the word for 2019

Posted: January 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

Several years ago around this time, when a couple of my closest friends were on the leadership team at our church and I was not, I heard from them about a challenge from our pastor:  prayerfully come up with a “word” for the coming year.  I saw my friends wrestling with this and I chuckled when they implied maybe I should join in the struggle.  NOPE!  I had no desire to even try.  Having previously been in leadership of one kind or another for a long time, I was now in an odd space, leading nothing, and enjoying the break.  No word!  Y’all have fun with that!

Soon enough my life shifted back again to “normal,” which for me is being asked, pushed, pulled, or drawn into leadership roles for which I always think someone else is surely more qualified (it turns out to some extent leadership is more about willingness than qualification, at least in my humble opinion.)  I landed on that same leadership team and have been there ever since, and most of those years have started with me prayerfully finding my word for the year, though last year no word appeared at all.

My 2019 word showed up…oh, I don’t know…a month ago maybe.  Crystal clear, unambiguous, and oddly exciting to me, though it’s really a very unexciting word on its surface:


Some of you who know me primarily in my administrative role are probably like well yeah, of COURSE Karen is excited about order!  But my talent in administrative things comes as I push against my natural tendency toward chaos and procrastination – basically my superpower of admin appeared as I worked to overcome my own worst inclinations.  So honestly, the word “order” would generally be a yawner for me – necessary but the opposite of inspiring or exciting.

But I’ve felt tremors of excitement and even joy as I’ve considered in the last few weeks some of the things the word means, and as God has shown me other stuff along the way.  What I know from experience is God will amaze me throughout 2019 in opening the word up far beyond what I imagine it to be in this moment.  Still, from this more dimly-lit end of the year, I see the following:

PRAYER – I had a lot of fun in 2018 working multiple projects to grow in my own prayer life and point others in that direction as well (though mostly I find pointing others toward prayer is a lot like pushing a giant boulder up a steep hill).  This year I’ve got clarity on one simple approach – I think ORDER dictates simplicity on this front – that should work for my own prayer life and for trying to spread it around.  Doing all the YouTube videos and teaching a series of classes required a ton of writing and editing and time spent babysitting technology during uploads.  I’m trying something this year that will require less effort and more Holy Spirit.  Having fallen in love anew with liturgy and prewritten prayers, I’m going to try doing just a quick Facebook live feature of one such item most days.  Doing it as a shared project helps keep my feet to the fire – I’m less likely to crap out quickly.  And really I think MOST OF US need the help sometimes of a place to start in prayer, so we’re not just stuck on repeat/going through the motions.  So I’ll help myself and maybe help some of you (if you’re my FB friends) in keeping it new and fresh.

RELATIONSHIP  – One of the problems of being a Very Productive Person is how easy it is to let “gettin’ it done” come before time with people who matter.  I don’t spend enough time with family, and I spend even less time than that with friends, and that’s not cool.  It is my ever-increasing belief that relationship is a top priority in God’s eyes, since that’s the arena where God works almost everything out in us.  I have some thoughts about how to move forward on that in practical ways, and have taken some tiny first steps in the last couple of weeks, ‘cuz guys, if you wait until day 1 of a planned change to start changing, YOU’RE NOT EMBRACING THE CHANGE.  Start when the understanding comes, not tomorrow or next week or on some magical future date.

HEALTH –  The last 5 or 6 years, I’ve had an interesting run of health challenges, from arthritis to a series of poison ivy episodes that seemed to spin me into some auto-immune funk for a long time to debilitating fatigue that stole large chunks of a couple of years of my life, but none of that compared to the daily feeling of “maybe I’m dying right now, maybe this is a heart thing that’s gonna take me out” that I experienced for several months when gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) showed up to own the conversation.  Pain is a motivator; it has changed my relationship with food in a way that knowledge never did.

This is not a new part of the journey for me – I’ve been making radical changes in diet and exercise for about 8 years now, constantly educating myself and pushing always to do better.  I’ve gotten a lot right (while admittedly executing imperfectly), but also there was a lot to fix from a lifetime of bad habits and choices on that front that started as soon as I left my parents’ home and supervision at 18.  That base I built, of eating whatever I wanted and no intentional fitness plan, means that now 8 years into trying much harder I have come to understand that my body and my mind both fight like tigers to keep me fat and out of shape. (There’s science behind that – read up on how the human body fights to stay at the fattest it’s ever been…and it keeps on fighting for that.  The struggle is real, and is different for us who shop in the plus sizes than it is for you who never did.)

Probably part of what kicked my body into GERD was a decision I made early in 2018 to focus hard on paying down debt, which meant cutting corners everywhere possible, financially, to come up with dollars for that.  I returned our household to a different way of cooking and eating, turning back the page to my “utterly broke and desperate” days as I bought groceries and planned menus.  It’s possible to eat SUPER CHEAPLY, and I was the queen of that while raising my kids.  I pulled out all those old tricks and we ate cheaper than cheap for the first half of the year, and paid debt down relentlessly.  I’m not gonna lie, I LOVED pulling out those old recipes high in cheap fat and bad carbs – that stuff is delicious!  I ate way too much of it.  I packed on pounds, but didn’t pay attention to that ‘cuz dude, the checkbook was working out great.

Responding to GERD interrupted that destructive cycle.  ORDER now dictates making time in the schedule and room in the budget for the healthy foods I’d been focusing on for the 7 1/2 years before that.  Learning that there is some blockage in my arteries dictates that exercise can’t be a thing I SHOULD do – it has to be a consistent practice, even with the arthritis and the busy schedule factored in.  I know some practices from my amazing years of running that I can pick up and use against my own natural sloth.  Gotta choose well.

Honestly, I’m unlikely to choose well under only my own power.  In 2010-2012 I went on a cool journey of following God’s urge to let Him teach me to love my body.  There was SO MUCH POWER in the surrender I lived in that passage.  When arthritis appeared on the scene in 2013 and stole running away from me, I got mad and stayed mad for…years, really.  I definitely stopped engaging with letting God teach me to love my body, since I was mad but also filled with hate for my body, which betrayed me so harshly, it seemed, after giving me such an amazing gift in the running.  Probably the key to a better exercise practice is re-engaging in letting God teach me to love my body.  That’s surely an ORDER thing as well.

STEWARDSHIP – We ended up in kind of a nightmare situation with our 10-year-old car this year – it had been sucking up money like a vacuum cleaner, and then suddenly it needed $2500+ in repairs (and was definitely not worth that level of investment).  We bit the bullet and bought a new car, something I’d been planning for us to do AFTER that car was paid off.  I’ve just reached a point in life where I want to be able to rely on my car, and my previous practice of buying 8 year old cars was not offering reliability.  While we chose from the less expensive end of the new car spectrum, the fact remains that we now have a higher payment to manage.  ORDER dictates that my attention to all things financial will have to be more unswerving than it tends to be (oh, I do better and better over time, but I’ve still been pretty ADHD, when it comes to household finance.)

Under this umbrella also falls some “care of our household” items that I’ve been plotting and planning to take care of since we bought this house.  ORDER dictates more action.  I have a very practical idea for how to start, which boils down to JUST START – do a little bit for a set amount of time most days and let momentum build enough to carry the process.  Still, I’ll have to make room for the start.

That’s enough for a starting place.  Bring on ORDER!  I’m excited for what I know I need to do, and excited for certainty that there is much I don’t know.

And you really oughtta tell me about YOUR word for the year, if you have one.  🙂


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