So when Ash Wednesday showed up on my “Birthday Eve,” I wasn’t having it! (at least not yet)
I wanted a day or two or three or four to celebrate.
Have my own “Fat Tuesday” of sorts.
A party with friends (over Zoom) to play games and blow out a virtual candle on a virtual cupcake.
A big giant chocolate chip cookie after a delicious take out dinner with my husband.
A guilt-free social media binge day to see all the birthday wishes from friends old and new, far and near.
A day filled with dings on my phone and a few cards in my mailbox.
A final hurrah two whole days later with my kids escaping some locked internet room.
A few days to celebrate. Revel. Create my own carnival.
But now I am ready for Lent.
Fat Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are over.
The normal chips, chocolate and cheese are out the window (except for on Celebration Sundays…look it up…it’s a thing).
But that’s not really what I’m ready for.
That’s not the Lent I’m diving into. Not this year.
I’m giving up the BIG THREE… (or at least trying to)
Not the put-your-seatbelt-on-to-protect-myself kind of fear.
I need that.
More like the people-might-not-like-me kind.
The I-might-fail kind.
The I’m-not-going-to-be-okay kind.
I do not need that at all.
Not the take-responsibility-for-my-harmful-actions kind of guilt.
I need that.
More like the I-never-do-anything-right kind.
The responsible-for-everyone-else’s-feelings kind.
The why-do-I-have-a-good-marriage-and-my-friend-doesn’t kind.
I do not need that at all.
Not the I-was-unkind-to-my-husband-last-night-and-I-don’t-want-to-do-that-again kind.
I need that.
More like the I-am-a-bad-person-no-matter-what-I-do kind.
The how-could-anyone-ever-love-me kind.
The God-must-be-disappointed-in-me kind.
I do not need that at all.
But because this is a year where I’ve already given up lots and lots and lots more, I’m making room for a different BIG THREE.
Believing something that hasn’t happened yet will come true. Especially what I can’t see with my the eyes in my head, but maybe I can with the eyes of my heart.
I need that.
The confident expectation in the God who is my Father, the One who wants good for me. The anchor for my soul that grounds me and reminds me that good always triumphs over evil in the end.
I need that.
The intense feeling of deep affection that God has for me and that I have for others. The great interest and immense pleasure that God has for me and that I have for others. It never fails. It always wins.
There’s usually a stack of books on my beside table. Murder mysteries. Books about the sacred. Memoirs. One or two chapters at the most at the end of a long day send me to dreamland.
Books, for me, are spending a bit of time with another person, the writer. I might enjoy a completely entertaining story, hear another’s heart on a particular issue, or just walk beside someone through their life’s journey. I find connection in my jammies without any makeup on.
Fast forward to Sundays, my “take-a-break” day. I carve out at least SOME time alone, in the quiet. Self-help books shut. TV off. Phone on emergency-calls-only mode. Stop and stare out the window. Hash it all out with God. Often, something inexplicable happens way down deep, in the places I rarely venture.
It feels similar to what happens when I see a rainbow or a sunset or hear a beautiful piece of music. There is an unexplainable knowing that “all is well” despite all the swirling things in my life that are NOT. In fact, the silence actually magnifies the things that are not okay, perhaps because there is some space to explore them.
Mysteriously, as I sip my once-a-week cup of tea, watch birds flit by or the snow fall (which is happening as I write this), sorrow and joy, disruption and peace, the messy and the beautiful are able to walk side-by-side, neither one cancelling out the other.
The rest of the busy, hurried week, I fall into the trap of working hard and praying for ONLY the positive, happy, safe side of life. I keep my house organized, pay my bills on time, plant flowers and read self-help books.
Somehow, though, the negative, sad, and scary sides that are usually defined as bad by almost every voice around me, creep in no matter how hard I try to avoid them, stuff them down, or get all in a fit about them.
I’m like the Greek mythology character, Sisyphus, painstakingly rolling a huge rock up a mountain and just before I reach the top, it tumbles right back down to the bottom and I have to start all over again.
Anger. Confusion. Anxiety. Despair.
