Inspiration

Of New Year’s Resolutions and One Word

Bridge over a pond in the winter, Johannapark, Leipzig, Germany
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Happy New Year! I hope that 2015 is off to a roaring start for you all.

I’m not a New Year’s Resolutions girl. I wrote last year about why I had ditched them in favour of picking one word for the year. It’s something that’s worked really well for me, and for friends who’ve done it as well. Personally, it’s simplified my life in ways I hadn’t expected. The things I’ve accomplished over the past 2 years have literally been due to living life in a purposeful way.

This past November, I sat down to reflect on the year. I looked at what worked, what didn’t. I kept coming back to a specific word that I was sure was going to be my word for 2015. However, as December life events unfolded, I began to waver a bit.

The first weekend in December found us on a plane returning to our beloved city of Atlanta for the celebration of my best friend’s wedding. We were able to be with ‘framily’ that have been part of our lives since before our marriage; people who’ve known and loved us and been part of our life community as we’ve lived far, far away. It was a joyous occasion, and to be honest, for someone who is not often sentimental, my heart nearly burst with love and gratitude as we travelled back to the UK.

The third weekend in December found me on a plane returning to the place I was born for the funeral of my 80 year-old Grandmother. It was a completely unexpected departure from this life to the next. I was able to be with my family that have known me since I was born; people who have also loved us and been part of our life community as we’ve lived far, far away. It was a sobering occasion, but we celebrated her life lived well. I know she would have enjoyed all of us being together, as we are a family that does laughter and tears well.

The juxtaposition of those two weekends shaped my last week of December. Recovering from intense jet lag, I struggled through the days, putting one foot in front of another. As grief and emotions whirled around in my head, I kept thinking about the word I had originally chosen for 2015, and now how it just felt wrong.

Thinking through the time I spent in both places, with the people that I love, I kept coming back to the word intentional. While in Atlanta, we were with friends who had been intentional with us at the start of our marriage, providing guidance and support as we moved from our family of origin to our family of choice; we were with friends who intentionally chose us to be godparents to their children; we were with friends who had been an intentional part of our graduate journey. While in my birth place, I was with my parents who had been intentional with they way they raised my brother and myself; I was with family that have played intentional and pivotal parts in my life.

2015 will be my year of being intentional.

I made a list and set some goals of the important ways I want to be intentional this year in my family, friendships, faith, and health. The death of my grandmother caused me to refocus on the fact that we all are here for a limited time, so we should be living purposefully, with intention, all the time. In the mundane moments of time, it’s hard to remember that. This week, I was reminded by a friend that it’s the mundane moments where we should be living our best, as they make up the bigger picture of our lives.

The good thing is, it doesn’t matter what stage of your life you’re in right now; maybe you’re a graduate wife, maybe you work full time or maybe you’re a stay- at-home-Mum. No matter where you are right now, I want to challenge you to do something different this year. Pick a word and live by it. Set some personal goals. Pick three things you know you’ll do well this year, and do them. But whatever you do: Love well. Live purposefully. Be intentional.

~Mandy

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Inspiration

The Journey of a Year

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In November/December 2012, I read several articles (many sent to me by various friends, others randomly) about rest/self-care/sabbaticals. By the 4th or 5th article in, I remember thinking that this was too coincidental. I started thinking about the concept of rest, and how it could be incorporated into this crazy graduate life we were living. Everyone that knows me knows that being still is not my forte. I like to make lists. I like to check things off said lists. I like to be busy. I like Excel. I like to be challenged. I like to be around people. I like to work on lots of projects. I like to read books. Translation: I. Never. Stop.

In that late December, the dots finally connected. A friend of mine from Florida posted on Facebook information about this site: My One Word, then asked her friends what their one word would be for 2013. I started to read through the comments, and 56 comments later, I realized what my word should be.

For those of you that don’t know about this site, here’s the basic cliff notes:

If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months. 

It should be noted that I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. I loved (and still do) to set outlandish goals or targets that I was more than certain could not be reached in one year. It was (and still is!) fun to look back to see if I actually achieved any of them.

But the concept of one word to describe my year? I loved this idea. I loved that literally one word would and could define not only a year of my life, but also the activities I was involved in, bringing focus and clarity to whatever season I was living.

It would make the things I said ‘yes’ to much sweeter, and the things I said ‘no’ to much easier to let go.

I spent a lot of time over that Christmas break doing a lot of reflection on 2012; what it meant for me emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Even though the year ended on a good note, the only word I can use to describe that year was ‘loss’. As I came up on the first anniversaries of my Mom’s cancer diagnosis and my miscarriage, I felt like I entered another season of mourning, although it was not the raw, gaping wound that it was the previous year. I knew that it was part of the grieving process – c’mon now, I was a psych major in college- but I also knew, if I’m honest, I had not allowed myself time to completely heal- this is strictly in the emotional/spiritual sense – because that would call for me to Rest. And since I don’t sit still very well, any kind of healing would be difficult.

