2013 was, no doubt, a year of experiencing the Lord’s favor. I was on the news twice promoting things that really matter to me–BeLoved Ministries and Obamacare; I launched THIS very blog after seven months of preparation; I finally sold my car and embraced a car-less lifestyle (something I’ve wanted since living in England for a summer!); I moved cities; I saw my name in print for the first time as I launched my freelancing career; I took risks; I traveled to new places and made new friends.
As I start stepping into the plans Jesus has for me, one thing has been highlighted to me over and over and over again: with great favor comes great responsibility. Christine Caine once said, “The Lord will not let your gifting take you where your character cannot sustain you,”–that has become very clear to me in 2013. For me to advance in 2014, things inside of my heart must advance. For me to reach higher places in life, my inner stability and reliance on Jesus must increase. Without the refining of my character, anything I achieve will be built like a house on sand–unsteady and suspect to destruction as soon as winds come.
Here are 10 ways Jesus highlighted this to me and 10 lessons I took away from it in 2013:
1. You get what you put into it.
Someone once said “don’t be surprised at the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do.” You can extrapolate this concept into any arena of your life: relationships, work, and ministry. The simplest way the Lord taught this to me was through the “diet” I was on leading up to my sister’s wedding. I wanted to lose a few pounds before her big day–but honestly, it wasn’t a priority to me. I just sort of “hoped” it would happen without doing the real work. Well, the week of her wedding rolled around and surprise, surprise–I barely fit into the bridesmaids dress I’d bought! I wished so much that I had done the work that was required of me. You can’t get places by just hoping you will get there in life. You have to do the work required.
2. Cover your weaknesses.
This may sound like a bad thing–but I’m not talking about sweeping them under the rug. In 2013, I learned that being honest with my weaknesses and coming up with real strategies to prevent them from sabotaging my work was crucial. This meant building teams with people on them who had strengths I didn’t (like organization and timeliness), doing the things I didn’t want to do first thing in the morning before doing the things I wanted to do (sending emails before writing blog posts), and telling on myself in advance to mentors or friends when I knew I was going into situations where I was likely to commit some major sins (bars, traveling, vacation).
3. Choices come down to you.
Taking personal responsibility for your decision making matters–especially in your heart’s fight against bitterness. 2013 was my first full year after I graduated from college. I had always pictured it being lived out against the backdrop of New York City or Boston as I climbed the corporate ladder to my dream PR job. Instead, I was sitting at the reception desk at a law firm in Lexington, Ky. Nothing like what I had pictured. There were moments when I was tempted to complain that my circumstances had somehow ganged up on me or trapped me in what I was doing. It was in those moments that I had to remind myself that I CHOSE that position. That ultimately, what I had decided was to stay there, and do that. The universe was not conspiring against me; God had not forced me–I CHOSE. (See number 7 to see why!)
4. Goals are good.
While volunteering with BeLoved Ministries for the first half of 2013, my leaders Tim and Sandra were constantly encouraging me–and requiring me–to set goals. As a very big-picture, abstract-thinking person, the idea of having to “goal set” grated on me. Deep down, I realized it was rooted in some sort of crazy fear that I wouldn’t be able to meet them. Not setting goals for myself was a self-defense mechanism against failure. As much as I hated to admit this, it gave me an opportunity to asses my heart and change. Goal-setting is becoming something very valuable in my life. I’m not great at it yet–but it is helping me to align my day-to-day life decisions with the ultimate direction in which I want it to go.
5. Sin always has consequences.
Unless you are someone completely conscience driven and saintly (like my mother, to whom eating too many cookies is sinful), you’ve definitely had this thought before: “this isn’t really that bad… I can definitely get away with it.” If you’re a Christian, maybe you’ve even had this one: “God is forgiving… he won’t care if I do this once.” Ha. In 2013, I made a lot of mistakes. The crowning one may have been getting so drunk one night that I slept through my friends’ wedding the next day. Talk about consequences. That was a moment of regret, remorse, and shame definitely in my life top 10. It all started with “It’s just one more drink… what could really happen?” I had to deal with the consequences not because God was punishing me–but because that was just the cause-and-effect reality of what I had done. When he says things in his word like, “Don’t get drunk,” he’s not being a cosmic kill-joy. He’s trying to keep us from the very things we hate that being drunk can incur–things like hurting those you care about by missing their big day for selfish reasons.
