Long ago, the post-holiday season would send me into a post-Christmas slump. I missed decorations, Christmas parties, and especially the delicious anticipation of Christmas. Now, though, although I always relish the Christmas season, I like to think about the clean fresh start of a new year as the holidays begin to wind down. I love the sense of wide-open, unblemished new-ness–that proverbial clean slate and all.
For the past several years, I chose to follow the path that others before me blazed and choose a word of the year instead of making new year’s resolutions. Although one year I picked a word of the year AND listed almost a dozen new year’s “goals” in my journal…I think it’s safe to say I set myself up for failure in that regard.
In the past, my words of the year have been hospitality (2012); gentleness (2013); gift (2014), and friendship (2015). I see more growth in hospitality and in gentleness in my life now (in the years since I chose those as my words of the year) than I did during the year I wanted to focus on those qualities. The year in which I selected a certain word to frame my goal and hope for transformation (in both heart and practice) was simply the time to start a journey of growth in those areas, I have come to realize. In the midst of those years, though, I sometimes grew discouraged at not observing more change. With the benefit of time, I learn not only that I AM growing in ways in which I want to grow–but also that growth takes time. A lifetime, in fact.
For 2016, my word of the year is Less. I think of the Bible verse John 3:30, in which John the baptizer declared, “He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.”
“Less” is an abstract kind of word, something that only exists in relation to “more.” I admit it’s an odd choice for a single, solitary word to encapsulate one’s ideal for a new year. Here’s what I was thinking when I chose that word, and how I hope to implement it…
- Less emotional energy spent in fruitless ways, such as internal fussing in traffic or the grocery store or when things go seemingly wrong.
- Less verbal fussing instead of looking for a solution (or just surrendering, laying down, the upset I feel).
- Less getting worked up when staying calm is wiser.
- Less complaining when stress is great.
- Less grumbling when I should be giving thanks.
- Less staying in my comfort zone when an invitation to step out of it is extended.
- Less refusing to do the hard work of leaving my comfort zone–whether the work is physical OR mental. Let’s face it–it takes effort to step out.
- Less hiding under the covers early in the morning when I need to take proactive steps in beginning my day.
- Less thinking about what comes next, which task or chore I need to accomplish, when I’m engaged in an activity already.
In many cases, this means less talking. I love words, and words have such power for good. I use lots of words to encourage, motivate, and teach my own children and the boys in my Cub Scout den. I use words to thank my husband for his help or to offer sympathy to friends. But sometimes being slow to speak is a beautiful way to put into practice my idea of “less.” And at other times, being quick to speak up is exactly how I need to go about less staying in my comfort zone. Eleven days into the new year, I have seen success and failure so far. I expect to see more of both.
Maybe my own word of the year doesn’t connect with you at all–and that’s OK. Whatever God is doing in your life–whatever you want to learn or however you want to grow–you can make a plan for that. Whether it involves a word, a list of goals, or traditional new year’s resolutions. And you can start at any time. God’s mercies are new EVERY morning.