Thanks to those books on my nightstand and the authors who have “been there and done that,” I’m gently reminded that life is filled with both and believe it or not, both are necessary AND both are good.
Happiness celebrates the gifts given to us AND sadness brings honor to the loss of those gifts. Both are necessary AND both are good.
Back to that little bit of time when I stop the distractions once a week. It’s no wonder that I often find my true “all is well” place in those moments. Space to lean into the bad. A place to celebrate the good. God smack-dab in the middle of it, making breathing room for it ALL.
About a year ago, she was skipping along, busy as a bee, marching to the beat of getting things done and getting ahead. She believed the new year held possibility and promise like every other year.Why wouldn’t it?It was the start of not only a year, but a whole new decade.She was excited.
But right after her big party in her new house with all her friends, an ugly monster came.It came and gobbled up all her normal, all the rhythms that held her and rocked her and told her that everything was okay.
Days went by. MUNCH. Weeks went by.MUNCH MUNCH. Months went by. MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH MUNCH.
The monster kept devouring her normal. But not just hers. The normal of everyone around her.It ate up bank accounts and dreams and businesses and celebrations and hugs and peace-of-mind and worst of all, it gulped down lives.
She tried really hard to stay upbeat and hopeful and to “look on the bright side,” but it didn’t really work very long.
She was sad.
One day, she figured out that she had to do something about it.But what?What should she do about her sadness?
She could take Vitamin D. She could binge watch TV. She could eat a cookie. She could work in her garden. She could pretend the monster wasn’t there. She could make a grateful journal.
If that helped, maybe then she could tell all her friends and family to do the same.
After making her “what-should-she-do-about-her-sadness” list and checking it twice, she tried hard for a really long time.
Guess what happened?She was still really sad.
Oh no!What should she do?
One morning as she was swallowing her Vitamin D for the 282nd time, she thought of a great idea!
She was going to STOP doing some things. They weren’t working anyway, no matter how hard she tried.
So she STOPPED making the monster smaller than it was. She actually said the word “monster” out loud. She told her friends and her family that it was scary and horrible and that she wanted it to go away.
That was really hard for her. She liked talking about rainbows and butterflies and happy things.
But it was really good for her too. She felt like she was finally telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God.
She also STOPPED trying to rush really fast to “happy,” even though Joy was her middle name and she had been told her whole life it wasn’t good to be sad.
She looked right in the mirror and said, “You are allowed to be sad right now. That’s the best thing to be when you lose a bunch of stuff that’s really great.”
And then she took a shower and cried for a long time.
That helped a bunch and she figured out that now she could START doing some things too. She had time and space (like more than ever before).
She STARTED to talk, talk, talk. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To a counselor. To her journal. She got her sadness outside of the inside of her. She gave it really carefully to those who loved her and who she trusted to hold her all safe, like inside-her-heart safe.
She also STARTED to listen, listen, listen. To her friends. To her husband. To Jesus. To her kids. And guess what she found out. They were all sad too. Just like her. She was not all by herself. How about that?
The story is not over yet (even after 324 days) and sometimes, the woman still eats cookies, binge watches TV, and pretends the monster isn’t there.
But more often, she cries.And prays.And talks.And listens.
A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads). It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey. (The Dolly Mama)
When I was a young girl, I had the New Year’s resolution every year of reading through the Bible. On January 1, I would read 40 chapters of the book of Genesis and then by January 8, I would be on Genesis chapter 43. I’ve made that same resolution about 20 more times at points in my life and guess what, I have never read through the whole Bible no matter what I’ve tried. It’s been the same for me with exercise plans, diets, organizational goals, etc.
You know what I mean.
You feel the same pain.
Bottom line: resolutions rarely, if ever, work.
On the flip side, I’m all about HOPE. I love a fresh start. A new day. A new week. A new month. And especially a NEW YEAR. Hope “rocks my socks.”
Thank God He gives me a fresh start every morning, even every moment. I don’t know what I would do without the place where I can begin again, take a first step toward change, growth and healing, and then come to that same redemptive position again and again. HOPE.
