I will warn you: this is lengthy.

Last year I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was well written, brutally honest, and insightful. The movie version does not do it justice - it was disjointed, semi-irreverent and at times a bit pretentious. Sorry Julia Roberts. I loved you in Notting Hill and Runaway Bride.

In any case, Gilbert at one point observes, or hears, rather, that cities have a "word". Citizens of any city around the world will walk around with their particular city's word on their minds: some dwell on "Achieve", others on "Power", others on "Conform", and so on. Lately, that concept has come back to me, not because I've been reflecting on the places I've lived, but because I've been reflecting on the years of my life.

Most recently my college years.

And in the least new-agey way possible, I believe that years can dwell on a singular word. Sometimes that word whispers, sometimes it yells in your face and slaps you around a little bit. Sometimes it weighs like guilt on your chest, other times it confirms purpose. And sometimes - like on the first day of the last semester of your undergraduate career - it hovers like a bad breath that conveys a sense of urgency and of expectation.

Is it okay to be that honest with you? I think I'm going to be. Transparency is good, right?

So, after hours lying awake in bed over the past week or so, I've determined words for the last 4 years. 2007 would have been failure. Not the kind of failure that leaves you crying in a corner (though sometimes, and rightfully, it did), but the kind of failure that disguised itself and appears in its fullness only now that I'm removed from it. It was failure in relationship, failure (not literally) academically, failure to overcome what I should have so clearly grown out of at that point.

2008 would have been overcome. An appropriate word, I think, to follow failure. It was the year that I decided to be more than the sum of my parts. It was a time to discover, to take failure and do something with it. To reconcile, love, and appreciate gifts that don't come freely.

2009 was growth. In that year, I became more of what I'd like to be - not because I willed it, but because I have a merciful God. It was a year of tearful and hopeful prayer. The year of a marriage proposal, a challenging academic program, a summer of babysitting terror and a shift in priorities.

2010 is undeniably change. The growth was a necessary part of the change, as there were previous years when change would have left me weak and numb, wide-eyed and quite possibly in the assumption of a fetal position. Change was ugly and lonely at times, but it was meaningful and well worth it. Can I say that enough? Change was worth it.

I wanted to give 2011 a word at the beginning of the year, but had a difficult time choosing. I'm not sure if you can pre-determine what the year is going to hold. This year, especially. But, in 20 days, I can tell you what it will require - strength and trust. We are stronger than we know. I remind myself every morning on my last lap. I remind myself when my own insecurities get the best of me. I remind myself in my marriage. I remind myself in social situations and in struggles that I face on my own.

And that's where trust comes in. Trust is a word that comes up so often in our daily vocabulary but only rarely, if ever, do we stop to think about what it truly means. Trust is indefinable until its acted upon. It's often used as an ironic mask for fear or uncertainty. But trust is not the absence of fear or uncertainty, I'm realizing. Trust is the absolute certainty that there is a God whose way is perfect and more powerful than our fear and uncertainty. (An adaptation from Ambrose Redmoon, I recognize.)

I'll stop now, because I may be broaching the point of sermonizing.

And that's where I'm at. Raw and exposed. I'm not running at this year with arms flailing, screaming its welcome and diving into its opportunity. I'm cautious, dipping each toe in the water before I make a steady descent. But I am prepared to fight. I'm prepared to trust and I'm prepared to challenge. I'm prepared to do a little more failing, overcoming, growing and changing, too. I'm blessed, more than ever, to have a husband right there with me.

Please check out this video that encouraged me greatly last night. Shared by my dear friend, Melissa. You'll need to pause the playlist at the bottom of the page.


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