Why I chose a word of the year
Every year my husband (as well as each person on the pastoral team at our church) chooses a word of the year to serve as a guide and direction for his life and ministry. They meet together early in January to share the words they’ve chosen and to pray together to begin the new year.
I’m always invited to join the prayer gathering, but with 2 young kids at home, I haven’t made it yet. But for 2019 I decided that at least I would take the concept of the word of the year and choose one for myself.
I know that in 2019 I need to make some changes. My life is great in so many ways, and I cannot be anything but grateful for all that I have and all that I have been able to accomplish with God’s help in the past few years. But I know that there are some ways that I need to be doing better. I keep hearing that still small voice speaking to me and it’s time to listen (because it’s always time to listen to that voice).
I’ve been hearing another voice, too. One that tells me that I am failing my husband. Failing my kids. Failing my friends. Failing in my calling to ministry in my little sphere of influence. The problem with this voice is that it’s not still or small, and it’s growing louder by the day.
I think we probably all hear this accusing voice at one time or another, but it’s one that we don’t need in our lives. This is a voice that accuses, belittles, crushes, and deceives. It exploits our faults and constantly reminds us of them. It makes us feel too bad, too sinful, too much of a failure to make a change. It criticizes without offering help, and it makes us feel that we’re never going to cut it. And you know what? It’s easy to believe this voice, because most of what this voice tells us is true and we know it.
But that still, small voice is the one we need to listen to. Sometimes it’s harder to listen to that one because it takes faith. This one tells us the truth (and only the truth), but it in a redemptive, constructive way. This is a voice that acknowledges, supports, builds up, and uncovers the whole truth.
So, instead of feeling helpless to make a change; instead of being paralyzed by overwhelm; instead of letting the devil make me feel like a failure, I’m going to claim God’s promises and listen to His voice in my life.
For me, housekeeping is my big issue. I’m a terrible housekeeper. I’m not naturally neat or tidy (though my mother tried her best to teach me to be), and though I see the importance of keeping a neat house, I am easily overwhelmed and discouraged by a mess. Unfortunately, no one at my house is naturally neat and tidy, so everyone adds to the mess and no one is particularly moved to clean it up.
We do clean up, and my kids know how to put away their toys. My husband doesn’t leave all the housework to me. So we make it. But, daily, we’re not operating on a level that allows us to feel good about inviting people in when they show up without warning on our doorstep, if you know what I mean, and I’m starting to feel burdened by my lack of control over the mess in my house.
So, I’ll be making some changes this year–not huge changes all at once, but incremental changes–and I want to be accountable for making these changes, so I’ll be doing posts from time to time to let you know how things are going. Just understand that this is real life stuff, and most of the changes I want to make in 2019 are changes I’ve tried to make before, and failed. Miserably. So there’s a good chance that not all of my progress reports will be shining successes, and there’s an even better chance that I’ll be humbled by admitting (temporary) defeat here for you to read about.
But I guess that’s kind of the point. We’re in this together. We’re all working on stuff, and because of our humanity we won’t always reach our goals. Sometimes it’s because our goals aren’t aligned with God’s plan for us, and it’s okay to drop them. Sometimes we break eye contact with Jesus and lose our footing like Peter did, in Matthew 14. And sometimes, we make slow progress and don’t meet our goals by our self-imposed deadlines, but we just have to keep at it.
No matter what happens with my goals this year, I hope that I learn and grow to be more like Jesus and that you will be encouraged by reading my progress reports.
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My 2019 word of the year
I’ve thought pretty carefully about this, and my prayer and reflections have all pointed toward diligence being my word of the year for 2019.
Honestly, I hadn’t articulated the exact word that really fit what I wanted to work on until I read this post on diligence by Jamie Boettcher over on her blog, One Word Faith. But, when I read that post, I knew that being diligent is one real root issue that I need to work on in my life. In her post, Jamie highlights a point from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary about how we are more likely to be diligent about tasks that we love doing, and that rings true in my life. It just makes sense, right?
Well, I’m already fairly diligent about the things I love doing, so my problem is this: how do I start loving the tasks that I’m not diligent about completing? Or, how do I grow diligent about doing things that I don’t enjoy?
I’m thinking that, for me, shifting my thinking just a little bit could be the key to making the necessary changes toward diligence in my housekeeping. I’m not prepared to love doing the dishes, but I do love my husband and my kids, and keeping up with the dishes better is one way to express my love. I don’t love putting the laundry away, but teaching my kids that it’s really important to do is actually another act of love! Not to mention that it will be nice not to have piles of clean laundry all over our chairs when people come to visit.
I love my God, and I love my family, and I want to do better for them. That’s my motivation. I will be diligent so that my stress level can come down, so that I have uncluttered space for prayer and Bible study, so that I’m teaching my kids the importance of tidiness by example, and so that, ultimately, my home will be a more relaxing and inviting place for everyone who enters–with or without prior notice.
What is diligence?
According to the Oxford Living Dictionary website, diligence is “careful and persistent work or effort,” and Merriam-Webster says diligence is “steady, earnest, and energetic effort: persevering application.”
