Welcome, 2023! So ready to embrace a new year and look forward to what each new day will bring. For some fourteen years, rather than make multiple resolutions, I have selected a single word that would play a role in my life in the next 365 days. I pray over and carefully contemplate what that might look like in how it might play out from several angles. This year’s word is no exception. It has multiple facets and meanings that I will embrace and work on in my life. I put that word in the forefront of my mind and even make a cell phone background with the word emphasized to keep it ever before me. There are so many ways this word will have an application to my days. I usually pick a verb because I want it to instill action but this year, it can be a noun or a verb!
The watchword for 2023 is PRESENT. Several ways I anticipate applying this word is to be present when I am talking to people, especially loved ones, to stop and really give them my full attention. With all the distractions and interruptions that bombard me each day, this will be a real challenge. I want to fully engage and be present and absorb each moment–it is a gift.
Each day is a gift, a present to be embraced and fully spent. We have this moment, the present, and no other guarantee. No need to dwell on the past or worry about future concerns. This very moment is the present, the gift, the opportunity to fully take in. May I use each day with full abandon and with a heart full of appreciation for the very gift to have experienced it.
Also, I aim to become more aware of God’s loving Presence within me and in others, (okay a little spin on terminology but it isn’t a far stretch.) I want to be aware of His surrounding me, to feel those holy moments, and to respond with His wisdom and love.
I am looking forward to the further ways God will reveal meaning and guidance in this versatile watchword for the year. It never disappoints!
For many years, I have chosen a word to be a reminder or a recurring theme for the coming year. A word that I would keep at the front of my thoughts and make part of my mission. In recent years, I prefer verbs as action statements that inspire and prompt me in some way. In past years, I set this word of the year by New Year’s Day. However, this year it just didn’t happen.
The year was difficult for us, as it was for so many others. As we entered 2022, we had a family member that was very old and in the last days of his well-lived life. We also had another family member in the throes of chemotherapy and cancer treatments. Simply put, I wasn’t ready to spend much time in reflection looking back to see how my watchword had shaped the year. So, here it is already April 1, and I think it is time to share my word of the year. So far, it has been a very fitting inspiration for me. More about that in a bit. First, though, a look back at 2021. It was the second year of a full-fledged pandemic that took away so much of everything we held dear. Families weren’t able to be together, older people were unable to see loved ones, travel plans were sabotaged, and this was the year that some people that I knew lost loved ones to the dreaded, insidious virus. Everyone knew someone who died due to Covid. Everyone, in one way or another, felt it and grew very weary. Our lives were held captive to masks and hand sanitizer, wondering if a touch or hug was okay or if we should step back one step farther. Children learned to respond to half faces with only eyes to read and no mouth, with no way to gauge a satisfied smile or unhappy tightening of the corner of a mouth. Many of us wondered what long-term social impact the social mores of pandemic protocol would have on people. Though that is yet to be determined, it is clear that virtually no one came out of this year unscathed.
There were good things as well that defined our 2021. One of the most life-changing ones was selling our event venue and deciding to enjoy a simpler life again. We found renewal in finding a smaller home in a subdivision again. Though we will still be able to renew our hearts at the ranch when we like, it will be in a much needed, scaled-down version.
My word for the 2021 year renew held more meaning and life course for me than I ever could have imagined. From simply using it to refresh my thought process in a world of having absolutely nothing normal to a desperate, cell revitalizing prayer for my loved one diagnosed with cancer, I prayed my word “Renew, Lord! Please renew!” “Renew” was a spiritual journey and a mission to help others refresh their souls in the long, lonely days of 2021. Renewal was the glorious result of a sweet answer to a long-awaited prayer to simplify our lives. And ultimately, renew was the watchword, as our loved one entered his Heavenly Home, fully restored, fully made a new creation on January 14. Renew was the word for the beginning and the end, bookends to a year we readily said goodbye to. As I write this, we are without masks, without fear, without the confines of pandemic protocol, and we believe with much optimism that we are nearing the end of this strange and most difficult time.
The most amazing thing about picking a word for the year has been the way it really does define that year. Without knowing what the year holds, but with a little prayer and forethought, I settle on a word and more years than not, I find how appropriate and fitting it is. As in previous years, the watchword also became the lifeline to depth-of-soul satisfaction and inner peace. I am thankful that we were able to renew our hearts, and refresh our souls throughout this past year and to experience true renewal in so many beautiful ways.
For 2022, the word is nurture. This year I added a byline “help good grow.” There are so many ways I plan to consciously make this my theme. I hope to nurture relationships that need my touch, to nurture my own soul with Bible reading and care, to nurture habits for good health, and to nurture and encourage my family, especially my grandchildren with stories and love and every blessing I can offer. May I pour out myself and fill others, nurturing their souls. I have lived long enough to know that we are blessed to be blessings to others, or as a friend used to put it: when your life gets an upgrade, you better be sure that someone else’s does also! I look forward to seeing all the ways that God shows up this year, and in particular how He nurtures in and through me, as I offer up myself in service to Him. Here’s to a year filled with nurturing hope and faith and many others along the way.
As has been my tradition for the past few years, once again I am reflecting on the past year and selecting a word to define and focus my intentions for the coming year. I have selected a word that feels a little ambiguous but I always find that it takes shape as we go through the year.
Certainly that was the case for this past year as I chose the word “serve.” My dear friend made me a bracelet to help keep this word at the front of my thoughts–it simply said SERVE. I wore the bracelet on my right wrist and had it constantly before me as I walked through the year.
