My one word for 2018: SEEK

In recent years, I’ve gotten in the habit of asking the Lord to give me one word to focus on throughout each year. For example, my one word for 2017 was OBEDIENCE. And in 2016, it was FOCUS.

This year, after praying and doing really nerdy things like looking up the word origin in the Greek, I felt the Lord nudging me to choose the work SEEK.

The word appears many places in the Bible, but in particular, I felt led to Matthew 6:33:

“But SEEK first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…”

Seek Him.

Seek Him first.

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Seek His Kingdom.

Seek His righteousness.

Seek, and faith and hope and love and all the good things will spill out.

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SEEK Him first because that’s how we can spread the hope of the Kingdom best.

And hope means everything in a world that lives largely without it.

Hope means everything to someone like me who chooses to often to worry rather than seek Him and pray.

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So today I’m pausing to dwell and pray over my one word for the year.

I’m praying the Lord is gracious and helps me seek Him first in my marriage, in my parenting, in my work as a nurse, and in each word I pen as a writer.

What about you?

Do you choose one word for the year? If so, what’s yours? And why?

Happy New Year, dear readers! And may the Lord comfort you with the hope and peace of His word today and throughout the year to come!

Top 5 encouragements for writers for the new year

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The end of the year is sort of cup-is-half-full or cup-is-half-empty time for writers. You either have a year’s worth of progress to celebrate, or you feel like you’ve spent yet another year struggling through rejections and writers block and wondering if you should just finally hang up your pen.

Or throw your computer out the window.

Hopefully, you have much to celebrate: more words on the page, more connections with other writers, more books you’ve read about the craft, more books read in general. But if not, I thought I’d end the year with a bit of encouragement based on things I’ve learned over the years.

1) Don’t write for money.

This one should go without saying, and despite all the writers who tell people not to write for money, I think the perception is still that if you write hard enough and fast enough, you can make a decent living off your writing. 

In some rare cases that is true, but overall, if you’re trying to support a family (or even yourself, considering health care and basic living expenses and if you prefer to eat more than just Beanie Weenies), you need a day job. Without it, your writing becomes desperate. 

And good writing rarely rises from a desperate heart.

Most folks don’t know that I wrote a weekly newspaper column for almost three years…for no pay. Sometimes those little columns took 15 minutes to write. Other times I struggled for hours. But I kept writing for free because sometimes that’s what a writer has to do to get their words out. And I’d do it again if I had to, simply for the love of writing for others.

2) Don’t write for fame.

Fame is not only elusive, the desire for fame shows up in your writing. It’s kinda like writing for money. 

The more you write for external accolades, the less your voice and your heart shows up in your prose. 

The world doesn’t need more predictable, cliché, smutty stories–even if that’s what sells. 

The world needs your unique voice and your heart. The world needs your story.

3) Listen to editors.

One of the most common questions I get is whether or not I feel like my stories are changed or that the art of my words suffers because of the (mis)perception of mean old nasty red-pen-wielding editors

Quite the opposite, in fact. 

Someone once told me to listen to–and implement–99% of what my editors suggest, and I do. And my work is incomparably improved because of them. It’s not changed, per-se. It’s just plain better. 

I don’t care who you are, I guarantee your writing needs an editor.

A funny (or cringe-worthy, rather) story related to this: If you’ve read my second book, Then Sings My Soul, you may recall that a secondary character has a couple of dreadlocks in her hair. My editor told me I should take it out. It was the one thing I left in of all the things she asked me to change, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the one thing readers have picked out as annoying.

So listen to your editor. And if you don’t have one yet, listen to editors on their blogs and at conferences and in books on the craft. They’re good and smart (and good looking!) people!

4) Don’t listen to critics and naysayers.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people in the world who seem to enjoy discouraging writers. Or, maybe you do know, which is why you’re reading this article on encouragement. 

Ten years ago someone told me to forget about my dream of writing books. “The industry is just too hard to break into,” they said. 

A couple of years ago, someone asked me “why I don’t write books more like [insert name of best-selling author here].” 

Others have told me I have no business broaching the difficult subjects my characters go through. 

