The Anchor of our Souls

At the end of each year, as the days darken early and everything seems to slow down to reflect, celebrate, honor, and gear up for a new year, I find myself nearly begging God for a word to carry as my banner as I march forward. 

Some years I fight the word, some years I plead for it… and then there was this year. In October, months before it was even on my mind to need a new one, He dropped it on me. Over and over. 

“But Lord,” I wanted to say, “I’m still working on Peace. Remember that word I didn’t want that You gave me anyway? Yeah, still working on staying in it.” 

Even so, He continued to whisper this new theme. A theme that, really, has been there all along. 

It’s been there sure and steady, foundational to every word before it: Peace, FearlessNew Song, Hope, Comfort, Rest, Abide, and Light. None of these life compasses would have meant a thing without it. 

In fact, Hebrews 6:18b-19 says:

Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

I know, I’ve already done hope (and for any of you who know me well, it’s become a life theme, not just for 2016) clearly God knew it would be the anchor of every word written of my life story.

See what I did there? 

Yes, the anchor’s name is Hope. And Hope’s name is Jesus. The One who tore the curtain so that I could be daughter.

In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God’s presence with boldness and confidence (Ephesians 3:12).

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10: 19-23).

The Anchor of my soul

THIS is my anchor. He is my anchor.

Yes, Him dropping the word anchor on me makes me think, What storms are You preparing me for, Lord? Yet, even as I start the question, I know that He’s been my anchor in every calm and every storm before today. And He’ll ground me, guard me, protect me in every storm and every calm hereafter. 

The word simply reveals what has been and what will continue to be.

Here’s the cool thing about anchors:

  • Ships sometimes need to idle and remain out at sea, so they anchor. The anchor holds the ship to keep it from drifting off course during the waiting period.
  • Sometimes ships anchor temporarily so those onboard can swim, explore, fish, play.
  • Ships might anchor to keep sturdy in uncomfortable circumstances.
  • Ships anchor to hold out through a storm, especially if getting to shore is out of the question. Sailors hunker down and wait out the rough weather, trusting their boat will still be on course and they will survive.

One sailor said, “Nothing is worse than being stuck on a boat in high winds for 48 hours or 60 hours [and] not having anchor faith. To reduce fear and be able to sleep at night, you want to know that you have an anchor that will keep you safe” (Sailing Britican).

Well friends, I’m here to tell you that my anchor is the safest one out there. He is trustworthy. I have Anchor Faith. Oh Lord, help me to have Anchor Faith!

Heading into 2020

As we head into 2020, I’m prepared to carry on in the abiding Shalom of last year, armed with the strong and trustworthy anchor of my soul. 

A prophetic word was prayed over me this last year. The prayer warrior said, as she prayed, “I see a rope around you… and God is holding the rope. No matter where you go or what you do, you are secure in His grip. You can let go and trust Him. You can hold to His promises, that even as obstacles come, He has hold of you.”

This was in July… months before God would begin speaking the actual word anchor in my spirit. As the word has begun to grip me, this prayer has returned to me. He was already sowing the truth that I am held, secure, safe, and covered.

Ironically, I was asked to join our worship team for Church for the Sunday before Christmas. There was a new-to-me song on the list: Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor. Naturally, I chuckled. God, you’re good.

As I reflect on 2019 and peace, I see that He really did give us peace in multiple forms. Peace, at last, within the walls of our home. Peace in our marriage. Peace from various obstacles that are now resolved. But He also gave us this peace-which-transcends-understanding in circumstances unresolved. Wayward loved ones whose lives we sadly watch derail. The failing health of friends and family, even the passing into Glory of one sweet former foster child, Mayra. Storms around us which we can’t control. Lying lips, slandering tongues, sparks which light forests afire… peace. Insecurities, doubts, questions… peace. Fear, temptation, selfishness… peace. Peace which doesn’t make sense. Supernatural peace. Always available.

