2018: a word, a verse, a creative God


It’s New Years Eve, and my heart and mind feel full — of anticipation, but also of pressure. Anyone else feel me?

With the start of a new year, I feel this pressure to have everything in my life put together, ready to take on a new year, be the best version of me, make the most of this new year and fresh start… and well, it can feel a bit crushing.

I think new year’s resolutions are great. I think setting intentions is wonderful. But I don’t think God wants them to be a burden to us.

Scripture tells us that Jesus’ burden is light and his yoke is easy {Matthew 11:30}. Every time I read that verse, I think, I want that! How do I get that? Give me some of that!

. . .

My sister gave me this beautiful planner for 2018 for my birthday this month. It’s no ordinary planner. It’s a planner that incorporate Scripture into every day, and faith-based intention in planning out your year.

At the beginning it has a place for you to write one word for the year as well as choose one verse that will be your mantra of sorts for the year.

On the flight back to LA from Dallas, I spent the better part of two hours looking through this journal and praying over the year ahead. Still, He had me wait to have my answers for these blank spaces.

But He was faithful and they did come.

a word.

This is the first year I’ve chosen a word.

Last year I had a word choose me, so to speak. I had a huge epiphany sometime in the Spring where I felt God tell me that I am beloved.

I realized that my entire life–if only subconsciously–I have thought I have to earn love from others. And I felt my sweet Savior whisper Truth into my ears and mind and heart that I don’t have to earn love, that in fact, I can’t earn His love, that it has been freely given to me to receive…

And yet how can I receive it–His love, His life, the fullness of life that He offers–if my fists are clenched tight with the things of this world? {control, self-reliance, anxiety, fear}

Enter the word I have chosen for this year…


. . .

I prayerfully considered a word for this year, and the word “release” popped off the page amidst a myriad of other words I had jotted down.

Release by definition means “to free from confinement, bondage, obligation, pain, etc.” Sounds like a light burden and easy yoke to me.

Release means “to let go.”

Release means “to free from anything that restrains, fastens, etc; to allow to be known, issued, done, or exhibited; to give up, relinquish, or surrender (a right, claim, etc.)”

Release seems to be a word that holistically encompasses so many of the attributes I long to attain in my life–freedom, relief from pain, the ability to let go, to give up all that is tying me down, making me miserable, limiting my life as a wife, daughter, sister and friend.

a verse.

And now for my verse…

Long ago–okay, well not that long ago–God spoke a verse to me in the very early morning light. It was the morning after I had gotten engaged. He brought to my lips, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me…”

I immediately bolted upright, opened my friend Google, and found that those very words are from Isaiah 61.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion–to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

I’m not sure at the time I fully understood the significance of these words–and maybe I still don’t–but God has slowly but surely revealed such significance from them.

. . .

I think back on that year following our engagement {halfway through the year exactly we got married}, and during that year Clay and I did so many of those things listed in that passage–we traveled to South Africa and proclaimed the good news to the poor. We went into an actual prison to proclaim the freedom of the gospel. And so much more.

And yet I look at the rest of that passage and feel I have failed so much to live out that calling… that I wasn’t always joyfully proclaiming truth and being peacefully led by the Spirit, that I wasn’t bestowing gladness but often mourning, and often instead of praising my Savior I wallowed in despair.

The year was hard. I faced spiritual warfare that stemmed largely from chronic physical pain. {And yet the year was so so good in so many ways.}

And then something crazy happened… On October 23, 2016, exactly one year since our engagement, our pastor Drew {who had married us} preached on this very verse.

And the moment I heard him say it, my eyes welled up with tears. For as much as I had felt like I had failed to live out that Truth and calling, I felt the sweet grace of my Savior in a whisper to me that said, You have another chance. This, too, can be–and is– the year of My favor.

God’s mercies are new every day {Lamentations 3:22-23}. His mercies never cease. They are new every morning–and every year.


a creative God

As I sat across the table from Clay at brunch on my birthday, I told him about the word I had chosen but that I was still trying to find a verse that matched it.

Upon hearing that word release, he brought up Luke 4.

Turns out Luke 4:18-19 is the very fulfillment of that Isaiah 61 prophecy that comes from the very mouth of Jesus.

And in that moment I knew I had my verse. And in that moment, I felt my sweet Savior again whisper His grace to me–You have the opportunity ahead to fulfill the very prophecy I have spoken to you. 

Indeed, our God is good. Indeed, our God is faithful. Indeed, our God is full of mercy and grace and abounding love.

My verse for the year:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The oppressed to be release is most certainly myself as well as others. I know it will be a journey, that I won’t experience the full power of this word right away, but I do know that God is with me on the journey, that His Spirit is most certainly guiding me, that He is bestowing upon me grace after grace despite any of my failures or shortcomings.

. . .

And so I have my word {release} and my verse {Luke 4:18-19}.

And it seems God has intertwined all of this together, like He is weaving together this web that is His speaking, teaching, and guiding with the events of my life.

One thing I didn’t mention was about our wedding day…

We got married at a beautiful vineyard in Agora Hills, under a huge oak tree–sprawling, glorious and gorgeous. And I stood there, holding hands with this man who would become my husband {finally!} in mere minutes, our pastor Drew said, “Now, Clay and Meredith don’t know this, but I have chosen for them a verse that God has laid on my heart.” And he proceeded to recite the words of Isaiah 61.

And he finished with this portion of the passage:

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

“How fitting as we stand here under this beautiful oak tree,” Drew said.

And yes, how fitting. But my mind was overcome by how fitting it was that God had spoken this verse to this man who would give a message on this very day… those very same words He had spoken to me that morning after we got engaged…

Drew had no idea God had spoken this verse to me. I had no idea He had spoken this verse to him.

My eyes grew wide as looked at Clay as if to say, “Can you believe it?!”

. . .

You guys, our God is so much bigger and more powerful and more sovereign and more creative than I think any of us give Him credit. At least I know I don’t give Him enough credit.

All this interconnected leading and speaking to me, to others, this journal, these Scriptures, the timing, a new year, reminders of truth and promises and grace upon grace? All of this is just one tiny example of the mysterious ways in which God works.

He’s working in your life, too. Do you not perceive it?

My brain can’t fathom all He has done, is doing, and is yet to do. But oh, how I look forward to watching more of this story, of His Story, unfold.

What an honor it is to be a part of His Story. What a privilege it is to be invited into His Story. And what a responsibility it is to steward this life, this opportunity, this coming year in a way that is altogether intentional, disciplined, relaxed, full of rest and hard work and reading and learning and praying… and working for the Kingdom… all the while knowing God doesn’t need us to further it, but that out of His goodness and love for us, He has chosen to use us.

. . .

What are your resolutions for 2018? What parts of your story are unfolding that you can see laid out as part of God’s Story? Where do you see Him leading you? Where have you seen Him lead you? What is your word and your verse?

Happy New Year. May it be the best year yet. May it be one in which we take not of the ways He is working behind the scenes and in all things. May this year be one in which we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

View More: http://cameronleungphoto.pass.us/meredithandclay

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