Now, as 2018 dawns, it is time to choose a new word, something that has been in-process for a while. I started thinking about what word to pick in October, when I heard the Christian song “Light Shine Bright” by tobyMac featuring Mandissa. The first line is
“Lights shine bright everywhere we go Music for the people to illuminate the soul.”
So I started thinking my word for 2018 was going to be “bright.” I thought this for several reasons: because I want to live in a way that was bright and inspiring, an advocate for chronic illness and for my faith; because I am optimistic 2018 will be a bright year; and because I want to continue to focus on Christ’s bright light as the number one thing in my life.
But then, the end of 2017 began to get heavy, especially health-wise, and “bright” didn’t feel sufficient. I needed a new word, one that helped me refocus my anxiety and focus on what was truly important in my life. So the word “breathe” came to mind. I often forget to really breathe correctly–deep, calming breaths–and doing so not only really refocuses me, but is a spiritual act in itself. Focusing on my breath reminds me of my connection to God and what is truly important in my life, and how tenuous the unimportant, temporary stresses are.
But again, the word “breathe” didn’t feel like enough for the promise that I feel like 2018 holds. 2018 is a year where I really want my word to challenge me, to help me focus on all the promise and adventure and momentum that 2017 led up to. I liked that about “bright.”
The last word I considered before I stumbled upon my 2018 word was acceptance. Acceptance of myself as a permanently sick person and integrating that into my identity as not a weakness but a strength and something I’m alright with is a major personal goal of mine for 2018. But I was searching for a word that brought together all these elements: bright, breathe, acceptance.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and one of the lines early in the song is “let your heart be light.” That feeling of lightness is exactly what I want for 2018: and, thus, I had chosen a new word.
The word light is able to capture multitude meanings at once, which is why I selected it. From a faith perspective, light is often used a metaphor for Christ. Choosing the word light helps me refocus and fix my eyes on what is truly important, which,is first and foremost my faith. Everything else is an outpouring of that.
Light also means the opposite of heavy, and lightening of burdens is something Christ does as well. My focus passage for 2018 is Matthew 11:28-30. Both The Message paraphrase and the CEB translation really resonated with me:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” — Matthew 11: 28-30 (The Message)
“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me. I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28-30 CEB
The second meaning of light is what I wanted to capture in the word bright: being a shining light in the world. I want to use the momentum and wellness I built up in 2017 to continue growing and learning so that I can help others through any positive way I can. I want to shine my light in both big and small ways: as an educator, as a writer, as a Christian, as a chronic illness advocate, as a mom. If any new pathways open up to make a greater impact open up, I want to be brave enough to pursue them. I don’t know exactly what 2018 will hold, but I am excited for the ways God will use my light.
The other meaning of the word light that I’m focusing on in 2018, as I mentioned with my focus verse above, is the opposite of heavy, and I’m going to be intentional about ways to let my heart and life feel lighter going into this new year.
I am working on gradually cleaning out, going through, and getting organized throughout this year, letting go of things that weigh me down so I can be lighter and more focused on the things that do matter. Some of this is spiritual and emotional: working through letting go of anxiety and hang ups over illness, for instance, like I mentioned above. But some of it is literal and practical as well.
On the practical side, I want to focus on minimalism and cleaning out and making space this year. I have already started cleaning my house and purging out things we aren’t using, and helping teach my daughter that art as well: she’s only 4, but I started teaching her for the first time about donating her old toys she doesn’t play with so she would have room for her new stuff.
I’m expanding that cleaning out and minimalism to my online world and habits as well. I left a bunch of time wasting, negative Facebook groups to lighten up my time and clear up my priorities for what is truly important.
The last few years, 2013 on, have all brought major twists and adventures that I did not see coming. I have a feeling 2018 will be no exception to big changes and adventures. But with the word light as my guide, I think 2018 is going to be a bright one.