January 3, 2022
Happy New Year!
Along with defrocking the house and writing thank you notes–neither of which I have done yet–opening a new journal, and rereading the previous year’s journals, receiving a word for the year is a new year’s ritual.
Notice I said, “receiving” and not “choosing.” More about that later.
Last year I didn’t receive my word, “rhythm” until mid-January, but some years I am aware of my new word during Advent. For several years I made a collage to represent the word I received, but one year when a word had not appeared, I made a collage first, hoping it would reveal the word to me. And it did. “Fullness.”
(Left to right: “spaciousness,” “word,” and “fullness”)
This year thinking about a word for the year had not even occurred to me as Christmas approached.
Surprise–on Christmas Day, like the birth we celebrate on that day, my word appeared.
That morning before going to church I read the day’s meditation from Richard Rohr, “We are the beloved.” He quoted Henri Nouwen’s reflection on the word “beloved,”from his book Life of the Beloved. I have a copy of that small book, and I decided to re-read that book in 2023.
I also noted how often in recent months I have said or written to someone, “You are beloved.”
During church I experienced an overwhelming feeling of being beloved myself. First, because of my love for this community and the ways I have felt ongoing love within that community. But also such a clear voice from the Creator God, “You are my Beloved.” I felt that voice and those words reverberating throughout my whole body.
“Don’t forget this feeling, Nancy,” I said to myself. “I wonder if you have received your word.”
Once home the family festivities began, including opening a staggering number of presents. We took our time, taking turns, passing each one around the circle. Oohing and aahing. Grandson Peter immediately tried on the clothes he received–each one from his list. The used wrapping paper mounded on the living room floor. And then I opened one last present; one sent to me by a friend. It felt like a book, which my husband says is a dangerous gift to give me because I read so much, and it is hard to keep up with the books I own or have already read.
I was stunned when I saw the book: You Are The Beloved, Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, a collection of Henri Nouwen’s words compiled and edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw.
Yes, I have received my word. There was no doubt. Beloved.
January 2 Meditation
In this meditation Nouwen refers to Jesus’s baptism when he hears a voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17) and Nouwen says, “Jesus lived his life from that inner place of love.” He also emphasizes how those words are for you and me, too. “Once I have accepted the truth that I am God’s beloved child, unconditionally loved, I can be sent into the world to speak and to act as Jesus did.”
I have no idea how this word will become manifest in my life, and I suspect it will be a challenge, actually as each of my previous words have been, to live the word fully and openly and to accept where the path of that word beckons me.
Looking Back at Previous Words
Asking for a word has been one of my intentional practices for many years. My words have included “devotion,” “sacred yes, sacred no,” “spaciousness,” “fullness,” and last year’s word, “rhythm.”
(Collage using the artwork of Steve Sorman)
What I am beginning to realize is how each of these words continue to live in me. To nourish, challenge, and lead me. I don’t finish with a word, accomplish or outgrow it, but instead the words grow in a kind of active relationship with each other. What does it mean, for example, to maintain “spaciousness” in my life and at the same time welcome “fullness”? I know I will continue to learn the rhythm of sacred yes, sacred no.
Each word call me forth.
Each word deepens me.
Each word is an expression of knowing I am beloved and of holding others in their own belovedness.
Receiving A Word
I have heard people say, “I’ve decided my word for the year is going to be “hope.” Or perhaps, “faith.” Who am I to doubt that the word they’ve chosen is not the word actually delivered, but I encourage you to allow the Spirit to work within you; to open to the mystery.
One of the best guides for this process is Christine Valters Painter in her newsletter Abbey of the Arts. https://abbeyofthearts.com/blog/2022/12/06/give-me-a-word-2023/
Words of Wisdom
We were made in love, for love, and unto love, and it is out of this love that we act. This deep inner “yes” that is God in me, is already loving God through me.Richard Rohr
Happy New Year! You are beloved.
I would love to know your word, as you discover it.