I started pondering my Word for 2016 at the end of 2015. And I was pretty content with it.
Then, everything changed.
Before I get into that, though, it might be helpful to explain what all this “Word for the Year” stuff is about. It started…when did it start? The furthest back I can find is 2011, but my friend Mary from Play Off the Page, who gave me the idea, and I thought of words in hindsight for the several years prior; words that fit those particular years. So in all, my words have been: 2008, Awaken; 2009, Healing; 2010, Transition; 2011, Pursue; 2012, Ready; 2013, Joy; 2014, Expectation; 2015, Receive and for 2016 I have chosen (drum roll please…): Trust!
In revisiting last year’s word, I discovered I’d chosen “trust” as a secondary word. I shared how it seemed such a great pairing for “receive.” Well, I didn’t remember I’d mentioned “trust” to go with last year but it seems like a word that must not be done with me. This year, “trust” is ready to be a primary word.
“Mercy” was another word that rolled around in my brain, but since it’s the Year of Mercy, that seemed taken already. I want to include mercy in my year of trust, definitely. But it needs its very own space.
“Trust,” like “receive” from last year, is a word that can seem passive at first. Receive is more about being open to the gifts that are already on the way. That definitely encapsulated last year’s journey, with one book deal being finished and brought to light, and another, just beginning. So where does trust begin?
This word wrapped around my heart as we drove to our annual Christmas gathering with family in Bismarck. I knew when it came to me that it was the right word; I just didn’t know how soon God was going to make that word operative. But as 2015 ended, and our whole group sang Christmas carols to Grandma in a nursing home, we received her quiet, fairly unresponsive love that we knew was there just the same, and she received our songs and love in return.
Then, just a few days after Christmas, I received a call I knew would come someday, but was not expecting. We never quite expect it, do we? But indeed, my Grandmother had died peacefully in her sleep, during her favorite time of year, and just after she’d received us and our hearts.
Grandma passed from this world late on Dec. 28, and by the time of the funeral and burial, it was already 2016. And quickly, it was time to trust.
Some of us talked about how fitting it was that we got a fresh new year for Grandma’s send-off into heaven. After receiving her, we gave her to God to receive her. And then we were asked to trust the Lord for the rest, just as God entrusted us with most of the details of her earthly sendoff.
One of my favorite visuals of that day, Jan. 2, at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Bismarck, in our family plot. Nick, our youngest of five, had just plucked a rose off Grandma’s casket “spray,” something that had been offered to the living. The setting was so beautiful, and his look so intentional.
My “baby” is learning in this moment a little about trust. Trusting that it’s all true — that we aren’t just bodily matter but that there is more after this world.
He and his 13-year-old brother were there when I got the call that she was gone, there when we visited and prayed over her body one last time, there at the funeral home as we planned out her parting celebration, there to watch her body get ready to descend.
My youngest two sons took in a lot; things that will stay with them likely until their own parting from this world. In that way, it was all very much a gift to them, even if sad, because it’s hard to say goodbye. We are not made for the finite. We are made for the infinite.
This was how my year began and how trust settled in my heart even before I knew how much I would need to rely on it so early into 2016.
As Grandma’s casket waited in the gathering space of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit just before the funeral Mass, I looked up and saw the image from the Divine Mercy on the wall just above her body:
It seemed right that trust would guide me into the coming year. It is a word that I have welcomed, and that I surrender to in many ways. But it is not as passive a word as one might think at first glance. It is a word that is alive, that is moving, that has something solid as its source. Trust cannot exist on sand. There must be something solid at its base to sustain it.
So for my part, I will seek to solidify that stronghold all the more, so that trust can become infused within me even more.
To help me along, I will bring my patron saint of 2016. Mine is St. Elizabeth, which happens to be my Grandma’s name. Who is yours? Find out here!
I know that it won’t always come easily, but I am hopeful, and I trust that the places God has in mind for me to go will be blessed by Him first. Knowing that makes trust something to count on and feel safe in. For that, I am grateful, and excited.
My life is in Your hands Lord. Let us go and see what we can do with the time you have given me here.
Jesus, I trust in You. May I be trustworthy in turn. Help me to be more and more an instrument of your mercy and peace.