Thursday, January 03, 2019

OLW 2019, SJFT, Roundup of Other People's OLWs

I'm beginning 2019 with a bang by doing my first roundup. I'm starting small with SJFT (Spiritual Journey First Thursday), and maybe someday I will take on Poetry Friday, too. I've always been scared to try because I didn't trust my internet connection enough, but here goes. I guess if my connection goes out I'll be back when it comes back! I'm rounding up the old fashioned way today since this is a small group and I am not back at work yet. SJFT friends, post your link in the comments and I will put it in the post. I can't wait to see what you have all chosen for your OLW, your One Little Word to help you navigate 2019!

And by the way, if you haven't ever posted on SJFT, feel free to link your OLW anyway. Doing so doesn't obligate you to post every month. If you don't have a blog, you can just leave your word in the comments.

Scroll all the way down to the end of the post to see the list of other people's OLWs and links to what they wrote. Visit their blogs and leave encouraging comments. And Happy New Year!
My OLW for 2018 was ENOUGH, and it was a good one. (Here I explained a little of what it meant to me, along with links to all my OLWs since 2009, and you can find many references to it in my posts throughout the year.)

This year I'm taking my text from Emily Dickinson. I read this poem with my eighth graders at the beginning of December, and as with most lessons I try to teach other people, I got more out of it than they did.

I dwell in Possibility
by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility --
A fairer House than Prose --
More numerous of Windows --
Superior -- for Doors --

Of Chambers as the Cedars --
Impregnable of Eye --
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky --

Of Visitors -- the fairest --
For Occupation -- This --
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise --

My OLW for 2019 is POSSIBILITY. This year I want to dwell there, and I want to gather Paradise in my narrow Hands. And maybe use more Capital Letters than usual. We'll see how that goes.

For a few weeks now, I've been saving quotes and writing thoughts down that all seem connected with this theme. They are still pretty undigested, so I'm just going to dump them on top of the Emily Dickinson poem like a compost pile, and I'm betting something will grow from the mixture, something unexpected and new.

1. A Henri Nouwen quote about wishes and hope, from his book Finding My Way Home, which I haven't read yet, but maybe in 2019?

"I have found it very important in my own life to try to let go of my wishes and instead to live in hope. I am finding that when I choose to let go of my sometimes petty and superficial wishes and trust that my life is precious and meaningful in the eyes of God something really new, something beyond my own expectations begins to happen for me. To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear."

So, embrace the POSSIBILITY, knowing you can trust God.

2. Bible verses that won't let me go, for years now, always taking on new resonances:

Ephesians 3:17-21: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

God's imagination is not limited by mine - His love is large and filled with POSSIBILITY, and the POSSIBILITY of what He can do in my life is enormous.

3. Before leaving school at the end of December, I wrote lesson plans for the first week back in January. Every year it is a challenge to do that. Believe it or not, even nine years after the earthquake, the sight of January 12th on a calendar makes me feel sick, faint, light-headed. This year the date falls on a Saturday, so I don't have to make plans for the day itself. I wish it would be a holiday every year, because it can never be an ordinary day, but maybe it's better to work - I don't know. In any case, even when you adopt a mindset of POSSIBILITY, and you let go of your wishes and live in hope and accept whatever comes as Nouwen says, you have to know that one of the possibilities is Earthquake, whether literal or metaphorical. It just is. It always was, even before it happened, but now it IS, if you know what I mean. I always have to start the new year a little gingerly, feeling that it can't really begin until that horrible anniversary is past. 

See the second verse of that Dickinson poem, where she talks about the Everlasting Roof being the Sky? (I compared it for my students to Pharrell's lyric: "Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.") 
Well, sometimes when there's an earthquake and it's too scary to sleep inside (assuming the house stood in the shaking), you lie on the ground and look up at the stars, the Gambrels of the Sky. It's a way to gather Paradise, I suppose; sure it is, but it is also terrifying, especially if the ground you're lying on is still shaking in constant aftershocks. 

I'm just saying that some of the Possibilities are scary, and that's just the way it is. 

Even if those scary things happen, while there's life, there's hope. I think of these lyrics from Nichole Nordeman's "Gratitude." Nichole lives in Oklahoma, so she knows about tornadoes, which like earthquakes are unpredictable and seemingly random. You just always know they are a POSSIBILITY.

Daily bread, give us daily bread,
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed,
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight,
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time,
Or maybe not, not today,
Maybe you'll provide in other ways,
And if that's the case...

We'll give thanks to You with gratitude,
A lesson learned to hunger after You,
That a starry sky offers a better view
If no roof is overhead.

4. Last year's OLW, ENOUGH, was good, as all the others have been (LOOK in 2009, LOVED in 2010, TRUST in 2011, HEAL in 2012, SHALOM in 2013, GARDEN in 2014, UNAFRAID in 2015, LOVED in 2016, ROOTED in 2017), but I couldn't help but hear it sometimes in my schoolmarm voice, scolding myself: "That's ENOUGH! Can't you just be satisfied? What is WRONG with you?" In some ways, this year's word is saying just the same as last year's was: stop grasping and clutching and holding on. But maybe it's saying it in a slightly gentler way.

5. I'm hoping, this year, to dwell in POSSIBILITY. As the year begins, I take a moment to imagine myself - a much wiser, more serene me than the actual me - calmly and peacefully gathering Paradise.

And how do others imagine their year? What OLW have they chosen? I'll round them up as they come in!

Irene's word is Happy!   "I am drawn to the word 'Happy,' because I believe happiness is a choice," she writes. "I think we can cultivate it in our lives." Don't miss Irene's happiness quotes and her list of ways she's going to be cultivating happiness in 2019.

