Word of the Year

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an unusually warm Christmas Day walk 2016

I’m thankful 2016 is near end.

2016 with the chaos of continuing to live while most of our stuff was packed up in boxes for nine months.

Demolitions for days, dumpsters full of molded insulation and pulled up carpet.

I have a tendency to be like an orchid, a flower which is sensitive to conditions and requires things “just so” to thrive. And this year the routines and normal conditions were thrown to wind, and a stretching/growing time began. We uprooted. We moved twice. We remodeled. Jeff may have worked almost every weekend and too many week nights after he came home from his full time job.

My friend, Marian, had a year similar in which she describes with a sense of humor I love as “The Year I Almost Died. Not really. But in retrospect it sort of feels like it.”

“Last year was hard. I’m not gonna lie. Not in the way that cancer or real tragedy or chronic illness is hard. Not even close. It was a trip to Disneyworld compared to those things. Just hard in a very unsettled, very chaotic, so-much-stress-for-so-long sort of way. I never did get my bearings.”- Marian Vischer

At many weary moments I faltered; whether in my attitude or in daily disciplines like eating healthy and exercising. I never did get my bearings either.

Still I was thankful knowing it was miraculous provision that birthed this time of challenge.

Jeff’s house sold. He has dreamed of building a home for as long as I have known him. He has also dreamed of owning rental homes. In just a few short months after his house sold, we acquired two rental homes. Out of the blue one day we received a phone call, and were offered an amazing deal on a home to renovate. This home was in the school district we wanted for Oliver, who will start pre-k next Fall.

Also, in the Spring I was chosen to be mentored by my favorite author for 5-6 weeks. She gave me so much encouragement towards my creative hopes and dreams; like painting and writing. I felt very loved by God.

So yes, it’s been a year of beginning to realize dreams and working towards hopeful things. But I have been frazzled and life felt a little out of control too. I have had to surrender to the process.

I surrendered to moving twice in 9 months. I surrendered to Jeff taking on another HUGE project right when we thought we were done. I surrendered to the feeling of incompetence while learning to share my writing on this blog.

I have surrendered to this season- hoping the rhythms of God’s grace might also lead to rest,renewal, or growth eventually.

My sister-in-law Ashley wrote down this scripture for me as a reminder to keep the end in sight;

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Being honest, I had really hoped we would be in our home for Thanksgiving, or at least Christmas. We actually ended up moving from my parents house to my in-laws the weekend before Christmas, so my parents would have room for my brothers visiting for the holidays.

Yesterday, I went with my mom and we got our nails done. I picked a soft gray color. It seemed soothing. In all of my anxiousness lately, I have craved the calm. I looked at the name of the nail polish; “Go with the Flowy”. I kind of laughed to myself. That may have been the biggest lesson of the year. Learning how to be gentle with myself during times of transition. Learning how to persevere through weariness. Learning how surrender and perseverance intertwine together.

Finding a peace that God offers through it all.

I just finished reading the book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. Is it a coincidence that part of the book is about her time living with her in-laws while she remodeled a home? probably not. God has always used books as a timely way to speak to me and encourage me.

So much of this imperfect year taught me that in going with the flow and not giving up, I need a perspective that leads my soul to peace.

In Erin’s book I love two specific analogies that bring me a God kind of peace; one about “patching with gold”-kintsugi.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know the first mini-series I ever wrote was titled “Gentleness is Golden.”  When I came to Erin’s chapter about Kintsugi, it felt very personal to me. It is such a beautiful example of how gentleness is golden.

“Kintsugi means “to patch with gold; in this technique, the potter mends a bowl in delicate sweeping strokes, taking no care to hide the crack. There are no clear coats, there is no blending, there is no attempt at concealing what has occurred. Instead, the crack is illuminated with gold, with respect, with observance.

And then it is pieced together-not to be made new but to be changed.

The break itself is the beauty.

The crack is worthy of gold.” – Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner

This year did not look how I expected. But I can try to find the beauty of what I learned and memories I have gained. I patch the cracks with gold.

I was telling my friend about Kintsugi, and you know what she got me for Christmas? A Kintsugi key chain for the key to our newly renovated home. I can remember this difficult year as something also beautiful and good.

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Another analogy in the book was one about an olive branch. This felt personal to me because I have a son named Oliver.;

“The name Oliver comes from the English origin. In English The meaning of the name Oliver is: The olive tree. The biblical olive tree symbolizes fruitfulness and beauty and dignity. ‘Extending an olive branch’ signifies an offer of peace.”

In fact my husband’s name Jeff means “God peace” too.  When I named my son Jeffrey Oliver Hirshburg, my younger brother mentioned that it kind of represented a “double portion of peace.” Lord knows I need that.

Anyway,here is an olive branch quote from the book Chasing Slow that I want to remember always;

“I believe that had I stopped searching for a fig leaf, I would have instead found an olive branch. I believe I would have discovered the peace that comes only after you throw up your hands, throw in the towel, and say, “God? Please help”… –Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner

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a painting I did once of an olive branch

Like many other bloggers and friends of mine, I chose a word for my year. Last year my word for the year was “intimacy”. In this case, it was what I was hoping for; I was hoping to grow even closer to God. To hear and know His voice in such an intimate way.

And you know what happened? It was just like what Erin describes in her book; I had to remove the “fig” leaf”.  The leaf that hides my inadequacies or claims independence and competence. And maybe it took the whole year of coming to the end of my rope, being so weary and done with this whole moving and remodeling thing. I finally threw my hands up in the air, and said Lord please help me, this is really hard. It may be easy for others, but God, this has been hard for both Jeff and I. And maybe in that honesty I became closer to God, and found peace hidden in honesty.

Which is why for 2017 my word of the year is peace.

“I can choose the world’s fig leaves to cover my stretch marks, dark circles, battle scars. Or I can choose to accept my less-ness and reach for more; more grace, more gentleness, more peace. I can surrender the fig leaves. I can lay down the cloak. I can remove the mask. And I can choose to look above, naked and trembling, searching the denim sky for an olive branch to grasp and carry and keep.Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner

In 2017 my hope is to remember to lay down the fig leaf and keep searching the denim sky “for an olive branch to grasp and carry and keep.”

In 2017 I want to cherish the peace I have in being hidden in God’s love and understanding, even when I am completely vulnerable and honest before Him.

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5 thoughts on “Word of the Year

    1. Loved these words. You are truly a good writer – I kept thinking ‘she’s gooood!’ I love how you articulate life…and I can so relate. Your pursuit of gentleness stirs me to do the same. Thankful for you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Peace. So lovely. Learning peace in the midst of the anxious storms seems to be a journey, deeper and deeper. I’ve always loved the quote, “Peace is a Person.” And a fruit of the Spirit! Praying for your journey, friend.

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