Last year I shared my practice of beginning the year with a word/idea that I want to focus on. It was originally inspired by the book One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber. As a writer and lifelong avid reader, I love this idea. Words are powerful and I find myself energized by the idea of using a word to help us grow.
In 2016 my word was joy. The most important thing I learned from this focus is that joy comes from gratitude. Being grateful for my family allows me to experience greater joy in them. Gratitude for my surroundings enables me to see the beauty nature. Gratitude for my faith and my church family led to growth and connection.
This leads me to my word for 2017 – connect
Much of what I have read, written in recent weeks has been about connection. I find myself struck by how many connections we are a part of and how important they are to our well-being. We connect to God, each other, our environment, and our own wants/needs. Humanity needs connection in which to thrive. The famous Romanian Orphanage study clearly depicts what happens to babies and children who do not experience real human connection. But it is not just children who need connection. How many books are written about communication and relationships. We need each other to fully live.
For this year, I deliberately chose the action verb, connect, rather than the passive noun. This is a challenge to myself as well as a learning opportunity. If I need/want connection, I have to be willing to reach out for it. I have to be vulnerable enough to ask and brave enough to chance the answer being now. I have to step in faith by volunteering to meet/lead/join. Each time I encounter another human being I will have to decide whether to truly connect with them or let the opportunity slip by with only a surface-level contact. Connecting is a choice, one I will make countless time in the coming months. Each choice is about vulnerability.
I just came back from a 5 mile walk in the rain with a friend. We talked about faith, family, politics, and controversial social topics, all of the “taboo” subjects people either avoid ofo argue about. Some we agreed on, others we didn’t. We listened to and learned from each other. I was left with a feeling of deep gratitude for the connection we had shared. We had been willing to be vulnerable, sharing parts of ourselves, trusting that we would be accepted. Trusting that our human connection would create a safe space in which to be authentic.
This wonderful, brave woman offered me two great gifts: she shared part of herself with me, and she allowed me to share a piece of myself with her. This is connecting and it is invaluable.
Not every experience will be like this, nor should it be. But every experience can be an opportunity to connect with another human being. We can share love, kindness, gratitude. It costs us nothing to share a smile, but there is a cost to repeatedly choosing to withhold one.
The choice to connect is also reflected in how we spend time with God. Do I read the Bible because I am “supposed to” or because I desire a relationship with my creator? I will look for ways to connect more deeply in my faith this year.
What I eat and how I move is a reflection of how I connect to myself and my physical and emotional well-being. Am I connecting in a healthy way? How do I see myself? How do I feel, physically?
How am I connecting to my environment. I know that I need to get outside in nature to feel my best. I also know that I can’t appreciate the beautiful place in which I live if I never experience it firsthand. Connecting to nature is something I sometimes to forget to do or appreciate. I need to take time to see, hear, smell, and feel the world around me to form a deeper understanding and gratitude for the world in which I live.
I don’t know what I will learn this year. I know only that I desire deeper connections in many areas of my life. I will keep this word in mind as I learn and grow over the next months. I look forward to what this word and all it entails will teach me.
Do you have a word/idea that you are focusing on this year? Please share it. Let’s grow together.