Dani's word is Boredom.  She's been reading about how boredom, and particularly avoiding being constantly plugged into technology, can improve creativity. Check out her thoughts! 

Doraine's word is Balance. Head over to her blog to read about physical and spiritual balance. 

Kathie's word is Grace. Great choice, Kathie!

Janet's word is Marginal.  She writes, "The commentary in my study Bible frequently points to how Jesus ministers to the marginal, and in the margins; I frequently feel marginal myself -- in the sidelines of importance; and just to make it impossible to miss, my selection in a book of Advent/Christmas readings for Dec. 31 is Thomas Merton's "Time of No Room," which develops the theme of margins still more."(Read the rest of her explanation in the comments.) Intriguing!

Ramona's word is Try.   Go read what she has to say about why she chooses a verb and why her word is chosen with gentleness to herself in mind.

Margaret's word is Grace, and she also shares several other words she considered along the way. 

Karen's word is Alphabet.  She just started a new blog, and she had me at the Buechner quote. Happy New Year, Karen!

Carol's word is Embrace.  Last year her word was Hope, and a gift of a pin that said "Embrace Hope" started her thinking about her 2019 choice. 

Beverly's word is Focus.  I was also interested to read about the quote cards she plans to use this year.


Irene Latham said...

Dear Ruth - thank you for being brave and rounding us up! This is such a rich, lovely post... I think POSSIBILITY is beautiful beautiful. I love this: "To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life." In my prayers, I find I do 2 things: give thanks and ask for guidance. Because really, what do I know? What difference do my wishes make? So often they are wrong, or get me into trouble, and I have learned that my higher power has greater things in mind for me. It is so hard to wait sometimes, though. To be Still. (You go with your capital letters!) Also, I wish everyone in the world could read your Jan. 12 thoughts, how heavy that date still is for you and many others. Trauma doesn't just go away, does it? But you are healing. It shows in this post, you lovely creature you! Thank you! xo

My post:

Dani said...

Ruth - I really like your word and all that it holds for you. I feel like 2019 holds great possibility for me. 2018 was a turbulent year of great highs and deep, deep lows, so I am hopeful for a steadier year of exciting, unknown possibilities.

My post is here:

Happy New Year!

Margaret Simon said...

Possibility is a wonderful word. I just saw Mary Poppins in which she says "Everything is possible, even the impossible." And of course the quote from Alice in Wonderland " Sometimes I've believed almost as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast."
Your post is rich with poetry and spiritual guidance. I keep putting off writing my post because it means I have to commit to a word. I'll work on it today, I promise.

SW said...

I love your word! Looking forward to what 2019 has in store for us!

Unknown said...

Such possibilities 2019 holds! Wonderful choice.

I may not have much time for reading this week as we started the year with a death in the family, but wanted to at least chime in.

Also, moving my post to my yoga blog. Thanks for hosting.

Here's my link:

Janet said...

I loved reading this, Ruth. I'll look forward to hearing how POSSIBILITY colors your world this year.

I've never picked a word before, but I've always admired you for doing it. This year a word seems to be picking me: "marginal." The commentary in my study Bible frequently points to how Jesus ministers to the marginal, and in the margins; I frequently feel marginal myself -- in the sidelines of importance; and just to make it impossible to miss, my selection in a book of Advent/Christmas readings for Dec. 31 is Thomas Merton's "Time of No Room," which develops the theme of margins still more.

We'll see what it comes to in my life this year. But right now I'm feeling like in God's kingdom incredible things happen in the margins all the time, so maybe it's not such a bad place to be.

Ramona said...

Oh, Ruth, your Emily Dickinson poem made me want to choose doors for my OLW and then I had to go look up this favorite Emily Dickinson quote (replete with possibilities for OLWs): "The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." And then I calmed down and went back to revisit the quote I had already been considering. It's reassuring to knowing that we'll never run out of words for this yearly ritual!
Totally love your compost pile of thoughts about possibility. Since I'm a gal who grew up in Oklahoma, I want to explore more about Nicole Nordeman. I love how these posts lead me to discover new authors, new musicians, and new-to-me words. Thanks for hosting and for all your words that encourage us. I love imagining you calmly and peacefully (and gracefully) gathering Paradise!

Margaret Simon said...

Here's my link:

Karen Eastlund said...

Hey... I finally started a blog! Happy New Year to me! And all of you....
Please find me at

Thanks, everyone!

Carol Varsalona said...

I am finally putting my thoughts to paper, Ruth. My one little word is one that encompasses so much but it is simple in its thought. Embrace will take me on my 2019 journey, sheltering me when I am teetering on the edge and grounding me when I am ready to celebrate life. Isn't that what each OLW is supposed to do. My post is at As or your OLW, may it fill your journey with energy and potential to open doors and let you peek inside, latching onto rainbows when the rainy days seem dismal, and providing many reasons to celebrate. Possibility will serve you well. Thanks for adding the Nicole N song. The words are meaningful. Your post brought a smile to my face and further validated my journey as one that will not only lead me on but provide possibilities too. Happy New Year.

Ramona said...

Janet, I love reading how marginal has claimed you. There's so much to contemplate in this sentence from your post: "But right now I'm feeling like in God's kingdom incredible things happen in the margins all the time, so maybe it's not such a bad place to be." I'm looking forward to hearing about your journey with margin this year.

Beverley Baird said...

Loved your post with your description of your word - what a wonderful one for 2019.

Here's my post of my OLW focus:

Karen Eastlund said...

Sorry... I didn't get the link right... here you go...

Carol Varsalona said...

Hi, Spiritual Journey friends. I have an invitation for all of you. Tomorrow night, I am moderating #NYEDChat from 8-8:30pmEST on Twitter. The topic is "The Power of Intentionality in Guiding our 2019 Journeys. I would love it if you joined in with your #OLW. Thanks.