Travelling from Arizona to South Carolina, 2,400 miles over three days in a mini-van, provides a lot of time to think and evaluate. This list of what I learned in 2014 is not comprehensive but the result of what comes to the forefront of a malaise that sets in after sitting too long.
Truthfully, this year has proven to be the schoolroom of life lessons too numerous to count. Sometimes when we look back, we see how God was clearly present during periods of silence or assumed absence in the moment. Have you experienced that?
In no particular order, here is a snapshot of what I learned this year. (I know, I know, I could’ve shared a few more photos but I was in the car, remember?)
1) What looks like an unexpected inconvenience of bad weather to your travel plans is often a result of God’s providence. In February, an ice storm delayed our flights to Dallas providing an unexpected personal meeting with my agent, Chip MacGregor (who lives in Oregon but was speaking at a conference in Texas).
2) Faith and brave aren’t synonyms. When you say yes to the dreams God has for you, you are exercising faith. Releasing a timetable and the way you envision the outcome is brave. Read here for more insight on why I know that.
3) Silence isn’t the same as ambivalence. God’s quietness during seasons of hardship and disappointment doesn’t mean you are forgotten. I’ve learned that God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out (or quit). He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. (Hebrews 12: 4-11, MSG)
4) This is what you learn the longer you wait. The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)
5) Sending your first born to college is oddly similar to your first pregnancy. You know everything will change and fear the process will be painful. When the time comes for delivery, you find yourself just wanting it to be over so you can all get on with life the way God intended.
6) Living without a paycheck for six months is an illustration on redemption. Absence is a playground for God’s imagination. His mercy is miraculous and He provides in ways that often take your breath away.
7) Beauty is vital to emotional, spiritual and physical health. I notice the way we all come to life differently in the presence of beauty; in all its forms, colors and textures.
8) Writing a book isn’t as magical or ideal as I envisioned. It is the hard, disciplined, lonely work of wrestling with darkness in order to harness the Light. Sorry if I just burst your bubble.
9) Authors are human. All the authors I’ve met online or in person struggle with the same fears and insecurities, no matter how experienced or ginormous the platform. This is somehow curiously comforting.
10) Writing a book is one of the greatest gifts God is giving me. The result of wrestling is freedom, clarity and purpose.
11) Simplicity is divine. Two bowls, two cookie sheets, and my empty kitchen cabinets are proof that life carries on successfully with a lot less than you think.
12) Friendships aren’t random. God handpicks heart friends you will have most of your life. Not for the moments of hysterical laughter in the aisles at Marshalls but because of the unseen, incalculable ways you each fit into the purpose He began shaping long before you each took your first breath. (I’ll be writing more about this later.)
13) A generous spirit is the doorway to the heart. This year I have been the grateful recipient of unbridled generosity from others too numerous to count. Random acts of kindness aren’t random for those who receive them. They make a lifelong impact with eternal consequences.
14) Home isn’t an address. Home is the place where people tell you that you are known and belong without saying it.
15) I have a favorite time of the week. When the sun sets golden on Saturday night, I return to childhood, giddy with internal excitement. Observing weekly Sabbath is truly restorative.
16) When you pick a word for the year, you are never ready for the outcome. My word for 2014 was trust. Yeah, H and I laughed about that yesterday. We had no idea what God had in mind when he chose that word for us. Wait until I tell you the word He is giving me for 2015.
How would you sum up what you’ve learned this year? Share a few highlights in the comments.
Linking with Emily Freeman, the one who initiated all the fun with these monthly lists.
8. I think it’s OK to burst that bubble. 9. It is oddly comforting, isn’t it? I’ve joked about wanting to put together an anthology about all that: “Publication as an Accidental Spiritual Discipline.”
12. I look forward to reading what you write about friendship, one of my favorite subjects (and favorite things in life).
So much of the writing life is surprising and comforting, isn’t it Laura? Yes, I’ve had a few aha moments about friendship over the past few weeks. Look forward to sharing my thoughts with you. Thanks for reading!
I LOVED reading this Shelly, and laughed with you about your word, TRUST. God has such a sense of humour 🙂
It has been a privilege to journey with you both this year,
learning right along with you about God’s grace and faithfulness.
My words for this year were : “Listen” and :”encourage”, the idea being that as I listen to people sharing, I am also listening to what God is saying, and I try to encourage people with what I hear from God concerning their situation.
This segue’s quite well into the next step on my journey, with the word for 2015 being ” Invest” as investing into the Kingdom; into things which will have value for eternity.
As always it is interesting to see exactly HOW God outworks the words He gives us during each year!!
Happy New Year to you all.
If I remember correctly Mary, your word listen is what brought us together initially. And my what a providential union it has been. I couldn’t have done this without your faithful, steadfast prayers. I am so grateful for your friendship and the way you have practiced listening with us. Happy New Year to you too!!
