Give me a Word-2019

Word with scrabble blocks

The Christmas decorations came out early this year. Like, before Thanksgiving early. Just another nod to the great disorder that’s been 2018.

It started with a climb up into the attic to put away Halloween decorations and soon the red and green bins stuffed with Christmas cheer were being passed down and stacked in the hallway. White twinkle lights, holly berries and a stuffed animal nativity scene quickly occupied space near the fireplace; Mary is missing; I’m not sure when she took off, but it bothers me. And the grand Christmas tree, which years ago was truly pre-lit, required 5 extra strands of lights to cover the dead spots in the middle section. The tree seems to lean a little to the left despite my best efforts to set it straight.

I’m more than ready to turn the corner on this year and begin anew.

For the past 3 years I’ve set aside time in early January to listen for a word or phrase to inspire me.  January 2018 started strong with readings and reflection leading me to an unusual phrase: Upside Down.  From then on out, the year proceeded on a course of disruption with a capital D and most things were upended. I don’t think the word carries supernatural powers but I do believe that listening to my inner voice increases self-awareness and helps me make sense of chaos.

So I’m starting the discovery process a little early this year, before Christmas in fact, which is exactly what someone with the word “Upside Down” would do in this case. For the past 3 years, I’ve been using a wonderful online resource from Christine Valters Paintner, abbess of the online community, Abbey of the Arts. Here’s what she has to say about the process:

In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them. The desert became a place to enter into the refiner’s fire and be stripped down to one’s holy essence. The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered.

Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life. One tradition was to ask for a word –  this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime. This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – “give me a word” we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into.  The word which chooses us has the potential to transform us.

Give me a Word is offered as a free 12 day online retreat with readings, journal prompts and exercises aimed at illuminating your unique word for the year. Here are the words that have shimmered for me in the past years…

(dark) wonder


upside down

I’m not a purist when it comes to the process and it’s likely the TV show Stranger Things had as much influence on my selection as did journaling exercises incorporating art, music and simple silence. I’m curious what’s in store for 2019.  And if I have any say in it, I’m trusting it won’t be a simple “NO.” Because after 2018 I need lots more YES and MORE PLEASE.

And the world does too.


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