There’s something inside that feels empty. In my mind I’ve come to a well, a resting and gathering place, with a ladle in my hand. I reach down again and again and though the bucket isn’t full, the water-line is rising.
Way back when I heard an old tale of a leaking bucket. It never could stay filled up all the way, and by the time the owner returned home from the water source there was nothing left inside. But the pathway he had walked, dusty and barren, began to grow. The water that sloshed over the side and in between the cracks and gaping holes brought life to what was withering. Flowers bloomed.
2016 held a heck of a lot. My book released and with it, my heart.
I returned to Haiti for the third time and honestly, I can’t tell if my heart broke open wide again because I’m not sure it ever pieced itself back together.
This is good, I think.
I spent two weeks in Israel and my view of Jesus changed forever.
I’m sitting here with my legs folded beneath me, hair pinned up haphazardly, blinking back tears and trying to convince myself to keep writing, to say the next thing, to pull words from the sky or dig them out from inside me but really, just moving on from that one line feels like climbing a mountain.
Something big shifted during those two weeks, so many somethings that simply writing that sentence results in a lump in my throat that I can’t swallow or push down.
But there’s more that happened in 2016, moments and decisions and joy and growth and pain and, well, life.
I’ve avoided reflecting on the year because, quite frankly, I’m not sure it would do any good. Life had a way of forcing me to be ultra-aware and process each day as it went by, and so I waved goodbye to 2016 with both hands. Emphatically.
The part that’s hard to say is that 2016 was bitter. Sweet, too. But also bitter.
The part I just want to skip over, swallow back and push down or brush away like the tears stinging, is that this past year hurt. Growth does that, I suppose. Roots grow in the damp dark, and it’s been that.
Healing takes time and although some changes happen over night, many times we take one small step, do the next right thing, and one day we look up to find the water-line is a little higher, we’ve gone a little bit further, and our heart is beating stronger, truer, realer.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have chosen the word release.
Or, perhaps, wrestle. Maybe even trust.
But I didn’t. And really, I didn’t pick my word. I said it last year and it was cheesy but also true: the Word gave me my word for 2016 and it made basically no sense whatsoever at the time.
It does now. (Doesn’t that figure.)
My word for 2016 was temple.
You can read all about it here, the journey to that word and what I thought it would mean for 2016.
In many ways, I was right. In many ways, I was wrong.
It seemed like, at the time, He was calling me to treat my body as a temple of the Living God. It felt like a call to remember that He is with me, dwelling within me, even in the midst of my mess.
John 1 says He moved into the neighborhood, pitched His tent and set up camp. God dwelt among His people and led the way through the wilderness with a pillar of fire in the darkness and a pillar of cloud in the daylight. Ever with them, never leaving for a minute, tabernacling with His creation.
And then Jesus wrapped Himself in an envelope of skin to be Emmanuel, God with us. And now because I am His, the Holy Spirit says He makes His home within me, declaring me to be a temple.
I wrote about these things last year, sure that my word was temple but unsure how God would use it.
In May I took this picture, staring up at the temple in Jerusalem, and really, don’t even bother trying to convince me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.
I told myself, way back at the beginning of the year, that if I’m truly a temple then I need to give myself grace, be gentle with myself when I fail and fall, and live in such a way that He would be comfortable making Himself at home in me. I told myself I would take care of my body – not for a New Year’s Resolution but because it was the right thing to do.
Temple was about all of that, about treating myself like the home He’s declared me to be, but temple was about so much more.
Because 2016? It was far from my favorite. I traveled and my first book released but also, I released a lot of well-loved dreams, let go of relationships, and daily learned to live like I trusted He would be the Living Water in the wilderness. My heart broke this past year – in good ways and in bad.
But in all of it, in every single second of every single day, the words I wrote last January proved to be true: There are times to walk in the wild and times to settle down and I have found Him in both.
He led me in the dark and showed me the way in the light. As I made my home in Him, He made His home in me. Abiding, dwelling.
He took me to the places He walked on this earth, brought me to the temple, and then set up camp – in my dirtiness, my mess, my broken uncertainty and crushed hopes. He kept safe the broken pieces, swept in like a rushing wind in the heat of day, cleaned house, and answered my January 2016 prayer:
Lord, may it be so. May I be a dwelling place where You feel both welcome and comfortable. As I live and love and learn in this in between season, shape me into a home You would be pleased to call Your own. Help me dust and sweep and clean out the junk that piles up or gets thrown in the closet. Help me open the blinds and look for the Light. Please give me Your strength to treat myself as the home of Christ, which probably means I should keep the soundtrack of Truth on repeat and run far from any numbers that might shift my focus from You.
As You make Your home in me, help me make my home in You. You’ve taught me about the word dwell before, but help me to soak in Your presence in a new and deeper way. Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Throwing the doors to my life wide open might mean You throw some stuff out that I love dearly, but I pray that I will love You most and walk with open hands wherever You lead. Make Yourself at home, Lord. When others look at me, may they see You.
I wouldn’t have chosen the word temple, but it was the one that I needed and I’ll continue to carry it with me.
From the sound of it, though, 2017 will look a bit different. Last week I said I’ll soon be sharing my word for this year, the one God gave me back in October, the one that I didn’t want and didn’t see coming (although I absolutely should have).
I will. I’ll tell you next week. For now, I’ll leave you with this:
He shows up. He dwells within. He never, ever leaves.
I couldn’t have made it here without Him and though I don’t know what 2017 will hold, I know He holds my future in His hands and even when everything shakes around me, He remains steady and strong and sure within me.
He moved into the neighborhood. Flowers will bloom.