Choosing a Word for 2011


Editor’s note: Sarah does such a beautiful job of discerning a word to frame every new year. Read her post and then take a few minutes to think through YOUR word. Trust us, it’s right there in you. All you have to do is listen. Then share it with us in the comments section. We’d love to hear what you are carrying into 2011.

I gave up on New Years Resolutions because it seemed that they were always the same and rather uninspiring: lose weight, read my Bible more, lose weight, do and be more and more and more. Two years ago, I surrendered the manic need to “improve” myself and decided to choose one word as a theme for my year. I’m not alone in this–many others have done the same thing.

My word for 2009 was “Moments.” I wanted to slow down and notice the moments of my life more. It gave birth to an entire category of my favourite writing on my blog at Emerging Mummy as I tried to write down all of the moments I was noticing, the times when I felt my heart say: “This moment matters!” It was part of a major shift in my life that continues today – the discipline and joy of being a noticer, of being fully present in the moments of my life, however small they may seem to the outside eye. God has profoundly changed me through that practice.

Then, for 2010, I chose the phrase “Abundant Life.” I wanted a graciousness in my life, a focus on the people and events around me. I didn’t want to be preoccupied anymore with a thousand things at once. I felt drawn to John 10. In particular, the words of Jesus when he says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” I felt drawn over and over again to the idea of rest and peace–sometimes in my calendar and schedule, other times in a more spiritual and emotional way. Then I went through a period of acedia this year, a spiritual depression of sorts which greatly tested me, leaving me wondering what of my life mattered. I emerged from it, incredibly thankful that God had given me that word as I kept returning over and over to what I knew God had promised: abundant life.

Discerning & Deciding

This discerning and deciding has become a deeply spiritual practice for me. I take the time after Christmas and before New Year’s to pray, to wait, to journal, to read Scripture and wait some more. I wait for a word from God–for me. Sometimes it’s a deep knowing in my own heart, other times it’s a word in Scripture. This year, it was an intersection of my own heart, scripture, conversations with mentors and life circumstances that led to the theme for 2011.

So that brought me to 2011.  These past few days, as I have prayed and waited, the word that kept coming back to me is this:


I suppose I should have seen it coming. Not only did I just finish reading a life-changing book by Kathleen Norris called, The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work” but there was also a pivotal conversation with my mother just a few weeks ago that arose out of my own exhaustion and angst, my own issues of never feeling like I’m enough.

She is gentle now. “Have you ever thought that it’s not about the things you do, Sarah? That you can do all of those things and be all of those things and still it wouldn’t be enough. Because really, the accomplishment of stuff or things won’t give you that feeling of being enough. You just wear yourself out on a treadmill of expectations. 

Enough doesn’t come by accomplishment. 

Enough is just contentment. Joy is contentment. With who you are, where God has placed you and resting in the season and work he’s call you to-today. That’s how you simply know, right now– it’s enough. And it makes your soul glad.”

Getting off the Treadmill of Expectation

Like most people who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I am absolutely stuffed with a hero complex. Whether it’s around parenting or my marriage, my relationships in my extended family and friendships, the care and daily running of our home and finances, our church, our faith, our city, our country and our world, I feel overwhelmed sometimes by all of the things that I should be doing or need to be doing. It’s hard not to feel like you are responsible for it all. Like you’re never enough, you should always be doing more, like your life must be BIGGER and BETTER to really matter. In a way, this issue is likely deeply ecclesiastical in its nature for many of my generation.

My biggest battle is contentment. And it seems that this is the year to lay down my expectations for my own life.

I feel God drawing me to know this, truly know and experience it in my heart of hearts, in my daily life:

He is enough.

And then, growing off of that deep root of knowing, there are tendrils announcing that where He has placed me, in this season of my life–that’s enough, too. My finances are enough. The work I do? It’s enough. The mother I am? It’s enough. The woman that I am? She’s enough, too. What I can do, the gift that I can give now, will be enough. I am enough when I am in Him. I don’t need the treadmill of expectations anymore. I need contentment, I need the truth of knowing that He is enough.

The scriptures that I feel drawn to for this year ahead are in Philippians, chapter 4. The entire chapter will probably keep me for the year but here are a few verses so that you can see the road that I am turning down:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Blessings on you and your families as you welcome a new year.

QUESTION: So what is YOUR WORD for the year? Take a moment and listen. Now share it with us … We’d LOVE to hear from you.