“A single word can be a powerful thing.”
This year, I am going to continue to follow Ali Edwards’ tradition of picking One Little Word as a source of focus and direction for my year.
Ali explains that the words she has chosen since 2006 have helped her “to breathe deeper, to see clearer, to navigate challenges, and to grow.”
I would like to be better this year about revisiting my chosen word and letting it affect my emotional, physical, and spiritual life in positive ways.
My Word for the Year, 2016, is:
This word came to me fairly powerfully in December after a couple of months that had been filled with my own grumbling and complaining about various aspects of my house, my routines, and a variety of my own foibles.
Sometime in November or December, I realized that I really need to stop the grumbling, and start recognizing how amazingly blessed my life is. I need to find contentment with all that I am and all that I have.
satisfaction, gratification, fulfillment, pleasure, cheerfulness, ease of mind.
The "rightness" of this word choice came home to me powerfully as the old year gave way to the new.
I stayed up until midnight on December 31, 2015, in order to greet the new year, kiss my husband, and head off to bed. But before turning off the light, I read Psalm 23, trying to give it the careful attention that familiarity often prevents.
A note in the margin of my Women of Faith Bible sent me over the Psalm 84, where I was captivated by verse 5:
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”
I left my Bible open on my night table, and when I saw it in the morning, I thought, “Pilgrimage.”
I am interested in this idea of pilgrimage within my own life. Not traveling to distant lands to visit unfamiliar holy sites that have been meaningful for bringing other people closer to God, but “visiting”—noticing, paying attention to—familiar holy sites in my everyday life that are meaningful for bringing me closer to God.
These thoughts this morning immediately brought to mind Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, which I first read back in 2011. My underlines and marginal notations exactly support the train of thought I embarked on with the coming of this new year. Going on a pilgrimage within my own life, finding those altars or holy sites in my own daily territory, moving closer to God here, where I am now, with His Holy Spirit making His home inside of me—all of this fleshed out the word contentment for me.
Going out on a pilgrimage suggests to me that I would be looking for something that exists somewhere else, that I have to travel a distance for, that I must go in search of.
Letting my daily life be my pilgrimage suggests to me a sense of contentment, a willingness to provide my consent to be where I am now (An Altar, xvii). Taylor writes in her Introduction about how we go off in search of “something more,” seeking spiritual treasure in distant places, but “the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot [where that treasure is] is because we are standing on it” (xvii)!
Taylor defines “altars in the world” (the source of her book’s title) as ordinary places where we meet up with God. My source for the contentment that will be focus in 2016 (and hopefully ever after) will be paying attention and recognizing that my life is already filled with these holy spaces—in my home, in my car running the girls to school or piano lessons, at the health club out on the track, in the grocery store buying food for my family.
If I am recognizing these ordinary, everyday places as the very places where I meet up with God, how can I help but find contentment in the life with which He has already blessed me?
Can you think of your own Word for the Year? Can you identify an idea or a concept that could provide you with positive focus as you head into 2016? Please share some of your “rough draft thoughts” in the comments.