Peace that He, as our anchor, will keep us on course, regardless of the calm or the storm. 

God’s Peace in Place of Fear – Facing 2019 with Shalom

The thing I’ve learned about choosing a word to fly as a banner over my each year, is that this word then flings loose and stirs up opportunity. 

Opportunity to dig deep. Opportunity to quit and return to comfortable. Opportunity to grow.

It should not have come as a surprise to me that the very last few days of 2018 were some of my most painful this whole year. I felt the familiar claws of terror creeping into my soul. 

I’m not liked. I’m misunderstood. People I thought loved me, don’t. People I trusted aren’t trustworthy. And God might have me say “yes” anyway. 

“Yes” to showing up in the vulnerable, painful places. “Yes” to more forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption. “Yes” to humility. “Yes” to being misunderstood for the sake of God’s glory story, not mine. 

All “yes”es that make me want to crawl into my bed, deep into my covers, headphones filling my mind with truth, blocking out that anyone else exists. This is how I like to handle fear. 

But as each of the days of 2018 passed me by, “Fearless” was always flying above me. 

It flew strong when I said “yes” to coaching two days a week with Self Publishing School, knowing my capacity (emotional, physical, time) is limited. 

It flew broad when I said “yes” to pushing through new-old pain in our marriage and getting support–again.

It flew high when I said “yes” to embracing hard things about myself, about people I love, and pursuing healthy relationships through the heartache. 

It flew proud when I said “yes” to taking our Home Assignment year this year in the U.S., leaving behind a life and home and friends we love, for the other home we love. 

The flying flag stood as a reminder of my goal. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

I wanted a year of choosing hope over fear. And that was terrifying. Fearlessness didn’t remove the fear, only gave me a foothold for my next step, right smack into the face of it.

The opportunities didn’t let up through the very last countdown of 2018. And to be honest… they followed me right into 2019. 

Even now, I feel the familiar tingle of fear as I hear the whispers of a new “yes.” 

So why in the world are these yeses worth it? Why not crawl into my bed? 

I have experienced some of the most incredible, life-altering consequences to those yeses. 

love love love the team I serve with at Self Publishing School. I have grown as a coach, learned that I love it, and learned that I’m good at it. I love the mission, the integrity, the purpose, and the people. All of them. It’s been a full year and my heart is so full because I (and they) said “yes.”

Jeremy and I have a new depth in our relationship. We’ve been through some hard stuff. HARD. Losing his mom (and in some ways his dad) days before our 1st anniversary, raising children who’ve endured trauma, health crises, moving across the world, unprofessional work relationships, extended family dynamics, living in a world with people in progress, being people in progress. This last summer we had the chance to attend Breathe for missionary families who’ve experienced trauma and it was SO good. We had daily counseling which about killed us before saving us. But saying “yes” to digging deep and opening our eyes and saying “yes” again… has led us to a rich place today. I don’t regret the pain of that yes.

I also have a new self-awareness this year. I began this year feeling like the small person in every room I entered. Saying “yes” to His small voice has reminded me that my value and worth isn’t derived from difficult relationships (or even good ones), but only from God. “Yes” to persevering through hard relationships has deepened my security in Him. Who would have known? A deeper dependency on Him reveals who you really are… His loved child.

And saying “yes” to vulnerability has brought me rich and precious friendships. It’s terrifying to be honest about one’s shortcoming and fears and struggles. But as Brené Brown speaks about regularly, vulnerability is courageous and freeing. In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené says,

“My willingness to let someone I care about see me as imperfect led to a strengthening of our relationship that continues to today. That’s why I can call courage, compassion, and connection the gifts of imperfection. When we’re willing to be imperfect and real, these gifts just keep giving.”

So many other yeses, so many other gifts. The terror is worth facing when you know an incredible gift, larger than you could ask or imagine, waits on the other side. 

The gift of being fearless. 

