While Michael built a bonfire, and the girls constructed a playground from driftwood, I took a brief walk down the beach, through packed sand, over piles of strewn logs and past tide pools.
It was a day of transition — the year’s newness still palpable, changing weather patterns settling in clouds and newly-insulated air. I felt both content and restless, a deeper stirring I couldn’t quite identify, and in a moment felt the urge to look back at the ocean in the direction from which I’d come.
The cloudy sky held a gap, like a seam ripped open. And through that space, the hidden sun shone in directed beams, touching surrounding sky pink and casting what I can’t help but call God Light upon a small fishing boat, bobbing on the vast sea.
Right there, providence and trust came alive for me and vulnerability and courage. It was as if I were that boat, seeking God in rocking waters while resting in the knowledge that I’m already home.
In 2013, I felt God stirring me to choose TRUST as my One Word to guide the year. It was another step in my journey of letting go — of perfect and outcomes and striving and task-master pictures of success. Trust was a (gradually-more-willing) surrender of my dreams, treasures and anxieties into God’s hands, believing those the right place for them.
In 2014, SEEK called me, because having laid down my picture of the journey, I wasn’t so sure what to pick up again or which direction to travel. Knowing that, come fall, all three of my girls would be in school for the first time, I sensed undercurrents of sorrow and hope, fear of the unknown and concerns I wouldn’t know how to regain my self. Regardless, it was clear that I could not look first to myself or to others to determine who I was or what my course.
A few months into the year, seeking took on less a forging-new-ground identity and more a recognizing-what-already-is. My one word became an awakening of the home within me where Christ dwells, my fulfilled and yet unfulfilled resting place — the continual thrum to seek and find. I learned to recognize the holy ache and longing as a call to home.
In April, I struggled with depression and despair, a sense of hopelessness and aimlessness. During a time of waiting and listening, I received in a deeper way my home found in God’s love, regardless of me — or any thing, action, feeling or way about me.
Too, from within fog, God clearly told me that in part I was made to be a writer and a speaker. My Creator had plans for me in the midst of those callings I’ve wanted and rejected, hoped for and feared.
So even though I felt like a writing and blogging failure at times, and I’d laid it down in my year of trust, he called me “writer.” Even though I wasn’t really speaking much yet, he pronounced “speaker” into my life, asked me to embrace the vulnerability and adventure. God asked me to trust while venturing forth, saying yes to things far beyond my “abilities” and “experience,” to remember the true home of him within my spirit that enables me to do all things he asks of me.
So I did all the things I knew to do while wondering if everyone could see the insecurity cloak that sometimes nearly wrapped me to choking.
The strange thing is that insecurity has served its purpose in my life. In its own twisted way, it’s kept me aware, humble, always yearning for growth. It’s been familiar, and so eerily safe. But over this past year, insecurity has stifled my growth because the wrappings no longer fit, and these arms need to stretch.
I’ve realized I can’t truly embrace opportunities to love and bless and participate in kingdom come in the ways God invites while wearing those clothes. I’ve got to wear differently to do differently. I’ve got to shed the covering that pronounces I cannot and taunts, who do you think you are? Or the one that shouts at me, just dress it up more to make it happen, or at least look the part.
This year, I desire to release what these clothes really represent: my deep, deep fear. Fear that the “out there” holds death, failure, embarrassment, pain or disappointment.
I need to reach for the truth over and over again that God is the one out there. The future holds more of him — and me and all those I love being held by him. The great mystery actually holds more love and even hope.
This year, though I considered them, I’m not choosing “loved,” “bold,” “secure,” “brave” or “hope” as my One Word for 2015, though I want to learn more what it is to walk in those things.
Instead, the word FEARLESS calls me because shedding fear will be a holy release. If I’m to proclaim to my daughters and to this hurting world God’s freedom and your utter beloved-ness, I must walk in loved freedom and shed fear’s continual grip on me.
I don’t just want to do hard things. I must do them differently.
The morning of my beach walk, I wrote in my journal:
“I am loved, so I can live fearless. As the waves crash over and over, requiring nothing of me, so God’s love continues on and on and on…”
I’m not sure if fear’s opposite is love or trust or faith but, regardless, I do not want to walk in the fear any longer.
I’m tired of looking to the worst instead of the best, looking to the race instead of his rest. I’m tired of basing life on outcomes I cannot predict or would likely predict wrongly. I’m tired of seeing menace in each wave that comes.
Of course I will still know fear (it is a scary world we live in), but I want to see fear clearly, for it is not the final word — not in my heart, not on this planet.
I want to open unbound arms to embrace fearlessness from a place of gentle confidence, abiding peace and overcoming strength that are mine in Christ. As a woman, mother, wife, neighbor, daughter, sister, human, I want to both REST in God and to RISK in him, to his glory.
This morning, in the midst of a year unfurling unknowns, I think of us as vulnerable and small, yet brave and mighty boats, rocked and rolled on the sea. The sky has opened, and we are shining.
Love and light came down, and they keep coming down for us.
To learn more about choosing One Word and not a list of resolutions to guide your year, check out OneWord365. Have you chosen a word for the year? I’d love to hear…
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I need to be ironing…but I had to know what the word was….loved that I got more than a word, I got to read the processing of a journey. So thankful for you Ashley and the God that shine through your life and writing. Fearless…yes!
