We were still college kids living in the dorm when my friend Holly adopted the word "grateful" and made it her mantra.
I watched closely as it shaped not just her semester, but her heart, and truly her life.
I had never thought of embracing a word like that before.
I'm guessing that the word embraced her first.
At least that's how it has worked for me in the years since.
These are all words that have since guided me through a year or season of life.
There hasn't always been a word, I haven't always intentionally sought one out, they more or less come and go on their own, finding me when the time is right.
But this year, I sought my word purposefully and with an open mind.
As I prayed and reflected over the last year of my life, the most impactful of my almost 28 years thus far, similar themes, circumstances, and feelings became obvious to me.
I also used The Abbey of the Arts 12 day mini-retreat to aid me in my searching.
I was only 3 days in when God whispered a word to me.
It was the last word I scribbled in a long list of many others and once I wrote it down, it made total sense.
Of course my word is surrender.
I, who plans and controls as much as possible every moment of life.
I, who doesn't do so well when things don't go my way.
I, who battles anxiety.
I, who sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, manipulates people or circumstances to be the way I want them.
I, who has the bent of a Pharisee, doing good and following the rules in order to earn love (which, just fyi, doesn't work).
I, who lets fear get the best of me.
I, who gives in to anger when I don't get my way.
The place of surrender is where He has been leading me over the past year.
Every event, every misstep, it has all been to lead me to total surrender.
The dictionary defines surrender in this way: to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; to give oneself up; to give up, abandon, or relinquish.
Thanks to this definition, I see that my surrender is two fold.
My first action is to abandon myself.
As I spent time turning this word, this lifestyle, over in my heart, I felt called to repentance.
There are a great many areas in my life that do not honor Christ and of these I needed to repent.
Of my anger, my selfishness, my need to control, my lack of faith, my rebellious spirit, my love of money and possessions, and many others, I laid back at Jesus' feet, where I should have left them ages ago.
As the years go by, I find that in new seasons, I am in some ways a new Annie and that the skin of the woman I used to be, must be shed.
I believe these changes are God's mercies.
I am always becoming a new creation because He promised that's what He would do when I gave my life to him long ago. (Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old is gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17)
So in this new season, I must once again empty my arms of the things He has revealed to be unnecessary burdens.
In order to surrender, I must abandon myself. (If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:24-25)
Those crutches that I cling so desperately to that keep me from fully being embraced in His arms, must be cast aside.
I do this again and again, until I neglect to pick them up, and leave them where they lay.
After I abandoning myself, I yield.
I meditate on His gracious gift, His life for mine on the cross, and I beg He lead me where I don't know to go.
Because His way, is the only way. It is the way to life, it is the way to glorify Him.
Because He loved me first and pursues my heart still.
Because I trust that He is good and that His purpose for me is good.
Because I am a sinner and the only way to know Him, is by surrendering my life to Him.
Because He is who He is and I am nothing without Him.
I'm going to have to surrender every day, probably multiple times a day.
When I am unsure of the future, or when sorrow of the past leaves me paralyzed in fear, I will have to surrender all over again.
I surrender my desire to control, my expectations both realistic and not, my plans, my fear, my tight grasp on life, my need to please, my religious bent, my manipulative heart, my anger, my bad attitude, my selfishness, my anxious spirit, and all the other very ugly things, to His grace and His divine purpose.
Then, I surrender all my best intentions, my will to do good, my desire to help others, my wish to spread the Gospel, any kind gesture, any sweet word or deed, these decent desires I surrender to His will too, in hopes that His name be glorified over mine and that my life will be used up for His sake.
(Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." Mark 10:28)
I surrender all that I am, for all that He is.
Because I am a human, you may see me carrying these things around again.
If you have read this far, I assume something I confessed struck a chord in your heart too, so I will ask you to partner with me and hold me accountable in my surrender.
When you see me weighted down with things I have surrendered, when you see me pick back up control, fear, selfishness, anger, or anything else, will you, gently and with grace, implore me to lay them back down?
For His yoke is easy and His burdens are light (Matt. 11:30) while mine are heavy and hard.
All to Jesus, I surrender.
All to Him I freely give.
By the way, I shared this post before the new year so that you could take advantage of The Abbey of the Arts 12 day mini-retreat if you so choose. From today, you have exactly 12 days until January 1st, so there is still time, but make sure you pursue it for the right reasons. Reach out to me if you have a word to walk through 2017 with! I'd love to hear all about it! Also, these are not my graphics. Thanks, internet, for the perfect image!