One Word Changed My Life

2014 will be the third time that I’ve thrown out the idea of making a list of resolutions and instead focused on just one word for the year.

Many have said this practice is life-changing. For me, it has not only changed my life, but it has changed me.

To select my word for the year, I begin by asking myself, “Who do I want to be at the end of next year when I am sitting in front of the fireplace, hot chocolate in hand, looking at the lights on the Christmas tree?”

I truly feel He places the word on my heart. So, as 2012 ran out of road and I looked, listened, and prayed, one word kept popping up everywhere.

It was there when a friend told me about the look on her daughter’s face Christmas morning when she saw her new puppy.

It was there, on my face, when I opened up a Christmas card from a family member who would be here to celebrate one final Christmas.

It was there, mixed with the tears sliding down my face, as I watched the end of It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve.

And it was there when I lit the candle while listening to the story and the songs about the birth of our King.


My one word for 2013 was joy!

Now, I consider myself to be a happy person, but as I started the new year I set out to be more focused on finding something to be joyous about each day. Not just the big things, but the smaller things, too. The ones that sometimes sneak in when we aren’t even looking, changing who we are and how we live.

Like a new recipe we loved so much it’s a new Christmas baking tradition. There is joy in new traditions.

Or the day I decided to lengthen my daily walks and keep track of my mileage. A decision which offered not only a smaller size in jeans, but also amazement at how many miles I’ve covered this year. There is joy in a sense of accomplishment.


Like the smiles my husband and I share as we deck the halls. My mother-in-law, Patricia, went all out decorating for the holidays.  Our display now includes a forty-year-old nativity set, a collection of Byers’ Choice Christmas Carolers, as well as many other Christmas decorations we inherited when we lost her three years ago today. Today, I miss her so much my heart aches.  Yet, when I look up at her wreath above the fireplace or drink my coffee from one of her Christmas mugs, some of that sorrow is lessened, knowing her treasured decorations will be in the heart of our home each Christmas, helping her legacy to live on for her grandchildren. There was great joy for everyone who knew Patricia Wozniak, and her memory is as alive as ever in my heart.

Our 40 Year Old Nativity SetIn my life I have found any time you offer something up to God -– well, He has a way of increasing it. He goes above and beyond my expectations every time.

You see, when I opened those fresh, clean, calendar pages for 2013, I didn’t know things that I had only hoped for in the far corners of my heart would see the light of day this year.

I couldn’t have dreamed or even imagined that things I didn’t even know I’d wanted would show up this year and change my life -– things that could only come from Him.

Like being reunited with friends I had lost contact with -– you know the ones, the people in your life who knew you when. I was so pleased to not only catch up on the years gone by but to discover wonderful new things about them.  Now, on any day I merely think of them, and their mere presence out there in the world offers me a feeling of peace. There is joy in connecting with old friends.

Back when frosty January rolled in, I didn’t know that a heart-wrenching decision I made with only the wisdom of an 18-year-old would finally come full circle. But, in April, when my beautiful birth daughter contacted me, it did. The haunting pain I’d held onto for years has been lifted since Brynn walked back into my life.  Replaced with wonder at the fact that although I didn’t raise her, some of the threads that make up my heart, make up her fabric -— like reading, writing, and big dog love.

And although I can take no credit, she is beautiful, smart, funny, and so full of life. I’m delighted at how accomplished she is, as she chases even bigger dreams. But most of all, my heart is happy because she is. Know this, it may take awhile, but if you trust, He truly will give you beauty for ashes.  In this case the joy is beyond what I’d ever hoped.

As I scooped huge mounds of snow during February, I didn’t even imagine that before we would celebrate Thanksgiving, I would be a grandmother for the first time.  But as the family and I waited in the hospital waiting room on November 19, I received a text from my son saying, “Dax is here, tell everyone please.”

I think that is the first text that ever made me cry : ).  I cried some more when I saw Dax’s little face, and I am crying right now picturing the look on my son’s face just after he became a dad. I will carry those things with me in my heart forever more.

And there are just no words that do justice to what I felt when I held that baby’s downy head in my hands for the first time. So much joy wrapped up with that little boy in his blanket, his future shining bright.

During this holiday season one verse from the Gospel of Luke has truly touched me, speaking to everything I feel about my year of Joy, and I want to share it with you:

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” – Luke 2:19 (NIV)

As I sit here writing this with the lights of the Christmas tree shining down on me, and Mom’s wreath above the fireplace, I feel blessed beyond measure. I’m wrapped up as much in the memories from the past and the hope for the future, as I am in this blanket covering me — all keeping me warm.

In my heart, I’m holding all of the treasures of this year, along with all of those things that happened so long ago on that very special night.

And I will be taking the changed me, the new me, into the new year— sharing the joys it brings, both big and small, with all of those I love.

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