Inspired by education and scrapbooking bloggers, since 2010 I have selected a word to focus on throughout the year. I have stayed connected to the words in different ways to reflect on and document my thinking and growth. Five years into the process, there was a pivotal shift towards explicitly linking words to my spiritual journey as the main focus, even though it was unintentional and took me by surprise.
That year my word was “core.” My original intent was to really zoom in on my ongoing challenges with proper career-family balance, as career seemed to be winning at the expense of my family year after year. Nonetheless, right from the start, the year ended up being more about intentionally focusing on the role of faith in my life. By the summer, there was a pivotal conversation with my priest where he asked if I loved God most.
I said yes, but left with an unsettled feeling that it was an automatic, quick, known-to-be-correct response — but not an honest response. I realized I wanted it to be true but that I did not even really know what it would look like within the context of my life for God to be first. As a result, work that had been building over the years came to the surface in order to do the work to more intentionally align my life to God’s will and to recognize that proper prioritization would be 1) God, 2) family, and 3) career as an extension of family by meeting their needs financially.
Since then, my words have had intentional links to the faith. Nonetheless, looking back, I can see that every year my words have nudged me towards God and virtue. I had words such as simplicity, gratitude, and nurture that helped to guide decisions to more clearly shape what I valued and who I wanted to be as a wife, mom, and teacher. I had intentions aligned to my words connected to prayer. Even though I was 5 or 6 years into the process before I made the connection, eventually I was able to see how each of the words have aligned to St. Augustine’s famous quote from his book Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
When keeping in mind that our overarching purpose in life is to be saints, which means striving to live a life of heroic virtue and growing in holiness over time, having a word to guide the year can support the process. As a Catholic and a teacher, there are different concepts of year in my mind — the calendar year, the academic year, and the liturgical year. Though my words have always been mapped to the calendar year, this year I am going to align to the liturgical year instead, a natural shift based on how the role of choosing a word has taken shape in my life.
At the start of Advent, I am looking forward to embarking on a year of praying and pondering the word light. I love that rather than January 1, Advent is a natural starting point to ponder light with the Incarnation — Jesus as light and life. I already have in mind multiple layers to consider, such as connections to virtue and vice with Jesus, the Saints, and others seeking holiness as mentors. However, I also know that mixed with what I am anticipating, there will be the unexpected.
Have you already incorporated or are you considering having a word to guide your year? If so, I recommend this episode from the Abiding Together podcast. It is from 2017, but I only recently heard it and loved that it makes the intentional link between the power of selecting a word and how God can work deeply in our lives through that process.
Loving Lord, Thank you for coming into our lives and inviting us to draw toward you along the way. You know exactly what we need, when we need it, and how we need it. Christ, be our light!
Copyright 2018 Amanda Villagómez