to show up, so in faith we started collecting baby items. In faith, we bought a house and started to put down roots in our new city. Honestly, when I look back at 2016, I don’t see a lot of “big” things to note, but isn’t that exactly when you need faith the most? It’s the quiet days, when it seems that things are set – that’s when steadfast faith shines the most.
In 2017, we chose the word “intentional”. This year was the first year I didn’t think this word meant we were getting pregnant! I thought the Lord was telling us to be intentional in our relationships. I dreamed of this beautiful story about how we were going to have approximately 638 friends by the end of the year. Again, days after we had the word, I started planning a big blow out party to celebrate God’s goodness. We would post a picture on social media at the end of the year with this amazing circle of friends and talk about how God had been so sweet to us as we walked with intention.
However, the word “intentional” took on a completely new meaning when we got pregnant with our sweet Lil Bit. Our first pregnancy had been traumatic and short, so I had to be intentional to choose to walk in faith in the early days of our pregnancy. I had to choose to not allow the past steal my joy. The definition of intentional is “done on purpose or deliberate” and we for sure felt purposeful about choosing faith when the doctors began to give us bad news about Lil Bit. After we lost Lil Bit, there were several days that I felt like I was on auto-pilot. I had to make a deliberate decision to turn off auto-pilot and actually face the day.
While 2017 was a very difficult year, the year to be intentional wasn’t all doom and gloom. I made the decision to start this blog. I also volunteered to help plan the Moms in the Making conference, and saw God do such big things through that ministry. Again, while it wasn’t the plan I had for the year, God showed up. He gave us exactly what we needed and He wrote a beautiful story I couldn’t have seen coming.
In 2018, we chose the word “rooted”. I still remember sharing the excitement of this word. The definition means “to establish deeply and firmly”. I love books, and I just knew this was going to be the year that I read all the things. I was going to dive deep and build myself a book cave. I was going to grow the deepest theological roots. It was going to be epic and I was probably going to have to become a professor or something from all my knowledge. For the first year ever (and the last honestly), I set a goal of how many books I wanted to read. I remember Dan laughed at my goal because it seemed comically low. He expected me to hit the goal in literally months.
I didn’t become a professor in 2018. Sadly, I did get a rare medical diagnosis that rocked my world a bit. I also had many close friends walk through unexpected situations. One friend heard the words “cancer”. A childhood friend passed away. Sweet friends lost babies. Over and over again, I watched friends struggle, receive bad news and endure hard seasons.
However, because God had given us the word rooted, our hearts were ready to dive deep. The word rooted encouraged us to dig into the word in ways we hadn’t before. When the storms came, I knew were to find my hope. When lies tried to sneak in, I knew how to combat them. In late 2018, we heard the words “no evidence of disease” and we celebrated big. We closed the door on my rare diagnosis and believed that God used that hard season to teach us again how important our roots are.
Oh one more thing about 2018… remember that book goal I made? Well, I spent most of 2018 not being able to read much because of the rare diagnosis I was given. I could barely read the Bible because my vision was such a mess. However, in the last week of December – I hit my book goal for the year. We celebrated so big. It felt like that book goal was just another sweet reminder from the Father. Again, God used the word rooted to walk us exactly where we needed to be. He gave us the tools and the wisdom exactly when I needed them. He wrote a better story than I ever could have wrote myself.
In 2019 we chose the word “confident”. I remember early in the year when I looked up synonyms for the word “confident”. Words like “bold”, “convinced”, “courageous”, “fearless”, “positive” and “satisfied” popped up and I remember thinking how great the year was going to be. At this point, you probably know what is coming. Days after we got that word I started writing my story again in my head. We had just left a couple hard years behind, so this was it. This was the year that all the good things were going to happen. I was probably going to climb a mountain, jump off a building or some other equally amazing thing. I mean, with a word like confident, it was bound to be an epic year!
However, as 2019 progressed, the days felt heavy. The start of the year was very full and transition around me felt painful. Hard news and tough situations seemed to be around every turn. Just when it felt like the weight I was living under couldn’t get any heavier, in April it did. I was diagnosed with a recurrence of the rare disease we thought we had closed the door on in 2018. In the midst of so much disappointment, the Father showed me so many places in my heart that needed light shone on them. On more than one occasion, I had to apologize for my words and my tone. On more than one occasion, I had to have an attitude adjustment. On more than one hundred occasions, I had to put myself in time out and ask the Father to help me.
As 2019 ended, I was still dealing with all the side effects of the rare disease that reoccurred. There was no signs of healing, and I was tired. I was still working through so many big emotions the disappointment of the year caused. However, I also ended the year convinced that no matter how barren the year had felt, the Father promised I would see goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). I was boldly believing for restoration. I was courageously facing whatever comes without fear because I knew who my Father is. I was confident He would come through because I knew who He is. I knew His heart for me. Even in the midst of all that disappointment, the story He wrote – the way He worked in the midst of my hard – was better than I could have imagined.
