For much of the year, it seemed strange to me that I had chosen “free” as my word of the year during a 12-month span that restricted so much of my freedom.

“Stay at home” was the mantra of 2020. We lost our freedom to see family, gather in large groups, eat in restaurants and so much more.

I barely read any books in 2020, but two of the ones I read that stand out the most also were about a loss of personal freedom: Just Mercy and Man’s Search for Meaning. The first tells the true stories of men and women who were wrongfully imprisoned and even sent to death as a result of our racially-biased criminal justice system.  The second is an incredible book that everyone should read about Viktor Frankl’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.

I learned a lot about what it means to be free in 2020, but another kind of freedom became the dominating theme for me this past year. It was the freedom to be fully who I was created to be.

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I’ve realized that for most of my life, I’ve tried hard to tone myself down, hold myself back or try to adjust my behavior so I will better fit in. When I take tests that analyze my strengths and personality, I come up high in areas like “focus,” “leadership,” “achiever,” or “activator.” I’m also a creative who loves to express myself through words, photos or art. Wrap it all up, and I’ve heard more times than I can count the reaction of, “Emily, you’re too much.”

My réponse is often to try to figure out how I can adjust to make myself more likable to other women and not come across as too strong with my male co-workers.

This past year has been a journey for me of becoming more comfortable with who I am. I learning to be free to be fully me.

  • I’m worrying less about what people will think about me when I express my thoughts.
  • I’m more OK with not always being accepted or included.
  • I’m learning my value isn’t determined by whether people like what I say or do.
  • I’m OK with showing people my failures. My work doesn’t have to be perfect to be valuable. What I learn in the process is often more important than the final product.
  • I can’t control whether people like me. If they don’t, that is their issue. I can still do my best to love them anyway.
  • I was created by a creative God who loves me as I am. Being loved as a child of God is where I find my worth.

This is a painting that I created at the beginning of the year. I copied it from Ruth Chou Simons beautiful artwork in her book, “Gracelaced.”

 

I could write a lot more on this topic, but I’m going to leave it there. 2020 was a challenging year in many ways, but the lack of physical freedom gave me an opportunity to look inside myself, take my concerns to God and do some meaningful work. I’m starting 2021 less concerned about how I will come across to people and more determined to use the gifts God has given me in a positive way.

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A year ago on this day, a friend shared a devotional with me that meant so much to me. It was such an amazing reminder that I’m not too much for God to handle. I don’t have to hold back with Him when I’m wrestling through the struggle and pain of life.

Daughter, I want to engage. I love for you to tell Me what you think, how you are mad or hurt or frustrated or scared. I want to hear you cry out, see you reach for Me, look around, seeking to find Me so you can grab hold of Me — right here — and head into the arena where we can have it out.

I want to have all of you. You are not too much. You are not too much for Me to handle. And I am strong enough to hold you while you cling to Me, not sure if you want to hang on or let go.

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Let me know if any of this resonates with you. Do you ever feel like you are too much for other people? Did you have a word of the year? How did it go for you?

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