Word a Year — Give

I’ve heard a friend recently mention the “rearview mirror” perspective—that of looking back to see all the ways God has been at work even if we didn’t realize it at the time. As I’ve glimpsed back at 2018, I’m realizing God was much closer than He appeared.

Looking back, I can see 2018 held much new:

In February, Larry and I plunged into a plant-based diet to see if we could alleviate some health issues. We thought we’d try it for 30 days—now it’s a lifestyle. Never, ever would I have seen that coming! Needless to say, I was learning how to shop, chop, and cook anew.

In May, Larry took a promotion at his company—the first he’d accepted in over 15 years because we’d decided keeping our boys settled in one place during their growing up years was important. So, taking that first step back into the world of management in 2018 was new and exciting, but we also felt the significance of this decision, as though this was the first domino in a stack—with no way of knowing how or where the stack would fall in our future.

In August, our youngest achieved driver status just in time for his junior year of high school. Not only did he find himself independent, in his own truck, and able to drive himself to and from school, but he could also make the longer trek to culinary school in the afternoons. As amazing as this new-found freedom was, though, his anxiety was at an all-time high. Panic attacks and dread were not the friends he’d wanted, but they seemed to cling tightly. A new journey for us indeed.

September rolled around, and I found myself alone on a road trip to Nashville, equal-parts giddy and jittery about attending my first New Room Conference. Exhausted and stretched way out of my comfort zone, I ran right into the Holy Spirit and experienced Him in all kinds of new ways. It didn’t take long for my fear to give way to peace and awe. I had deep places in my soul filled that I didn’t know were empty, much less fillable. So much holy work was begun in me in those few days—work the Holy Spirit is still cultivating in me today.

The fall of 2018 was jam-packed as usual, so as I skidded into December, it was hard to reconcile how much my beloved Grandpa had deteriorated. In fact, that month he passed away. And my Grandma spent the holidays bedridden, never to fully recover. I’ll never forget leaving her house for Christmas Eve services full of sorrow and grief. Somehow, as I left her bedside, I knew she wasn’t long for the earth either. It was her last Christmas with us.

That’s my 2018 at a glance. As I re-read it, I recall all the overwhelming emotions. The retrospective view helps me see why.

What I don’t see? My word for 2018: GIVE.

As I started out the year with give, I expected God to give me all kinds of opportunities to give money. I thought God would push me to be more generous with my cash-flow.

And while there were a few those kinds of opportunities, what I realize now is that in 2018 God was calling me to GIVE OF MYSELF.

I wish there were a way for me to convey to you how this Enneagram 2 doesn’t think she needs to give MORE of herself away. I’m a helper and do-er by nature. Too often I lack boundaries and the ability to say no. So, I find myself asking why God would give me a year to start honing the skill of intentionally giving more of myself.

Having taken some time to ponder what God was doing in me and asking of me in 2018, I realize now that God was trying to prepare me. He was also allowing all the new to reveal my tendencies, reactions, and needs. God was calling me to see that my life needed to be less about DOING more, because the Lord knows I was plenty busy, but about GIVING more…

…of the deeper, more thoughtful, more vulnerable parts of myself to those around me who needed me…and God. Like my family.

…of myself over to the work of the Holy Spirit instead of quietly trying to control things myself.

…intentional devotion to and trust in God and His ways and plans.

It’s crazy to look back at 2018 through this evaluative lens. I have begun 2020 exhausted and stressed. Life is hard at every turn—nothing awful, just lots of hard. Emotions are high. Sleep is inconsistent. It feels like there’s one challenge after another.

I find myself desiring comfort.

While there is a happy medium between taking care of myself and total avoidance of life, I’m still learning in 2020 the “give” lesson God began in me two years ago. Funny thing, comfort is not one of those lessons.

I’m still learning to give my body what it needs so that it can get beyond surviving and move toward thriving.

I’m still learning to give my fears to God so that I can give my husband and sons more of the authentic me. Instead of letting fear over the unknown future rob me of the joy of today, I’m learning how to give more freely of my time, my energy, and my very being to those I love the most.

I’m still learning how to give more freely of my true feelings, not hiding what I want to say for fear of losing a relationship or for fear of what others will think. In 2018, I had to get really real with my youngest to help him identify and deal with his anxiety. In 2020, he and I are still figuring out how to peel back the layers of what we feel to get to what the core issues are.

I’m still learning how to give myself to the work of the Holy Spirit. And it’s a magnificent journey! I’ve felt His power course through me like electricity, His love flow over me like a wave of warm water that brings life and assurance, His grace fall upon me—sometimes as gently as a Father’s hand, other times as forceful as gale. Every time I’m amazed and humbled. Every time I come away renewed and ready to face whatever’s next.

I’m learning that instead of desiring the kind of comfort the world has to offer, I can give my heart, my mind, and my tired body to God and let Him be my comfort. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good book or a fun movie or a glass of wine. I do. But, this journey of giving more of myself has this upside-down effect. Instead of looking for fulfillment or rest in those things, I look to God. I give Him my time, my energy, my all…and He gives me true rest, true joy, true fulfillment.

I know it doesn’t add up. I give more of myself only to gain. But somehow that’s how I’ve been able to keep moving forward despite the hard things.

So, as I learn to give myself over to the Holy Spirit, He gives me what I need most. Then, I’m able to give more of myself to the people around me.

If I weren’t living it, I wouldn’t believe it.

And yet, as I sit here and think about that last statement, I realize God’s been trying to get me to believe He is my true rest and joy for a while. In fact–I just looked it up to be sure–the summer of 2017 our Bible study group did Jennie Allen’s Proven study, and that was a big part of her message. Some of her experiences and lessons were that we can numb out in all the various ways in our quest to find rest, but true rest ONLY COMES FROM GOD. Even in the middle of life’s storms, He can be our rest.

You know what that means? God went before me with a message of truth in preparation for a year (or two) where I’d really need His kind of rest.


So, in this upside-down kingdom of God’s, He can ask me to give Him more of me—more faith, more honesty, more of my true self—and He will give me true rest and true joy.

When I set out to write this post, I hadn’t had any of these revelations or realizations. So, thanks for letting me self-discover a bit in your presence.

And, I pray that you’ll take some time this week to look in your own rear view mirror with the intent of finding where God has been at work. May you discover He’s been there all along, that He has been going before you, equipping you for the season you find yourself in now. I’d love to hear what revelations you have!

Desiring to give more of true myself, Shelley Johnson

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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