I don’t plan to leave “fearless” on the doorstep of 2019. Just like every other word before it: New Song, Hope, Comfort, Rest, Abide, Light, it will continue to feed into and inform every day. It joins a list of powerful words and years, life lessons and growth, that will guide me. Believe me, 2019 isn’t looking like it needs less fearlessness. 

This year, I’m raising a new banner to join the others. 

And to be honest, I didn’t like the word. I resisted it. It feels plastic. Commercialized. Everyone wants it, but so few have it. Miss America wants it. Nations want it. Christmas sings it. Hippies flash it. 

Something in me said, “No thank you. It’s been overdone.” And then, as God does, the word came up at every turn. My own devotional, prayers prayed over me, the Sunday sermon, verses, random YouTube videos. 

And as I looked at the amount of hard we’ve had and have (even with so much good to be thankful for!) I realized: It is what I want. 

How often I remind myself that God gives a peace unlike the world gives. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

-John 14:27

Or that His peace is the kind that is above and beyond our circumstances or rational thinking (Phil 4:7). That He will “keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in [Him]” (Isaiah 26:3).

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

-Isaiah 55:12

Tonight we attended a prayer night for friends dealing with hardship. One of the praying warriors said that the opposite of fear is peace. 

Ironic? I think not. God knew I’d need a year of pursuing fearlessness in order to grasp the peace that replaces fear. 

Now, I don’t mean “peace” as in “the absence of conflict.” While that’s lovely and all, and what most people mean when they say it, the true meaning is much bigger. And actually, you can have peace in the midst of conflict. So there’s that. 

Susan Perlman, on the Jews for Jesus website, says 

Peace, lasting peace, transcends the situations and flaws of our own personal lives because it doesn’t come from us. It comes from God. We are not in a position to attain peace ourselves. Yet, God promises all the qualities of shalom – wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety – to those who will look to Him.

Therefore, this year I seek to abide in the peace, the shalom, that only comes from God. The peace which brings with it a sense of safety, even in places of worldy fear. A peace that will usher out my insecurities, fears, doubts, and insecurities, and replace them with…, well, peace. 

As we and I head into 2019, I truly wish you God’s peace in everything. Let’s pursue it together. 

Comfort – 5 Minute Friday

5-minute-friday-1 Comfort.

The word floods my mind with a collage of images.

Images and voices.

Voices that swoon and croon and call and plead and promise… and guilt.

My heart quiets and a soft smile settles with images of great reading rooms with large cozy chairs, overlooking the ocean. The sea breeze caresses my face, wisps of hair dance in the ocean’s song, and I am lost in a book, only drawn back to reality by the call of a seagull or the crash of a wave. A contented sigh.

Comfort.

I can doze in the warmth of the sun’s gentle rays and awake to cool in the ever-reaching waves. Laughter and joy and peace wrap around and I’m soon back in the arms of the chair, book in hands, world faded into another.

This is my “happy place.”

But then the guilt… all of the “comfort” foods that promise happiness in the moment, heartache (and bellyache) in the next. Guilt over the millions around the world living (if we can call it that) with little to no food, water… dying of things I take for granted. Guilt over the complaints I give a cold-sore when people say less about their own starvation, decaying body parts, children dying of preventable and treatable diseases. Guilt that my life as a believer in Christ should not be filled with comfort, but of perseverance, tribulation, endless hard work and long-suffering, sacrifice… exhaustion for the Cause. His Cause. Guilt that too much pleasure shouldn’t be for me and how can I even dream such things?

Then a gentle voice speaks:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:28-29

When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

Psalm 94:19

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

 

And truth, though my thoughts are so small in comparison, overwhelm my guilt and fears.

And the comfort comes.

Not through sea breezes or oversized reading chairs or worlds created by authors…

but by that voice.

The voice of Truth that overwhelms all shadows of guilt and fear.

That speaks peace and comfort into everything I can’t understand.

Quiet heart.

Soft smiles.

Contented sigh.