Friends and relatives will think you should be doing better things with your time, or worse, that the universal themes you’re writing about are aimed at them and they’ll resent you for it. 

And those online reviews? Don’t read them. Many of the negative ones are written by trolls and don’t matter in the grand scheme of things anyway.

The bottom line is critics and naysayers will always think your writing is all about how it does or does not impact or reflect upon them, when you know better: your writing is about helping hurting hearts, or making people laugh, or telling the truth. 

So grab a pair of blinders and write on, friend. 

Write on.

5) Read.

Have you ever visited a home without books? Considering that I have books overflowing most every room in our home, bookless homes feel bare. Empty. Boring. 

The same is true for a writer–or someone who wants to be a writer–who doesn’t read. The prose will feel empty. Your voice will sound forced. 

Because part of finding your writing voice–at least in my humble opinion–is listening to the voices of others

I’m stepping up my reading game in 2016 by joining my first book club! 

What can you do to read more this year?

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So there it is, dear writers. Some encouragement to take with you into the new year.

What would you add or subtract from this list?

A word for 2015: obedience

Life centers around time.

Always has, I suppose.

After all, the rise and set of the sun is the one sure constant in our allotted existence on this spinning ball of dirt.

And so we come again to the eve of the eve of another new year.

Some folks make resolutions. Some start diets. Some create goals. Some do nothing.

Usually, I do nothing. If I’m lucky enough to be home on New Year’s Eve, I fall into a contended sleep well before midnight to the sounds of my out-of-this-world teenagers laughing and playing as a network TV show broadcasts the NYC ball drop in the background.

But this year, I felt a nudge.

The nudge to claim…or perhaps proclaim…a word for the year over my life.

I’ve done this twice before, in 2012 and in 2013.

Truthfully, I really hadn’t thought one way or the other about choosing a word for 2015. But that nudge kept at me.

And so I turned.

And listened.

The word I heard is

obedience.

Not an easy word. In fact, I can think of a whole lot of other words I’d rather linger over…joy, for example. Grace. Hope. Peace. NAP. Cook. Get the teenagers to school on time. Dust the baseboards. Dogs (’cause we have three in case you didn’t know).

Did I mention NAP?

But obedience?

Really, God?

Besides a challenge, the word causes a lot of ruckus in some circles. Husbands and wives. Egalitarians and complementarians. Teachers and students. Preachers and flocks. Parents and children. And on and on and on. We’re all supposed to be equal nowadays, right? Pull-ourselves-up-by-the-bootstraps, do-it-our-selfers. Obedient to our selves. The word reminds me of a wedding I attended in the early 1990’s in which the bride chose to keep the phrase about “obey” in the vows. Several friends in attendance threw a fit…after all, why should a bride cow-tow to a husband? The idea of submission and authority, authority and submission, those ideas are

SOOOOOOOOoooooooooOOOOOoooo

eye-rolling-ly last millennium…right?

I don’t know about all that. And frankly,

I don’t care.

The Gospel doesn’t need defending or deciphering as much as it needs believing. And besides that, my Lord has called me to obedience.

Obedience.

Responding to His whisper when the call of the world threatens to burst my ears.

Going forward when common sense says to go back.

Speaking out when others say to be silent.

Seeking silence when others say to speak out.

Worshipping when others justify cursing.

Forging on straight when left or right seems easier.

Trusting when I’m wallowing in doubt.

Hiding in Him when I’m attacked.

Ministering when I’d rather be ministered to.

Following Him instead of my own understanding.

When faced with these and more, I will try my best to choose

obedience.

Like dumb oxen straining against dusty,rock-hard plains, a thousand ways of our own seem easier until we slip the harness of His gentle yoke around our burdened necks and are reminded again that in

obedience

lies the blessing.

Since Jacob, we’ve all wrestled with God and in His infinite mercy, and He has always entertained our weak-limbed attempts at independence. He even watches with grief and allows us to choose to wander far, far away. But still He lingers, the Good Shepherd, waiting to take us back, always.

Obedience.

What a word.

What a calling.

Not just for me, but for all of us.

What a year I hope to submit to Him.

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What about you?

What’s your word for the year?

Or, what is one of your resolutions for 2015?

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obey