So, when it came time to pick a word for 2020, I had decided that since the previous years had been harder than expected, God was probably going to give us a word like “harvest” or “joy”. It was time for a break from the hard. This year, before we were even given a word, I started writing another story in my head. Healing, babies and all the fullness was going to be such a sweet victory after so much hard. However, the word we kept hearing didn’t sound all that wonderful. Honestly, every time we felt God whisper this word to our hearts, I would roll my eyes. I did not want this word. One day, I sat down and started to so a little research on the word and when I read one of the definitions for the word we kept hearing actually includes the word confident I literally said out loud “You have to be kidding”. Didn’t God know we had already worked on being confident?
After lots of complaining and asking God if He was sure, we chose “secure” for our word of 2020. A few days after we chose the word, I started to think about what kind of story I would write with this word. After some thinking, I decided that maybe the story I had already wrote fit pretty well with this word after all. I imagined financial abundance, because that would bring security in the natural. I imagined all our debt would be paid off in some miraculous way, and then we could have ALL the babies easily and we’d never have to work again. We’d have this huge blow out party to celebrate God’s goodness, and there would probably be a petting zoo, a parade, an ice cream truck and a huge bounce house because we could afford anything we wanted. We’d probably hire someone to take pictures for us to post on social media… but don’t worry, I’d still write the words. Stop laughing, I can dream about my life however I want!
Well, if you read my last post, you know 2020 was the year I felt anything about secure. While 2020 didn’t end with a windfall of financial blessing that allowed us both to run off into the sunset, 2020 did have many blessings. As I shared in my last post, “This year, I was secure enough to ask God big bold questions. I was secure enough to boldly stand before Him and remind Him what He promised. This year, I was safe enough to face big skeletons and I was secure enough to walk away from those skeletons without many answers. This year, I was secure enough to push further than I ever have before. I was secure enough to finally start to let go of the baggage I have carried for years and to stop allowing those years to define my future. This year, I learned that pulling out weeds doesn’t make us weaker, in fact, pulling out those weeds gives the truth more room to bloom. “
As we closed 2020, Dan and I started praying about our word of the year for 2021. Again, I just knew this year our word was going to be good. “Brooks of bliss” I said one day. Dan looked at me like I was clinically insane! “What does that even mean?” he asked. So I read Psalm 1:3 from the Passion Translation to him. It says this:
He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree
planted by God’s design,
deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss,
bearing fruit in every season of his life.
He is never dry, never fainting,
ever blessed, ever prosperous.
“Isn’t it just so perfect?” I asked Dan expectantly. He said “That sounds nice. Let me think about it..” and a few days later, we decided “Brooks of Bliss” just isn’t it. This process went on for several days. How about “peace” or maybe “oasis”? What do you think or “trust”? One of us would read a scripture to each other, the other would agree it was good, and then we’d move on. Nothing was sticking, but I kept trying. I kept writing stories in my mind, and trying to find words that would feel good.
One night Dan looked me straight in the eye and said “Do we have to have a word?” I couldn’t believe the words he was saying. Of course we had to have a word! We had one every year since 2015. We have worked on being brave, having big faith, being intentional, confident and secure. Now it’s time for a new lesson or better yet, maybe this is the year our word could finally be “harvest”? This is just what we do. On January 1, we get a word and I start daydreaming about what God is going to do. I couldn’t understand why Dan couldn’t get on board and just help me pick a good word already.
Then, on the morning of New Years Eve, I woke up extra early. Dan was going to have to work that day, and I had already planned to work from home. I laid in bed and listened to scripture and then started to listen to an audio book. As I listened to the book, my mind started to wonder and I realized I was late. So I did the only thing that makes sense – I laid in bed and wrote an amazing story. I had it all figured out. I was going to take a test today and it was going to be positive. We would finally get our “yes” on the last day of our 10th year of trying to grow our family… in 2020 no less. This is what we had been praying for. I started planning the announcement and the gender reveal. Wait, did I want a gender reveal? I started daydreaming about a little girl with a pink bow as big as her face, and then a little boy playing with racecars in the dirt. The gender didn’t matter, this was going to be perfect.
Dan’s alarm went off, and I decided it was best to wait until he had gone to work. If I waited, I could surprise him. With our last two pregnancies, Dan always knew I was taking a test – and there was no way I could downplay my excitement. So as Dan got ready, I started to think of all the ways that I could surprise him. Where could I get a shirt that says “number 1 Dad” on such short notice? Or maybe a tiny t-shirt that said “newest Chiefs fan”? What would make him the happiest? How would he respond? This was going to be so perfect.
After Dan went to work, I practically ran to the bathroom. I could barely contain my excitement. After the longest three minutes ever (why does time slow down after you take a pregnancy test?) I picked up the test, excitedly turned it over…. negative.
Immediately, I started yelling at God. “Wait? Negative. God, we talked about this. This was going to be the best story ever. What in the world are you doing?” After I grumbled, I threw that dumb negative pregnancy test in the trash can with all the angst in the world and decided that it was probably faulty. Yeah, that was it. Tests can have false negatives! I went to reach for another pregnancy test and I heard the Father say “Do you trust me to write this story?”
