For the last few years, I have happily gone along with the trend to pick a guiding word or phrase for the new year. I definitely don’t hate on resolutions; whatever floats your goal-setting boat is fine with me! I did start this year with a solid nine goals for various areas of life, but I love the idea of a word (or three) capturing the essence of the year and acting as a filter of sorts. I’m not sure if my goals came first or the words came first—really, I think they shaped each other until I ended up with a vision for the new year that felt just right for this phase of life. But, as we all know, the best-laid plans often go awry (especially when you have a toddler), so I’m trying to hold my words and goals loosely and look for signs of growth, even the small ones.
I know it’s the middle of February, so maybe it’s a bit odd to be sharing my words for the year now. But as I mentioned in January’s Armchair Chat post, I used January as my prep month and made February 1 my personal New Year’s Day (Emily Fisk called this idea the “runway month”—I love that!). So I’m sharing my words for the year a little late according to a traditional calendar, but right on time according to mine. I hope you still find these reflections encouraging, even if we’re all a bit tired of the New Year’s conversation. (For the record, I absolutely never get tired of talking about goals, dreams, resolutions, guiding words, or mantras—I’m a junkie and I feel no guilt.)
These are my three guiding words for 2018.
This is my main word for 2018, and at first I was hesitant to commit to it because I was afraid it seemed too brazen or selfish. But hear me out: I’ve decided to add the supplementary/explanatory words with intention. Last year, I stretched myself creatively and took this blog in a direction I didn’t expect to when I started it, but that has become a really good fit over time. I went from publishing a lot of lists and a few essays to publishing almost exclusively essays about motherhood and faith and life.
But with this transition came a lot of perfection paralysis, and I’ve realized how unsustainable it is for me to expect myself to produce legit, artful essays three times a month. So I’ll be moving forward by not letting fear hold me back: expect me to publish some pieces that are more casual and not “perfect,” (click here to email me or comment below with topics you’d love to hear about!), maybe change up some things about Armchair Chats, and engage more authentically with my email subscribers.
I’m carrying forward into other areas of my life too. Dan and I have been hit with some unexpected burdens and tough pieces of news over the past year. For a while, I thought the negativity and gloom might swallow me up. I thought the only way through was to push and elbow my negative thoughts out of the way, but now I’m realizing that the way through is to let myself feel whatever I’m feeling, release it, and move forward into new possibilities. I want to move forward with a dream I set aside, forward with my parenting, forward with my marriage, and forward with my faith journey, especially as we continue looking for a church home.
At the same time, forward can imply steamrolling, and that’s the opposite of what I want to do here. I don’t want to be paralyzed by inertia, but I also don’t want to charge ahead without thinking. So my forward progress will be marked by prayer, careful thought, and intentionality.
My second word for 2018, the one that feels true but doesn’t quite capture the essence of this year the way forward does, is connect. I’m actively seeking to connect in all parts of my life:
- Connect more deeply with Dan and Selah
- Connect more fully to a God is who right here and not up there
- Connect to a new church
- Connect with more people in real life
- Connect more meaningfully online
- Provide connection through my writing
- Build my mind-body connection
I’m a big compartmentalizer, but I’m finding this approach to life isn’t serving me well—my body, soul, and relationships feel dis-integrated, and I want to forge new connections and strengthen existing ones.
My final word for 2018 is broken. I hesitate to commit to this, because I have a very specific way that I desire to be broken, and I don’t want God getting any crazy ideas: this is not an invitation to wreck other parts of my life. (As if it’s up to me!) This year, I’m committing to being broken over abuse, racial injustice, the plight of refugees, the poor among us, and all kinds of people who are hurting and marginalized and ignored. How can I desire God’s redemption for the world if I only know my own small, privileged slice of it? (This beautiful post sums it up pretty well.)
I’m starting by listening to stories from and about people who are different from me—not through a more frenzied consumption of current events (though I will not be giving up my favorite news podcasts), but through long reads, personal narratives, and listening in-person whenever I have the chance. I want my little circle of the world to bump up against others’ circles in ways that make me uncomfortable, in ways that break me open.
Here’s a list of the titles I’m planning to read this year. Let me know if you’d like to join me or if you have suggestions!
- Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis
- Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
- America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
- Love Undocumented: Risking Trust in a Fearful World
- The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic
- Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Changing Our Mind: The Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians
- Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians are Reclaiming Evangelicalism
If you’re interested in choosing a word to be your guide for this year, check out Sarah R. Bagley’s mini-episode on this practice. You can also find inspiration on a podcast I talk about a lot in these parts, Sorta Awesome.