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  • Leah Outten

Reflections: 2021 the Year of Zeal

I've been praying over a word of the year for around 10 years now. It is amazing to see what God does! Savannah (who is close to being 15 years old...what....) recently asked what this is and why I do it. I summed it up as this: I pray over the next year and allow God to speak to me. The word the pops into my head has always been a promise for me. It's something He uses to challenge and encourage me, and often something that He will teach me.

A few past words have been:

  • joy (the year I struggled with depression)

  • trust (the year we had unplanned baby #5 and lots of other changes)

  • courageous (the year that started well but then everything fell apart through many trials)

Because many things I had worked hard for in 2019 and 2020 came to a dumpster fire type ending, I started this year in depression. I woke up and cried daily. It was like a break up. It was awful. I grieved. I prayed. I forgave. The word God gave me for 2021 as I sat in this depression and a whole lot of pruned stubbles surrounding me was Zeal. I never, ever have used this word so I know it did not come from me 😂 And now, I see this word every where, even in the Bible. It was such an encouragement to me that God sees me and even in His word was pointing to that. Zeal means passion, at a time I had lost my passion.

Romans 12:11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

I started this year with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders, feeling like a failure in so many ways- from friendships, to my children, to the non-profit that was leading but I didn't know how to alone. I had no idea what I was doing. I begged God for helpers to keep going with the mission I loved. I begged for strength and the zeal He promised. I truthfully wanted to give up. I had been so burned in 2020 I didn't see the point any more to keep trying. Was anyone listening, anyway? Did anyone care? I was happy to fade into oblivion if that meant I could have peace again.

But God.

Out of no where, I get a call from a friend and organization I had known a few years: I get offered to create my dream job!

So, fittingly, as the blooms of spring began budding around me, so did my zeal. I was reminded that I was seen and valuable. That my voice matters. That ALL the hard work and disappointments up to this point had purpose and wasn't a loss, but a stepping stone to keep going into a new chapter. In March I officially started as a Post Adoption Advocate with Abiding Love Charities. With the same mission at heart, we joined our non-profits together to keep creating the programs I've dreamed of for years for the adoption triad. But this time I don't have to lead and fundraise 🙌🏼 I thank God for this team and this opportunity daily. It is perfect in so many ways, from the heart the people, the shared mission, the support, getting to work from home in the pockets of my day, to the fun trips when we are in person together. Dream job.

The rest of the year followed with these highlights:

  • Focus On The Family invited me to film with them for SeeLife 2021 in May for Episode 6. I flew to Colorado Springs, CO with my momma. It was a wonderful trip, amazing to see different kind of mountains, lots of snow, and history. And, of course, get to meet the people at Focus I've been working with for the last 2 years. I was able to share a little of my adoption story and how the pro-life community can support birth parents better.

  • In May I hung out with a few of my Abiding Love teammates to plan our curriculum projects at the beach. I work with an incredible, Jesus, love filled team.

  • In May we also had a wonderful family trip to the mountains and celebrated 14 years of marriage while we were there. Mark and I have fought hard through our differences the past year, growing closer to the Lord together, and it's been rewarding!

  • My birth daughter turned 17 and became a senior in high school 😳 We had several family visits, and also one-on-one weekends alone. I treasure our quality time!

  • Broke my foot in June from a can of soup dropping on my foot. Yes, a can. That squashed not only my foot, but many summer plans since I was in a boot for 2 months. I spent much of summer resting, binge watching Heartland, and it was needed for the whirlwind of fall's schedule and hard work ahead.

  • Went to The Pro-life Women's conference in TN with my team dear friend Tori Shaw of Not Forgotten Ministries. My broken foot was there too, but I didn't know it at the time. I looked down and realized my foot was black and blue on this trip 😂

  • In September we all had the virus, we lived. I turned 34 and we filmed 2 curriculums.

  • Advocated, prayed and begged for a solution for one daughter's depression and anxiety causing school issues. God answered in a huge way that only He could do! I have my funny girl back!

  • Saw We The Kingdom, Zac Williams, and Cain in concert with my momma. Fun trip in the fall to the Tennessee mountains.

  • More prayers answered. Reconciliations made. Labor of love type work to serve birth moms. Peace. Joy. It's been a great year overall.

The zeal absolutely came back. It's there for all the little and big projects I've been a part of this year. It's there for my family. It's there for the things that really matter. The zeal reminds me I'm doing what God intended me to do, it just looks different than I imagined (doesn't it always?). The zeal is finding purpose from pain and using it for good and God's glory.

I'm ending this year with so much praise of how faithful God was through every step, every ache, every prayer. Thank you, Jesus.

I remember telling a therapist once as a teen, "Life is a rollercoaster. It has ups and downs." And while 2021 started with lows, it has ended with highs. Of course, that makes me wonder what 2022 has in store. Likely a mix of highs and lows, as most years. I don't know, but I do know He will still be with me regardless and He will guide me.

Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

Whatever comes my way in 2022... my word and promise felt from the Lord is Flourish.

I have plans. I have goals. But still, I surrender them to the Lord who establishes my steps so that I may flourish how He sees fit.

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