When this word first crossed through my mind, I thought, oh, I can't pick *that* word. That will be making far too big a deal of my faith; I mean, I'll actually have to write about it, on the blog. (Because you, know, God forbid I actually pick a word for the year and NOT blog about it!). But of course, once I had that actual conscious thought, I knew it WAS the word, whether I acknowledged it or not. And I've lived long enough on this planet to know that nothing good comes from stuffing it down and not living what and who you are. So that's my word for this coming year: Pray.
Prayer is such a fraught thing. When someone tells you they're praying for you, it can hold a myriad of agendas and baggage. I've been there and felt that. It can also be the biggest gift possible. When someone loves you (and loves you in a healthy, open and unconditional way) and says they're praying for you, it takes the weight of the world off your shoulders. I've been there too, and felt such weight being lifted; it's amazing.
A few weeks after mulling over the word, I was at Grandma's and leafing through some of her journals and lists and such. She has been such a keeper of information over the years. Aside from the logging of what she gave and got for Christmas or birthdays, and the binders full of ancestry information, she has jotted little thoughts and notes about her daily doings. They can be rather amusing to read now, out of context; I'll point to one or another and ask her if she remembers what this or that note was about, and if she does we talk about it for a bit. It can lead to some pretty interesting conversations.
On this visit, I happened upon this poem by Helen Steiner Rice, a Grandma favorite. And while Rice might not have written my personal must-have books of poetry, I have a sentimental heart for her writing and what it's meant to Grandma. In my very "me" way, I saw this poem as a sign of validation for my word (of course!), and had to snap a picture of it. Grandma is quite used to me taking out my phone and pointing-and-clicking it at various things in her apartment, and she usually gives a funny shrug and a smile.
You can tell by the picture that my grandmother had great penmanship, in her day. I would date this writing at maybe five years ago, given that there's some shake, but not nearly what she has now. It's unmistakably her handwriting, and there's preciousness to that for me as well.
For all my condescending little smiles about Rice's poems over the years (much fewer as I've gotten older and wiser) (and kinder, too), these words cut right to exactly why Pray is my word this year:
A New Year Prayer
You are ushering in another year
Untouched and freshly new,
So here I am to ask you God,
If you'll renew me too.
But, Father, I am well aware
I can't make it on my own,
So take my hand and hold it tight,
For I can't walk alone.
I've had years where prayer was a regular occurrence, and years when that has not been the case. The years themselves haven't been dramatically impacted by my prayer, or the lack thereof--I would never try to make a case for "and then I prayed and it all got better!" Sometimes it seems almost unmagically the opposite; real challenges arise when you lay yourself bare and see revealed your damn humanity and all the ugliness that implies. (Or maybe that's just me?)
The years themselves, and the events that have unfolded within them, have run the usual gamut of good, bad and indifferent. I would venture, though, that the difference has been subtle but palpable, between the times I've been in close communication with God and not--to me. Well, mostly to me. If you know me very well, you might be able to tell. (Maybe.)
That's where the C.S Lewis quote comes in: I pray to be that quote, to have that kind of need, and be changed by praying.
In a way, I feel like Pray could (should?) be my word, every year. But I also still feel that way about Pause (2010), Focus (2011), Grace (2012) and Light (this year). I love the way these words stay with me, and layer on top of each other. I've even said, laughing, that I must be a little slow, because I feel like I just get the word into my consciousness, and then wham, it's a new year with a new word. I need an overlap year, where I can hold onto the word from the past and move forward into the new word... it's all rather beautiful and complicated in my own mind... I'm sure you get it, too?
But the thing that makes me so happy about this word, and why I could see holding on to it for awhile, is that this word makes a lot of other words (and things) fall into place. At least, that's how I imagine it *could* go... If I put the proper attention to living this word, I have optimism that other priorities will align. Of course, now that I've said it out loud, the "other shoe dropping" part of my nature is poised, waiting for something to mess it up and distract me, obfuscate my vision from that which I know is important. You know, my usual ADHD. Awesome.
Here we go, off into another year! Wish me luck. Or, better yet, pray for me. ;)