hold fast :: sarah bessey's one word for 2015

Last year, I didn’t choose a word for my year. Even though it had been an important part of my life for a few years in a row, as 2014 dawned, I simply wasn’t feeling it. Now I wish that I had been given some prophetic word for what to expect last year – say…. Fourth-Baby-Surprise! – but that didn’t happen. Instead, the year unfolded as it would and as 2014 drew to a close, I found myself feeling, well, a bit discouraged because I was so tired. Exhausted actually. I felt like I been thoroughly poured out – in my family, in my work, in ministry, in this pregnancy – so much throughout the year that I limped into December.

And so as New Year’s Eve day drew to a close, I found myself joking on Facebook about how I wished I could make 2015 my Year of the Naps. But of course with a beloved new baby arriving in just 8 weeks or so AND a new book to edit and then release in late summer, plus all of the rest of what goes into my life – three busy and beautiful tinies to parent with my whole heart, a husband to love well, a house to keep, laundry to do, a community to love, the ongoing message of Jesus Feminist to steward well, let alone the way the world has unfolded this year breaking my heart over and over again, leaving so many of us feeling hopeless.  I felt even more exhausted contemplating what lay ahead. It is mostly good stuff, of course, but sometimes we wear ourselves out even more for the stuff we love simply because we care so deeply about it. To my husband, I admitted that my word for the year might as well be “survive” – which isn’t exactly inspiring. It simply didn’t sit well with my soul – and it was over-dramatic. (Who, me? Over-dramatic?)

I managed to carve out a couple of hours later that afternoon. The older tinies were playing outside and our littlest decided to have a nice long bath and a bit of quiet time. I found myself nearly in tears as I prayed for direction and wisdom, for the Spirit to meet me here in this overwhelming feeling of resignation and plodding along, one foot in front of the other.

Because I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be so tired doing my life that I miss my life – the wonder of it, the beauty of it, the sacredness of it.

One of my deepest core beliefs is that we find God most often in the raw and human moments of our lives, that God doesn’t differentiate between sacred-and-secular for us. All of our work, all of our life, can honour God. Our very regular lives can be altars for meeting with the truth of Love. In fact, those human moments are are the sacred moments – birth, grief, work, death, suffering, sex, joy, laundry, all of it. When we feel most human, God hides in plain sight. That’s perhaps why I am so captivated by the incarnation, the metaphor of God drawing near to us through a small baby’s humanity, God with us and among us as the truly human.

And I have a lot of “real life” ahead of me – that means that God is waiting for me there. With change, with new wine to drink, with challenge, with renewal, if I have eyes to see and ears to hear. And I don’t want to miss what the Spirit is doing in these days.

I don’t believe that the Spirit only shows up when we have quiet time or long solitary walks in nature or big stadiums with “rockin’ worship.” If that’s, true, then I’m doomed. No, I need to the Spirit to be breathing in my daily work, in labour and breastfeeding, in bedtime soul-talks and lunch packing, in book edits and deadlines, in email and community-building, in budget docs for non-profits and the never-ending prayers for redemption and reconciliation and rescue to break through in this tired world of ours.

As I prayed in the corner of our living room, I found myself circling around and around the phrase “hold fast.” This isn’t odd for me: I’m descended from the clan MacLeod in Scotland and that is our clan motto. My mother recently visited her ancestral homeland and so I’ve been recaptured again by our family stories, particularly how the place itself – we’re from the far north in isolated windswept, harshly beautiful communities – forms our sense of the holy.

And just as the Spirit often does, I was led, bread crumb by bread crumb, to the full table that has been set. I ended up slowly paging through a Bible to find the phrase “hold fast” as I knew it appeared often in the old King James. But when I landed in the book of Hebrews, there was that locking-into-place feeling, that sense of “oh, this is it, isn’t it?” side eye at the Spirit.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23 NKJV

There it was. The exhale, the hope, the promise – I can and will hold fast to the confession of hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.

I began to cry, really truly cry, with relief.

Oh, right – God will meet me here in my real life as it stands right now, he is faithful, there is hope.

