It is that time, we find ourselves still in the lingering glow of the new year. The threshold has been crossed with wide-eyed wonder and possibility. Promises that this year will be the year echo everywhere. At two weeks in, reality begins to seep into the edges of our hopeful goals. The place between the setting and the doing—the words and the action.  We begin to feel the discomfort of making the changes, the adrenaline gives a little with the perspective shift. We desire to stay on track as we remember why this was hard, time, continuous effort, the daily chipping away is how it works. The quick fix isn’t long lasting, we want it to last, this to be the time.

Entering into this year I felt a little off, it didn’t feel like the typical year all fresh and new, but more of a continuation. I wondered why—was it my approach? Was I in a post-holiday funk? Or was I simply taking a quieter path? One without all the fanfare and confetti, one that held my hands open to the offering of the year, allowing me to see what could be before I grabbed it up and tried to mold it into what I want it to be. Releasing my tight grip, lifting my head from the hustle and grind, open to a revealing of one piece a time, in a sequence crafted by God. He knows my tendency to wanted to long jump ahead and there is no fast forward to the end. Trusting the unfolding will be in His time.

No big declarations made, not for lack of dreams or goals. I am a dreamer and an idea person by nature. No stake in the ground, but a more agile approach. My husband uses this methodology in his work, the need to shift, regroup, assess. Revisiting steps in the process is refinement, not failure. Pausing long enough to take the pulse of this thing is wise not wasteful.  Being able to assess the moments that call for grit and the ones to wrap in grace.

There was a time I thought carrying things lightly, holding them loosely, was a bit indifferent, passive even. Now I see it as wise and intentional, it takes more restraint and courage to take it one puzzle piece revealed at a time. It’s why as I pondered the year, I resisted the favored practice of choosing a word for twenty-ninteen. I have chosen them in the past and felt my inclination toward a word that embodies grit and endurance. I tend to want to choose a word that will produce or a word that pushes me outside of my comfort zone. Some years call us to this—last year I reached beyond my boundaries, fighting the confines of anxiety to return to working (out of the home and in a new capacity), to writing a book proposal (in the first weeks of summer with my boys home) and pitching it, and then writing a new proposal with solid publisher interest before year’s end. I did things I had never done before and did them well. Yet, I was unsatisfied to some degree because I didn’t meet my big, audacious (and somewhat unrealistic) goal. I aim high and don’t like to fall short. I felt discouraged. I am not one to give into the fear of missing out or the comparison game, but those little thoughts, like gnats, started to flutter about in my brain.

Admittedly, my whole life has seemed like an uphill climb, truth not dramatics, not one part of it a trust fund life, more like a battle for everything I have ever wanted. It seems all I know is the fight, living so long in fight and survival mode, tough love my love language. It has left me worn and that along with the messages out in the world have left me wondering if there is more than being in a constant state of striving.

While this year, I thought, would possibly give way to a new strategy, a wordless one for the lover of words, I felt a nudge toward gentle, gentleness. I wrote a devotion on it last year and it stayed with me. My natural bend is toward impatience with myself, anger that comes only from what should be, resisting what is, feeling like I can do better. When I don’t meet the high expectations I set, I lose a kindness toward myself. I want to remove the anger, but keep the grit, remove the fear, but keep the fight. I want to speak life over this year for myself and my family, but hold it gently, lightly. I want to hustle, but not so fast that my insides can’t keep up with my outsides—I don’t want my body to outrun my spirit.

Gentle. What does this look like?

with family 

+ Offering more grace and less anger in my reactions.

+ Making time to play and be together without agenda or productivity.

+ Weaving a posture of gentleness in our full and fast-paced life.

+ Loving with intention through the way they feel most loved.

with friends

+ Giving more thought to who I allow to speak into my life and if they are living out what they speak.

+ Encouraging in kindness and being inclusive.

+ Walking away when I feel led to, for a time when space is needed, pressing into the hard and holy work when nudged toward restoration.

+ Seeking true, honest connections with mature and self-aware people.

+ Paying attention to what brings them joy. Bringing that joy to their doorstep.

with myself 

+ Embracing a gentle, calm spirit.

+ Celebrating little victories.

+ Removing anger and silencing the critic.

+ Loosening my grip and clenched teeth on things.

+ Letting go of the expectations of others.

+ Releasing my reputation into God’s hands—not in a “what somebody else thinks of you is none of your business” posture, but in a confidence of the One who knows me fully, knows my heart, motivation, and truth.

+ Resting in giving my best.

+ Guarding my heart toward what threatens my gentleness.

+ Leaning in to what is meant for me and letting go of what is not.

+ Working hard for instead of against myself.

It looks like deciding what I want to stay awake to this year. What to embrace, to release, to do more and conversely, less of. Standing on the solid truth of the Word. Our word should be of The Word. 

If you too are looking to hold this year more gently, allowing space for it to unfold, I have made you a gift, a sheet for you to fill in your word for the year along with a few light questions intended to spark  awareness for this year. I hope it brings you closer to your intentions for this year, may it hold goodness and gentleness in all of its days.