My 2018 Word

This last Fall I had a strange pain in both of my armpits that would not go away. The pain began in October and it seemed to get worse and worse as the months went on. If you go online, you can of course find all sorts of horrible diagnoses. Knowing that many lymph nodes are located in that area, I figured it was best to see the doctor. She was unable to detect any swelling but ordered an ultrasound to check everything out. Unfortunately, the imaging center couldn’t get me in until a full week later. This meant another week of wondering and waiting, thinking everything could be okay or maybe something was wrong in there? The pain lessened a bit, but remained.

Finally the day arrived. I had seen several references of the word “river” the day before the appointment. Because of this, I asked God for the same word on the day of the appointment – as a sign that everything would be okay. As I waited in the room to be called back, I felt led to pick up a specific magazine lying on one of the tables. This headline caught my eye: How to Overcome Fear. I’ve definitely been plagued with fear in my life and it’s only intensified since becoming a mother.

I flipped to the article and skimmed it…it was nothing groundbreaking. But the very next article caught my eye. It was by Glennon Doyle, one of my favorite authors. It was titled: The Gift that Comes from Hitting Rock Bottom. In the article, she was in the midst of her divorce and very much at her rock bottom point. On a trip to the grocery store, unshowered and in survival mode, she met an angel from heaven.

“As I took my cereal, milk and bread out of the cart, I stole a look at the cashier. Something about her face froze time for me. Her hair was downy and white. Her skin was brown, leathery—the face of a native Florida girl. But it was her eyes that stopped me. They were cornflower blue, with deep wrinkles like rivers around them.”

There was the word I had asked for: River. Glennon proceeded to tell the woman she was in the valley of life at the moment. And then her angel responded this:

“Don’t knock the valleys…everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but up there the air is so thin, you can hardly breathe—and all you can do is stand still and try not to fall. But in the valley, that’s where the river runs, sweetheart. That’s where all the power is.”

I had been in such a state of anxiety for the prior weeks which happened to coincide with the Christmas season. I kept feeling like I was failing at life, that I keep finding myself in these low places at times, and especially during the holidays. But God was reminding me that it is not a bad place to be in at all.

Glennon’s words continued to hit home:

“As my cornflower angel told me, we’ve got it all backward down here. We want to be on the mountaintops, but we’re not called to be victorious. We’re called to be wise, strong and kind. We are admired on the mountaintops, but we are beloved in the valleys. All the magic is in the space between mountains, where we have to unbecome everything we thought we were and start from scratch. This is hard to do, because when pain comes in the form of uncertainty, our instinct is to scramble out of it, to grab blindly for the familiar. But when we rush out of the valley, we miss gathering all the wisdom, strength and kindness we need for the next climb. We have to learn how to sit by the river and be still enough to claim its gifts.”

All of a sudden, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Sitting at the bottom of the valley where the river runs. This is how God and I work – I ask for signs especially if I’ve been hearing or seeing a certain word. God then shows me more than I ask for. To know I’m still wading in the water and sitting in the pain but I’ll be better off for it. And if you think about it, the mountaintop moments in life are few and far between. If we didn’t experience the valleys, the mountaintops wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

As it turns out, my ultrasound results were good. Days later I was with girlfriends setting our 2018 intentions and the word I received from God was “FLOW.” Not surprising, given my river experience in the waiting room. I’m flowing in the river valley this year and hoping it will be another season of growth. And maybe next year I’ll be ready for that ascent up the mountain.

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