My word of the year for 2023 is humility. Over the course of the last several years my word or theme of the year has had a profound influence and so my selection process has grown even more purposeful with each year since the first word in 2019. Recently I heard the concept that your words of the year build on one another. This has been my experience and is the reason for this year’s specific word.
So let’s take a look back…
The first year I did this was in 2019 with “Hope”. This was the year we were going to give our all to grow our family. For that journey I needed hope, but what I learned was when you walk with the Lord hope was not about wishing on a star. You actually take action making hope an active part of your world. That year I saw the word every where (like the name of my nurse at my first major procedure) and in the hard moments where I had to make a choice – stop or keep going – and I would pep talk myself in a mirror: “Hope looks like THIS” and then take the action. Walking in hope brought me to my little girl Shannon Lowry, an incredible career experience, and the bravery necessary to face the failing of Danny’s first transplant.
The next year in 2020 I choose “Joy”. This would be the year we would welcome our little girl and I was pretty confident there would be things that would not go as planned. Wanting this chapter in life for so long I had very specific ideas of how every detail would play out. But as Danny was facing some setbacks we would have to accept help and I would need to adjust my expectations and vision. But joy in the church is defined as being able to carry happiness and sorrow together. When I selected this word, it was the meaning that I wanted in my life: hold the frustrations AND the blessings and that year I had some of the most incredibly beautiful and hardest moments of my life. 2020 showed me you can learn to hold both.
As I prepared for 2021, I was at a loss of where life was headed. So much had happen in 2020 and by the time it was ready to conclude, we were back in our family home with all 3.5 of us and trying to make our way. It was hard, it was hurtful, and I was scared. Danny was not well…. the world was messy…. the balance of motherhood, caregiver, wife, professional was colliding…. and I had this sweet little girl with the most beautiful big blue eyes looking at me to lead, guide, protect, provide. I was at a loss and afraid to choose a path or try a solution – nothing seemed to be a clear solution. And so I realized what I needed: “Be Still”. That January 1 I was starting Father Mike Schmitz’s bible in a year podcast and it felt like the best time to learn about handing everyone and everything over to God. I would try to only make decisions when God made the answer clear. That year I had to ask Danny to get help, so he could really heal. I knew it was the right choice, but he chose to leave. I had to make decisions about our house, our daughter’s life, our dog on my own. That year I really struggled and I remember feeling the devastation…. but I also remembering knowing God was there. I was not good at being still, but I did learn that resting in Him would be the only path forward.
2022 I went in ready to not just rest in God, but face the decisions that would come. I wanted to walk through the year… and really through my life… knowing God’s plan is the only way: “Thy Will”. This was the year my word found its way to my wrist in a tattoo. This is a way of life that is not just a year, but a life line. It was what I was created and put on this earth to do: seek his plan and follow it. As I reviewed 2022, I grew even more aware of how committed I was to acceptance in “Thy Will”. 2022 was a year where a lot of my world’s uncertainties would take shape and I wanted to be prepared to accept it as God’s plan. He can turn all things for good, so I wanted to walk through every outcome, with as much trust as I could muster and with eyes scanning for God’s influence on it. It was very much a posture of observing and then accepting (with a decent amount of reacting in between). It was hard, and also good.
How can a person say “God can make all things for good” and truly believe it when my heart shattered a few different times? And maybe the most unexpected but greatest lesson of all: He is there in the mess. I planned for him to be with me in the outcome, through the results, in helping me survive life. Instead he showed me how he is there through it all. In many ways I wondered how I didn’t already know that? Had he not held my hand through hospital nightmares and messy miracles? Had I not already cried out for help and been given a plan? There is something so uniquely different when your devastation comes from something that God has ordained as wrong and yet he is more present to you.
