Last year, Brian and I each chose a word for the year to focus our own personal growth on. The word I chose was “listen”. I chose this word because I felt like it would help me in many areas of my life. My goal was to become a better listener for my students at school, my children at home, and my friends and family. The other part of this goal was to be better at listening to God’s will and guidance in my life. I have often said that I know that life is so much better when I get out of God’s way and let him reveal his plans for me. In order to get myself out of the way, I had to become better at listening to his directions. Too often I just go with my “gut” or my instinct, or, probably closer to the truth, I go with what I want to do…which often is not what God has in mind. Choosing the word listen to be my focus truly turned out to be a great exercise and lesson. I kept the word close to me and often when situations would arise, I would hear the gently, nudging voice telling me to just listen. When my students at school would need me, I found that I focused more on just listening to what they had to say…and found that most of the time, they just want to be heard. They want an adult to let them share what they have to say. This focus has improved my relationship with my students and my role as not only their teacher, but their mentor. I have become more flexible in the classroom and have learned that sometimes you just have to throw the plans out the window and listen. My focus on listening has made me a much better mother to my children at home. A new respect has evolved between all of us as I have learned to shut up and hear what they have to say, and not say anything in return – just listen. As our Faith Passage ministry has grown, we have had so many amazing opportunities to go to different churches and events and meet so many new people. What we have seen and heard is that everybody has a unique, amazing story – and they just want to share it. We have spent so much time listening to people share their fears and their faith. God has helped me learn to listen and grow from what others have been through and experienced. My relationship with Brian has grown stronger and deeper than I ever imagined. He has taught me so much in the way he listens and shares and we have spent countless hours talking and listening to each other’s hopes and dreams for the future. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” This verse was instrumental in my growth as a person and a “listener” this past year. It is so reassuring to me that God knows the plans he has for me. I find such comfort in that, but what I had to learn was that if I don’t listen to God as he guides me, I will not hear those plans, I will not follow his will and I will not live out the future he has for me. It has been an awesome year of lessons learned, goals realized and plans made. I know that I still have so much room for growth, and I continue to be work in progress…and I know that I will continue to listen and learn.