Are your celebrations completed? Is life back to "normal" yet? What are you doing to carry the freshness of the new year with you?
Some people make resolutions, firmly deciding to lose weight or eliminate debt or otherwise improve their life.
Some people choose a motto for the year, something they will choose to live by all year long. Some of my friends' choices have included, "Keep Looking Up," "Focus on the Positive," and "Seize the Day!" (a personal favorite, since it sounds cool in Latin, too!).
Several of my friends have recently formed a tradition of choosing one word to focus on for the year. Some I've seen posted on Facebook:
Great stuff! I should do this. But none of these choices clicked for me. I just can't copy someone else's word theme, no matter how good it is. Besides, choosing my own rarely seems to work for me. Typically I find partway through the year that a theme is developing on its own.
For instance, last year God was obviously on a mission to teach me more about forgiveness. It started with some hard lessons in January and just escalated, with Him using friends, strangers, songs, sermons, and hard opportunities for me to practice forgiving others... to the point that my family members would look at me and laugh when a song about forgiveness came on the radio!
So when people have encouraged me to choose a word for my year, I've wondered how to do it. If it were up to me, I'd choose some nice fluffy ones like "Rejoice" or "Love" or "Joy." Even some more challenging ones sound a bit appealing: "Trust." "Rise" (as in, rise above the circumstances or rise to the challenges).
Maybe I should just ask God for a word. Do you think He would do that? Just hand me a word He wants me to focus on?
The Bible says to ask... so I decided to try it. I wondered what He might have in mind for me to learn this year (could we please have a break from forgiveness??). I wondered if He would be willing to share it with me.
So I asked. And on New Year's Eve a word popped into my mind, taking me totally by surprise. Is this my word? It stuck in my mind, so I'm going with it.
My word for this year is apparently "Embrace."
At first thought, it seems pretty tame. Embrace. It comes from the 12th century French word embrasser and primarily means to hug, to clasp in the arms, to enclose.
To hug! What a great word theme. I can do this! I'm a hugger. I dearly love my family & friends and -- unless they're the prickly type -- I am easily affectionate with them. Babies get hugs from me, as do toddlers, older kids, teens, and the elderly. I hug my pastor, my neighbor, my chiropractor. I even hugged the guy who sold us our pickup truck! I've often wished I could give God a hug, and at times have longed to be able to receive one from Him.
And there's rarely a time when a hug is inappropriate among friends and family. I hug when I greet people and when I say goodbye. I hug to comfort, to congratulate, to celebrate. I hug to say thank you for a gift.
I've even been known to give figurative hugs. I mean, who can see a beautiful sunset and not want to hug it? Am I really the only person in the world who has ever danced around with arms outstretched, trying to hug the ocean or a gorgeous sunny (or rainy!) day or a sparkling summer night?
Okay, I confess. I don't usually behave this way when people are looking. But I want to. I can't help it. I'm a hugger.
There are, however, a few things I don't embrace. Besides clogged toilets or stinky wet dogs, I mean!
I don't embrace pain.
Yet these are the very things my loving heavenly Father brings into my life to prune my sinful nature, to help me sink roots deeper into my faith, to help me bloom in my service for Him... to conform me to the image of my dear Savior.
To make me look like Himself.
Shouldn't I view the pain, the trials, the hardship as treasures from His hand? As special gifts, wrapped up in pretty paper and tied with a bow? The tag itself is dear... handwritten, To me From Emmanuel.
Emmanuel. God with me.
WITH me... during the pain.
With ME during trials.
WITH ME during hardship.
Guiding me by His loving hand.
Never, no never, no not EVER leaving me alone or separated from His love.
These are truly eternal treasures, items of unsurpassed beauty straight from the hand of God to me.
Waiting to be embraced.
It turns out that "embrace" has a secondary meaning, one which goes a little deeper. It means to handle, as in to cope with difficult circumstances. To not reject them or spurn them, but to open your arms and accept the pain and the hurts, the trials and the hardships without regret... much like Christ did on the cross for me.
He opened His arms and embraced -- coped with -- temporary torture and death in exchange for the eternal joys of embracing -- holding and accepting -- each of us for eternity. All we have to do is believe, accept, embrace His gift.
My goal for this year: To embrace each day and ALL of the things God brings into my life, trusting that they are truly gifts from His hand, no matter how unattractive they may appear to be wrapped.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." ~James 1:17
I no longer want to merely seize the day.
I want to embrace it!
Did YOU choose a word for this year? If so, why did you choose it?