The housekeeping rebel in me loves that I was able to pull you away from your ironing. :-) It did feel good to lay out the journey for myself, too. You know how these changes happen so gradually sometimes, they can be nearly imperceptible…and then to see them lined up before yourself is so encouraging — wow, God is up to something good!
Hi Ashley, wonderful, wonderful post (raced through it as I was so excited to see a new post from you: I’m going to savour it again, at leisure, later tonight!)…..love that you’ve chosen fearless (for me, ‘hope’ has been the opposite of fear – due to my personal circumstances in which fear was so intimately bundled up with hopelessness)…..I just posted about my ‘guiding word’ (even called it exactly the same): great minds think alike ;)
Happy New Year – here’s to you fearlessly flowering in to your calling xxx
I absolutely see that about hope, too. May it guide you to greater confidence, peace and joy. I look forward to reading more about your journey. Much love!
Oh my friend… I love this so and you and your heart and yes – those giftings that are so deep in you that we only are beginning to see them bubbling up and over and pouring out! What a great word… it reminds me of giving up self-doubt… He asked me to do that for Lent last year and supernaturally helped me to do it… I fall back to old ways more often than I’d like to admit but OH the FREEDOM to walk fearless… without that cloak! Leaning in to this with you… can’t wait to see all the Wonder that 2015 holds! xoxo
Thanks for cheering me on, girl. I’ve been so encouraged by your growing into confidence, releasing that self-doubt cloak and flowering into all God’s designed for your one precious life. You inspire me. xoxo
Ashley: I have always, ever since I was a little girl, called that light breaking through the clouds, “God Rays.” And whenever I see them, I try to take a moment to see what it might mean for me in that exact moment. Sometimes there is great portent attached to this moment, a lot of the times, it’s just a moment where I pause (also incredibly important for me!)
I LOVE that your word for 2015 is FEARLESS. There should be nothing holding you back as you walk in this deep knowing place that “fear is not the final word – not in my heart, not on this planet.” YES!!!
As individuals and as communities, if we only stopped being afraid – there would be so much more space for love – and in the immortal words of Burt Bacharach: “What the world needs now, is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s much too little of. What the world needs now, is love sweet love – no, not just for some but for everyone.” :O)
You being fearless will bring so much more love – to you and all you those who hear or read your words. YOU GO GIRL!!!
Oh my goodness– I feel like this one line captures my heart- the holy wrestling match that is always at work in the deep places of my soul– “I want to both REST in God and to RISK in him, to his glory.” Risking in Jesus for His glory. Resting in Him as we trust Him with the outcome—- That’s gospel living, isn’t it? The exciting adventure of life that is REALLY LIFE. So excited for you as you embark on another chapter of your story, Ashley. For His glory. Praying you into 2015 and beyond, dear friend!!
I really love, love, love how you laid your story out here in chronological order, Ash, because it helps me to see some of the beautiful progression to get you from there to here. And what excites me deeply is I know, a year from now, there will be a whole litany of steps and stories to share – or not share – of how you lived into FEARLESS (I agree, I don’t think I’ll use that word in relation to you without ALL CAPS ;-D ), and how this God Light guided and illumined you all along. How you hunkered down in the home of him, in the little boat, and trusted today and the future hold more of him. I needed to hear that, too. Thank you, love. I am so grateful for you.
Yes… sister, yes. This word is so you. SO you. And I am so resonating right now – moved by the thought of how you’ll “wear differently.” I almost can’t believe this’ll be the year that we’ll meet in person (!!!!), and I absolutely cannot wait to see – both in person and long distance – how FEARLESS guides your year. How He roots you more deeply in perfect love through it all. I love you, friend… you are a profound gift and example to me.
can’t wait to see how God shapes you this year-fearless suits you well.
you are so very loved.
Loved it. I think freedom is my word. Miss you!
So beautifully said, Ashley.
I love this: “I am loved, so I can live fearless. As the waves crash over and over, requiring nothing of me, so God’s love continues on and on and on…”
Thank you for your comforting words. The secret lies just here, that our will, which is the spring of all our actions, has been in the past under the control of sin and self, and these have worked in us all their own good pleasure. But now God calls upon us to yield our wills up unto Him, that He may take the control of them and may work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. If we will obey this call, and present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. He will take possession of our surrendered wills, and will begin at once to work in us “that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” giving us the mind that is Christ and transforming us in His image. (see Rom. 12: 1,2,) “Thy Will Be Done” Bobweaver26@gmail.com
Fearless is not the absence of fear, rather it is rising above the fear and taking the next step relying on God for strength. Dana, shared this on Facebook and I am so glad that she did. My word is content. I complain too much over trivial things, and I want to pursue a heart of gratitude and contentment this year. I want to focus on the many blessings God has given and to quote Ann Voskamp “Speak words that leave souls stronger.” I am looking forward to following your journey this year.
Fearless, I love it! YES!
What inspiration for us all.
My word is TRUTH.
I just keep coming back to that……
Love you sister!
Oh wow. This phrase really sticks with me: “I don’t just want to do hard things. I must do them differently.” Amen!