I’m sitting on our comfy couch with Dolly’s head on my lap, silently reflecting on 2018. At the end of every year, I take time to look back and learn; to process the events of the year, good and bad. What did I love? What did I hate? What broke my heart? What brought me joy? How did I grow in my faith?
The word on my heart and mind for 2018 is stretch. Do you remember the old Stretch Armstrong dolls? They’re the elastic strong-man dolls whose arms, legs and torso stretch out to four times their original size. You can pull Stretch’s arms up, wrap him in a knot and twist him ten times. Once you release his body, he will return back to his original state. That is how I feel when I think about the ways God has stretched my faith this year.
In the same way we stretch our bodies to uncomfortable places, the Lord stretches our faith to uncomfortable places if we let Him. His goal isn’t to injure or harm us, but to grow, heal and strengthen us.
In January, I felt God nudge me to start publicly writing about faith through a blog. In fact, this blog! Whoop, whoop! However, His nudge was a huge stretch for me to embrace; an uncomfortable pull on my heart I couldn’t ignore. I decided then and there to let the Lord work; to say yes to His plans, and let Him do the stretching.
With anxiety, excitement and shaky fingers, I clicked the word publish to start Palms of Joy. To some, starting a blog may seem insignificant, but to me, publicly writing felt like God was stretching me to my limit. It made my stomach churn. However, starting Palms of Joy was and is one of the most joyful, rewarding gifts I’ve ever said yes to, but it didn’t come without more stretching along the way. Hitting publish was just the beginning.
There were posts I felt uncomfortable writing. There were posts I desperately prayed about. Posts I should have spent more time on. Posts I spent too much time on. Magazines I was intimidated to submit articles to. Wins. Rejections. New friends. Way too many cups of coffee. But here’s the best part: I wouldn’t trade it for anything because God has changed my heart for the better this year, and I needed this stretching more than I knew.
Subsequently, God stretched my marriage, friendships and other relationships in healthy ways as well. He threw my family challenges this year I never saw coming. He gave me countless opportunities to reflect His love. Sometimes I aced it, sometimes I failed miserably. More stretching, more getting uncomfortable, more growth.
When I feel like I’m at my limit, panicky and looking for relief, God gently returns my mind, faith, body and focus back to its original state; His. My confidence is rooted in Him, and His asks come with divine purpose. No matter how far He stretches you, even if it’s four times deeper than you think you can go, He is with you in that space. His plans are for prosperity, not harm. He wants to stretch you to grow you, heal you and strengthen you. He is trustworthy, faithful and good. That is why I decided to say yes to being uncomfortably stretched this year, and that is why I want to continue to let Him work.
My encouragement to anyone reading is this: let God stretch you. If He nudges you toward something or someone, please say yes. His ways are mysterious and sometimes hard to understand, but in those moments I pray you seek Him more earnestly. Let Him lead you, let Him stretch you and in the end He will grow you.
Love y’all so much, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
How has God stretched you this year?
When you reflect on 2018, what word comes to mind?