Part-time mystics don’t exist only in monasteries, we’re hiding in all walks of life and the Spirit often speaks as clearly in our betwixt moments. This was my answer, stumbled over while I checked on the tinies through the window every 10 minutes and kept one eye on Evelynn through the open bathroom door right before I had to start supper.

This isn’t my year to “survive” after all. This isn’t my year of rest or Sabbath and that’s okay. Those years will come someday.

Instead, this is my year to hold fast to that confession of our hope because he is faithful. And that is a truth I have learned down to my bones over the years. He is faithful. There is joy in that truth for me, real joy, not resignation and plodding. Life and life more abundant hides in our life as it stands.

He is faithful. Hold fast to hope.

Hold fast is an old sailing term, too – tying knots that hold tightly for instance. It means to remain steadfast and immovable, to cling to and adhere, to attach. For the sake of survival and safe passage to the new land, we hold fast … to hope.

… for a new baby to carry and deliver, to nurse and cherish, for my fears and anxiety, for the days ahead of both joy and work and transformation that lay ahead of me. To finish strong and release a new book to the world with my whole heart. For my three tinies, for my husband, for my vocation and calling, for my daily work, for both the small humble work of my life, for my community, for my church, for my friendships and family, for my soul’s formation, for the dreams of my heart, for growth, for everyone from Syria to Canada, Palestine to Ferguson.

Hold fast, hold fast, hold fast to the hope: he is faithful. The more I hold this phrase in the palm of my heart, turning it over and over to examine, the more I see the complex and timely beauty of it for my life.

I have hope – hope that doesn’t waver because Christ is more than enough, always has been more than enough, and always will be.

2015: Hold Fast. 

There is a One Word 365 community online if you want to check it out.

image source, used with permission

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  • Missy

    Sometimes we need that one word (or two!!). this year for me is like your 2015. I am choosing not to have a word-after praying-nothing seemed right. Let God pick the word as the year progresses…and then at the close of 2015, I will reflect and see what the word was!!

    • Those are good years, too, Missy – letting the year unfold without expectation is its’ own discipline.

  • Thank you so much for this word, Sarah. 2014 was a really rough year for me, especially the last 6 months. By the time December rolled around I was worn out and torn apart. In the days leading up to New Years I prayed “God, please let this new year be at least a tiny bit better than the old one. I don’t know how much more I can take.” This morning when I got up I looked over at the stone I keep on my nightstand; I picked it up a few years ago during a difficult season to remind me of 1 Samuel 7:12 (Samuel raising the stone of help and saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”). I thought about holding on to my stone of help (Jesus). I also thought of one of my favorite verses, Psalm 46:5: “God is within her, she will not fall, God will help her at break of day.”. Your post basically confirmed this train of thought I’ve been having all day and now I’m feeling a bit more hopeful about things. Talk about having a mystical moment in the midst of the mundane!

    • Such a cool connection, Charlotte! Excited to hear where God leads you.

  • NinetoPhive

    Utterly beautiful. I loved how you tied in your Scottish heritage in such a deeply spiritual way. Clan Bruce, here!

  • LOVE this, Sarah. In 2015, may this word not return void, but accomplish all it promises. And may the gift and call of God on your life continue to increase for the flourishing of all who encounter you and your work – and for your own flourishing as well. Indeed, that gift and that call are irrevocable!

    Btw, I’m gonna go ahead and believe this for myself too :).

    • And I’ll believe it for both of us, too! Thank you, Zach for your confirmation.

  • Sarah, this is so beautiful and relevant to my situation. Hebrews 10:23 was my go to verse from the time we first got pregnant after trying for 8 years, it carried me through a miscarriage at 6.5 weeks, a fundraiser to adopt, and eventually our miracle pregnancy which resulted in our daughter being born this October. God certainly IS faithful, and we must always remember to never give up hope. Through the stress, physical and emotional, the doubts, the pain, I knew God had a plan… and now here I am after 10 years of waiting, longing… nursing my perfect beautiful baby girl, the one God always intended us to have. Of course we couldn’t know God’s plan while we struggled with fertility treatments, and the pain of the monthly reminder that we weren’t parents… but here we are now as parents, at the time we were meant to be parents, with the daughter we were meant to have. Hold on to the hope… God is faithful, indeed, indeed!!!

