joy · one little word

One Little Word: 2018



Happy New Year!

I know, we’re already 16 days in! How are those resolutions coming??

Yeah, me too.

I’m not really a resolution person, and every year I say I’m not doing resolutions, but privately, I list a few new habits I’m going to pick up or lay down. But it never sticks.

Several years ago, I heard about One Little Word – the idea that you choose one word to guide your year. I love this idea because it makes me think about what I really want, it makes me find a connection between those goals, and it helps me simplify choices I make in my day-to-day life. It’s a guidepost and a reminder of what I truly value.

Every December, as the year comes to a close, and we fill that week between Christmas and New Years with lazy days, playing at the park, and wearing PJs, I try to figure out what word is going to guide me in the year to come.

This year, several words kept coming to my mind, particularly BE, SLOW, and JOY. I’ve done SLOW before, and it’s a good one, and I could chose it every year for the rest of my life and still not fully master it. But another word kept coming up in conversations and readings and even songs.


This One Little Word is different, though. In fact, I almost ditched it because I’m not sure I really know how to be joyful. Sure, I know how to have fun and how to seek things that make me happy or that give me warm, fuzzy feelings – candles and reading in bed and wine and delicious meals and time with friends and long walks and cozy blankets on cold, winter nights and a million other little things that make me smile.

But what I’ve been wrestling with is that I’m not sure any of these things are actually JOY. I think a lot of what I attribute to JOY might actually be PLEASURE. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing – there’s a lot of joy when I recount memories of these things that have brought me genuine pleasure.

A lifetime of little pleasures strung together builds a beautiful life.

But I wonder about purpose. I don’t think my life is supposed to be ALL about little momentary pleasures. My whole life can’t revolve around food and wine and books and being cozy. (Or can it?? It DOES sound pretty great….)

So, this year, instead of fully embracing it and BEING my One Little Word right off the bat, I’ve decided to spend this year diving into JOY – researching it, reading books (like this one) and articles (this and this have been interesting reads so far) and scripture and classic essays about joy. Interviewing people about what joy is for them and where they find it. Crafting a personal definition that guides me to a deep understanding joy and what it looks like in my life.


So when I start to fight this word – when I think it would be easier to choose SLOW or even BE because it feels more tangible somehow (if not attainable) – I realize that this is a perfect example of doing something for the sake of learning. Not because it’s easy, but because of what the outcome will be.

What about you? Did you choose a word for 2018? Or do you make resolutions? Or try a New Things list? (This idea is really interesting to me, too.) I’d love to hear your thoughts.



connect · one little word

One Little Word 2017

Hello! Happy New Year!

Yes, we’re almost 3 weeks in. I’ve had a slow start to 2017. It’s been an interesting season. We had a nice, quiet Christmas and then a long winter break following. We had a good mix of lazy days in PJs until noon, working on little projects here and there, and taking a little trip to the coast for a couple of days.


But, I’ve been in a funk.

January used to do this to me every year. I’d go into what my friends called “the cave” where I just stayed home, hunkered down, and survived the season. I spent evening on the couch, watching You’ve Got Mail and Bridget Jones’s Diary, letting phone calls go to the machine (yes, that many years ago), and eating lots of chocolate.

But for the last several years, I’ve become a winter convert. I LOVE this season. I love clearing away the Christmas decorations and starting with a clean slate. I love reflecting on the past year and making plans for the new one. I even love the rain and fog and cold that sometimes come in January. I keep the twinkle lights up, I burn my candles, and I relish that magic starting-over feeling.


But, this year has felt a little less magical.

I can’t exactly put my finger on the cause – just a bunch of different things that have been bothering me. I haven’t been feeling so great, parenting is kicking my tail, and when I looked back at my plans for 2016, I felt like I had accomplished exactly zero of my goals. I began to lose hope about a lot of things.

Husband and I had been talking about our One Little Word for a few weeks. He decided in early December that REINVENT would be his. It sounded good – I could see a lot of ways that this would help me get some things back on track – but it just never settled well. I tried different synonymous words that might be a better fit – RECREATE, REMAKE, RECLAIM, REFORM, RECONSTRUCT, RECOVER.

Nope. Just not right.

I read an article about doing an Annual Review of your life (like you would for your job), noting things that went well the previous year and things that didn’t. The author suggested writing some questions – some What Ifs – to frame what you would like the new year to look like.

My questions looked a little like this:

-What if I set deliberate times to play with each child every day?

-What if I spent 5 minutes alone meditating every morning?

-What if I finally found a daily Bible study to do?

-What if I went back to Pilates?

-What if I tried to connect with everyone I sent a Christmas card to this year? Not just a “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, but if in some way, I really connected with them – a phone call, a letter, meeting for coffee, dinner – something more than just a Christmas card? (This idea came as I was addressing them back in December, and I just can’t shake it. I might fail miserably, but an interesting What If.)

-What if I connect the dots of my experiences and my interests to figure out what’s next in my life?

-What if Husband and I had a getaway every year? (Does NOT have to be big like London! Small and simple is good, too.)

And then my word was clear: CONNECT.

Connect with my children, with myself, with God, with my body, with my friends and family, and my husband. How much different would I feel at the end of the year if I did all of these things?

And then, as tends to happen, the word CONNECT started showing up: in this book that’s been on my nightstand for months that I just picked up, in this book that I read most mornings when I sip my coffee, in this study that arrived a few weeks earlier than expected and at EXACTLY the right time I needed it. And that word just keeps showing up – magazine articles, podcasts, songs on the radio.

And it turns out, the way for me to get out of my January funk was not to go into “the cave” alone but to CONNECT with other people. Just keeping this word in mind has encouraged me to say “Yes!” when I feel like saying “No.” And by doing so, little bits of light break through the darkness, and I regain hope.

