Out of the Ether — OneWord 2016

On January 1st, I sent out my first Tiny Letter of this new year. This is a project I have come to love and I am grateful for the friends who have subscribed to these missives, most particularly for the much smaller number who take the time to send me a response of some kind. Thank you!!

In that letter, I said that I was still waiting for my ‘word’ for this year to reveal itself to me. I was even so bold as to say I hoped it would be an easier word than the last few have been. My word for 2015 was ‘STRETCH,’ for 2014 it was ‘OBEDIENT,’ and for 2012, it was ‘WAITING.’ (Not sure what happened to 2013, but apparently, a word never materialized for that 12-month stretch!) Not one of those was easy, in any sense of that word.

After writing that letter, as I readied myself for sleep and turned out the light, I asked again for a word to appear. And lo, out of the ether of near-sleep, a word appeared. I thought I heard it as . . . slow.

Well, yes, that surely fits. 2015 was the year of Falling Down a Lot and every time I hit the ground, I thought to myself, “Woman, you have GOT to slow down!” So slow seemed right somehow.

But that sense of rightness lasted all of 30 seconds. Because coming immediately on the heels of that word was this one: ‘STEADY.

Ah, yes. I’ll take it! I said into that ether. I.will.take.it.

I’ve been chewing on that set of seven letters ever since, trying to conjure up images/ideas/connections as I reflect on the year just past and lean into the one so recently begun. Here are some of my initial thoughts and a few recent photographs to illustrate them.

 

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After the turbulence of 2015, the entire concept of steadiness comes as a welcome gift, one that I am still unpacking, one that I am confident will be multi-layered and complex. For example, have you ever watched sea stars? They are among God’s steadiest creatures, I do believe. They only move when hungry or in danger and they cling to rocks, coral, wharf poles — anything sturdy and stationary. On top of that, they’re gorgeous — brightly colored, a pleasing shape and they have this incredible ability to regrow injured limbs. Hoping to make this a year of Not Falling At All, I want to learn from these guys and cling to the sturdy stuff. And, of course, it never hurts to look as good as possible whilst clinging, right?

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Living in a beachside community provides easy access to one of the grandest of reminders that steadiness is a virtue and gift. The waves keep on comin,’ you know? Sometimes they’re slow and piddly; sometimes they’re muscular and wild. But no matter the weather, the time of day or night, the condition of the beach (or the presence of frail human bodies!), those waves are steady. They roll on, without end or interruption. I’m hoping for NO interruptions this year, at least none of the unwelcome and/or difficult kind . . . like emergency room visits or moving all my earthly belongings across town.

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Now I will admit that some human bodies are less frail than others when it comes to those waves. We spent a fair amount of time watching surfers while we were away celebrating our anniversary last month. This particular guy was not young. No, indeed, not young at all. And he managed to catch a ride with some frequency. It’s true that a surfer’s steadiness is a temporary and usually short-lived thing. But while it lasts? Oh, GLORY. Even just a few moments of glorious steadiness would be welcome, welcome.

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Now this old codger knew how to be steady! He clambered up on the edge of the Pismo Beach pier, folded his large webbed feet underneath his feathers, sat down firmly and drew his great neck and beak into the warmth and softness of his feathers. He remained watchful and alert, but he sat there, perched on a narrow plank for a good long time. When a nearby fisherman caught a small fish, he was instantly across that pier, waiting for a taste — he got one, too. Being steady does not mean being unwilling to move. Rather, I think it implies an alert readiness to change course, as needed. That’s the kind of steady I need.

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And then, of course, in any central coast California beach town, there are the bluffs, those large, yellow-to-peachy-pink rock formations that rim almost every sandy cove between Ventura and Pismo Beach. I love them — they’re craggy, uneven, vulnerable to erosion, yet somehow one of the steadiest things in our landscape. They are ever-present, providing grand vistas of the broad Pacific, reminding us that we are truly tiny creatures with short life spans. They are a regular reminder of beauty and strength, two of the many facets of ‘steady.’

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The oak trees that are ubiquitous in this part of the world remind me of the value of hanging in, hanging on, standing strong, offering shade, and withstanding both wind and drought. They are, in many ways, the epitome of steadiness to me. We don’t have oak trees in our current neighborhood, at least not very many of them. We were surrounded by them in our former home and their presence is one of the few things I miss since our move. I’m glad they’re EVERYWHERE in our town, because I enjoy being around them. I’d love for 2016 to be a year of hanging in/hanging on/standing strong, etc. Praying in that direction these days, that is for sure.

DSC05922I did a quick biblical search for the word, ‘steady,’ and got back a grand total of four. I may reference one or two of them in the year ahead, but this one, from the beautiful book of Isaiah, seemed wildly appropriate for me at this point in my life:

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Isaiah 35:3-5

Yes, Lord. I am relying on you to provide both strength and steadiness as needed in the year that is unfolding before me. And I relish this picture of an inordinately long-lived rainbow as a reminder of the way in which you, O God, keep your promises to humankind. As always, 2016 will be a year in which you are the steadiness I seek, the steadiness I need.