    • Such a beautiful testimony, Debi! Love this! Thank you for sharing it. xo

  • HBurns

    Oh Sarah… perfect! Yes, hold fast my friend. You are doing this well – very well. God has you & ALL that concerns you. You will traverse this year gloriously as you hold fast. Love you xoxo

    • Thank you so much, Pastor Helen! Love you, too. xo

  • Rebekah O’Keeffe

    Without realising it the final weeks of 2014 the concept of Surrender kept coming to me through Scripture, my prayer, conversations and reading. So here goes to surrender…Thank you Sarah for sharing the use of new year’s resolution in a more fruitful and wholesome way.

    • That word is going to change your life, I think, Rebekah. Excited to hear in a year where it lead you.

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  • Sheri

    i love your word. I love your blog, and I am so blessed by your writing. Your honesty and your comment that we need the spirit to be in the daily work, is so true. The laundry, the dishes the picking up and the plodding. Keep writing Sarah…you do it well and it blesses many.

  • “Part-time mystics don’t exist only in monasteries, we’re hiding
    in all walks of life and the Spirit often speaks as clearly in our
    betwixt moments.” Sigh. Thanks for this confession and declaration. Always love your words and your grace.


  • Rea

    Love every bit of this. I’m still seeking my own one word for 2015, but I like yours.

  • Just beautiful! Hebrews 10:23 is my life verse.

  • Nate Smith

    I’m loving your phrase. It’s absolutely beautiful, Sarah. 2014 was such a bizarre year for me too.

    Yesterday, I heard the Holy Spirit say “Recreate.” I feel like there were a lot of pieces left unused this past year and He wants to create newness in. So powerful. Blessings 🙂

  • What a year you have ahead of you. I love the hope that is evident in your words, clearly this is the phrase for you. I struggled with my word this year too after finding such clarity in choosing for 2014, and I ended up with a phrase too. A quote actually, from Amy Poehler (I mebtuoned I might quote her too much?)

  • Hold fast. That is excellent. So poignant, especially in this journey of motherhood, of woman-hood, of authenticity, of faith. For all of it is about faith, holding fast to hope, to courage, to strength, and to others.

    Beautiful words on your focus for this year. As always, thank you for posting your truth! 🙂

  • I’ve struggled finding my word for the year this year – I’ve been floating between ‘responsibility’, ‘intentional’ and ‘enough’ – all encapsulate much of what my year is about. I’m veering toward enough right now, because whatever else we do in the year, we need to know we’re already enough – and this year, with all I’m doing in terms of changes, achievements, I need to know I’m enough already.

    So cool to hear you have Scottish ancestry too – my grandmother was Scottish, from the Donoon family near Inverness. Very cool! I love your word(s) for the year – we all need to remember to hold fast, and that Christ is always enough.

    Thanks for inspiring me again.

  • Laura

    I love hearing how God led you to this. It sounds just “right” for your season. Although “hold fast” was not my “word” for last year, it might have characterized it. “Stronger” is my word for 2015. I’m looking forward to exploring the different pictures of strength in the Bible. May we both live into all that God has for us in this new year.

  • I woke up and this is my first read of the day, having married my sister of to a Canadian Mr. McLeod last night. I was so surprised to see a version of that name here! And as I read I kept thinking your words were written as a gift just for me. 2014 for me has been cancer, so “hold fast” rings so true in my ears. I hold fast to your words that “our very regular lives can become altars.” That the Spirit dwells powerfully in chemo rooms and dishes and tears and I don’t have to do holy things or pray big words for the Spirit to pour out.

  • “Abide” is my word. There is so much in that tiny word. To remain in Him and have Him remain in me. No striving. Just remaining. Enduring. Resting.

  • “I don’t want to be so tired doing my life that I miss my life – the wonder of it, the beauty of it, the sacredness of it. One of my deepest core beliefs is that we find God most often in the raw and human moments of our lives, that God doesn’t differentiate between sacred-and-secular for us.”—This is a message I do not think I will ever get tired of hearing/reading. I need it over and over and over again. I believe it is true, yet it is hard to remember it when I need it the most, when I am in tears of frustration and hopelessness over what the future may or may not hold for me, when I am worn out from classes and part time jobs…Thank you for bringing this message again. Thank you.