HOPE, my first Word of the Year (hereafter known as WOTY) is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY. I need HOPE.
A word of the year encompasses HOPE. It’s an inner, gracious guide that allows room for us to change and grow. Resolutions are harsh external masters that heap shame on us when we “fail” to keep them.
A resolution concentrates on “DOING.” A WOTY values “BEING.”
A resolution instructs. A WOTY inspires.
A resolution is mandatory (“work out three days a week”). A WOTY allows for room to go at your own pace (taking the next baby step).
A resolution is limited in possibility (“lose 10 pounds”). A WOTY is expansive and limitless.
A resolution can be “broken.” A WOTY cannot (it is a gentle friend).
If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun. I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (my husband).
It’s not a race. It doesn’t matter when. But it might matter IF.
It might seem overwhelming. It’s not. It’s just fun. Give yourself the treat.
Concentrate on who you want to BE(come) this year, not what you want to get done.
Cup your ear to your hopes and dreams. Be mindful not to listen to your doubts and fears.
Be true to yourself. You want your word to represent your unique needs and desires.
Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t traditional goal-setting. This is grace-filled friendship-making. There is plenty of room to change your mind.
It’s intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of you during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads…I call that “shoulding” all over yourself). It’s a friend that accompanies you during your journey.
Ask yourself a simple question: What do you need? Many times, we concentrate on improving ourselves instead of being kind to ourselves. This is a huge starting place. Don’t skip this step. Write down all the random things that come to your mind.
The next question can be (after you haven’t skipped the first one) who do you want to be(come)? Write down a few of the most important things that jump into your head.
Make a list of words that come to mind. Write as many as you want. It can be a noun, verb or adjective. If you need help, click on this printable alphabetical list I put together for you for some ideas. (Word of the Year Ideas)
Cross out the words that don’t work for you. Narrow your list down to at the most 10 words.
Check out the definition of each of the words, its origin, synonyms and antonyms. You might just be surprised at what you find out!
Give yourself some time to process the list. Allow yourself to “try each one on for size.”
Take a deep breath and choose your word. Take a few minutes to write your thoughts about how you hope it might play out in different areas of your life and relationships.
Write your word down on something and post it on your mirror, your car, your computer, wherever you will see it every day. I found a picture and put it as the background of my computer (it will feel weird to change it out). Look at it each morning and remind yourself about this friend who is with you today.
Give yourself permission to change your mind. If you want to, take the time to reflect and re-evaluate your word at any point in the year.
An Update From Yours Truly:
My WOTY for 2020 was “Hygge.” I don’t want to give up this friend. I love her. She’s been a kind, yet forceful voice in my life, the best of the best. I have a long way to go in my friendship with “Hygge.” She is “the feeling of coziness and well-being.”
The good news is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one. “Hygge” can come along with me into 2021 and who knows, maybe my new word will stand hand-in-hand with her. When I think about all my WOTYs since I’ve started, it makes for one wonderful Dolly Mama posse (HOPE, BECOME, DEPTH, TEND, SHALOM and HYGGE). That makes me super happy.
Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2021: my Word of the Year is BREATHE!
After 2020, my muscles are tight, my brain is fried from all the decisions, my adrenaline is overused, my body is drained and my soul is plain-old exhausted from clinging to HOPE in the middle of all the heartache.
This “just-the-friend-I-need-right-now” WOTY will give me the courage to do this…
PHYSICALLY. Shoulders down. Lungs open. Slow, long and deep. Often.
EMOTIONALLY. Let the good in. Get the toxic out. Good boundaries. Open heart.
MENTALLY. Take one step at a time. Like a snail. Gracious. Steady. Intentional.
INHALE the grace of God.
EXHALE the shame I heap on myself.
INHALE the peace of God.
EXHALE the fear that threatens to overwhelm me.
INHALE the love of God.
EXHALE all that tells me otherwise.
Back to You:
Consider joining me on this journey to find out what word can come along side you and be your gentle and kind friend throughout this new year that we are embarking on. When you do, please please send me a note letting me know what your word is or post it in the comments on social media. I love to remind you every so often throughout the year about your new-found friend.