Debbie Macomber, faith

REST: My Word for 2023.

Some of you are aware that I’ve chosen a word for the year ever since I read Debbie Macomber’s One Perfect Word in 2011. For those who are new to the idea, it’s basically a meditative practice. By asking God to reveal the perfect word, we then spend 365 days pondering its meaning in our life, a form of Lectio Divina that we can employ as we study, listen, ponder and pray while also delving into God’s Word. I take this process seriously, as I have seen the difference in my life since I began the practice. For instance, when I chose the word Possibilities at the beginning of 2021, I had no idea two seemingly “impossible” things would become a reality for me that year. I was finally able to write the children’s book on grief that I’d be unable to pen in the previous nine years and I met and married the man God had asked me to pray for in 2018.

For whatever reason, I failed to choose a word last year. I’m not sure what one might have been fitting. The first half of the year could have been AWE as we took several trips. Not only was I in awe of the beauty of God’s creation as we traveled, but I also basked in the companionship and love of the man at my side. The second half could hardly have qualified for that same word as our summer plans for golfing and hiking trails were sidelined by weeks of debilitating arthritis pain for Nick when he went off a medication that may have been affecting his kidneys. In August, we were hit hard by Covid, spending our first anniversary next to each other on the couch in mutual misery. Mid-September brought my cancer diagnosis, followed by an October surgery that eradicated the disease. I barely had time to heal before holiday preparations. At 3:00 a.m. on Christmas morning, I woke up coughing so hard I couldn’t sleep. The cough is still with me, along with an overwhelming fatigue.

Imagine my distress and consternation then, when I repeatedly felt led to the word REST during prayer last week. REST? This is a word both Nick and I resisted. Hasn’t there been enough “rest” for both of us? Weren’t we eager to plan more trips for 2023? To add an exercise regimen that would increase our stamina and improve our health? Yet the word rest implies couch time instead. I didn’t want the word REST to be my word for 2023, and Nick wasn’t interested in hearing it either. Neither one of us had previously led a “restful” life. Was that part of the problem? Was God trying to tell me something?

Instead of concentrating on healing from surgery in October, I’d been determined to be prolific in my writing, working on my next book. I was certain God was on the same page, having helped me write the most difficult chapter the week before surgery.

I was wrong. Post-surgery, I found myself tired, unable to string coherent sentences together. I looked to my second go-to; reading. Except instead of enjoying mindless fiction, I found myself reading books about God’s design for marriage. In between cancer diagnosis and surgery, I’d filled a book of prayers for my husband, discovering how praying for him helped me. I picked up another book about blessing your husband. And then another. Soon, I realized I was studying God’s design for marriage. You’d think having previously been married for 34 years I would already know everything there was to know about marriage. Yet it pains me to admit I had not been the most Biblical wife in my first marriage. It was only after developing a personal relationship with God in 2012, I discovered just how much I didn’t know about being a Godly wife. I’d vowed that if God ever brought someone else into my life, I would pray with him, cherish him, and we’d grow in faith together. I would strive to be the Proverbs 31 wife. Both Nick and I have been in AWE of the difference a God-centered relationship makes.

It does make sense that God would guide me to study marriage, since he is leading Nick and I to co-write a book about having a praying partnership with your spouse. This is what I do before I write non-fiction books; study the topic. I read more than sixty books on creativity before writing mine, three dozen on grief before my grief book.

What then to make of that arthritis pain and shared illness? What might God be trying to tell us through all of it? How could he use illness and pain for his good? It was during the time of forced rest that Nick and I added a daily Bible study to our morning prayer time. We’ve gone through several Max Lucado studies, currently Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear, based on Psalm 23.

Why REST as my word? Had we not already learned enough about being still? Does that mean another year marked by illness? I wondered these things in the middle of the night, sitting on the couch, coughing too much to sleep.



I went to the Bible then, searching for verses with the word “rest” in them.

God will give you rest. Exodus 33:14 “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'” Mathew 11:28-30 “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We are to be still before the Lord. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”

We are to rest through faith and obedience. Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the Lord leads to life and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the Lord ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls.

It seems then, rest seems to have less to do about a physical call to the couch and more about an action to deepen our relationship with God, to find rest in Him. Resting in Him restores our souls. Wasn’t that exactly what Nick and I had done during the forced rest of Covid, when we began studying the Bible? With this word, God calls me to trust him, to follow Him. To rest in Him.

REST. The perfect word for 2023.

faith, love

Finding God in Goodwill

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I truly believe God is pleased by those who delight in Him. From the moment I first prayed with Nick on July 11, 2021, God has delighted in our union, watching us grow in faith together. After all, God had orchestrated our meeting, guiding me to pray in the summer of 2018 for a man I did not yet know, and then making it clear that Nick was that man when I finally met him three years later. (When God Writes the Love Story)

God has been gladdened by our daily prayer time, our bible studies, our commitment to HIM. He has delighted in our travel this past year and the tears I’ve shed at the beauty of His nature. How can anyone view a mountain or an ocean and not be in awe of God’s creation?

I’m not sure my dear husband quite “gets” my obsession with secondhand stores, though he has observed how my prayer life extends even to thrift shopping. Before we were married, I’d gotten as far as adding the red plates and bowls I wanted for our first home to my online Kohls cart before hesitating at the hefty price tag.

