So…2016…you have only begun to reveal yourself. Years from now—Lord willing—if I look back on you, what will come to mind? Will it be another year of remembering very specific challenges or milestones? Unremarkable? Amazing? One that I’d rather forget?

Obviously, since we are only into the first week of this year, that remains to be known. How 2016 treats me is so clearly out of my hands. But how I respond to its treatment is…totally in mine.

That’s why my chosen word for this year is grace…because I want my response—my actions, my words, my thoughts, my emotions—to be grace-filled (and graceful wouldn’t hurt, either).

Three years ago, I began choosing a word for the year as a sort of theme to guide my heart. I wasn’t looking for the word—it found me.

Last year’s word found me, too. I knew that after the impact of some life-changing events of 2014, in 2015 I needed to go on a journey to new territory. In many ways it felt like I was trying to climb my metaphorical mountain by circling it…and the progress I actually made is a far cry from the progress I wanted to make…but at least I was moving!

This year’s word? Well, it found me yet again—after all, I wear it on my wrist most every day*:

 

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Why grace? Well, I’ve written on it a few times, even as recently as last week. The bottom line, really, is that I am so very much in need of it and so very grateful for it.

The grace that I receive through my faith in God is a life-changer. In fact, without it…there’d be no life. At least that’s the way I see it. And through my understanding of that, I want to live it, too. Such an amazing gift from God and of such great value to me…of course I must strive to live it.

Grace isn’t something new to me for 2016—in fact, I’ve felt its presence for most of my life, and I think I have grown over the course of my years in my giving of grace to others.

 

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But I’m not done yet. Not by a longshot.

Since there are continual opportunities to offer grace (and receive it!), it needs to be a constant focus in my life. As Robert Frost writes, “But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

Miles.

And a lot of that distance needs to be traveled with the voice inside my head. I’ve realized that if that voice were a real person, I wouldn’t be friends with her because she’s really mean to me. And her name most certainly would NOT be Grace.

Since I haven’t been too effective at offering myself much grace, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and try to be a little more successful on that front. I know that if I do get better at this, that it will not only benefit me but others, too. Being hard on myself often seeps out and affects others in ways that I loathe…which then makes me even harder on myself for letting that happen. A grace catch-22, if you will.

 

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It’s funny how things coincide sometimes. This morning, as I was meditating (another practice that I strive to grow in) I was listening to the calming voice of the woman guiding me through, and it was as if her words were designed just for me.

She was talking about having patience with ourselves, but I could easily replace the word “patience” with “grace.”

One of my challenges with meditation is that my mind often wanders like tumbleweed in a wind storm. Let’s just say that if mind wandering burned calories, I would be the size of a supermodel. I know I am not alone in this focus struggle. (Right? I mean how many times has your mind wandered while reading this extremely compelling post?)

The guide continued to reinforce that it doesn’t matter how many times our minds wander—what matters is how we respond. Since the practice started out with focusing on our breathing, she would say “return to the breath lovingly and kindly.”

 

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“Return to the breath” kept resonating in my head—at first because my mind was indeed wandering, but later I felt it beyond that.

Just return to the breath.

How might my life change if instead of berating myself, I simply returned to the breath? Breathing in grace. Compassion. Patience. Gentleness. Kindness.

For me. To me. From me.

And of course, the more I am able to give myself grace, the more my grace for others overflows. Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it?

The truth is, I really don’t know how successful I’ll be at this because this has been a goal of mine for a while, and…I still suck at it. But maybe if I give myself grace for sucking at giving myself grace it would get the ball rolling!

We shall see.

May your New Year be a blessed one—and may the journey that YOU walk be filled with grace, joy, kindness, compassion, and love—both inside and out.

Happy New Year!

 

 

*Both my “be still” and “grace” bracelets are from MudLove. It is a for-profit business that believes in giving back, so every product you purchase provides one week of clean drinking for someone in the Central African Republic. I am not officially representing them or being compensated for sharing this—I just love them.

 

All photos are my own.
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