This is my 6th year of doing the OneWord Challenge. I've already done FOCUS, AUTHENTICITY, HOPE, VICTORY, most recently, PROMISE...and now BETTER. It's crazy, because while I really only focused on each word for the year I chose it, I can still see a lot of the growth that happened during each year stick around. I've seen myself grow spiritually even during some years that were incredibly difficult and I barely opened my Bible for months. I love the OneWord Challenge vs. traditional resolutions because I love being able to reflect back over the entire year and not have a checklist of whether or not I was successful, but with the chance to see how God moved in my life.
Some years, it takes me a few weeks to finally decide on a word for the year. Other years it kind of hits me in the face and there's no question. BETTER was one of the those moments. Our women's Bible study in the fall was on Hebrews and titled, Better. As 2017 came to a close and I was working on my recap for PROMISE, I just knew that there was no question of what my word would be for this year.
I'm excited for this year.
Sometimes I've chosen a word, but when I go to actually write a post, it doesn't quite seem to fit. The year I chose VICTORY, I ended up spending a week in the hospital barely 5 days into the new year. Victory didn't really seem to make sense. But I knew God had put that word on my heart, and I trusted that somehow I'd get to the end of the year and see victory in my life. And I did.
This time is different. It's like when you're right on the edge of a major breakthrough and you can feel it, but it's still just barely out of sight. That's how I feel. God did some major work in my life last year through PROMISE. And I still feel like He's not quite done with the work He started toward the end of last year. I don't know what it is going to look like. I don't know if it will be a physical breakthrough or another spiritual breakthrough or something I haven't even thought of. But I know it's coming and I'm choosing to run toward it instead of just sitting back and waiting.
I finished this post a few days ago, but I waited until today to post it for a very specific reason. Today is 3 years of being officially diagnosed with mast cell disease. The past 2 years I've written kind of reflection posts of how I have processed finally having a name for the symptoms that have been around since high school. This year is different, though.
The year I was diagnosed (2015), I had just chosen HOPE as my word for the year. How fitting when we finally got the answer we had been looking for for over 8 years not even a full month into that year. But it also set the stage and my perspective for the year. It was a tough year. I had my first feeding tube placed less than a month after the diagnosis, a surgical tube only a few months later, and lost my ability to run and walk without assistance. But I held onto HOPE because I knew God had given me that word for a reason.
For 2016 I chose VICTORY. I started the year in the hospital for a week and seriously wondered how the year could possibly be victorious when I felt like I was knocked down before the year even started. But I held onto what I felt God had put on my heart and trusted that it would be a year of victory even if I couldn't see it. The year ended up finishing very similar to how it began (in the hospital), but for 10 months of the year, I saw more victory than I could have imagined when it chose it as my word.
Then last year my word was PROMISE. As I shared just a few weeks ago, I was caught by surprise when God opened my eyes to how much more He had in mind than what I had imagined when I chose promise as my word for the year. It was a difficult year physically. I used 37 epipens, most of the within the first 4 months of the year. I had another feeding tube surgery to separate my combination tube into separate G and J tubes. I spent months where I could barely sleep through the night because my symptoms didn't sleep. I had doctor after doctor tell me they didn't know what to do. I failed medication after medication. We had to resort to treatment options I never wanted to even consider. I felt like I was pushed to my limit and then some. Yet in the midst of the brokenness I was very much feeling physically, God brought about spiritual growth in my life that wasn't even close to being on my radar.
Last year, while physically exhausting, was also a year that felt very quiet spiritually. I felt like the author of the poem Footprints where he asked God why there was only one set of footprints in the sand during the hardest times of his life. Only I didn't feel like I was being carried. I knew God hadn't abandoned me, but when I was already feeling so broken physically, the spiritual silence somehow echoed even louder. But even when I wasn't searching, God met me where I was and the last few months of the year were filled with scripture coming alive in ways I never expected. Physically, things hadn't begun to change yet, but I was beginning to walk a new road where pain and healing coexist and sorrow and joy are not necessarily opposites.
And that's where I left off. My years of hope, victory, and promise. And now my year for BETTER. I waited until today to post because I felt like it was a good reflection of how my life has changed since I was diagnosed (so much for not reflecting this year =P). I've learned how to live in hope both with and without answers. I've seen what it means to be victorious when things are good and when things feel like they are falling apart. I've experienced God's faithfulness and grace in ways I couldn't even being to anticipate. And now that God has set the stage, I'm not just sitting back and waiting anymore.
A diagnosis is life changing. An encounter with God is life changing. Mix those together and you get a life that has been changed. The past 3 years have been about growth and learning, and I am so in awe of what God did in my life each year as I chose hope, victory, and promise as my perspectives for those years. This year is about more; it's about finding what is better. It's about taking what I'm learning and figuring out what it means to live as though I've been changed. BETTER is not about things always being good. It's about knowing the One who always is.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 - "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
Lamentations 3:21-22 - "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."
Despite my intention for this not to be a reflective post, I can't help but look back over the past 5 years of doing the OneWord Challenge and the past 3 years of being diagnosed and not be in awe of what God has done in my life and look forward to what He will continue to do this year. Doesn't mean things will be easy or good or that I'll always feel encouraged and hopeful, but it does mean that I know where to go for my strength, the One who is always good, and ultimately, that what God has for us in eternity is infinitely BETTER than the best this life can offer.
Twenty-eight years down, a lifetime to go.