My Word for 2016: WITH

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*Image Credit: Thorn + Sparrow

So, what’s next for you?
Now that you’re done with seminary, what does this mean for you?
Are you like a pastor now?

These are the questions I hear most often now that I’m done with seminary. Many people want to know what’s next for me. Now that I’m done with school and have a Master’s degree, surely this meant something more? A new job? A pay raise?  A title? That’s what usually comes after a Master’s degree, right?

During these two years of seminary, I had started writing and teaching bible studies at The Well. As I sat down to write my third study, I pulled out all of my books, spread them across the kitchen counter, thanked God for His presence and grace and felt something I have never felt before: the delight of my Heavenly Father over me and a strong pressing on my heart that said “this is what you were made for”. Overwhelmed by the Father’s love and clarity of the calling and purpose of my life, I stood at my kitchen counter of my books and cried tears of gratitude.

As I was going to seminary, my “what’s next” was already happening, becoming more and more clear.  I started to see the Lord narrow my focus as to how I was to serve the Body of Christ and steward my gifts for the Kingdom.  This meant a new job with fewer hours—but more clarity and joy—stewarding all that I learned to be better at what I was already doing. No big step up, no huge pay raise, no higher position.

As 2015 was winding down, I started to dream about this new season. I was only working part time and once school was done, I was eager to start running and dreaming and pursuing my list of ministry ideas. In November, I decided my word for 2016 was going to be RISK. I wanted to step out in ways I never had before, dream dreams that were too big for little ol’ me to make happen, open our home to children in need, give away every bit of savings we had, start 1,000 ministries, say yes to things that would scare me . . . all of it! I thought to myself, “Of course this would be the year of RISK, I had so much time to pursue it all!”

Only, I heard the word wrong. As I started this year and began dreaming about ways to RISK, I realized the Lord was whispering something different to my heart. My husband and I went away for a few days to dream about this new year and new season for me, and came away with less “to do” rather than more. We both took a lot off of our plates and added back on the simple things: people over for dinner, discipleship, health, books to read, etc.  I didn’t hear “Yes daughter, go! Run!  Dream!  DO MORE!”  I heard “shhhhhhhh, slowdown, rest, come here, listen, be WITH me.”

I envisioned this time “after” seminary to be when I’d really get busy after work FOR the Lord.  Instead, there’s a slowness in my heart and longing in my soul to be simple and be WITH Jesus.

So, my word for 2016? WITH

I thought this year would be one of DOING much for the Kingdom, of discovering “what’s next” in ministry, and yet the Lord is reminding me to focus on BEING with Him.

What’s next?  Being WITH God. That every word I write and speak is an overflow of time WITH God.

What’s next?  Slowing down and enjoying God’s presence. Maintaining margin to hear His voice, study His word, and delight in His presence.

What’s next? Being WITH God and being WITH people. Remembering this life is a call to serve and love others out of an overflow of love and service to Jesus.

What’s next? It’s keeping my part-time job and not adding anything else to my week just yet.

What’s next? Abiding in Him to bear much fruit.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

This means another year of saying no to 1,000 things I could do, to say yes to the few things I should do. It means a year of pruning, to bear more fruit in seasons to come.

What’s next? Accepting His invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (The Message)

I want know God’s love and presence in a deeper way in 2016 more than I ever have before. I think that love is cultivated in the smallest, quietest, and simplest of ways. Slowing down, resting, listening, praying, seeking, delighting IN, and being WITH. These are what’s nextfor me.

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