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  • janetmchenry

Word of the Year, Part 1

“Words, words, words,” Hamlet says in the library scene of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Often played with humor, Shakespeare’s scene helps Hamlet develop the false idea that he is going insane.

But it’s not a crazy idea to choose a Word of the Year. I started doing this in 2012. Something led me to look up the meaning of my name, Janet. When I saw that it means “God’s gracious gift,” I almost laughed out loud. Me, a gift, much less a gracious gift? Oh no.

That needed work.

So I decided to choose grace as a word I would focus on for that year, understanding that if God has showered his grace on me, I need to extend that to others as well.

I needed work.

I focused on Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

Oh, much work to do–-mostly in the sense of learning to not say everything I was thinking, not throw everything out there on social media that I thought was witty at the time, and not react with my own opinions (as my choleric self is prone to do) but wait for God’s Spirit to settle wisdom and guidance over me instead.

Other words I’ve chosen: – 2013, courage (I flew to Africa for my son and DIL’s wedding. That needed courage!) – 2014, love (I have a choleric personality. Need I say more?) – 2015, love (That clearly needed a lot of work.) – 2016, humility (I hadn’t had a book contract in many years; by the end of the year I had three. Only God can do that.) – 2017, contentment (I finished the three books, downsized my failing mom from her huge house 150 miles away, got rid of a ton of stuff–hers and mine–and painted most of my house.) – 2018, joy (I’m not naturally joyful. I see problems rather than progress. However, those books were released . . . with much joy!) – 2019, discipline (I determined to work on my health/weight.)

And this year my word was HOPE. Can you imagine a word better than HOPE for 2020? Focusing on HOPE has helped me stay positive, despite the ugliness of politics and all things virus-and-stay-at-home-related.

If you’ve never chosen a Word of the Year, I highly recommend a great book on the subject: Debbie Macomber’s One Perfect Word: One Word Can Make All the Difference. I loved reading her stories about how the words she has chosen for DECADES have made a difference in her Christian walk. I highly recommend it. Here’s what I think about this whole Word of the Year thing. Your word should challenge you, not affirm you. It should nudge you to do better, be better. It should shake you up a bit out of bad habits and a sense of complacency. Your word should help guide you through your year, so that when you look back on December 31 on the prior 364 days, you should see growth.

Each year I choose a character trait for my Word of the Year–something I know I need to work on as a personal characteristic. My 2021 word will be GRIT.

A FB friend yesterday reminded me of a Finnish word we share in common as folks with a Finnish background: SISU. Sisu is described as stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness. Finns embrace the idea of sisu to express their national character. It is generally considered not to have a literal equivalent in English.

Why grit for 2021 . . . or perhaps better, sisu?

I need more grit to take on techie projects. For example, I ran into roadblocks trying to get my book PrayerWalk recorded on audio last year. The day before I was to record the book in a studio in Reno, it shut down to the public. It’s becoming clearer that I just need to dig in and figure out how to do the technology myself, recording it at home.

I also want to host more Sierra Valley Writer Retreat events in my home. I held the first one in October–and it was hugely successful. God has given me hospitality and teaching gifts, so the retreats are a perfect expression of who I believe He wants me to be. The new webpage is ready to launch . . . but again I hit a techie roadblock. I need to keep pushing rather than give up, which is a typical response when I get frustrated.

A third new effort I’ve been working on has been a course in life coaching. Since early October I have completed all the readings, papers, and practicum hours . . . and now just face the exam, which I hope to do this week. The actual coaching practice hours I found fascinating and fulfilling as I watched others hit their various a-ha moments about decisions and next steps for their lives. Getting that aspect of my business started with take more determination and follow through . . . sisu . . . grit.

Choosing a Word of the Year has been truly important to my personal development for the last nine years. When people tell me that I’m a positive person, it simply floors me. Truly! Because I know that quality is not natural to my critical personality. So, I know that bit-by-bit God is changing me from the inside out.

So, I’m curious! What’s your Word of the Year?

TOMORROW: What to Do with a Word of the Year

Janet is a national speaker and the author of 24 books, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest on prayer, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. She would LOVE to be considered as your next speaker:

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