I was almost embarrassed when my One Word for 2014 was “play”… and I’m still truly bad at it, but learning about Sabbath is helping. I know that the questions are as important as the answers… AND I’ve learned how to make Challah! Can’t wait to hear about your word for next year…
I’m not always good at play either Kelly. But I do love that Sabbath is informing your practice. Yay to Challah. I’ve missed making it the past few weeks and so have my kids. Saturday is coming!!
I love this list. Love your heart. You did burst my bubble a little bit…but I’m still cradling my book dream with open hands and look forward to the day God might ask for my yes and I’ll be nodding yes with you…but oh, the freedom and clarity, I can imagine who those gifts are worth every struggling, lonely, straining minute. It’s all training, yes? Praising God for all the ways He taught you to trust in 2014. (And thanking Him for allowing our paths to cross.) Excited with you for what the year ahead holds. Blessings sweet friend.
I’m so thankful we got to meet each other briefly in the prayer room at Allume Becky. Getting to know has been a gift. Thanks for being here, I appreciate you so much.
When I was impressed with the word “open” last year, I made assumptions that it would be about being more open to people (which is weird that I thought that since I love people, especially the interesting ones ;)) What God had for me was to open up what He had already put in me, his grace and gifts, even his blessings… I learned to be open to not letting the expectations of others mold me more than the Potter…thank you for helping me along my journey, for being brave…and living trust.
The definitions of those words are always so much more personal than we initially think. I love where God took you with open. There is no way you could’ve conceived of that journey when He chose the word for you. That’s what makes it so meaningful.
LOVE your lessons… So many of them are profound and personal even to me, where I sit, as I read this!
Well, that is a gift Misty. Glad you stopped by.
I had a similar experience with my 2014 word. My expectations and God’s reality were not the same.
Perhaps that makes our words even more meaningful, yes?
Shelly (and H), your vulnerability and willingness to share your story real-time with the world has been a gift multiplied many times over, through your readers’ lives. Perhaps, like Joseph, the example of your lives in this season has been the real ministry He called you to do in this waiting period. Well done.
Wow Anita. I haven’t really thought of that but if our lives have provided real ministry it is pure grace. Glad to know you are walking with us.
This is so beautiful Shelly! I love that you are pressing ahead being brave with that book. Can’t wait to read!!!
Thank you Alene, that’s so kind of you.
I read every one of these lessons you share and nod my head. Yes to numbers 3 and 4. Please, PLEASE, write a book for us on number six, alone! I read your thoughts on writing, in numbers 8, 9, and 10 and just breathed a sigh of relief. There is a lot of build-up in our minds, isn’t there? I’m so grateful that friendships aren’t random. Knowing that God ordains helps me to seek the beauty and the lesson in the knowing of each other. Thank you for sharing your heart and your lessons, Shelly. I always walk away from your posts encouraged to keep on!
I plan to write about #6, maybe not a whole book but a chapter. *wink* Thanks for your encouragement, it blesses me.
LOVED this post…
Amen to numbers 3, 6 and 12. My word for this year was surrender… little did I know that it would mean surrendering my 20 year old daughter to the man she loves and wants to marry, surrendering my husband’s income as his company closed, seeing our son choose a school where he would need to move away from my nest…, but oh, what I have gained! By opening my hands and releasing my plans and my finagling ways, I have seen God’s grace and gifts to me more clearly than ever before.
Your response to surrender makes me smile Sandi. It’s all perspective and a choice, isn’t it? The way you see is a blessing.
Shelly, these are beautiful life-lessons, and in some ways, applicable to us all. I have often written what I call highlights and lowlights in my journal at year’s end, and I can assure, there are many lessons nestling within them. And as you can likely imagine, sometimes the greatest lessons and gifts are in the lowlight column. I will be very eager to see what lessons you are writing about this time next year, on the other side of the pond. One thing is certain: I’m sure you will be writing about God’s faithfulness and how He has increased your trust and faith a thousand fold. Praying for your house situation and for your travels across that wide expanse of water. In the meantime, Happy New Year, and be sure to watch Downton Abbey on Sunday–ha! A little bit of England before you re-encounter the real thing.
PS Thanks for directing us to Emily’s site. I loved it.
We’ve already seen the whole season of Downton Abbey Lynn. We watched the Christmas special in Phoenix. H has super technology powers. I’ll just say that you won’t be disappointed. I’m going to watch it all again!
Well, that H is a talented man! My friend, Deborah, in Newark (England) has watched the new season, and says the same thing as you. But I’m glad that you both can keep a secret. We;ll have to discover the intrigue on our own, one episode at a time. Can’t wait!
wonderful reflection and you really got me thinking. Home isn’t an address is a powerful insight. Friendships aren’t random is too. I would add friendships are intentional too. We need to make time to value and foster them. Authors are human? I thought once i got a book published I would morph into divine….
But the best one that resonated with me is simplicity is divine. Right on there and a practice I need to do more often. less is better. Thanks Shelly.
Thanks for stopping by my blog… what a lovely post. Sounds like we’ve had some very similar life lessons this year. I look forward to reading more. My favorite part of this post is this line: “A generous spirit is the doorway to the heart.” So beautiful, so true.
great list. hard-won, but great.