So 2017? I’m ready now. Let’s do this.


build · one little word

2016: One Little Word



Well, hello there! Happy New Year! How were the holidays?

We stayed home for Christmas, carried out our own little traditions, and started new ones. It was a quiet week, but it was good. And then right after Christmas, we hit the road to Southern California to visit family. How great to visit family during that final week of the year when no one is rushing around to buy presents. We spent our days walking to the park and playing with toys and cooking family dinners and reading.

It was a good balance this year.

I haven’t been around the blog lately. Something happened in the fall – I’m not really even sure what it was – that made everything feel like it was on hold – a fog, a fall funk, if you will.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote in one of my favorite books, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” I believe this is also true for seasons. Fall felt like a season that asked lots of questions but provided no answers. I am hoping the new year ushers in a new season with, if not answers, at least a fog-lifting.

I love the new year. Starting over, starting fresh, making new. I love a makeover (it’s what most of my projects are, really), and January 1st is the best kind of makeover – new dreams, new goals, new habits, new ideas.

A clean slate.

Happy New Year Chalkboard


Last winter, just before New Year’s, Husband and I got away to a lovely inn near my hometown. In the morning, over breakfast, we wrote out a whole bunch of goals for ourselves and our family for 2015. We were feeling very optimistic as we scribbled line after line of resolutions and ideas and aspirations.

As we were driving to Southern California last week, I reminded Husband of this and suggested we do something similar again this year.

Me: Maybe we can take time while we’re gone to think about goals for the new year?

Husband: Yep. That’s a great idea.

Me: Ugh! I meant to make a copy of our list from last year to see how we did.

Husband: Nope.That’s a terrible idea.

He’s right. When you know you’ve failed, you don’t always want to see how terribly you’ve failed.


As I started pondering my “One Little Word” a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do one this year. What would it be? What do I really need to do? I could stand to dive more into “practice” or “pursue” or even “refine” again. There are layers to these words that could play out every year for the rest of my life.


When I thought about what I really wanted to “create” this year – what I wanted to change, what I wanted to have or be by December 31st, 2016, my ideas kept coming back to “build”.

Build. It’s a clunky word. Not intrinsically pretty or motivating like “refine” or “pursue” or even “slow”. It’s not glorious in hand lettering (see above). It won’t make for a lovely Instagram (but I’m going to do it anyway).

But it does seem to fit into the areas of growth I’m thinking about this year. I made a new list in my journal for 2016, but it’s much simpler and looks like this:





-build on positive

So much better than two pages of notes. Here’s a little more about what they each mean:

Strength. Yes, as in physical strength and flexibility. I’ve always been fairly strong, but I’ve lost some of that since BB and BG were born. I don’t want to be a body-builder, but I want to get stronger this year. BUILD seems like a natural word for this.

Community. Living hundreds or thousands of miles away from family requires you to create your own community. Over the 13+ years we have lived in California, we have experienced varying amounts of community – an ebb and flow of having a core group of people to do life with outside of our own house. For various reasons (see: Fall Funk), we are in a phase of being homebodies. I want to be intentional about BUILDING community in our daily lives.

Work. If I could just show up and do the work – to make SOMETHING on most days – I could BUILD a collection of work, whether that’s making jewelry or redesigning a dress or writing. To build brick-by-brick, bead-by-bead, stitch-by-stitch, word-by-word (or Bird by Bird) would surely show growth over the year. I am excited to see what could come from that kind of practice.

Margin.  Five Januarys ago, I bought my first Kindle book – Real Happiness. Then three Januarys ago, I picked the book up again as part of my journey to being more purposeful. This January, I’m going to pick the book up once again to help BUILD more margin in my life. More quiet, more mindfulness, more prayer, more space. (Santa also brought Sitting Still Like a Frog for BB’s stocking. We’ve done a couple of the guided exercises together, and I think they’re great. Hoping we can all work on this as a family this year.)

Build on the Positive. I’ve always been a glass-half-full, rose-colored-glasses, Pollyanna kind of gal. But lately (see: Fall Funk), pessimism has been seeping into my thoughts, and I more easily focus on what is going WRONG. I want to change that. I want to return to my more optimistic self, and I think the key to this is to BUILD on what is going RIGHT.

See? Not overwhelming. I imagine it playing out in very simple ways. When I wake up in the morning, how can I build? I can work out instead of wandering aimlessly online. At night, after the kids are in bed, how can I build? I can carve out some quiet time. When I’m having a hard day, how can I build? By thinking about what is going WELL and building on that.

I see my One Little Word as a reminder that I have a choice. I can decide what I do with the circumstances, time, constraints, and situations I’m in every day. I can choose to wallow in a funk or I can choose to BUILD.

brick by brick


After we got home from Southern California, I pulled out my journal from last winter to look up something, and I stumbled on our goal sheets. I tried to quickly turn the page to avoid seeing all of our failures, but something caught my eye, and as I dove in, I realized we did much more than I’ve been giving us credit for.


-drink more water

-exercise more (We quit the gym, got an elliptical, and I exercise more than I did before!)

-re-evaluate work/life balance (Husband – I think he’s done really well in this area this year)

-camping (There have been several living room camp nights – it’s a start!)

-BG learn letters (Well, thank you, preschool!)

-family movie night

-date nights

-use a budget app (a few months counts, right?)

-get an iPad for me (Ha! I don’t even remember adding this one. Good job, me!)

-paint living room/dining room/hall (done, done, and done)

Hey! Maybe it’s not everything, but for a glass-half-full kind of woman, I think that’s pretty great!

I mean, it’s definitely something to “build” on.