For the third year in a row, I am beginning the new year with two words that will guide my year. Rather than setting resolutions, the big-picture side of me gets inspired by declaring intentions that shape my mindset throughout the year. Instead of arbitrarily choosing two words that feel right, I try to spend December meditating on what’s being spoken to my heart.
Last year the words Dare Greatly and Pray Big influenced how John and I lived out 2014. I enjoy picking themes to shape my year because I can make intentional decisions that align with my two words. I’m then able to look back on the year and see how those themes wove into our day-to-day life. In a practical way, John and I integrated praying big into our daily prayers before dinner. We chose one person, idea, or dream to pray big about each evening. What at first might have felt a bit awkward or challenging soon became a habit that we look forward to continuing in the years ahead. It’s exciting to remember that our God is even bigger than our big prayers and to see how these prayers come to fruition.
Secondly, daring greatly was a mantra that I will remember about 2014. John and I desire to live a life of adventure — not necessarily the thrill-seeking, jump out of an airplane kind — but a life that is bold. That dares. That dreams. This past year, we talked about this theme a lot and sought ways to put it into action. Though there are certainly areas that we could have dared more greatly in, 2014 will be a year where we learned to stretch ourselves. Daring greatly required that we trust God to work out the details, whether that was me leading a small group at church for the first time or John traveling to Africa. As I started my doctorate program, God continues showing up to merge my school and work lives, pointing me more and more to my passions.
After all of this excitement of the past year, it might seem unusual for my primary word of 2015 to be Abide.
Yet, this idea of abiding is one that continued to creep into my heart through the last six months. It started this past summer when I went through a Naptime Diaries study on John 15 and what it means to abide. Then at our church’s vision dinner early Fall, they declared the next year’s vision as Abide. As John and I have discussed how we want 2015 to be different, more intentional, even slower, we both felt led to dig into what it means to abide.
John and I are both passionate people who love running hard after our dreams. This wiring is good and one of the things we each love about the other. Yet the tendency can be for me to think that I am in control of the passions that come to fruition. Though it’s necessary and good to “run with endurance the race that is set before us,” John 15:4 is a sobering reminder: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Without finding my life’s source in the vine of Christ, I cannot produce fruit on my own. The Advent study that John and I read through this December presented an image that resonated with both of us:
“It’s a tricky balance for me: righteous living and peaceful rest. Abiding and doing good works… God tells us to be producers of good fruit. But apple trees don’t just think hard enough to pop those sweet juicy red fruits from their branches. They don’t will them into existence. They simply send roots deep and wide and if rain falls and the sun continues to shine, there will be apples. It is equally as ridiculous for a plant to soak in sweet nourishment from the soil but refuse to bear any fruit… The same is true for us. Faithfulness springs up from the ground and righteousness falls from the sky to nourish us, that we may grow and bear fruit that is delicious and satisfies the farmer.” -Neil Smith, Naptime Diaries Advent Devotional
This doesn’t mean that we stop daring greatly and living an adventure. Instead, my second word for 2015 is inherent in how we integrate these two ideas of abiding and daring: Pray Deep. Just as the apple trees in the quote above must send roots deep, so too have John and I both committed to praying deep this year. It’s fun to pray big, and this is something that, as I mentioned, we will continue. However, I also want to learn how to quiet my heart, still my soul and listen. Pray deep for clarity before I commit. Pray deep for direction and how to soak up righteousness and faithfulness and bear fruit.
We serve a living God who came to us as a baby and now abides in us through His Spirit, and I can’t wait to learn more fully what it means to abide in Him.