Yes, God making himself known in seasons of serious sickness or a husband’s mental anguish and getting lost, makes sense. He is saddened by them too! But for the tearing at a family unit – that goes against our faith, our Father? Things fueled by anger and hate, but most important free will – God won’t take that away. Just like my ability to do anything to stop it was gone: and yet God was there. How could he help to fix the very thing he says not to break? I learned how much my father is one of unconditional love. Why Jesus chose to spend his human days with the sinners. Why the Holy Spirit is created out of love between Father and Son, for humans who desperately seek it and can’t find it because that is where we live: in a broken world and God is there too.
This reality of God being in the muck…. Almost waiting for my arrival was so powerful. I was able to make peace with some of my challenging calls to action in this current life. I started to face the situations that I just didn’t want to with hope and desire – because he would be there. If you were told “go here and God is there”- would you go? YES! So I learned that I wanted to go to the moments of heartbreak and push through fear, as they would show me God’s face. And then I learned I want more of that for this year. It was time for me to not just seek God in the result and outcome, I wanted to partner with him through the whole thing…. through all of life: obedience.
That was what I was sure 2023 was calling me to: asking God “where do you want me? How do I act? What choice do I make? How do I respond?” To be an active participant in my life as His partner. He is calling me to not be a leaf that was being blown by the wind, and instead asking God how to navigate the storm with his plan. And I realized God already gives us a map for life – through the church, sacraments, prayer life. I just needed to use them and take a bigger role in following the rules. In a season where I spend a lot of time feeling like “it’s not supposed to be this way” and craving control…. I needed to act (and hopefully feel) as I know God has me exactly where he wants me and use His direction as the only path. So I started to research obedience.
In my seeking to understand obedience I quickly learned it wasn’t the religious word to describe perfect followers, A+ students, high achievers, or elite athletes of the Catholic Church. It comes from the ability to recognize your weak humanity, offer it to God, be helped and transformed, and then following faith even more powerfully. It requires a change of perspective and heart … seeking wholeness in Him through healing… and then a greater ability and desire to be a good disciple. It requires humility.
That was it, humility stuck and I began to see it everywhere. How to always approach God with a “humble heart”. To understand this offering of our broken humanity, in response to a God who offers graces to help us. And then to see that He leads through transformation- the whole reason obedience exists: so we can become the best version of our Catholic selves, this was my word. This is the life I want to learn to lead.
And when you think about what you do want in your life, it will also start to bring up the things you do not want. As life has a variation on healing in my world, I find myself with the perspective: “time to get things back on track” and this problem solving, take control, grabbing of the bootstraps and fix it mode arise. I can just shut the closet door that holds that old full messy life and go ahead with a new one. Figure out that life I wanted and get back to it. That isn’t how this works…. and it is not how my life works. That world that I want to shut in the closet is my life. This path I am on is not the detour, it is the road. And if I have learned anything, hasn’t it been that this is not in my control. I can do my best with what I have… but own it, that isn’t the piece that has been missing. In fact that piece that is probably still a bit illusive? The one where I hand life over and just follow His guidance. So it is truly real: I need to have the humility, to be teachable, and then determine where it is He wants me to be.
My first post sharing my plans for 2023 will be live January 27 and it has been a month there has been a lot of writing. The delay was not getting to this post, the delay wasn’t in limited time (well anymore than usual). The post was my first anticipated act of humility, the first opportunity I thought I would have to really show God and myself this was going to be a year I nailed this word right from the start. The whole thing changed and what was expected of me opened the wound of the last two years wider than it had been for quite sometime. Emotions I had not experienced or expected…. things I thought I had healed from and and moments that I thought had passed…. alive as if this was all new. The reality that so much of my healing is a work in progress, despair found me really fast. It was really frustrating and not the way I wanted to start out the year. But that line says it all: not what I wanted and thus indicates everything I needed. I turned to God in prayer and relying on faith to just give it up. Yes, humility was coming in strong…. and although painful, it told me this is going to be the right word for 2023.
Wishing you all a wonder 2023!
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!
One thought on “2023: Humility”
Well we all can embrace humility…great advice! Love Dad