Tears immediately sprung to my eyes. I closed the bathroom cabinet, washed my hands and went back to bed. I pulled the covers over my head and had a good cry. I was so disappointed, but not because I saw a negative test. I was disappointed in myself. Friends, I have been doing this for years. Ever since God gave us the word “brave” in 2015, I have rushed ahead and wrote what I assumed would be the best story. I did all the planning… but God has something else is store. He knew exactly what I needed and He has written a beautiful story every single year. Way more than I could ever hope or imagine, and yet still I write my own story again and again. Friends, please hear me – there is NOTHING wrong with day dreaming. In fact, God wants to dream with us. That’s what I have been missing, I have been daydreaming alone.
When Dan and I were engaged, his parents took us shopping for a new bed as our wedding present. Dan and I had discussed looking at furniture while we were at the store, with plans to start deciding what we may need to purchase when we got married. I will never forget the eye opening experience I had when we walked through the store. Pinterest didn’t exist at the time, but I had done my share of googling and I knew exactly what I wanted. We walked into the showroom, and there it was. A beautiful turquoise couch with chocolate brown pillows. This thing was everything I had dreamed about. It was straight out of a magazine and I needed it. I walked up to it, and realized the price wasn’t just for the couch – but for the entire living room! That’s right, you could get the turquoise couch, two matching chairs, end tables, coffee table, lamps AND the matching rug for about $1,500. I was sold. As turned to sit down to enjoy my wonderful find, Dan said the most hurtful words ever “That’s the most hideous thing I have ever seen!” I was heartbroken. All my dreams were shattered. As my world came crumbling down, I sat on the couch in a huff. It was like sitting on rocks. Ugh.
“Okay,” I thought, “I am sure we can find something better.” We started walking around the store, and Dan stopped at this gigantic overstuffed army green couch. Dan sunk into it, put up his feet with the recliner end and announced “This is it! This couch is amazing!” I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my future husband’s mouth. Was he insane? That couch was anything BUT amazing. “But it’s green” I said as I tried to hide my utter disgust. I slowly sunk into the couch and realized it was probably the most comfortable couch I had ever sat on in my life. “Okay, maybe I can compromise. Maybe it comes in another colors” I thought to myself as I looked at the price tag. “THIS UGLY THING IS $1,500! WE COULD BUY AN ENTIRE LIVINGROOM FOR THIS PRICE!” I said to Dan dripping in all the sass ever.
Dan and I had our first (of a few) disagreements about furniture that day. We both had ideas of what we thought was “perfect”, but neither of us had shared those ideas with each other. I wanted a fashionable, magazine ready living room, and really could care less what it felt like to sit on. Dan wanted comfort, and while he did care about what it looked like – he didn’t care if it ever looked good enough for a magazine. That day I left the furniture store disappointed. I had imagined the perfect most beautiful living room, and we had left it behind.
Fourteen years later, we can walk through a furniture store and pretty much fall in love with the same piece. I can’t remember the last time we have disagreed in a furniture store, as a matter of a fact, we typically fall in love with the same piece. Guess what, its neither army green or the “fashionable” turquoise we found in the early days! Some would say we have learned to compromise, and that is probably true. However, I think there is more to it than that. The more time I spend with Dan, the more I fall in love with him. The more I fall in love with him, the more I fall in love with the things He loves. My dreams these days are dreams we have built together. Daydreaming alone isn’t fun anymore. Dan’s dreams have become my dreams. My dreams have become his dreams. I feel very confident when I walk around a furniture store alone that I could pick a piece Dan would love, simply because I know him.
As I look past over the last 5 years, the journey the Father has taken us on has been so sweet. First, He taught us to be brave. That bravery allowed us to walk in faith. We learned how to walk out our faith with intent. That intention led to confidence, and confidence has allowed us to walk securely. After all we have been through together, it’s time to fully trust Him to write our story. I can’t daydream alone anymore. The more time I have spent with my Father, the more I have fallen in love with Him. I know His character, and I trust His ability to write our story without my help. He would never take me to a place I don’t love. He would never pick an “ugly couch” for me, because He knows my heart…He created my heart. I trust that my Father knows me best, and He hasn’t forgotten His promises to us.
So, in 2021, Dan and I do not have a word of the year. Friends, there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing a word of the year, however there is something wrong with choosing a word that the Father hasn’t given to you just because it sounds pretty. There is nothing wrong with daydreaming, but there is something wrong with daydreaming without the Father. Daydreaming alone will almost always leads to disappointment.
Maybe the Father has already given you a word or phrase for 2021 or maybe He hasn’t. Either way is okay, it’s a personal decision and there is really no wrong answer. What I can confidently say is this: the story the Father writes is more than we can hope or imagine. He is such a good Father. Even on our hardest days, we can look back and see His sweet finger prints over everything. I know He can be trusted. Dan and I have no idea where the Father will lead in 2021, but we do know one thing:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in
you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.