2011 Word(s) of the Year: Trusting God

     I have been thinking a lot about my Word of the Year.  I am sticking to my guns and avoiding resolutions and putting my focus on a word or phrase instead.  By doing  this, I will focus my efforts and my mind on living my life to achieve that one phrase or word in all areas of my life.  The intention I am setting for 2011 is trusting God.  You don’t have to look very far to see that many, many, wonderful things come from trusting God.  Check out Psalm 37 verse 3 and 4:

Trust in the Lord and do good;

dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the Lord

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

So, countless benefits come from trusting God.  That, however is not my main goal in setting this intention.  What I struggle with most, I believe, is worry.  Worry and stress, and a type of worry called “reasoning” that involves me trying to figure things out.  Nothing robs me of my joy and my peace and creativity and clarity like worry.  Yet, I find it much easier to move away from a negative action like worrying if I have something positive to move toward–trusting God.  I don’t think it’s possible to trust God and worry at the same time.  It’s pretty freeing, trusting God.  I think I am going to have lots of new space in my mind (formerly filled by worry) to be creative, to be clear, to be at joy and to be at peace.  Yay! 

     I know I am early in posting this.  I want to get my intention firmly in my mind and start practicing trusting God.  I think that 2011 is going to be an exciting year.  Who knows how far-reaching the power of trusting God will be?

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2010 Word of the Year: Gifts (Part II)

     This is a continuation a previous post about my word of the year for 2010, gifts.  To see the first post, click here.

     Another thing that 2010 taught me is that almost every struggle or difficulty also comes with blessings or gifts.

One area where I struggle a bit more with being grateful, is in my job.  I am a “full-time adjunct” English professor, and I have experienced several false starts—I am told I am promoted, and then I am told it was a misunderstanding, etc.  It was tough to keep up morale at times over the year, but I have to focus on the good—aside from the salary/benefits issues, I enjoy what I do.  I love reading and talking about books with students, the interaction in the classroom, and teaching them about writing.  There are occasional highlights—chills when I am really “on” in a lecture, or when a student shows his or her appreciation for me.  I do love my office and being able to close the door.  I love the flexible schedule that a “real” fulltime job might not offer me.  Those things are gifts to me.  In addition, even in my adjunct status, I was awarded the opportunity to go to an information fluency conference in New Orleans during the spring semester.  Also, to create some new opportunities for myself, I registered for a program through ABCTE to earn my high school teaching certificate in English and Language Arts through an independent study and high stakes tests.  I passed both tests with “distinguished” marks and besides earning the certificates which I was working toward; I also won a distinguished teacher certificate.  I have put in my application for licensure with the State of Missouri, and am waiting to hear back.

     Toward the end of the summer, I read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and it inspired me to believe that a few small changes could increase my happiness exponentially.  So, I worked toward eliminating a task that I dread and that overwhelms me, that can knock out a whole day to complete it—housecleaning.  No, I didn’t hire a maid. Instead, I set up a schedule so I could do a few manageable tasks every day for thirty or forty minutes.  The result?  One of my favorite gifts—a clean and more orderly house!  It works wonderfully, and I don’t mind working on the house for less than an hour every day, knowing the result will be that I don’t have to spend four hours all at once on the task.  I also committed to having lunch our somewhere by myself once a week.  I love this alone time and opportunity to treat myself to exactly what I want.  I don’t go to fancy places usually, but I get a lot of pleasure out of sitting, people watching, and sipping a hot coffee after I have eaten. 

     Another thing that dragged down my morale was my long commute to and from work.  To make it more pleasant, I subscribed to audible.com and began to listen to books I didn’t have time to read, while I drove.  This made me actually look forward to my drive.  On and off for ages, I had felt guilty about having such irregular prayer and Bible reading times.  This year, I gave myself the gift of a book about establishing regular devotionals and took up the practice.  Now, I pray and read the Bible every day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes.  I take time to write out my prayers, even if they are short.  Sometimes, they are lists of things I am grateful for; sometimes they are prayers for others.  They may be different every day, but this small change has made my life more complete and more focused, and I no longer feel guilty for not having time to pray for hours each day. 