6. Impossible is nothing to God.
On a more joyful note–2013 was the year that I saw someone very dear to me come to Christ. I had been praying for this persons spiritual awakening for years! It was something that had felt so impossible, but through my tiny bit of agreement and God’s exponential power–I watched it happen. And it was incredible. It was breathtaking. It has completely changed my life. It’s given me hope for all the other people who I long for to know Jesus too. This was something I thought was impossible and God demolished it like a giant stepping on a sand castle. Impossible is nothing to God.
7. Decide your economy.
Remember how I said that we are responsible for our choices? Another guard against bitterness is to decide our economy. If my economy were what most of the world considers valuable–in other words an economy of degrees, success, and dollar signs–you could say the past year would be a failure. I started off as a receptionist and I’m ending as a freelance writer and waitress! Sheesh! However, years ago I decided that my economy would NOT be the same as the world’s economy. I decided that my economy would be people. In that sense, this year has been a wild success as I have gotten to love lawyers and strippers, strangers and family members, the church and the outcasts in ways that I never would have dreamed would be possible. If you are not single-minded in what your core value, your economy is–you will always feel bitter every time you chose something that is “less than” in the world’s eyes, even if it is of the utmost importance in God’s eyes.
8. Let yourself love.
I have been, and will continue to be for a while, on a journey with Jesus of letting him redefine love, sex and relationships in my life. It is far from perfect but slowly but surely, it is evolving. I used to think for this journey to end in success I had to put an emotional lock-down on my heart until it was magically ready to be in whatever Christiany (ew) sort of dating relationship Jesus wanted for me. 2013 was the year I realized this wasn’t true. Freedom in Christ means freedom to risk your heart. Getting to let my heart be free to love and be loved was a real gift. No situation I found myself in ended in a serious relationship, but the grace of getting to be right where I was at in this process, and feel what I was feeling, and be who I was, and am, and test things out and throw away the bad has lead me to trust Jesus so much. He was there in the successes, the failures, and the heart break. He has proved himself faithful to who he says he is: one who will not force, one who does not put you in a box, the one who created the human heart to love and be loved. I’m excited to see what is next in this journey.
9. Make room for surprises.
In June of 2013, I got to visit Miami, Florida. What the Lord was doing there was irresistible, and it wasn’t long before I heard him call me to move there (a process that I am still in the middle of!). What a huge surprise. Out of all the cities in the United States, Miami was nowhere on the list of places I would want to move. It wasn’t my choice. It wasn’t my idea–but it’s something that I am ridiculously excited about. The key was that I was open to it. Just two weeks before my trip I had surrendered my desire to be in the locations I wanted to be in to The Lord. I made room for him to surprise me–and boy did he! I want to make room for him to do just this in every area of my life.
10. End things well.
This is a lesson, that if you learn it, will serve you well all of your days. Whether you are leaving a city, a school, a job, a relationship–or whatever other place The Lord might call you to leave, leave it well. Don’t burn bridges that don’t need to be burned (if it’s an unhealthy situation you are leaving you may want to address it differently). This means communicating to the people you care about why you are leaving and where you are going. Give proper notice at work. Leave gifts behind you. Train the people you need to train to do what you will no longer be able to do. If you’re ending a romantic relationship with someone who has invested in you, you owe it to them to let them know why. Be honest. Make real plans to stay in touch, and fulfill all your financial obligations before you leave. If you try to transition into a new season with doors left open to the one you are leaving, you will constantly be pulled backwards instead of advancing. Plus, for those that you love and who love you, they will so appreciate it. You will make them feel important. Part of loving people is respecting their need and want to be a part of your life–no matter where you are. I “left” a lot of things in 2013, and it has only helped me and others when I left them well.
Cheers to an even greater, more alive, full of love, closer to Jesus 2014 friends! I love you all and I’m grateful that you are in this journey with me!