My 2023 Growth Word

I’m writing this post a bit later than I usually do.

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a new growth word every year. This word is something – a trait or quality – that I’ve prayed about and want to get better at, or focus on more during the next year. And I usually share that word with you guys in January, at the start of each new year.

In 2019, it was love. 2020 was trust. 2021 was courage. Last year, 2022, it was balance.

This year, in 2023, my word is peace.

And the reason it took me so long to share was because it took me longer to decide on. There was a lot going on at the end of 2022 and the beginning of this year, particularly wedding stuff and preparing to move. I was nearly always overwhelmed with something.

I also knew this year was going to hold a lot of new experiences and roles for me, and I wasn’t sure what I should be focusing on most. I thought of choosing patience, just because I’m notoriously impatient. But that didn’t seem right, considering one of the things I’ve been waiting most for was to get married, and I was actually going to see that fulfilled.

That’s how it goes some years. Some years, the word I want to focus on is obvious and comes to me right away. Some years, it takes a little longer, as God speaks through different circumstances that come up.

This year, the word peace was floating around in my mind, but I didn’t know if it was the word God wanted me to focus on or not. And to be honest, I was a little nervous if it was.

There’s the saying that if you pray for patience, God isn’t going to give you patience. He’s going to give you opportunities to learn patience. And that seems to be true of practically any character trait or quality. God leads us into situations where we need to practice those qualities in order to improve at them.

So, selfishly, I was a little scared to ask for help learning peace. By now, I’ve seen over and over again as God has brought opportunities into my life for me to show love, learn trust, be courageous, find balance, and now . . . grow in peace.

I knew that to learn peace, God was probably going to allow situations that I’d need to learn to have peace with. And to have peace, by definition, means to be okay with something we’re maybe not okay with before. It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s not natural.

But after lots of prayer, and especially after a long conversation with my pastor’s wife (a dear spiritual mentor), I realized that I’ve been silly. I’ve been letting Satan get to me, instead of trusting that God knows what’s best. I’ve been putting off learning something that will ultimately help me, and make my life better, because I’m scared of the growing pains and tough situations that will undoubtedly come first.

And they’ve already been coming, certainly. Funny thing about getting married, moving, settling into adulthood in a whole new way, joining a new family while figuring out a new balance with mine . . . all of these things are pretty hard and require a good deal of peace.

I was starting to let the worry, fear of inadequacy, and overwhelm become too much for me, to the point where I was dreading things that I’d been looking forward to for months.

That’s when I talked and prayed about it with my dear pastor’s wife and she helped me realize what I was doing. She truthfully and lovingly reminded me that, although life isn’t easy, it can be easier if we allow God to grant us His peace. I was so scared to go through tough situations to learn peace, that I didn’t want to accept His peace in the face of difficulties I was already facing.

I’m really not the brightest lightbulb sometimes.

John 14:27 (NIV) says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Those are the words of Jesus. That’s a promise from Him. He offers His peace to us, He gives it to us. We don’t need to earn it, we just have to accept it.

And that doesn’t magically make life easy and all of our problems go away. But it does make them manageable, and gives us new perspective. It’s a feeling that can’t be explained by the world, but reminds us that everything is going to be alright, as long as we trust God.

We may not understand what happens or want it, but nothing happens that God doesn’t allow. He’s aware of it all. He’s in control of it all. And if it wasn’t meant to do something good for His plan, He wouldn’t allow it to happen. It means He’s always with us, no matter what.

That peace is such a gift. It means we don’t need to be worrying ourselves to death over every detail. We still need to live life and work through issues that come up, absolutely. But we’re not alone, they’re not pointless, and we’re not going to be overcome.

I’m so thankful to have had that conversation and realization right before the wedding (earlier that week), so that I didn’t let my anxiety and stress ruin anything in those special days.

Were there some tough, awkward moments and problems that came up here and there? Sure, as there are bound to be at any big event. But they weren’t earth-shattering, and I felt that I responded to them far better than I would have before. I did feel genuine peace, reminding myself that God was in control, and we weren’t alone.

On honeymoon, I did unfortunately end up with a migraine more days than not. And although I felt bad about it, instead of letting it overwhelm me and ruin our special week, I felt peace remembering that God could use even pain for good, and that He was taking care of us and blessing our time. And He did bring so many wonderful memories that may not have even happened without those migraines.

The past week, I’ve been sick with mono and ended up with the entire week off of work. Typically, I might be overjoyed with an entire week off work to accomplish lots at home and in my writing. Instead, I spent eighty-five percent of it laying around and accomplishing basically nothing. I just felt too awful to focus or even sit up some times.

That’s tough for me. I wanted to be doing things, and my husband had to continually remind me that my task for the week was to simply rest and get better. That he didn’t expect me to be productive, and that I didn’t need to feel bad about getting little done.

I’m feeling so much better now and back to work, and although I’m beyond ready for it, I’m also thankful for the reminders God was giving me while I was sick. Reminders to accept and rest in His peace, knowing that He was in control of even a sickness, and that He was still working in my life. Knowing that He allowed it to happen for a reason, even if I don’t know what that was. There’s no use stressing and fretting over something I can’t change.

So in all of these situations and more, even though we’re only a few months in 2023, God has already been showing me His peace in ways I didn’t anticipate, but am so grateful for. I’m glad that I’ve finally accepted that He wants to teach me more about it, and I’m praying that I continue to remember and accept that throughout the year – and beyond.

Even if it’s difficult, even if I don’t understand the circumstances, God always knows best. And His peace is a gift beyond description. I don’t want to live my life without it.

I’m looking forward to learning more about peace.

Do you do growth words, or is there any quality you’d like to learn more about this year? Has God been teaching you anything new lately? Please feel free to let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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