So, I dubbed 2013 a year of Rest for me. I had absolutely no idea what it would look like, as it was a definition in progress, but knew it would not involve me lying around all the time on a couch eating chocolate and drinking wine, even though that was a terrific thought. :) It had to be something more uniquely attuned to my personality and the way God designed me.

The very first two things I did identify that needed to be answered:

1. I had to ask myself why I was so afraid to be still and silent. I knew only I could answer that question.

My answer? Staying busy was an avoidance therapy, a place I visited when I didn’t want to address potential emotional issues in front of me. When I realized that, full healing could begin.

2. Could I do this alone? No, I could not.

I decided then to email some friends for help. I sent the email to 30 friends and family members, and asked them to keep me accountable. That might seem excessive to some, but I was intentional about who I asked. I selfishly chose friends that lived in Oxford and Orlando who were part of my graduate journey; friends and mentors from previous cities and walks of life; family that was far away. I asked them to partner with me as I began, asking for prayer (or good thoughts and wishes if prayer wasn’t their thing) so that all my decisions for that year would be clear and focused, completely surrounding the word Rest. I also gave them permission to ask me at any time if I was resting, knowing full well I would and could easily slip back into my busy ways.

I did ask one thing of them – to send me their word for that coming year. It allowed me to reciprocate in both prayers and good wishes, and asking them the same question.

I had no idea who would participate, or if everyone would think I was a rambling idiot, but their responses were astonishing. These are some of the many words I received:

Yes.

No.

Anticipation.

Peace.

Live.

Discipline.

Trust.

Purpose.

Love.

I saved them all in an excel spreadsheet, and agreed to journey with them over the coming year, as they lived their words.

So, what happened?

This one word journey was a definite life-changer for me. I think my friends would say the same thing. It is something I intend to do every year going forward. As I sit in early January 2014, reflecting on 2013, I’m grateful I put aside time to Rest last year. In an ironic twist, it ended up being the busiest year we’ve ever had in the graduate journey. We went through a myriad of changes that I didn’t know we would be going through as we headed into 2013: new jobs in a new city, new house, new nursery school for our son, new community, new church, new everything! I think if I hadn’t given myself that space to heal, I wouldn’t have been emotionally or spiritually ready for those changes.

This past year also gave me the space to dream again. It’s amazing what happens when you sit still. I didn’t realize the constant busyness was stifling my creativity. I said no to a lot of things (but not all) that I would have loved to do. My friends were very respectful of my ‘no’ decisions, which I appreciated immensely.

I also learned to accept where I was in life. My good friend, Betsy, always quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quip – “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Let’s be honest, graduate life can kick you when you’re down, and I was spending far too much time being jealous and wishing my life were better like so-and-so, and not living in the present moment that I’d been given. When I started to accept that this was my current season of life, I found joy and peace in the midst of my designated rest. That was a bonus.

My word for 2014? Hope. I love the definition of hope: state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or in the world at large.

I have so many hopes and dreams for myself, and for my family as we’ve entered into a new season of life. I am relishing in the hope of seeing those dreams (all or some) fulfilled this year.

What would your word be for 2014?

Maybe you’re in the middle of graduate life. Maybe you’re at the end of graduate life and starting a new season, like me. Or, maybe you’re just at the beginning. Wherever you are, I challenge you to pick a word to shape your year. Maybe your word is perseverance, as you trawl through another graduate year. Maybe your word is community, as you seek to bond with others around you. Maybe your word is peace. Whatever you choose, live it for the next year. And if you feel like sharing your word for 2014, please put in the comments below, as we’d love to see what you word would be!

From my heart to yours,

~Mandy

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Trailing Spouse Syndrome

new food for thought

Recently, a good friend of mine forwarded me an article about something called “Trailing Spouse Syndrome.” Upon reading the article, I googled it and was surprised at the amount of articles and blog essays on this phenomenon. I’ve been following my husband around for the last 9 years (both in the USA and the UK), and I can honestly say I’ve seen this, even though, at the time, I didn’t know it had a name or was a syndrome!

Indeed, most of us have moved to support our grads in school; and a lot of time that has most definitely raised issues on identity, marriage, relationships, dreams etc. for those of us in the supporting role. As interesting as it is, I have to say I really dislike the term ‘trailing spouse’. Most of the articles I’ve read are a bit negative, so when I stumbled across this article, I loved the author’s concept of using the time to sort of reinvent yourself, whether you move because of your husband’s job or place in school; or if you move to different state or country!

What do you think? Would you consider yourself a trailing spouse? Do you like or dislike that term? How do you deal with it?

Happy Monday,

~Mandy