My word for 2016 was SALSA.
I know – not exactly a deep, soulful, year-centering word. But for me, it was a relief, a release of emotion from the not-exactly-met hopes of my previous one words “try” and “submit.” It’s not that those years were years of failure, but what I had hoped they’d mean – and what they came to represent, in all their varying forms, good and bad – didn’t exactly match up.
In 2014, I thought I’d try more. Instead, my will could only get me so far and God literally forced me to stop trying so dang hard.
In 2015, I began to submit: my work, a grad school application, mind, body and spirit. Instead, the NOs began to pile up and I felt overworked and underqualified in every way. In the end, I submitted more to my limitations than to anything – or anyone – else.
So, 2016 seemed like a good time to reset the clock and aim towards something fun, something I didn’t hinge my future success on, something that fed me (literally), and the Year of Salsa was born.
Truth be told, salsa never let me down. Early in the year, we discovered a Mexican food imports shop where we attended enchilada workshops and befriended the vivacious owner. We’d pop in once a month for a chat and just a few necessities (as much as our budget would allow) to make mole and salsa verde at home. We learned new recipes and the life-changing fact that salsa is NEVER raw, it is always cooked down and cooled, turning from a rose pink to a mild brick red. We’d treat those bubbling saucepans of deliciousness like babies, gently stirring and murmuring as if in prayer, pouring ever so delicately into a bowl and waiting with anticipation for that first spicy bite.
When I look back on 2016, I hope I remember salsa and Lily’s shop and learning how her grandmother made enmoladas and how to pick a ripe jalapeno. I don’t want to remember the heartache, the worry, the chronic illnesses, the fear. I want to remember feeling whole and full.
That Mexican shop was an answer to prayer I didn’t even know to ask.
These “One Words,” these ideas we pluck out of thin air and attach them to 365 days of our life, are a prayer, whether we realize it or not. By the pure fact we choose any word by which to measure our time, we apply a wishfulness, the pursuit of a dream, a hope for change.
And yet, I’m not sure I prayed all that much about them. I know for sure I didn’t pray for salsa, but did I pray for God to empower me in my trying? Did I pray He would conform me to His likeness in submission? Did I pray that in these symbolic acts I would become less and He would become greater within me? Did I yield a single thing before the trials that laid it all bare?
Oh, my one words seem so much more like a prayer to myself – a “Get it, girl,” if you will – than they do a supplication before God.
I have no One Word for 2017. In fact, I write this now in the last days of the year, as we pack suitcases for Christmas in America with a gaping hole in our support account and a deadline with which to fill it.
This next year is a blank slate recently rubbed out, the blurred marks of all the words and years before still visible. I hold my chalk aloft, not yet ready to write the hopes and dreams, the prayers for this year, bar this:
I pray for a love without fear, a spirit that keeps no record of wrongs. I pray for strength and patience to endure, for a heart that’s pure. I pray for my children and every other mother’s child stumbling through this broken world to feel secure and know peace. I pray that what little I have, that I may give it, cheerfully and without a second thought.
And, though I may now be afraid, I pray that God would teach me to hold it all with an open hand. I pray He would pry my clenched fingers loose, massage out the worry and pain, and fill them with the kind of good gifts only He can give.
I pray that one year from now you’ll still find us here, in our semi-D in suburban Dublin, walking in the way of Jesus and asking for only one thing:
More of Him, and less of me.
How have your past words for the year played out in surprising ways? Have you chosen a word, Scripture or prayer to focus on for the new year?