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January 2022: Presence
sharing my word of the year
2022 marks one whole decade of this practice: choosing a word to guide my year. When I look at my words, I am amazed at the way they integrate to make a kind of map of the transformation and learning of the past decade. (Yes, I stuck with “free” and “dwell” for two years each. Twelve months is sort of an arbitrary timeline, right?)
As much as I roll my eyes at all the “new year, new me” nonsense out there, I can’t deny my gratitude for what a new year offers. The passage of time always catches me by surprise; whether lunch with a friend or an entire year, I often feel I’m just getting started when the end is upon me. So when the world offers a closed loop and a clear end or beginning, I take it. January’s invitation is not to suddenly reinvent ourselves, but instead to reflect and check-in with ourselves. For me, it also feels like an opportunity to stop floating through time. In January, I try to ground myself in what is good and true.
I landed on my 2022 word as a follow-up to last year’s word—faithful. 2021 was about practicing personal faithfulness to the commitments and circumstances in front of me. I wanted to “finish well.” (Though I wasn’t thinking only about the pandemic, laugh with me, will you? I thought the pandemic might end in 2021.)
An important part of my practice is considering how my word might apply to my spiritual life, so I wondered—in what ways is God faithful? Ultimately, I sensed God’s faithfulness most powerfully when I began to notice Her
This has been the most revelatory and simple truth of 2021, and perhaps of my whole deconstruction/reconstruction journey: God is present. Never, at any moment, have I been or will I be separated from God (though it may be hard to sense or believe). All those fruits of the spirit–hope, peace, love, joy, etc etc–are possible and find their origins in God’s presence with me.
I began to ask how I, in turn, could be present with God. And as any connection with God must also find its embodiment in love toward others, I began to ask how I could be more present with my people.
So, my word for 2022 will be present.
I always try to choose words with multiple layers of meaning, but “present” may be the most layered word I’ve chosen. It encompasses the idea of attention and presence, of course, but also of our current day and time. Present can also be thought of as a verb, like to give a presentation. Or, if you dig even deeper, there are presents, as in gifts. And that got me thinking about the magi.
According to the church calendar, we are currently in the season of Epiphany. (I wrote more about the meaning I see in Epiphany for our church, which you can read here.) It begins on January 6, sometimes known as Three Kings Day. It’s a day for commemorating the magi’s visit to the baby Jesus, their recognition of him as king, and the giving of gifts. Gifts…or, shall we say, presents?
The play on words here is nerdy but delightful. Because what is our physical, intentional presence if not a gift we offer to God and others?
That’s what I’m hoping for in the year ahead. Less distraction, more focused attention. Less screen time, more face-to-face time. Less dreaming of the theoretical future, more appreciating the here and now. I want to offer my full presence to God and neighbor, and I want to truly value and savor the presence offered to me.
“To hear the voice of love and to let our lives, stories, and brains be reshaped and rewritten by God’s presence, we have to pay attention.” —K.J. Ramsey
Read and Reading:
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: This was the first book I finished in 2022, and it is really, really good. I’m not a huge young adult reader, but I do love a good young adult verse novel. This tells the story of Xiomara, a high schooler struggling beneath her very strict, very religious mother. This book explores how a doubting, restless teenage girl finds her voice as she explores both creativity and spirituality—so you know it was right up my alley. (Note that it does contain some language and sexual content.) I look forward to reading Acevedo’s more recent book, With the Fire On High, which is also getting a lot of buzz. If you liked The Crossover or The Hate U Give, I think you’ll like this.
The Honest Enneagram by Sarajane Case: I will confess that I almost dismissed this book when I realized the author was an Enneagram-Instagrammer. Don’t be like me. This book is a quick-read, but it is full of depth. It’s not a good introduction to the Enneagram (I recommend The Road Back to You if that’s what you need), but if you are already familiar with the basics of your number and want to know, “Now what?”, this book is valuable and accessible. Highly recommend!
Currently reading: Call Us What We Carry, Get Messy Art, The Guncle and Wild Words. I’m thoroughly enjoying all of these. The February pick for our Indianapolis Moms book club is Inheritance by Dani Shapiro, and I’m looking forward to starting it as soon as I wrap up one or two of these other books.
And now, a benediction to carry with you until we meet again:
May we remember that faithfulness is as valuable as novelty, and we are not in need of reinvention. Instead, may we discover our truest selves in the year ahead, being faithful to how we were created and in so doing, faithful to our loving Creator.
Grace and peace and blank calendar pages,
Here’s something I’m committing to in 2022: Using more feminine pronouns for God.