     I don’t do a huge number of crafty type things, but I do like to crochet, and over the last four years, I have crocheted pretty afghans for everyone I know—except myself.  This year, I picked out some pretty iris colored yarn, and made myself an afghan.  It has a ruffled edge and it’s warm and I have spent many happy moments snuggled under it on the couch.  So simple—but it makes me so happy.  Why didn’t I make myself one sooner?  Another insight that stems from my word of the year “gifts” was appreciating and enjoying the blessings of my little town.  I moved from a larger city when I got married, and sometimes the offerings of a town of 200 and the surrounding towns that aren’t a whole lot bigger can seem pretty meager.  Well, about a year after I moved here, a quilt shop opened in the next town over.  It is a gift in and of itself—beautiful things to look at, fun class offerings, and a little ice cream shop inside, too.  I took advantage of this gift, by taking a class there, and making some projects to give as gifts.  I made a bird pin cushion, an embroidered pillow and an open view quilt.  Already, I have joined a 2011 block of the month club at this shop, and signed up for more classes.

     It may seem like I have covered it all, but this write-up about 2010’s gifts isn’t complete without touching on the gift of health.  In September, my eyes started bothering me.  This was the result of too many years of sleeping in my contacts.  I had to see the eye doctor several times, order new glasses, and stop wearing my contacts for a month.  This was a relief because I had so much pain in one eye that I was concerned that I had caused some serious injury by my neglect.  The visits to the eye doctor started the ball rolling—in the next couple of months, I got all new doctors and caught up on my appointments.  I went to the dentist, the dermatologist for a skin cancer check, the gynecologist, and I had my first two mammograms.  Yes, TWO mammograms.  I had a couple of health scares, but everything came out all right.  All it takes is one little scare or two, and the blessing of health gains new perspective.  It is a gift.  I am not sleeping in my contacts any more, and I am on track for keeping up with all of my appointments.  The fact that I really like my doctors helps too.  That is a gift.  Also, on a health note, I discovered a new exercise routine that I love—zumba!  I had been walking some outside with Scout, but found it harder to fit in when the fall semester started.  So, I tried a zumba class at the YMCA.  It is about a twenty minute drive, but the class is so fun that I don’t realize I am exercising.  It is twice a week and very reasonably priced, so no matter what, I am getting in two exercise sessions a week.  I also gave myself the gift of the zumba DVD set and zumba shoes, so that I can zumba at home when the roads are bad during the winter.

     I can’t believe I have gone on and on and on like this about gifts!  The funny thing is, before I started writing, I actually narrowed down the list of things I wanted to mention considerably.  The more you notice your gifts, the more you notice your gifts.  Thank you, 2010!

2010 Word of the Year: Gifts (Part I)

     I heard about Christine Kane’s Word of the Year in lieu of resolutions idea from a friend.  I love the idea and played with lots of word choices trying to find the right one for me.  Maybe this shows a lack of ambition, but knowing my tendency to take on too much, and wanting to avoid anything that felt like additional work, I sought to choose a word that would be fun, and that would involve more awareness and noticing, than extra doing.  I love the word gifts—and all the different meanings associated with it.  When I think about gifts, I think about spiritual gifts we use to bless each other, the gifts each day offers, and experiencing gratitude for the abundance that already exists.

     When I chose the word gifts, I may have been had the preconceived idea that I would be using my personal gifts more.  This may have happened to some extent, but the greater gifts came through small things I did for myself and huge things I began to appreciate more deeply in my life.

     I started off by giving myself permission to quit things that just weren’t right for me.  I quit a blog I had lost interest in writing and Catholicism classes.  I quit reading books if I was halfway through and didn’t care for the book.  In the past, I would have “made myself” finish the book.  I also gave myself the gift of forgiveness for past failures, for daily struggles, for not being perfect.  In addition, I started making a point to use things I was “saving” to make ordinary days more special.  This entailed simply using the new bag, wearing fancy dress coat more often, making the celebration recipes when it wasn’t a holiday.

