“The wilderness will rejoice and blossom” - Isaiah 35:1
I hadn’t picked out my verse for 2024. The last few years, I’ve had a verse printed on a small calendar magnet along with an image or images taken throughout the previous year. Simply a remembrance of the previous year's beauty and then hope and encouragement for the year ahead. 2020 - “The Lord Himself goes before you." - Deut 31:8. For 2021 - no verse and no word and a misplaced focus at the beginning if I’m honest. In the Lord’s tremendous goodness, 2021 would bring an unbelievable year where the Lord would stay close to my side, reveal His presence in incredible ways, and recenter my focus. My relationship with Him would forever be changed in a beautiful way.
2022 - “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” - Proverbs 3:6
2023 - “Delight yourself in the Lord…” - Psalms 37:4.
2024…I’ve been stuck. It’s been in the back of my mind this need to pick a verse but nothing resonated. And maybe not even pick a verse, but spend time with the Father in reflection and anticipation. There has been a hesitancy, maybe even a fear. The Lord has done some BIG things in just these past couple of months. Big things that increase my hope as He answers prayers. He is truly a God who sees and hears. I want to hope in what I’ve felt and know. The past month has been incredible. The Lord has provided and taken care of every need. He’s shown up in ways I’ve specifically asked for and in ways my heart has desired but I haven’t asked for. He's read my heart. Imagine that! Even in some of the silly little details, His love is so evident. When I opened up this gift from Addi I knew. THIS was the verse and it also brings to mind the whole chapter. “The wilderness will rejoice and blossom…water will gush forth...a highway will be there...” - But what if it all stops? What if there is so much more hardship ahead? Is it possible to take these big emotions of thankfulness, hope, and gratitude through even more wilderness? What if I fail at listening, and hearing, and seeing? What if I go the wrong way?
The wilderness. So much of what this crew has experienced has felt like wilderness. But in the midst of that, there have been so many reminders and moments to rejoice. I was listening to a message at some point between Christmas and now. The speaker was referencing John the Baptist sending two followers to ask if Jesus is “the One” or should they expect someone else. Jesus responds with what is presently taking place. “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed…” - (found in Luke 7:18-35). Bill states - “John is in prison. He prepared the way for the one who delivers people from prison. And he’s not being set free…You can be encouraged every day of your life if you keep your attention on what God’s doing. You can be discouraged every day of your life if you keep your attention on what He’s NOT doing….a whole bunch of things we are crying out for that haven’t happened yet…”
There may be things in your life you are crying out for that haven’t happened yet. I know it’s true in my own heart. I’m continuing to lean into the Lord with those desires. I refuse to give those things the ability to distance me in bitterness or anger or doubt or whatever lie the enemy may throw up to put distance between my heart and the One who created it. Jesus wants all of my heart. Especially the hurt and disappointed pieces (Psalms 51:17). As I look back on 2023, it hasn't been easy, but goodness I’ve seen Him move so many times and it stirs my heart. It brings joy. He stirs my heart. He brings joy. "The Lord Himself goes before" me. I want to "acknowledge Him" in all my ways. I want to "delight in Him"...And that is how the wilderness rejoices and blossoms. It’s not in our ability. It’s in His. In 2024 may you find so many opportunities to rejoice and blossom because He is with you. As a Jesus follower He lives in you! Continue to set your focus on Him. May you experience the ability to see Him in 2024. Happy New Year from part of my crew to yours!
* This part is personally for me to remember...I wrote this on 12/30. It has been in my heart for longer but I put the words on paper to pray over them before I posted and I still had to take one more photo. This photo of the kids and I, on my “doorstep”. We talked about it last night. We would take it after church thanks to my camera's 10 second delay. Today, 12/31, listening to a message before we left for church. “It’s doorstep day”. Just wow. (Hopefully not the type where I fall off of it lol...been there, done that, and a neighbor witnessed it all haha). Pastor Blake continued. He used Joshua 1 and then 23:14. Scriptures my mom and I had discussed days before. The presence of the Lord is such a beautiful thing. There is no promise He won’t fulfill. He will provide in every step you take with Him. He is faithful. He is so alive and active!!! He gives joy in the wilderness :) The very last chapter and verse of Psalms in the One Year Bible read today - "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord" - Psalms 150:6.