Diligence is vital for forming new habits, like the habit of keeping things neat and tidy that I am aiming to develop in 2019. James Clear writes that research shows that it can take a very long time to form a new habit, about 66 days on average (depending on the person and the habit), according to a study by researchers at University College London (source). Thankfully, the same study suggests that missing an opportunity to practice the new habit here and there doesn’t significantly affect habit formation, so I won’t necessarily have to reset the clock if I go to bed before the laundry is finished sometimes.
Habit formation is incremental, and it takes awhile. It’s going to require steady, earnest, and persistent effort, and that’s where my word comes in. I’ll have to be diligent if I’m going to make this change in my house.
Steps toward diligence
Obviously just adopting a word of the year and hoping for the best isn’t going to yield fantastic results. As with any goal, it’s best to write it down and break it into manageable, actionable chunks to make it happen. I’m not going to go into intense detail about every step of my process, because it’ll be different for you, but here are some general ways I’ll be working toward diligence in 2019:
Diligence is going to be a matter of prayer for me. I’ll ask for help before I get out of bed in the morning and before I fall asleep at night. I’ll be asking God for help throughout the day, too, I’m sure. I want to ask God to help me be persistent and enthusiastic about completing my tasks, but I’ll also be asking Him to help me identify areas of my life that need less of my time and energy, so that I can prioritize and cut things down (or out).
For me, using a bullet journal works better than any other system I’ve used (at least since my student planner days) to keep me organized and motivated. My bullet journal isn’t a work of art, and I only used it for about half the year in 2018, but I did see a noticeable difference in my productivity when I used it regularly, so I am setting it up for 2019, and intend to use it (pretty much daily).
I love my bullet journal because I can set it up however I want to from week to week. Also, I can include short-term and long-term goals and plans, my grocery lists, meal plans, track habits (like Bible reading, water consumption, etc.), and even use it to record my kids’ milestones. With a bullet journal, everything is in one place, so it’s easy to find whatever info I’m looking for and take note of whatever pops into my head.
Like I said, I’m far from an artist when it comes to my bullet journal, so you won’t find my bujo spreads featured on my blog or Instagram accounts. I just use mine to get the job done, no frills. But if you’re interested in getting started, check out #bujo on Instagram, or just google bullet journaling. You’ll find a ton of inspiration and you might consider giving a bullet journal a try in 2019! (I use a Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook and I think it’s pretty fabulous.)
I’ll be setting boundaries in 3 major areas in 2019: time, clutter, and belongings.
I will be thinking seriously about what new responsibilities I’ll be taking on, and auditing my current responsibilities to help ensure that I’m spending my time on my priorities.
My house needs help, so I’m going to enlist my family’s help by setting clutter boundaries. I’ll be declaring a few key areas as “clutter-free” zones that need to be cleared as soon as we’re done using them (or by the end of each day–whatever makes sense for the area). In case you’re wondering, the first spot on my list is the dining room table, which is basically a catch-all for everything we bring into the house. No more in 2019!!
My husband and I came into our marriage after years of each living solo in our own little domiciles. We each had enough stuff to fit and furnish our home, and we didn’t get rid of much when we merged our belongings. This was partly because we didn’t have time to do a proper assessment of what we had 2 (or 3…or 4) of while we planned our wedding, packed up to move across the country, looked for a job and actually worked our jobs. It was also due, in part, to the fact that we both love our stuff. It’s not easy for us to part with our things, and so we just…didn’t.
6.5 years, 1 move, and 2 kids later, and we’re ready to pare down our belongings. We don’t need 6 bread pans, multiple toasters, or 60 mugs (but we’re probably keeping the mugs). I’m looking forward to minimizing in 2019. We may never be minimalists, but we don’t need to be maximalists, either. We’ll probably only take baby steps in the right direction, but I know that every little bit will help.
A better you is good for everyone
To be honest with you, I really wavered about even writing this post. Writing about adopting ‘diligence’ as my word of the year for 2019 doesn’t really seem like it fits with most of what I talk about, because it’s not really a parenting post at all. But, I decided to go for it because ultimately my diligence in caring for my home is the example that my kids are learning from and it’s what they’ll carry with them into their own homes when they grow up and move out of my house.
It’s actually kind of a big parenting deal.
If you’ve read anything else I’ve ever written, you know that I am all about parents being intentional about leading their kids toward Jesus. Sometimes that means doing really explicitly spiritual things, like implementing family worship or teaching kids how to engage in church. But sometimes it means doing things that are much more implicit, like playing games with your kids or working on yourself like we’re talking about today.
However you approach your goals for 2019, whether it’s by making resolutions or choosing a word of the year like I’ve done, or something else entirely; keep in mind that if it’s bettering you it’s going to better your kids, too. My kids are going to benefit from having a more diligent mom. Yours will benefit from you being happier, or healthier, or more organized, or less busy. Whatever it is that you need to work on, name it, write it down (it doesn’t have to be public, but at least write it for yourself), and be intentional about setting manageable incremental steps to reach your goal.
And remember: we’re in this together!
What’s your word of the year? Let me know in the comments below!
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