Monday, January 31, 2011


I choose a word for the year because one word is a simple way to keep focus throughout an entire year. I don’t know about you but my head gets full fast and it seems like I can go in all different directions as urgency presents itself. So having a word for the year helps settle me as I recall the general direction provided by my God-given word. Just having one focus word keeps me from adopting “should” goals.

I do not like to set goals. I am amongst about 80 percent of the population who cringe when the word goal is mentioned, according to author Bobb Biehl. In his book, Stop Setting Goals…If You Would Rather Solve Problems, Biehl estimates that only 15 percent of people are energized by setting goals and reaching them. The majority of us prefer to identify problems and seek solutions. Since the writing of this book, Biehl has discovered yet another small percentage of people—five percent—who are neither motivated by problems or goals but by seizing opportunities.

Since I already have my own “non-goal” word for 2011, I like to look back over my shoulder and ponder how last year’s word unfolded in my life. It’s an enlightening exercise that I recommend to all who choose a word for the year.

I could trace my 2010 word—radical—throughout the whole of last year. Radical shock waves from alcoholism, panic attacks, sexual impurity, lay-offs, joblessness, relocation, recovery, and seclusion impacted many in proximity. Radical snuck up on me while I watched digital numbers of the clock slowly click through the night. Radical taunted me while I plotted how to handle the next new crisis. Radical loaded my shoulders pulling them down. Who picked such a dreadful word anyway?

Radical knocked me down several notches so that I was on the same level with our youngest grandson. One day while talking to my daughter-in-law on the phone, 22-month-old Jackson stomped into their kitchen perfectly pleading, “Crak-kerrr, mommy, Crak-kerrr.”

“Mommy is making your lunch, Jack, no crackers.”

Distance by telephone gave me a unique vantage point. Jackson cried and whimpered in frustration, “Crak-kerrr!”  From this same vantage point, I heard an echo of my own voice whining for want I wanted, and then petulantly protesting when I did not get what was expected. But my voice was not as cute as Jack’s.

Early last year, I attended a New Life Weekend in the San Francisco Bay Area… so that I could learn how to fix a relative who was threatening my expectations. I was energized to solve her problem. I arrived with luggage stuffed full of judgment and resentment. After two days, I emptied that suitcase and returned with radically different pieces of apparel…like humility, compassion and forgiveness. Those have been well-worn outfits during my year of radical.

When Christmas rolled around, the outfits were threadbare as I suited up for our first Christmas without family. Radical threatened me again as I dredged up expectations of Christmases past. Radical accused me as we went tree-cutting by ourselves. Our past adventures into the woods had meant family, friends, picnics, hot chocolate and the thrill of finding the best tree.

The search for the perfect Christmas tree, I believe, began many Decembers ago…maybe even in my childhood where there were no forests to be found. Whatever it takes, the Voorhees get their tree…and expectations are achieved. Even despite a few permitless years—shhh—we cut our tree during the night, having our young children stand on lookout. What were we teaching them anyway?

This past December, my husband and I quietly trekked through the snow, sometimes sinking up to our thighs. It started snowing; we were cold and hungry. We settled on a tree. Radical again…one side of the tree was pretty sparse. I lugged all the sorrows of a solitary Christmas all the way uphill to the car along with this imperfect tree. The uphill trudge with tree and resentment culminated in a welcome release upon reaching the car. As I dropped it next to the car, it felt like I had let go of something else as well. We looked forward to decorating the tree together.

This time, only a wisp of radical brushed past as we hung our absent daughter’s ornaments from previous years. Our imperfect tree sparkled…and a new kind of radical glistened. Tree cutting by ourselves wasn’t terrible afterall. Christmas morning could be different. 2011 could be different. I could be different. Radical.

I recalled my daughter-in-law prompting little Jack during his cracker disappointment, “Jack, is no cracker a bummer?”

He stopped whining to give voice to a different, matter-of-fact perspective, “Bumm-merr….bumm-merr.”  And then he ate his lunch. Problem solved.

As is fitting for a problem-solver, my word for 2011 is willing. Bumm-merr was already taken.