The thing I am discovering, through this practice of choosing one word – or rather, allowing one word to choose me – is that rarely does it turn out how I expected.
That first year, when I chose Brave, I thought it was going to be about finding courage in a new country to make new friends and find new work. And that was a big part of it. But then it became about what bravery looks like in the face of great loss and grief, what bravery feels like when you’re not sure you want to get out of bed in the morning. It was a life-altering word for me that year. And it’s still changing me.
Then I chose joy, thinking I needed to chose it after six months of grieving. I thought joy would be as big and bold a word as brave, but instead it showed itself to be a small word, in the best of ways. It became about noticing and welcoming joy in all the littlest moments of my day.
Last year I found this word dwell staying with me as I drew close to the new year. I thought it was because I was meant to figure out what it could look like to truly dwell in God’s presence in my every day. And I learnt a lot about that.
But now, looking back, the lessons of dwell were a lot more ordinary-looking, a lot less impressive-sounding. And yet they were the holy moments.
Dwell called me to rest when I was trying to push my heavily pregnant body through just one more task.
Dwell called me to peace when I struggled with handing over all the tasks and roles I’d owned up until now.
Dwell called me to accept the tension when Kaya’s birth was nothing like I’d expected.
Dwell called me to patience when I was so bored of the repetitive nature of being a newborn’s mama,but also feeling like I’d never get it right.
Dwell called me to let go when I have kept trying to compare myself to every other mother I have met.
Dwell called me to be present to the people I love when there are so many distractions on every side.
Dwell called me to stillness each time my little girl needed feeding and all I could think about was my to do list.
I doesn’t feel as impressive or as spiritual as I had planned it to be. But as I’ve thought back over the past year, and spent some time thinking about this word, I realise how central it has been to my days, even when I haven’t thought of it for weeks.
And I wonder if that is maybe how these one words work. For me at least. That they are given to me for a purpose that is unclear to me until I look back. But in that time they sit in my subconscious, calling me to a better way, a fuller way, a deeper way.
All three of my words have stuck around. I start to see that when each new year rolls around and I sit and wait for the new word to be given to me, it’s not a replacement, it’s an addition. These words are becoming part of me. My ears listen out for them in conversation, my eyes are drawn to them whether they appear on paper or the side of a bus. My heart is filled up by them.
I wasn’t sure I’d have a word this year. New Years came and went and I hadn’t found it. But it came to me a few days later.
And I’m a little stumped. I’m not sure what this word has for me, not sure why it felt so precisely right for me, maybe because I’m not sure what this year has for me.
But if Dwell taught me anything this year, if it is still teaching me anything, it’s to stop trying to rush to the finish line, to the finale of the story, to the pilgrim’s destination. The journey is the important part. Feel each step, the ground under each foot. Look around as you go. Stop and notice what is meaningful here in this place. Don’t be so impatiently looking at the horizon that you miss the beauty under your nose.
So I’m not rushing to figure this word out. I’ll welcome it to the group, to Brave and Joy and Dwell. And we’ll sit together for a while and see what secrets Rise might be waiting to share with us.
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