One Word

December 31, 2012 | My Jottings

This morning when we got up it was zero degrees outside (minus 18 Celsius), and Lake Superior was steaming. It’s a gorgeous sight, especially with the clear sky and the sunrise over the vast expanse of water, yet for some reason January’s approach always fills me with a bit of dread. It’s our coldest month, and even though this might sound a little dramatic, it feels dangerous to me. The best part of January is my middle daughter Carolyn’s birthday on the 12th; the rest of the month can’t pass too quickly for me.

Yesterday I took most of our Christmas decorations down, and today the tree, already bare of its ornaments, will go into the box and down to the basement for another eleven months. I like getting our normal space back after Christmas, breaking down the boxes for the recycler truck, moving the living room chairs back to their places, and putting away our Christmas CDs. Do you leave your Christmas things up past the new year? I knew someone who loved her tree and decorations so much she always left them up until February.

Also, we have a winner for the Cardinal Caption Contest! It’s Kay, in Cornwall, England! Her poem of what the little jaunty cardinal in the photo might be saying brought smiles all around, and even my daughter Sara said at the breakfast table this morning that she thought Kay should be awarded the prize. If you haven’t read the poem Kay composed, be sure to look in the comments to the last post. 🙂  Kay will receive a $10 gift certificate to spend as she pleases at Thank you all for your very clever captions — I thought all of you deserved a prize.

Next, have you heard of the One Word trend? I think it’s been going on for a few years, and I’m thinking and praying about what one word should be the focus of my life for the coming year. I have known for a long time that the Lord seems to be bringing me low in so many challenging and marvelous ways, so I’ve considered that my one word might be lower. I have also seen that I am more fear-based that I ever thought I was, so I think the word trust would be appropriate too. One decorating blogger I enjoy has chosen the word up for her one word in 2013. There are several that come to mind for me, and I’ll share about it when I’m sure of what it will be.

Pray. Encourage. Honor. Forgive. Listen. Decrease. Praise. Humility.

Have you ever chosen one word to focus on for a coming year? If so, what was your word? If not, are you considering trying it this year?

Today a furnace repairman will be coming to our home, and this will make the eighth time someone has come to see what can be done. Many changes have been made: dampers adjusted, zones rezoned, zones unzoned, temp limits replaced, air filters checked and replaced, and thermostats rewired. Our furnace unit itself is fine. It seems like it could be the air flow to our registers that’s the problem, but none of the three companies who’ve come out seem to be sure yet. They’re all baffled. If it means actually tearing into the floors of our bedroom and bathroom (which is a huge space, but only has six heating registers and apparently should have more) to install more registers, I admit I think I’ll be truly upset and discouraged. Having our furnace work perfectly for three days and then start blowing cold air is very disconcerting, over and over again. Each time it performs as it should I’m practically in tears of relief, saying, “Thank you Lord!” and realizing what an overlooked grace it is to have heat at the touch of a switch. Then each time I feel the heat stop and the cold air begin to blow and see the thermostat temperatures drop, I feel vulnerable and anxious, and this morning when it happened again I started to cry. January is not the month for complicated furnace failures for a Minnesotan. If any of you reading this would be willing to pray that the Lord would give wisdom to the people working on it, I would be so grateful.

Last night Sara and I went to see Les Miserables and I loved it (although some pretty bawdy scenes make it an inappropriate choice for young people, I think). The book has been one of my favorites for years and I’ve read it three times. It might be time to open it again. Michael and I saw the play at the Queen’s Theatre in London in 2007 and were awed by every part of it, especially the continuously revolving stage and the powerful music. Last night I rummaged through my purse when the tears started to fall, and couldn’t believe I didn’t have Kleenex, which I’m never without. Fortunately Sara had one, and by the time the movie was over I could have wrung it out from crying into it so much. Les Miserables is such an epic story of grace! One humble man’s act of grace and forgiveness literally changed many lives over the course of many years. It’s a lesson I want to remember forever. Are any of us wondering what to do today? Whatever tasks are before us, giving grace should be part of each and every day, especially toward the people we live with.

Well, I have much to do today. Our kitchen sink is piled with dishes that I didn’t feel like tending to last night. There are three baskets of clean laundry in our room waiting to be folded and put away. There are chicken breasts in the fridge that should be made into a nice New Year’s Eve meal. There is laundry to do for our Fosters, a tree to be dismantled and stowed. Paperwork to be conquered, a letter to write, dogs to be petted, a husband to be hugged. And hopefully, please God, a furnace waiting to be fixed, once and for all.

Tonight when the stroke of midnight hits, Michael and I will not be awake (Lordwilling) clinking a glass together, or watching the coverage from Times Square in New York, or even attending a Watch Night Service like we did in church years ago [where, for your information, a group of friends and I dressed up as Gladys Light and The Hips and sang (lip-synched, actually), clapped and danced wackily in unison to this song. We padded our hips grotesquely under our black stretch pants (because we were The Hips), wore sun glasses and generally stunned the more staid members of our congregation.] But tonight, I hope to be soundly sleeping when the year changes over, with two scruffy dogs at our feet, and a dependable furnace humming along.

I never quite know exactly why I keep a blog. Is it because I’m a word person and if I don’t have an outlet for my thoughts I’ll someday shut down? Is it because I’m vain and think what I have to share is actually of some import? Is it because I’m actually supposed to be doing this, for some strange reason? I don’t know. Whatever the motivation, I want to say to you all today that I’m thankful you stop by here now and then. I love it when you leave comments, and am so glad for the friendships I’ve made here.

I wish you and all your loved ones a very blessed 2013.


