During Advent each year I listen to my soul (what does it need?), my God (what is He telling me?), my heart (what is it longing for?)... and a word/idea/theme bubbles up that forms a focus for the coming year. Here are a few from years past:
2005: "chick" - to embrace femininity and all its color, sass, and verve. Appletinis and a great pair of shoes and "girls nights" and indulging in chick flicks and chick lit and other sorts of "girlie" stuff.
2006: oatmeal - this jokey word symbolized some new disciplines I wanted to integrate into my life. I started with training my pallet to like oatmeal, so that I could have oatmeal for breakfast every day. My oatmeal breakfasts led to other practical disciplines (making my bed every day, drinking more water, "spa nights", etc.).
2007: rest - to learn how to keep sabbath - to set aside (large) chunks of time to not work, fret, plan, scheme, strive, etc. but instead to purposefully loaf, nap, daydream, let go of control. Read Mark Buchannan's book on Sabbath. And Lauren Winner's. Spent a lot of time that year napping in the back yard or trying to, anyway. Still working on this one.
2008: dream - it started with an admonition during Advent to "believe" - to actively believe in goodness and hope for the future during a season of life filled with pain and fear and heartache and exhaustion. That led to the acknowledgement that I'd lived so long in survival mode that I no longer knew how to dream any dreams for myself, let alone big ones.
2009: cultivate - this year was about caring for my soul and investing in myself. I pour myself out for others all the time, so this year's word reminded me to invest wisely of my time and energy and cultivate good things in my life: beauty, peace, wisdom, health, stability... all things I worked on cultivating. Intentional living.
2010: trust - wooooah nelly! This was the year of Being Brave as I gave my smashed and hurting heart to a man I barely knew and trusted him to love and care for me. So worth it, but sooooo scary. I thank God every day for MM's patience, kindness, gentle love, and sense of humor as I learn how to trust. Again and again he is true. Again and again he is safe. And my heart is slowly mending within my husband's tenderness.
This new year is the first one I share with someone. The first one where goals and dreams (yay 2008!) are a team experience. We spent a lot of the last few days at the kitchen table sharing our thoughts and feelings about the coming year.
Our family word for this year is health. We see this year as one where we lay a foundation for the rest of our lives together. Before we soar off into Epic Adventures, we want a stable, healthy platform from which to leap. Toward that end, we want to pursue health (physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, etc.) and have begun listing action steps and goals in the various areas of our lives.
My personal word is actually two: release/receive. These two are connected. I cannot receive the good unless I release the bad. I have decades of pain (both physical and emotional) that I must release and heal from in order to receive the goodness surrounding me. And in order to release, I have to relax muscles (both physical and emotional) that have been holding on for dear life so long that they've atrophied in twisted, painful clenches. Trust lessons continue. I have a much easier time giving than receiving (money, help, love, grace, peace...) and I don't remember a time I was ever, truly relaxed.
But through a variety of sources, those are the themes that keep coming up. Relax. Breathe deeply. Trust that you are safe. You don't have to be ready to spring into fight or flight. Let go of all the pain and fear and gunk. Release those tight muscles. Release those tears. And Receive. Receive the love MM wants to pour into your soul. Embrace with hopeful anticipation the new career possibilities before you. Receive the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
May it be so.