“Mommy has canser.”
“I went to the Turtle Back Zoo.”
“I like ice cream.”
Leap Day 2016.
Three short thoughts written as part of a letter I had my nine-year-old niece write in a letter to her future Leap Day 2020 self.
My eight-year-old nephew wrote one too.
Four years ago, these two every-day kids came to stay with me for several weeks while their mom was undergoing intensive treatment for “canser.”
Four years ago, they didn’t know if their mom would be here for Leap Day 2020.
Four years ago, they were kids whose favorite movies were Frozen and Star Wars (like every other tween girl and boy).
It’s now Leap Day 2020.
I sent my now twelve- and thirteen-year old nephew and niece their letters 500 miles away.
Four years have passed since those words were penciled on loose-leaf paper.
Four years, where they have endured the worst: the loss of their mom.
Four years, where my brother picked up the pieces and entered in a new normal without his wife to help him navigate the journey without her.
Four years, where my then 17-year-old niece (the “older sister”) gathered her own heart together and plugged away at her future as a nurse one painful and healing day at a time.
Four years, where this little family laughed and cried, played and worked, fought and made-up, just like the rest of us.
Leap Day 2016 feels like yesterday, those two kids sitting at my kitchen counter, their future unknown, penning words to themselves.
I didn’t know if heartache or hope would come before those letters were read four years later.
Yes, heartache came in like an untamed beast, threatening to rip this family to shreds.
BUT that is not the end of the story.
Four years later, I can say HOPE reached in louder as God took extra, tender care of this little family without their wife and mom.
Four years later, there are two budding teens who are smart and kind and full of life, with friends and pets and who still secretly like Frozen and Star Wars. HOPE.
Four years later, there is a man who has fought hard to help his family take their next right steps and love each other no matter what comes their way. He rocks as a dad! HOPE.
Four years later, there is a Registered Nurse, who trusted God and got up every morning to go to school, putting one foot in front of the other. She started her first job this month. HOPE.
Leap Day 2024.
Four years from now. What will life bring?
To my brother and his family?
To me and mine?
Frozen 3? Ten more Star Wars movies?
But, that will not be the end of the story.
HOPE will reach in louder.
God will take extra, tender care of us all.
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. The 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 is what “rocks my socks.” And God knows this about us. That’s why we have fresh starts 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) in 2015, is the main reason why I opted to throw away all New Year’s resolutions and choose a WOTY. I need hope. Hope is 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. Here’s why:
- 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).
I am so thankful that my husband stumbled upon the idea. It has been life-changing as we approach the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one.
If you’ve never done this, it’s a lot of fun. While you hopefully have some “time off” from your regular duties (unless you are a mom, of course), today or tomorrow might be a good day to spend the time. Or any time in the next couple of weeks. I know people who spend an hour (me) and some who spend a weekend (Allen). (Click HERE to understand why that’s the case.) 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. You can even buy a customizable bracelet by clicking HERE (I don’t get anything from this. Just thought it was a cool idea.) 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 2019 was “Shalom.” 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 “Shalom.” She means “the presence of true human flourishing in all areas” and I want that for a lifetime, not just one year.
The good news is that just because I make a new friend does not mean I have to give up my old one. “Shalom” can come along with me into 2020 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 and SHALOM). That makes me super happy.
Now, that I’ve welcomed them all, I would like to invite another new friend into my life for 2020: my Word of the Year is HYGGE!
Hygge is one of those words (it’s a Danish word) that encompasses an idea that’s hard to translate, because it means so much more than any one thing. In essence, it’s the “feeling of coziness and well-being.” I even bought a little book about it that I’ve been reading the last month or so.
Here is what it encompasses:
- Connection to Nature
You can find out more by checking out this article HERE.
We even bought a house this past year that is the definition of a Hygge Home. It’s a house with huge windows with a big wood-burning stove and surrounded by the most beautiful gardens and woods that I’ve ever seen.
We want it to be a place where both we and others find comfort, companionship, simplicity, connection to both Creator and His creation, where we are able to just “be” instead of “do.” Ultimately, a place of healing for our truest selves. A house filled with hygge. We hope many of you can join us for real and in person here! It would be our greatest joy to share a little space of hygge with you!
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. I love to remind you every so often throughout the year about your new-found friend.
Happy New Year from my heart to yours!
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