Do you have a word for 2016? Share it in the comments — I love reading what others are living with/wrestling with/hoping for!

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Comments

  1. I loved this, thank you somuch, will try write this too….. Ah but I have two words !

  2. I am one of those who enjoys your tiny little letters. you are still on my to do list – to answer that tiny little letter. it’s a lovely connection. (by the way, did you know Donna Baker and I are best of long time friends – like since 1998-long? – business connection that budded into friendship.)

    My word…present – to be present. I am writing about it and hope to finish tomorrow. it will be a blog post somewhere along the way.

    Here’s to a year of steadiness and I LOVE the scripture!

  3. I like it!

  4. I love the word steady and the visual examples in nature that you gave. I’m partial to anything related to the sea, so the starfish and the rocky bluffs got my attention, but beautiful oak trees are a favorite, too. My word this year is listen. I’m hoping to grow in listening, really hearing, and heeding God’s voice.

    • I think listen is my life word! It’s a great one, one we all need almost all of the time. Blessings to you in this new year, Elizabeth.

  5. sandy hay says:

    I didn’t think I would have a word for 2016. Then on January 1, Idelette wrote her blog and YES kept jumping at me. Mulling over this word convince me that YES would be the perfect word for me this year. Then Helen on January 2 wrote more that made this word even clearer. So my word for 2016 is YES 🙂

    • What a GREAT word, Sandy! Don’t you love it when you get confirmation from lots of places? Hope it proves to be a lovely year of YES for you.

  6. This is the perfect word for you, Diana, and I love how you used the gorgeous photographs to help explore all the nuances of what it means to be steady.
    Yes, I do have a word for 2016, and it will sound a bit flippant unless you read my most recent blog post. My word is: Whatever. Think Philippians 4:8. 🙂
    Blessings for a steady New Year!

    • I like that play on words, actually. A good word for you – have fun (and I’m sure some honest struggle in there, too) exploring what that means in your life during this year ahead. Blessings to you, Martha.

  7. I am so glad to see you today, and glad to know your word. My word is “nourish,” given at a time when I have realized I’ve been starving myself on so many levels. It’s not a word I would have come to on my own.

    I hope I see more of your journey with “Steady” in 2016. Love to you, dear friend!

    • Kelly!! Long-time-no-see. How the heck are you? Did you know I moved into your neighborhood – or rather, the church’s neighborhood? We’re up on La Coronilla, five minutes from Cliff Drive. Come and have tea sometime, okay? I’d love to hear what you’re up to. And I love your word. Self-care is so vital . . . and so often completely unseen/un-thought-of by pastors. Be good to yourself, my friend. Nourish yourself well.

      • Diana, you know I would love to, but we’re still in Charleston, South Carolina! I think you’re thinking of another Kelly! I am glad you’ve moved, though – it must be nice in Santa Barbara!

        • SO SORRY!!! I know another Kelly with a very similar last name (and she is a pastor) and this old brain slipped the wrong cog. DELIGHTED to see you here and I still love that word for THIS Kelly. I was sorry to read that your health has been rough the last few months. Not terribly surprised, given all that you’ve been through in the last year or so. . . big move, new baby, constantly evolving work/art. (That all did happen in the last year or so, right? Or am I slipping yet again?) Glad you’re finding your way to center and looking forward to more beauty at your place. Thank you for taking the time to comment. (And I truly do wish you could come for tea. If you’re ever in Santa Barbara, do it!)

  8. What a delightful word to focus on in 2016 –STEADY– with so many meaningful images, too! Love the way the photos you had already taken fit perfectly. I’m still waiting for my words to materialize…Maybe I’m meant to be wordless this year??

    • Could be! But I’ll bet you’ll find something soon. As always, Nancy, thanks for stopping by with kind encouragement.

  9. Marsha Goller says:

    I’ve considered having a word in other years, but never gave it the thought and prayer needed. Your blog inspired me to try again. I began thinking, considering and praying about a word for 2016, I did feel led to finally settled on the word “shift.” When I signed up at the web site, I found out that I am the only person who has chosen this word and signed up with it. Several situations combined to indicate that this would be worthwhile word for me this year. It’s really easy to get in a rut, a rut with my prayer life, a rut with my Bible study, my devotion time, my relationships with God, with others. What might be needed is a shift in my heart, in my walk, in my actions, in my sight or my listening, or maybe my perspective. I want to be aware, pay attention and keep the question before me, “Do I need a shift?” Do I need to move a little, give a little, or make a slight change of direction perhaps?

    Shift seems like a good fit for me for a year when I sometimes want to be more “settled” but maybe need to shift a bit or be more flexible.

    • What a great word, Martha – and so appropriate for where you find yourself right now. Sorry I missed this comment when you posted it! Hope it’s a year of really fun and interesting shifts for you.

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