I fell into a rhythm in December. I didn’t make any real plans or resolutions. I didn’t chart a path. I laced up my running shoes and headed out my front door with one thing in mind: soul care.
After an intense year, I knew I needed to change my pace. This year my husband and I wrote and launched a book baby. We started a podcast while both of us were working from home. We turned our house into a school for our three daughters – one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school. We welcomed my parents to stay with us.
We also navigated a global pandemic. We reckoned with political division and racial tension in our own community and beyond. We serpentined our way through disappointment, loss, and fear. We carried our daily decision fatigue like a heavy backpack filled with boulders.
When I arrived at December 1, I felt the exhaustion in my body and deep in the recesses of my heart.
My feet hit the trail as a reprieve. I’m usually the type who loves to explore new routes, seek out new scenery, and embrace new challenges. In December, I ran the same path three days a week for six miles. I listened to the same Christmas album and playlist every time.
My feet crunched through the golden leaves and my eyes followed the light skipping across the water.
My soul calmed.
There was something truly soothing about finding the cadence of breath and steps again. I didn’t have to think about where to go or for how long. I didn’t push the pace or fixate on the miles. I simply ran.
And my body slipped into muscle memory. I could breathe again. The tightness between my shoulder blades relaxed. The heaviness lifted one run at a time.
Back in January, I chose the word “soar” as my word theme for 2020. This has been a spiritual practice in my life for more than a decade. I listen and look for a word that God might use to teach me. I follow that word through the year. I reflect, read the Bible, copy down quotes, and write about what I’m learning.
Of course, every year I choose a word and by December I am surprised at the lessons I’ve learned from following that word. It’s never what I hoped, imagined, or predicted back in January. It always involves surrendering, reckoning and deepening my relationship with the One who was and is the Word from beginning to end.
I discovered in 2020 that soaring is much more nuanced than I thought. It’s not just spreading our wings and taking off. Soaring involves waiting, preparing, and discerning.
Soaring means laying down our tendency to strive and hustle.
It means less lifting and more letting go.
It means waiting and being watchful for where God might be leading and allowing Him to strengthen our souls before the just-right wind takes us to new heights.
Isaiah 40, the passage that also inspired my new Walk Run Soar devotional, has become a theme for me this year. In each new season of 2020, these verses have kaleidoscoped into more brilliant color:
“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
(Isaiah 40:29-31, NIV).
In verse 31, the word “hope” is also translated “wait” in English. In Hebrew, the word is “qavah,” meaning “to bind together, to be joined, to meet, to expect, to be confident, trust, endure.” In so many ways, this is what I’ve been learning to do in 2020. Tara-Leigh Cobble explains in The Bible Recap, “The image here is more than just an expression of time; it’s an expression of unity. It’s about relationship – knowing Him, trusting His character.”
Hoping and waiting on God is not passive. It’s an invitation to lean into God’s arms, to be joined with Him, to meet with Him regularly. I’ve found that in this active waiting that He restores and renews strength.
Whether you are waiting for an answer, waiting for healing, waiting for a child, waiting for a job promotion, or just waiting for this pandemic to be over, know that your waiting has purpose.
I’ve learned in 2020 that the real heart work of soaring is in the waiting. Honestly, it’s counterintuitive for me. I’m an activator. My creativity gets revved up in movement, in chasing dreams and casting vision. I’m an external processor, an enthusiast, a gatherer of people. These personality traits have been challenged in 2020. As we have sheltered-at-home for most of the year and limited our travel, I’ve felt disconnected from my people. I’ve felt clumsy and sometimes frustrated like a baby bird bumbling along, trying to learn how to fly.
I’ve turned inward, processing quietly with God, journaling more, sitting in silence, whispering breath prayers in the shower or on the trail. Surprisingly, these practices have served to renew me even in the midst of chaos, uncertainty, and decision fatigue. I want to carry these intentionally into the new year. I don’t want to go back to “normal life” or “life as it was” because of these lessons learned on the journey of 2020.
These last few months, I’ve noticed a new word bubbling to the surface. It always happens this way for me. I notice a word appearing in different places – in the pages of scripture, in art, in conversation, and in my heart.
This year I’m exploring the word “chosen.” The dictionary tells me it means “one who is the object of choice or of divine favor.”
It’s a strange word. I don’t know how I feel about it really except that it’s a concept peppered throughout the Bible. I want to learn more about it. I want to embrace the purpose God has chosen for me. Recently, I remembered that my friend and Bible study leader told me she was praying this word over me this year. She planted the seed of this word in the soil of my heart garden early in the year.
This morning I read these words just a few chapters later in Isaiah 43:
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he” (Isaiah 43: 10, ESV).
We may have flipped the calendar to a new month and a new year, but the reality is we still have a lot of wreckage to reckon with in 2021. As much as we are longing for a fresh start, there may be a lot of the same. Yet, I hear the echoes of Isaiah’s prophecy calling me and calling you to be witnesses. God will prevail even through our present challenges. We are chosen to know, believe, and understand who He is and to reflect His glory to a weary and wandering world.
Will you join me?
On Saturday, January 30, I’m hosting the Lead Loved 2021 Word Party for women leaders online at 10 am. Join us for this conversation about choosing a word for your year and time of prayer together. Details here.