  • Erin Nolen

    Hi Sarah, I loved your post so much. It inspired me to write a post of my own incorporating your thoughts along with Barbara Brown Taylor and Frederick Buechner. https://erinnolen.wordpress.com/

  • Simply beautiful.

    I needed to hear this too – especially as we prayerfully consider having a baby #4.

    Thanks for writing, Sarah.

  • HK

    Thank you’

  • beckyl

    I would choose the word mercy or merciful for my word of 2015. God has shown so much mercy and love to me. I, in return, need to be merciful to others. There have been a few of your posts that have touched my heart, recently. I did not comment due to time restraints. They made my day and it felt like you knew my mind that day. Prayers for you and your little baby not yet born. May baby be just fine. Blessings.

  • Susanna

    This blog post has gripped my heart. In the midst of my most chaotic teaching year ever, and a 2 year old delightful son who simply need not sleep, and a marriage nearing the “decade” mark, I have found myself feeling stretched and pushed to the point where I’m not sure I’ll ever regain my original self shape. But this post. This post. It was like the lamppost in the midst of Narnia for me. My beacon. I *have always known these words are true, but this time, God has used your poetic form to grow my faith and remind me of his faithfulness once more. So, thank you. Thank you for listening and for sharing of your heart because I truly needed to be encouraged this year.

    P.S. I am typing this on my teaching plan time. I’ve used a few of my minutes to read the post again on this, the first day of this second semester, as well as make myself a visual reminder. It is colorful, laminated and taped down to endure the days to come (a teacher thing, I suppose).

  • Michelle Luck

    Hold fast to the hope – I pray that it will be for you. I’m still ‘looking’ for my word – I always start too big and try to find something that will encompass all of the goals and aspirations I have for the future, but I know I need to slow down. That’s hard for me. Thankyou for your story.

  • Lovely, lovely, lovely. I wrote about my one word in a post a few days ago. It’s wholehearted. Wholehearted is about sincerity and commitment. For me this means authenticity in my life and my writing. It means commitment to continue my faith-wrestling and to asking sincere questions. Being Wholehearted is also a commitment to courage, compassion, and connection. It is the courage to be vulnerable despite the risk, the compassion to love other people well and to extend grace quickly, both to myself and to others, and the choice to develop genuine connections with others. Wholeheartedness means committing to being fully present, to showing up for every day of my life instead of checking out when things are hard or boring. It means engaging with Today and believing that every day is a gift. And Wholehearted means believing that I am worthy of love and belonging – not because there is anything especially great and deserving about me, but because we are all worthy of love and belonging and because we can’t fully accept love and belonging unless we believe we are worthy of it. Blessings on your year of holding fast, Sarah. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of it.

  • Emma Fowle

    Thanks so much for this Sarah. I’ve often prayed for a verse for the year, but not a word before. A good friend spoke a word over me towards the end of last year though, and I really believe it’s for me this year too: Liberty. Can’t wait to see what God’s gonna do!

  • karen

    Thank You, this was beautiful.

  • What an apropos post in the wake of advent! Thank you for these words, Sarah.

  • Dalyce

    “Because I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be so tired doing my life that I miss my life – the wonder of it, the beauty of it, the sacredness of it.”

    Oofta. This is gorgeous. I have no words.

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  • Carolyn Bolton Dotts

    Sarah, I’m happy to find your blog through Holly Barrett’s Big Red Sofa! I so identified with your statement, ” I don’t want to be so tired doing my life that I miss my life.” That’s where I found myself last year in what was to become my final year of teaching, exhausted, worn, spent… And making the difficult decision to retire. I read the rest of your message with tears streaming. Holly introduced our small group to the One Word concept. I was intrigued…God gave me a word that is reflective of where I am now after being retired for 6 months-WAIT. That’s where I am and what I am doing, waiting for Him to show me the way, the next step in His plan. Thank you and I will definitely be back to visit.

  • Jade

    Can I just say: I love your words. I am so blessed by you. So blessed.

  • Sarah I love this. It has all the power and resonance and grace as Alistair Macleod’s No Great Mischief. Beautiful.

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