I cannot remember a greater time of need for virtually everyone I know and for the world. Between CoVid 19 paralyzing us in March through the rest of the year, and the unrest with racial disparity, and the most tumultuous Presidential election, and real, heartbreaking needs in my own family, I have been stretched to offer myself in a hundred ways, to serve, while sometimes tearing my heart at its core as loved ones suffer and deal with difficult circumstances.
One thing I have taken away from this year is simply that serving is pouring your heart into another. To serve is to invest in another’s hardship, and to unite two hearts in purpose and kindness. I also have found such joy in being about others. Places where I certainly could have felt self absorbed, I found practical ways to give purpose to this senseless time. One more beautiful part of the equation this year was finding much of the world’s despair and difficulties were too big for me, and I learned surrender and trust. An inexplainable peace accompanied me. Certainly God was the one Constant as the world teetered on insanity in so much uncertainty. I went about each day doing what I could and letting the rest go, letting small accomplishments be enough. Simplicity was another bonus. As life slowed down in quarantine, much of the peripheral busyness in my life ceased. And I learned I was just fine without it. That opened the door to serve where I previously had been too busy.
I have found that single verbs are especially good words to focus in the year, as they inspire action on my part. So, my word for 2021 will be RENEW. I already see this focus lending new and fresh optimism to areas of my life including my thought processes, my relationships with friends and family, and my spiritual life. Where else it will lead, who knows but the Lord above, whom I pray will lead and guide and show me new paths that grow me and refresh others with renewal and revitalized joy, motivation, and perspective.
I haven’t found a rhythm to my days yet. I miss that. Nothing like knowing where and when I am supposed to be somewhere to anchor my days. The one scheduled appointment that I keep each day to work out has been a grounding tool for me. It gives me a reason to show up, to know what day it is and time, and to center myself and focus on the moment. Conveniently, the class is about the same time when I used to go to swim, so that feels familiar to me. I crave familiar right now. I also have lots of questions. More than anything, we all have this big unknown future before us.
Questions that I am entertaining currently include: Is my husband’s job going to survive this downturn? Who might need some help right now? Will my grown children have their jobs? What am I doing to help where I can? How can I have connection with those with whom I can’t have contact? When will this end? How will it end? Who will be hurt in the process?
The biggest challenge so far for me is how to live with uncertainty. I wish I could say I instinctively know that this is not in my hands and my first thought would be to offer it to God and pray for His Help and watch how miraculously He resolves this mess. It is not. As I write these words, I still find myself swirling with worry. Right now, everyone is fine. Everyone is safe. We have a beautiful right now. We have this moment that we don’t want to waste. We have now. Worry robs us of now. I heard recently that we have two pandemics going–the Covid-19 and fear. And fear is overtaking more of us than the virus. But there is a way to stop it.
What the coming days hold God knows, and in this, I can rest. Because we know He will work it for good. There is no where too far that His Loving Hand cannot reach. There are some things too big for us, and this is just a perfect place to ask God for miracles and sit back and watch the show. May we all find rest in placing it in His Hands today.
How about you? have you stopped and taken a look inward? Where are you finding joy these days? How are you making your time meaningful?
One thing I know we all can do to help relieve some of this pain: we can call someone today who needs some hope. My 90 year old cousin who lives alone called today and we chatted for a short while. I am ashamed to say it was she who made the call and not I. She simply said as we closed, “Thank you for being there.” Show up for someone today. It might make their day.
I’ve been cooking a lot! Here are some blueberry muffins.
Before the “stay at home” order, we got to take Mike’s dad out for a look at the bluebonnets, which were especially beautiful this year.
As soon as some of our grandkids got home from Alabama, we had a play date at our house! SO good to see them again.
Lauren and Mike got back just in time before South Africa closed international travel. We watched their beautiful KCC, Victoria.
I have selected a word for the year for the past ten plus years. That word would be my watchword to employ, to offer others, to fill my own heart, often to grow me in an area of need. Last year, in particular, the word that labeled the year was particularly meaningful and fitting. I chose the word “embrace” and I cannot tell you yet how many areas that it has affected my life as it became the theme for my 2019 days.
For some days, the word embrace was an encouragement to tackle a situation or reality. For others, it was a loving reminder to embrace a “porcupine” person. I would still think to myself it sure is hard to hug a porcupine but would know that that particular porcupine needed a hug more than my judgment. Other days, embrace became the theme as I tackled my rough edges of hypersensitivity and anxiety. Embracing the reality that something in me had to change, not others if I wanted a different story. Embrace helped me love through the challenges of having elderly parents come to live with us for the better part of the year. Embrace offered my own spirit a loving hug when things seemed so overwhelming I wanted to run away. Embrace allowed me to hold a precious new grandson, Grey Michael Barnes born in September. Indeed, the theme embrace lent God’s gracious and merciful perspective to each day of this 2019 year that we fondly closed the book on this past week.
Now for the coming year, I am looking forward to living life under a new banner. I hope to continue in the lessons learned from the previous year, but it is time to grow again. How that theme plays out is yet to be seen, but the word I offer to grow in His likeness this 2020 year is serve. I believe my heart was focused inward much of the last two years, and I want to be more about others, taking new opportunities where they present themselves, as they always do in a busy life that bumps into people. Wherever I am, I hope not to be too busy to stop and lend a hand where needed, or offer a listening ear, a compassionate hug. I offer myself to be Christ’s hands and feet where I can in His service. Now, my prayer is for a willing heart to see others’ needs and for Him to equip me to serve. I ask that God grant us all a broader vision of Who He is that we may know Him as He is fully, now dimly but one day face to glorious Face. Amen.