“I have a strong feeling I’m not to purchase them new,” I told Nick later that day. “And that we should check out Stuff.” (a local consignment store) Once there, I headed directly to the household section, where I immediately spotted them: a stack of six red plates and bowls. I purchased all twelve for less than the price of one new plate. Coincidence? Synchronicity? Or do we have a God who actually cares about His daughter’s delight? Don’t we as parents search for the perfect gift for our child, then revel in their joy when we’ve accomplished that purpose?

No one needs a leather jacket, it’s true. But I did want one when I saw my husband’s. Sharing my desire and the “thrill of the hunt” for a good deal with Nick, I began searching the racks at various thrift and consignment stores. Within a week, I found the perfect one, brand-new, with tags still attached, for a mere $25. After my credit at the store, I didn’t pay a penny. Neither did I need a colorful trunk to hold all my creativity workshop materials, but I like to think that God had something to do with me finding this brand-new trunk at the same consignment store. I’m convinced Our Father delights in my enjoyment of these things.

This is how God works in my life ever since I developed a personal relationship with Him in 2012. It should have come as no surprise then, when I told my husband to postpone purchasing some salt and pepper and parmesan cheese shakers for his business because God would help me find some that my next visit to the consignment store, I actually did.

And yet, I was surprised. In fact, I may have gasped in awe when I spotted two new packages of parmesan cheese shakers and a new package of glass salt and pepper shakers. I mean, come on, what are the odds? Within a day or two of confidently assuring my husband God would provide those items, He did. Not only that, but my Goodwill stop netted the exact type of backpack my husband had suggested I get for our future trips, in lieu of carrying a purse. One of my favorite brands, and in my signature leopard print! A Relic backpack for $6.00? The stationery sets and leather book of prayers for my husband were just icing on the cake. Not pictured are several items I purchased for Christmas gifts.

This doesn’t mean I get everything I want, any more than we as parents should fulfill our child’s every desire. But it does mean that because I am open to God’s guidance, sometimes I feel led by the Spirit to stop at a certain store, pick up a particular book, or reach out to a perfect stranger.

And sometimes, God surprises me with more than I ever hoped for or imagined. Like Nick.

cancer, faith, Holley Gerth

The “C” Word

Cancer. The word no one wants to hear. I was in the vehicle with my husband when the doctor gave me the news. My first thought was “Poor Nick,” because his previous wife had died from cancer. Fear hit sometime the next day, after a night of tossing and turning. I reminded myself that fear is not from God and asked my husband to pray with me.

Much of this past year has been about prayer as I reveled in my first year of marriage with Nick, and for good reason. It was prayer that initially connected us. We began each of our dates with prayer and have continued to pray together daily. I credit that practice, along with our daily Bible study, for a marriage relationship that is unlike anything we could have hoped for or imagined at this point in our life.

I began praying in all things, big and little. approximately ten years ago, involving prayer and discernment in what books I read, movies I watch and even what journals I use. I get a little thrill choosing a new journal from the huge stack I store in a cupboard; little journals, big ones, wire bound, hardcover, paperback, colorful decorated pages or quotes interspersed throughout. Always lined, sometimes with a ribbon marker to keep my place.

Which journal do I pick? I asked on September 1st. It would be journal #14 since I began utilizing expressive writing as a healing tool in 2012. I caressed each cover lightly, flipping through pages, before landing on the colorful hardbound journal with Proverbs 31:25 She is clothed with strength and dignity on the front cover. Nick and I had just begun a Bible study of Proverbs a few days before. We were learning about wisdom and listening as it applies to marriage. What better journal to begin my second year of striving to be a Proverbs 31 wife to Nick?

I don’t journal every day. I’d only gotten a few pages in when I was diagnosed with cancer on September 13th. Writing out a prayer the next morning, I took great comfort in the bible verse at the bottom of the page.

I read the intro to the journal for the first time a couple of days later, in awe of how fitting it was for the situation.

Let His presence cast out any weakness and guide you through every circumstance and decision you face. Be strong in the Lord, and may His unfailing love guide your heart into a fearless future. I turned to the back cover and noted the quote by one of my favorite authors, Holly Gerth. God’s love is what we need to carry on and will carry us when our strength feels small. Ah, yes, this spoke to my heart too.

I’ve journaled nearly every day since the diagnosis, as I waited to see an oncology doctor, facing a surgery that will determine the stage of the cancer. God already answered two appeals I dared to convey; instead of the 5-12 days I was warned I could expect before hearing from the oncologist, the call came in just three days, when I was informed the consultation would be September 30th. September 30th, a day we would be in Iowa City anyway for an appointment my husband had made with a rheumatologist two and a half months ago. My oncology appointment in the same town scheduled for the exact same day, and with enough time between appointments? What are the odds? I will tell you; not likely.

God went before me. God knew in July when Nick’s appointment was scheduled that I would be diagnosed with cancer and need to see an oncologist. He orchestrated events so that the timing of our appointments would coincide. While I thought I was choosing a journal to help me be the best wife I could be for Nick (with strength and dignity), God knew better. Months before I would need it, God drew my attention to the colorful journal on the shelf of a thrift store. Yes, God goes to Goodwill with me. Because I ask for his guidance even in the little things, of all the journals I had to choose from in my cupboard, he knew which one I would need for this journey with cancer. He knew which bible study Nick and I would need right now. And if God cares about those little things; the timing of appointments, the right journal or bible study, I have no doubt God cares about me in this big thing, this cancer. God is in this too. He will use it for good. He may have work to do in me, in Nick, or in our marriage. I will face this cancer with strength and dignity. I will be strong in the Lord.