Nathan’s Corner: The Year in a Word

I don’t think I have ever once remembered a New Year’s Resolution for more than a couple weeks.

I understand the impulse. The turning of the calendar is a time when you stop, and think, and reflect, and usually come up with all manner of things that you want to change about yourself, your behavior, your circumstances.

At least for me, a year is just too vast an amount of time to generate any kind of focused effort. I can barely remember what I told myself to do ten minutes ago.

I’ve read books about goals, and I have of course learned that if you want to set a year-long goal, the secret is to create measurable steps to get there. Daily goals, weekly check-ins that eventually build up to a year. I’ve never been able to stick to that kind of regimen, either.

But perhaps because I’m a writer, I have found that, rather than goals, I can approach a year in words.

For a while now it has been my annual tradition to pick a word that serves as my theme for the year. Sometimes it’s a principle that I want a better understanding of—although I must admit that it is usually related to some kind of blessing that I want, and I’m hoping that by focusing on it God will kindly oblige. (Tip: That is almost never how it turns out.) Some years I consciously seek out scriptures and experiences related to my word, and other times I just ponder my experiences in retrospect through that lens, considering how it has appeared as a connecting thread through the months. (Tip: Never choose the word “humility!”)

One year, my word was “joy.” It was not an easy year, but I think I learned about finding happiness independent of my circumstances.

One year, my word was “miracles.” I remember getting to the end of that year and thinking, where were the miracles? It was a downright crummy year. Had God left me miracle-free just to test my faith? I can’t even remember which year this was, but I remember, come December, I wracked my brain trying to see a pattern of miracles among the months of frustration. Finally, I just had to lay that puzzle down, unsolved.

For 2012 my word was “receiving.” I have sought certain blessings in my life for a long time; I have pictured them and dreamed about them, and tried to live worth to receive them. I wanted to finally learn to not just have faith in eventual blessings, but to have faith sufficient to receive them right now.

It also meant, to me, the idea of consciously recognizing that I am receiving all the time. Even when money is tight, or I’m lonely, or I don’t get some opportunity that I really wanted, I am extraordinarily blessed. God blesses me continuously, and I need to receive that graciously, even when it’s not necessarily what I wanted. (See “Miracles,” above.)

Of course, when I picked that word I couldn’t have imagined what an extraordinary blessing I was going to receive—after 36 years, I finally found the woman of my dreams.

This was a blessing that was not only delivered beyond any power of my own, but also not a blessing that came without effort. In order to receive my blessing, I had to be open to a long-distance relationship; I had to be willing to write a letter to my sweetheart every single day for months, even when I got painful aches in my hands from typing on my tiny phone keyboard; I had to be willing to put myself out there and propose within days of our first meeting; I had to let go of my steady job, my friends, my New York City adventures to come join my wife in a strange land (i.e. Oklahoma). It does take work to receive, as it turns out, but boy is it worth the price.

I have received the soul mate and helpmeet I have been seeking my entire life. And she is both exactly what I had hoped for, and far better than anything I could have imagined.

Today it came to me what my word for 2013 should be.

Ordinarily I would blurt it out to anyone, whether they were interested or not. (Tip: A “word for the year” makes an interesting conversation starter!) But this time it feels more personal, so I’m not going to say it just yet. But come next December, I’ll tell you how it plays out.

What will be your Word for 2013?

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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