How many of you pick a word of the year? After what 2020 brought us, I was actually really excited to turn the page and have a different outlook and outcome for 2021. To be fair, 2020 also brought my faith and my relationship with God to a much deeper level, so as I got set to receive my word of the year from the word generator (I used Jen Fulwiler’s!), I said a quick prayer, “God, whatever this word is, I’ll know it’s from You.”
[Drum roll please] My word for 2021: THRIVE
I actually had to laugh out loud and thought about picking another word, because surely this was NOT what God meant. I mean He had a front row seat to my 2020, and while I survived it, I definitely did not feel like I was on my way to thriving. Let me take you back, to actually a few months before 2020 started because I feel like my LOOOOOOONG, arduous year started in November 2019, the day I inexplicably lost my job.
20+ years of being a professional - which constituted earning my Master’s Degree, switching industries, getting additional licenses, climbing my way up the corporate ladder and becoming VP of Marketing - all came tumbling down in an instant. And let me tell you, the timing of that just added insult to injury. 2019 was also the same year my husband started to experience some severe health issues, which actually forced him to end his year in teaching prematurely after losing 30 pounds in a month. It was then that we decided he would take some time away from teaching/working so he could focus on getting healthy. So, there I was at 44 years old, the main breadwinner of my family of 7, just before the holidays, and suddenly out of work. What were we going to do?
With my experience and credentials, I thought it would take me no time to find a job. After all, prior to this event, I felt like jobs came easily for me. Prior to 2019, I don’t think I had truly interviewed for a job in over 5 years, because every new opportunity that I was given was a result of hard work, a good reputation, and relationships I’ve built and nurtured along the way. And in 2020, it seemed that none of that mattered. Just when I thought a door was about to open, it quickly got slammed in my face. Meanwhile, I needed to find work, so by the grace of God, I was introduced to a small business owner by my best friend and I started to do some part-time marketing consulting work for her. It was also around this time that my brother-in-law introduced me to another business owner, and she and I connected and made plans to keep in touch should something come up in which she would need my help. I joined a network that allowed me to do some additional marketing consulting, but that was seriously what work looked like in 2020….some little things here and there, but nothing close to what I needed to support my family.
As if things could get any worse, just weeks before the pandemic really made its way around the world and we were on lock down for the better part of the spring, Cece had a breakthrough seizure. And it was a big one. After talking to her neurologist, Ryan and I drove 45 minutes to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where he had to just drop me and Cece off because they were already starting to take Covid precautions and only allowing one parent to be with her. She and I would be there for 4 longs days before they were able to stabilize her. They sent us home, adding another medication to her daily routine, (she had been seizure-free for nearly 2 years on only 1 medication), and my hopes for her outgrowing this terrible disease were dashed.
When I came home, I had never felt so defeated, so exhausted…. I was looking ahead at an unknown journey that would include unemployment, a medical setback, an ailing husband, and now a pandemic. This went on for 9 long months. 9 months of two steps forward and twenty steps back. And in these 9 months, all I could do was turn to God. Much like Simon Peter.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."John 6:68
In these 9 months, the Lord drew me closer to Him in a way that left me vulnerable and uncomfortable; a position I didn’t like to be in! I had to learn to listen, to let go, to be humble, to be still, and most of all, to trust. Trust that Cece was going to be okay. Trust that my husband would get better. Trust that a job was coming. Trust that my family would be taken care of even though I had no clue how it was going to happen. This is where grace stepped in. With God fully in control of my life, I started to pay attention to the little miracles that were happening, to the people he sent my way to help me carry the load, and most importantly, to the prayers I lifted up so many years ago that, all of a sudden, were starting to come to fruition!
THRIVE. When I think of that word, I naturally think of society’s definition of it. Prosper. Flourish. Succeed. And I think that’s what made me laugh! You see in 2020, after all of that, I ended up not going back to a “regular” job, and instead, went all-in on building my marketing consulting business. Part time work started to become more than that. Connections I had made, grew to something more substantial. BUT….this also means, I’m starting over. No benefits, no 401K. Just blood, sweat, tears, a lot of coffee, and God. And that’s where it hit me.
Thrive WITH God. If 2020 taught me anything, it was that through Him, with Him, and in Him, all things are possible. You see, we never really have control of our lives. He’s in control and everything is in His perfect timing, not ours. Storms will come, but we don’t need to be shaken because He is with us. If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that He pays attention to every single detail of our lives.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?"Matthew 6:25-30
So, I think I’ll take the word thrive for 2021. It’s a reminder that God is always with me in every hill and valley, that each serves a purpose in my life and I can trust that He knows how to use them to my benefit. It reminds me that God is good, and He wants to bestow goodness upon me. It’s a reminder that before I even utter a word, He knows. He knows every need and prayer in my heart.
Thrive (v): to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances…
...because I know who goes before me.