     My greatest blessing, or gift from 2010, I believe is the overwhelming sense that came over me at times of how much I had been given, how good my life was, that I just couldn’t say “thank you” enough.  There were many, many moments where I was convince that gratitude was the best thing that I had ever experienced.  It was /is my favorite emotion and the best thing that has ever happened to me; maybe that’s because experiencing gratitude is like falling love with the details of your life over and over and over again. 

     In the late winter/early spring, I rediscovered how much I love walking in the woods and being in nature.  I used to visit a “Nature Center” to walk trails and see wildlife and enjoy the smell of rich dirt and wood chips.  Now, I actually lived surrounded by nature, on a farm with lots of pond, timber, gravel roads, and bridges, but until this year, I never really explored it very much.  This year, along with my walking companion Scout the Dog, I covered the land that is my “yard” and realized that I have my own private nature center.  I always wanted to live some place where I could walk and walk and have privacy and solitude just enjoying the beauty of the natural world.  I was shocked to discover that this dream had come true—I just hadn’t wandered around enough to realize it.  Together, Scout and I crossed creeks, followed the sound of brooks, ran up and down hills, and traced the perimeter of the ponds with our footsteps.  One memorable day, I took a camera with me and photographed everything I thought was especially beautiful.  I walked away with about 150 pictures.

     What else?  I have a husband who is filled with love and fun and jokes, who makes up silly songs to sing to Scout and me, who overflows with creative ideas and works harder than anyone I know.  I love him.  What a blessing it is to walk through life with him as my companion.  We got married about two years ago in the middle of my first semester of teaching, so our honeymoon was a bit brief and a bit rushed.  What a delight it was to be able to take a longer trip together in late spring.  We are both interested in history, so we chose to go to Philadelphia for a week.  We enjoyed the sites in the city, took a trip to Lancaster County, visited New Jersey and took tons of pictures.  We got lots of tractor pictures and food pictures as well as the traditional historical landmarks.  Besides my wonderful husband, and my loyal and entertaining Scout, I also experienced greater gratitude for all of my extended family.  I am thankful that we are close enough geographically to be with our families for major holidays.  I am thankful that we can be at my Grandma’s (she’s 95!) for Easter and help with the annual Easter egg hunt.  I am thankful that I could be the one to organize and throw a baby shower for my sister-in-law and that I could make a baby quilt for her new baby. My husband and l and I culminated our year of creativity and silliness by making a special gift for our families for Christmas—the first ever Salt Creek Christmas CD which contains us singing different Christmas songs, and doing some readings from holiday stories.  Fun!

Words of Life

I love Christmas.  Merry Day-After!  Yet, this year, I think I have enjoyed Christmas Eve and today, more than Christmas Day.  What can I say?  The Day is filled with noise and activity and food and wrapping paper everywhere—all good stuff.  However, I have to confess that I am absolutely drawn to the peace and comfort of being home on Christmas Eve and relaxing on the day after.  On Christmas Eve, I bake and putter, and admire the tree lights and play Christmas music.  I watch Christmas movies and enjoy my coffee.  This year, I watched Little Women and It’s a Wonderful Life.  Besides all that, I thought, and wrote, and contemplated. 

One of the things I have been contemplating is my word of the year for 2011.  At the end of 2009, one of my friends referred me to Christine Kane’s blog and her Word of the Year.  With the word of the year, instead of a long list of resolutions, you choose one word to focus on for the year.  In 2010, I chose “gifts.”  It yielded some beautiful and unexpected results (which may be noted in a future post). 

This year, I want to focus on changing my thoughts.  I have considered trust, renewal, transform.  I am very excited about focusing on inner change instead of outer change–a huge shift for me.

Besides thinking about my word, I have spent the “day after” on the couch, under a crocheted throw, drinking coffee, eating too many cookies and reading Joyce Meyer’s book Power Thoughts.  This is the perfect book for my idea of changing my thought patterns.  I have also been journaling my responses to the “think about it” questions sprinkled throughout the book. 

Meanwhile, Scout the dog chews on a raw hide bone shaped like a candy cane, and my amazing husband is looking at sled design plans.  The Sound of Music  is on, and I feel like I have worn out my welcome on the couch.  It was a restful day, but I am looking foward to being more active tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I will be sassy, spunky, and spirited!