“Give Him thanks, if you please, with me, for His great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the many favors He has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise Him. Amen.” ― Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
Since 2013 I have chosen a word to frame my year. Selecting a word defines my approach to my daily expectations. Last year my word was Joy. I spent much of 2016 living in expectancy of joy. Even when faced with challenges and disappointments, I found joy in the simple pleasure of giving thanks to God for all blessings. My words from the previous years:
2013 – Embrace
2014 – Grace
2015 – Faith
2016 – Joy
Some people chose a word at the end of the year to define their past experiences. I opted to choose my word at the beginning to set expectation and intent. Each December I start the process by reviewing the words from past years, looking at my life to date and deciding how I would approach each life event I encountered. The year 2016 certainly brought many life challenges – confronting a recurring health issue, a major move from Santa Rosa to Sacramento, selling my home in Santa Rosa, reconnecting with old friends, making new friends and finding a church home. With each test, I was able to go deep and find the joy, the silver lining in each situation.
Choosing a word also required me to do additional study on the spiritual meaning of the word. I study the word and what various scholars say about living in such states of being. I cross check the writing against the Holy Scriptures to ascertain for myself what God says to me about the word. God has the final say.
I also create a Pinterest board for the word to capture scriptures, sayings, and quotes that best resonate with me about the word and the current life situation.
An Attitude of Gratitude
This brings me to my current word for 2017 – Thankful. In my search for a deeper understanding of joy and how it differed from being happy, I learned that joy is an offshoot of being thankful. It was almost impossible to find joy without first giving thanks to God for every opportunity. Giving thanks embodies the fact that I live in the grace of God. Living in God’s grace is a place of joy. This year instead of trying to first seek joy, I would first give thanks and let God’s grace guide my intents for the year.
The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy. – Ann Voskamp, Interview from the High Calling,
Along the way, about midyear, I stumbled across Ann Voskamp and her book, 1,000 Gifts. The book is about her journey of transformation as she created a list of 1,000 gifts. It was a daily practice and moved her focus from darkness to beauty through recognizing all the gifts from God – big and small. It took her about a year to complete. I found the project to be moving and started my own list of 1,000 gifts. I got to about 250 gifts on my list this month and lost the journal. This prompted me to select my word for 2017 and begin my journal anew January 1, 2017.
In the midst of the storms of life, how do you find strength for your journey? One of the ways I calm the seas is to live with intent and that begins by giving thanks to God for every aspect of my life.