A new calendar year and another year of life. Today marks 32 for me. I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions, so the last three years as my birthday and new year coincide I’ve asked God for a theme. Doing this has been encouraging journeying out of a long wilderness period.

This year I felt expectancy and expansion impressed on my heart. At first I found them to be very odd expressions, but I went with it. Sitting with these two words the past few weeks has grown me already. They’re starting to take on new meaning, and seep into my perspective and being.

Expectancy essentially means hope, and hope is a strong, vibrant word. The past month I’ve been encouraged to look back at gut wrenching moments from a personal valley of darkness time. Reading letters and journals from the dry time presently create overflowing gratitude and expanded vision within me. Writing was therapeutic and healing during the bleak season and now it’s black and white proof of faith being seen.

Reading words like, “I know God is going to use this” while in the depths of unknown hopelessness and despair, have caused profound appreciation for the darkness to well up uncontrollably in my eyes and stream down my face. The very ground where everything seem stripped has become the soil abundance is now blooming. The same care, teaching and remedy God specifically applied to me in the desert He is now infusing into others He’s placed in my life. I’m seeing redemption beyond words of the things I suffered. And out of expectancy I trust and believe this is only the beginning of the work the good Shepherd wants to do. Not of my own glory, but my competence and qualification has come from Him, the Great Comforter has comforted me to be a comforter. Many of you who have endured hardship know this training is extremely costly, but effective beyond our human comprehension.

“You’re turning the tattered fabric of my life into a perfect tapestry, because you see the real me.”
-Natalie Grant

All I can say is, “Yes and Amen”. God enlarges and expands our heart in distress. Where light come from darkness. Weaknesses are pruned into strengths. Looking back I see from a new vantage point, reasons why I was afflicted. The Lover of our souls makes us overcomers through whom He can overcome. How glorious! I know these words may be hard to digest if you’re in a place where the light seems dim and way narrow. But, I pray hope would be an anchor for your soul, firm and secure. And that you cling to a greater plan, one of hope and a future. A few days ago I read a devotional that perfectly summed up the current feelings I’ve been experiencing and how God makes a way where there is none:

“Just as a skilled sailor can use a head wind to carry him forward, by using its impelling power to follow a zigzag course, it is possible for us in our spiritual life, through the victorious grace of God, to turn completely around the things that seem most unfriendly and unfavorable. Then we will be able to say continually, ‘What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel’ (Phil 1:12). It is commonly thought that a protected and easy life is the best way to live. Yet the lives of all the noblest and strongest people prove exactly the opposite and that the endurance of hardship is the making of the person. It is the factor that distinguishes between merely existing and living a vigorous life.” (from Streams in the Desert, p. 30-31)

Our world has it backwards. I’m learning comfortable living doesn’t always equal thriving. Life will never be perfect, I’m not perfect and my flesh still feels drawn to the easy road, but as I reflect I’m reminded of the truth and love that sets me free. I can’t do it on my own and that’s refreshing because I want my one life to count, to make a difference and for the Lover of My Soul to do “even greater things” (John 14:12) through me. That’s thriving. That’s a flourishing life.

A New Year Prayer
Father, let perseverance finish its work in my life. May I not settle for just merely existing, but living an abundant life through and with You! Fill us this year with expectancy and hope that go beyond our understanding. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, whatever we are and whatever we’re not, may we not limit you or what you can do with a life. Thank you for this great adventure, for faith and giving rain at planting time. May we grow where you’ve planted us and enjoy the journey.

Plant image source: http://www.wallcoo.net/nature/Tree_budding/images/FF186.jpg