Every year Brian and I choose a word for our family. It’s a word that we want to describe our family or that we want to learn more about. In general, it’s the tone we want to set for our home for the year. We have been doing this for a few years and our previous words were exciting action words like experience and thrive. They were concepts that pushed us out of our comfort zone. We made hashtags and took lots of photos of our experiences. They were fun for us as a family and fun to share with others. With excitement and anticipation, we sat in a coffee shop at the beginning of January together and discussed what our word for 2018 would be.
Before going into this year’s word, I feel like it’s important to mention last year. If you have been following this blog, or our family’s story, at all, you know 2017 was a hard year for our family. That is an understatement. We went into the year on an extremely high note. God had been teaching us many new exciting truths, we had a growing little family with three kids that were so demanding but so rewarding. We went into the year expecting to continue right along the same path we were on. January 4th we went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows when our baby boy passed away. The year that followed was so very different than the year that we expected.
You may not have lost a child, but I’m fairly certain you know what it’s like to have your expectations unmet. It can crush you or it can make you stronger. For us, it did both.
We depended on others as grief settled heavily upon us. We slipped into survival mode and we used all our energy to get through the days. Brian and I grieved very different, but we kept talking. We kept discussing and somehow we even kept dreaming for our family. It wasn’t instantaneous, but eventually we made the choice to thrive in our current circumstances and looking back we feel like we did that. It was not a year of incredible goal setting and attaining. Thriving for us looked much different than it might look for someone else. The year was not all forward progress, there were a lot of setbacks. But God faithfully carried us through the year and allowed us to come out with a growing excitement for a new year.
I think it’s natural for us to long for new beginnings after a hard phase of life. We like fresh pages, Monday mornings, January first. They hold the promise of a new start, new week, new year to do things differently. This is true for me. Our one-year anniversary of losing Beckett lined up with a new calendar year. In no way am I saying that after a year I was done grieving. Grief is something I will carry with me the rest of my life. But I am saying that the one-year anniversary and a new calendar year seemed like a time to set a new tone for our family life.
So there we sat, in a coffee shop on January 4, 2018, discussing what we hoped 2018 would hold for us. A sense of excitement began to grow as we allowed ourselves to dream and look forward. There were many areas of life that held an excitement for the future. A word seemed to surface over and over and the word we chose for the year was Expectant. We paused in talking and I wrote a blog detailing why we were choosing expectant as our family word for 2018. This is a small part of that blog:
I am expectant.
Expectant that God will change my heart.
Expectant that God will grow my relationships.
Expectant that God will renew our marriage.
Expecting God to give me wisdom as a mom.
Expecting God to use me in a fresh way.
Expecting a change in my health.
I don’t mean expectant as in, ‘I will tell God what I want to happen and then expect Him to work in exactly that way’. That is having expectations. Expectations set me up for disappointment and ruin things. I mean I am expectant for God to work in His own way. Maybe this seems like a petty difference, but to me it feels very different. I am done with expectations. I am ready to be expectant. I am expectant for God to show up in my life, in my relationships, in my ministry in 2018.
But I never published that blog about being expectant.
I really planned to publish it, but something held me back. That day as we sat together and talked about the coming year, Brian said God kept bringing the concept of Sabbath to his heart. Sabbath—the Old Testament principle of rest. The fourth commandment we learn in Sunday School, “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”. Between expectant and Sabbath, the first seemed way more exciting and challenging to strive for. To be completely honest, I felt like we had already spent a year of not doing much. I did not want to focus our family on taking a break. I wanted to focus on looking forward to God working in our lives!
So I started the year ready for God to show me new and exciting things. And He did. Right away. The next day, actually. I listened to a podcast about the practice of Sabbath and I knew—this is it. I knew I had no idea what Sabbath truly meant, but I knew we needed it. Like I said, we didn’t need a break, we didn’t need a day off, we didn’t even need a vacation. We needed to experience the glory of Sabbath that God created for us.
I needed to practice Sabbath.
Somehow over the next few months our word changed, or more importantly our focus changed. I began reading, researching and praying for Sabbath in our home. God has overwhelmed my heart with a fresh concept and a fresh fire. I don’t even think I’m exaggerating when I say: Sabbath is changing my life. I know that Sabbath is not an irrelevant Old Testament law, but a life-giving gift. I’m learning how to make Sunday a day of Sabbath while being in the ministry. I’m learning how to prepare the night before. I’m learning Sabbath is just as important to my health as eating well. I’m learning how to teach my kids to Sabbath. I’m learning to use Sabbath as a verb instead of a noun!
Can you be this excited—this expectant—and rest all at the same time? Yes, I think you can. And I think that’s the point.
When we truly expect God to work in His own way, it may not be what we are looking for. It’s going to be better. It’s going to be what we actually need.
I don’t think this concept of Sabbath is just what I need or what my family needs. As I look around our 24/7 society, I think we all need it!
Please take a minute to subscribe to this blog and follow along this journey with me. You can also follow me living this out in photos on Instagram. All of these things I’m learning, I’m excited to share them with you in more detail. I’m going to share the victories and the failures and together maybe we can experience some real enjoyment and rest in the midst of our busy lives. It may be odd that I am posting about a ‘word for the year’ when we are well into the year. Not all fresh starts begin in January. Those blank pages and fresh calendar years, they are great. But we can experience a fresh start any day of the year, any time of the day.
Today seems like a pretty good day for one to me!
P.S. I Don’t want to confuse or offend anyone, I want to be clear from the start that I am not practicing orthodox Judaism. I am a Christian and my viewpoint will be from that. What I am describing and will be sharing in future articles is not an official Jewish Shabbat. Thank you for your understanding.