Many of the bloggers that I follow use a WOTY, a Word of the Year in their writing. I have read those posts with interest and considered following suit for 2021. Some have been able to incorporate pictures that demonstrate their WOTY https://debs-world.com/ (Deb’s World, for instance).
I wondered how I would know what word to choose? Would I choose something serious, or timely? My word should be something that would help point me in a forward direction. One thing I knew for sure, it would be important to choose wisely. While I wasn’t quite sure how I would incorporate it into my life or blog, it seemed like it would make a good occasional feature for The Beach Girl Chronicles.
I wish I had made notes of the words I considered and cast off. Perhaps like a high school youth, who hesitated to make a commitment in case a better idea came along, I shied away from getting stuck with a word that might pale by comparison to THE word. Yet, nothing was coming anyway.
I almost despaired of finding a word when the funniest thing happened. My Word found me! I was not sure such a thing could happen, until it did. In a moment of clarity and levity there was my word, and not a doubt in my mind either!
How it happened
Messy Church is an international and intergenerational Christian movement www.messychurchusa.org and www.messychurch.org.uk that has become an important part of my pastoral ministry. A few weeks before Christmas I received an email from one of our national leaders containing some Christmas Song lyrics that had been re-written by our founder Lucy Moore (MessyChurch UK). I started to sing the first one and was shocked to hear the sound of my own laughter.
It may have been one of those things where “You had to be there” to appreciate the humor in the moment. So, I won’t replicate them here. Suffice it to say though, that the moment of laughter brought my word along with it. JOY!
It was not the first time that the word had caught my attention. One of my neighbors has the word JOY in lights on their roof. I had noticed it several evenings while walking the dog. When I saw the word on their roof, using it for my WOTY did not occur to me. I was more curious about whose house it was, why they chose the word, and if I would have the nerve to ask what it meant to them?
For whatever reason, some nights the word is lit and you can see it for several blocks away, and other nights not. When I had chosen my WOTY, or rather it had chosen me, I quickly thought of Comedian Bill Engvall and his trademark line “Here’s Your Sign!”
I am a bit of a smart alec now and then (you hadn’t noticed, I’m sure) and I like church signs, professional pre-occupation perhaps. Two of my favorite church sign messages are “If you are looking for a sign from God, this is it!” and also the one that says “Sign broken, message inside!” I admit, after having a word choose me, and after noticing my neighbor’s roof again, that “sign from God” thing really caught my attention.
Why Joy and not Happiness?
They are not the same thing. Joy is hopefully deeper and not fleeting or dependent on circumstances. Christians are supposed to “Rejoice in the Lord!” (Philippians 4:4-8) and Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” These are just a few of many quotes from the Bible, New Testament and Old Testament (The Hebrew Scriptures).
The number of times any given word appears in the Bible will vary depending on translation and versions. But according to one online source, “Joy” appears 114 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 68 times in the New Testament. That is from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, my personal favorite. So biblically speaking, joy is dependent up on God, God’s self, not on our circumstances. It is about relationship.
The thought does beg the question though, what was in the minds of the Founding Fathers when they included “the Pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence? I am pretty sure that would be its own study. I also suspect that current definitions of Happiness would vary greatly from the original intent.
Why JOY? I put that question to my neighbors and here is their gracious response: “Here is what Joy means to us: You have to choose JOY every day. YOU are the only one that can make YOU happy. As a community, during a pandemic, we came together and we chose JOY! It is certainly our word of this year, too. Joy is something that you choose! During this time it’s so easy to focus on the negative. We all have to look for joy and choose it!
My neighbors, Shane and Jill Nickerson, are community leaders; he is the town Mayor and she is the Vice President of the Borough Council and active in the local Chamber of Commerce. In truth, Jill probably wears a lot more hats than I know. They are part of a team of leaders and local business owners, who have poured energy into our community, seeking and coordinating volunteers to help meet all kinds of needs, instituting a mask wearing campaign “Wear Kindness” and many other initiatives. I wrote about this a little bit in a previous post “My Christmas Wish for 2021”
I agree with my neighbors; Joy is a choice, in a similar way that love is a choice. The focus of the world is on love is as an emotion, but that kind of emotion can be fleeting and flimsy. The choices of love and joy are crucial to our being able to stand up under the pressures of the marathon that has become COVID.
I believe our community has done so well with this because of the marathon outlook and a refusal to give up or give in. Rather, the focus is on creative possibility, and joy. The joy of making a difference, the joy of celebrating life in the midst of some discouraging times and the choice to live and model Joy.
I do not yet know how this will work out in my own life, but I will be paying attention for anything shareable. One small part of my plan is that I got a few Christmas cards with the word “Joy” on them, so I will keep them in plain sight as a reminder. Because you know, “Out of sight, out of mind!”
‘Let us not become weary in doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)
Not holding back the tide,
Copyright 2021 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com