For the last two years I’ve picked a word to focus on for the year. In 2009 it was patience, this year was grace. I wouldn’t even begin to suggest that I’ve mastered patience or grace. The reality is that I could pick either of those words again and again for the rest of my life and still not master them. I’d still have something to learn. The word of the year is more a spiritual exercise than a checklist. “Patience, check. Grace, check.”
But I did feel that trying to center my thoughts and prayer on these words helped me to discover a lot about myself. If nothing else, I discovered how impatient and ungraceful I am. I also became much more aware of God’s patience with me and His overwhelming grace in my life. For that reason alone I think it’s worth doing.
Back around Thanksgiving I had a series of posts where I listed 10 things I was thankful for that day. I learned a lot that week. I read where others had written on gratitude, in particular Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. I realized that normally if I list what I’m thankful for I can name a lot of things but they typically are the same things: my family, my husband, my kids, a house, good jobs, friends. All those are wonderful things and I should be thankful for them but it’s easy to take all the other daily small gifts for granted when I only think in terms of the obvious. It’s easy to be thankful when surrounded by friends and family. It’s hard to be thankful when vacuuming.
When I wrote my Thanksgiving week posts I intentionally didn’t list the big things. What I found was that some days it was easy. I had 10 things before 10 am. Some days it was hard. Not because the day was bad but because it was ordinary. I couldn’t see anything special to be thankful for and had to really think about it.
As the week went on I realized I was looking for things all day. Granted,it was mostly just so I could blog about them here, but it made me look. I started seeing things I’d been missing. My overall attitude began to change. I began to see I could give thanks in the midst of folding laundry, not for the folding but for the fact that we have more than enough clothes and the fact that a task was done. I began to wonder what would happen if I made gratitude a practice for longer than a week. I thought about doing it for the Advent season. Then I thought about a year.
So, that’s the word of the year. Gratitude.