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I don’t know which was more adorable: her little squeals of delight or those kissable, chubby, wobbly legs. My living room was a toddler’s paradise (more commonly known as an utter disaster) of Noah’s Ark characters, magazines, board books and scattered playing cards. And we didn’t care. AnnaSophia was finding her legs. She would soon be walking, we knew, and everything else paled in the moment as we cheered her on.

“C’mon, honey! Pull up, pull up! You can do it! Daddy’s right here, hold on to him…”

She would weary, and plop down on the rug, and then immediately try again, babbling, squealing, and grinning as she looked from one of us to the other. She didn’t really know the particulars of how walking happened, but then again, she wouldn’t need to for quite some time. All she knew was that there was a new world of freedom opening up to her, and that she didn’t want to miss it.

At the beginning of a fresh new year, I often feel like that. I’m pulling for greater heights, reaching for things, extending in order to grow, wanting to receive input from carefully chosen sources. And I’m a list-lover. For quite some time now, at or near the beginning of each year, I would choose the top areas in which I wanted to grow. I would research the particulars (I still have a favorite organizational book from one year’s researching foray) and would then set out to create new habits. My progress seemed plagued, however, by the amount of effort it took to try so hard. I wondered hard at this January phenomenon, but my list-making continued, fueled by the best of intentions and the loftiest of goals.

Last year was different. I was gearing up for my annual mental pilgrimage off to the Land of the Lists, when God spoke quietly, “Don’t make one this year.” Although my perfectionist personality may well have panicked at the deviation from habit and tradition, strangely, it did not. I breathed a sigh of relief inside, and checked with Him, “Really?”

The peace I felt confirmed that I had heard correctly. Then He said,

“Your word for this year is Trust.”

So for the first time in awhile, January came and went, and my non-list had one word. I felt odd, a little misplaced perhaps in the buzz of good-willed New Year’s observers, but free. My soul felt lightened, quieted, focused. If trusting was the word, and nothing else, it meant to me that I could be watching for those times where the grace to trust would come to me as a gift, not as a product of my trying.

And when the man who acted as second father to me passed away completely unexpectedly in the blush of summer, I gulped and reached hard for the grace to trust.

And when my niece was still-born in a Houston hospital, I got the news on the way out of a department store. I sank weeping into a cushioned chair in the mens’ shoe section and the salesman gave wondering looks, but kept silent and gave me the courtesy to cry undisturbed. I shook my head in blinding tears, and trusted that tiny baby to her place in His lap.

And when a girl trying hard to perfect-work her way to Heaven asked me about The Way, I clung to the cross and shot up flashes of prayers, and trusted, knowing that nothing I would say would reach her heart, but that only the Spirit had that power. And she let go and trusted, too.

And when the fog of postpartum exhaustion lingered on and on, His voice was sometimes the only thing my heart could hear. And I listened with ears of grateful, sometimes wavering but still present, trust.

And when He warmed me with His smile on a white sandy beach with the blue waves rolling behind me, I trusted, knowing I was loved with a love that put ocean depths to shame.

And when my would-be list of Things To Do For Good Mommying seemed dizzying and bewildering, the gift was given again and again to open my hands and let go of any system, any formula, any rigidity, and trust the care of my baby girl to His wisdom for my daily bread that day.

The most interesting thing weaving in and around it all was that mini-lists came and went throughout the year, but all of them were tucked underneath the overarching theme of trusting Him. I saw lists through new eyes. They weren’t wrong, but neither were they to serve as ultimate guidance for my year. His voice was speaking the gift of His Word, and it set me free to stop trying. Every time I needed to trust, His word to me was spoken beauty: something He was telling me He would do for me, not something I was telling Him I would do for Him. He was telling me how He wanted to bless me and grow me, how He wanted to be allowed the chance to pour His grace on a life wanting and wishing to bloom in new ways but really unable to do so by trying so hard. What freedom, then, to be tasting fruit grown by the Spirit, instead of pulling the weeds grown by works. I still love lists, and I still use them. I was just grateful that He turned everything upside-down on me in such an act of love so as to take a burden off of me, and drape each year afresh with a cloak of newness and hope. I’m happy to say that I can’t remember what all got crossed off the list this past year. But I know I held His hand.

It’s as if our parental cheers to a wobbly, grinning girl are echoing back to me…

“C’mon!! Pull up, pull up!! You can do it!! Daddy’s right here; hold on to Him!”

And this year?

The word is Wholeness.

I can hardly wait.

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