  1. Kay in UK says:

    Thank you Julie for the Amazon gift voucher – just the ticket! Any recommendations? 🙂
    We too, took down our Christmas decorations yesterday. I know it’s traditional to keep them up until 12th night, but again, just like you, I like to get my home back to normal. I love all the glitter and sparkle of Christmas decorations, but after a while I find them too ‘tiring’, for want of a better word.
    Also, this morning I started thinking about ‘a word’ for the coming year. I’ve read about this idea before, but I’ve never taken much interest. But this morning, when I read your email re Joni & Friends, I thought that God was telling me that my ‘word’ for the next year should be SMILE. I didn’t recognise that it was God at first, but your post today is confirmation. During the past year, I think I’ve had two ideas constantly rumbling around in my head. One is forgiveness and the other is ‘letting go’. Letting go of hurts and offences and snubs. Not easy, but I have tried hard. And I’ve been blessed while trying. So while I think SMILE might be my word for 2013, I also think GRACE might be a good one too. Perhaps these two words will change me this year – I hope so. I will pray about these words and about your words.
    I am so glad that you have a blog, or we would never have met. And you have blessed me through your posts and friendship. Alan and I often speak of you and Michael as if we have known you for many years and as if we had actually met in person.

    God bless you and your loved ones.

    (After re-reading your post, I think I’ll get Les Miserables with my voucher!)

  2. Just Julie says:

    I think your comments bless other people aside from Michael and me, Kay. (Dear readers: I’ve been lightly pressuring Kay to start her own blog and sshhhh, I don’t want her to feel put upon, but I have a feeling many of you would visit her blog since her comments are so fun to read, right?) 🙂

    Michael and I speak of you and Alan the same way, and hope to meet someday. I think your word choices are thoughtful, wise, and a blessing, dear Kay. xxoo

  3. Kay in Kernow says:

    Oh, and here’s a change for 2013 – I’ve decided to change my blog-commenter name to ‘Kay in Kernow’, Kernow being the Cornish language name for Cornwall. 🙂

  4. Just Julie says:

    That sounds great Kay!

  5. Ember says:

    You write your blog to keep in touch with us, because we are your friends, waiting to hear how things are with you and what you have to say.

    I have a question about Les Miserables. From what I can gather it’s a most aptly named book/film/musical. My family think it’s great. The new film of it looks excellent. But I can’t bear stories that end sadly. I don’t mind sadness in a story provided love and goodness, wisdom and light triumph over dark and destructive forces in the end.

    For example (though I’d never go to see them again) I thought Cold Mountain, and The Green Mile, and Philadelphia, were wonderful films even though they had such sadness in them.

    Are you saying that Les Miserables shows goodness triumphing and it increases faith and hope, or is it just as Miserable as it sounds?

  6. Just Julie says:

    Thank you as always for your encouraging words, dear Ember. 🙂 It is true that the miserable people in Les Miserables are in horribly miserable straits, but oh yes! I would say that goodness triumphs in the end! I cried because there were scenes that were so sad I almost couldn’t bear them, but I knew what was coming, and I sobbed in joy at the end because a more powerful story of grace triumphing over the law I’ve never seen! You must see it!

    The symbolism of Javert’s letter-of-the-law existence and Valjean’s one-time receipt of life-changing grace that then pours (he thinks trickles but the viewer knows better) over every single person in his life for years on end….oh happy day is what I want to say about it!

    Here’s a link to a blog I visit — he’s a pastor (and Billy Graham’s grandson) and I liked what he had to say.

    I wish I were a better movie reviewer, but I felt like I had experienced something very powerful and hopeful after seeing the movie, Ember. Anytime a movie (or a book) makes me think more deeply, strengthens my faith in God, and makes me think I could actually change, I am most grateful. This is one of those movies for me.

  7. Ganeida says:

    So far 2013 looks much like 2012. If I were inclined to just one word [for garralous me, extremely unlikely! 🙂 ] it might be something like *closer*.

    Also to let you know I am heading up to my mum’s today, so taking a bloggy break, but if you need to reach me the usual channels are effective [was so tempted to write affective & see Ember squirm! ;D ] As always you remain in my thoughts & prayers & isn’t it wonderful that distance makes no difference to those 2 things!?

  8. Just Julie says:

    I think “closer” should be on my list too, Ganeida. I like that one. I hope your time with your mom is good. Thank you for your prayers for me and my family. I am so humbled by the praying friends God has given me through the internet. What a blessing…what a gift! xxoo

  9. Christy says:

    Several thoughts:
    Kay…..your poem was perfect. Truly a winner.
    My word will be Pray. For too many deep reasons to even want to talk about.
    Julie…..your blog fills many crevices.We love your wisdom, your humor, your pictures, and your deeply encouraging words. I want to know everything you read so I can read it too. I want to see Sara’s artistry and schnauzers snoozing. We all love you and your wonderful way with words, your humor, and most of all your transparency.
    And…..I read Les Mis in high school and loved it. Savannah and I are going to see it Fri. night. I’m almost afraid to because I get such a headache when I cry. Plus, I don’t want to pay money to sit and cry. And….Savannah will be embarrassed if I walk in the theater with a box of kleenex and a paper bag to put them in. But oh well… that’s what happens when mothers get old.

  10. Just Julie says:

    It’s a good thing I have Kleenex right here on my desk, Christy. Because I need them now. Thank you. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the movie… love you 2 chibben and fee. xxoo

  11. Ginny says:

    Jewel my word would be HIM. I would like to have a small rock with that word etched deeply into it to carry in my pocket. Those days when it seems that I am focused on everything BUT Him, I could reach in my pocket, feel the smooth edges and forget for a time life’s jagged ones, trace the letters with my fingers and bring my focus back to Him and tightly grab that rock, so firm and solid and remember my foundation is not shifting sand.

  12. Just Julie says:

    Sooooo beautiful Ginny! Thank you for sharing your word!

  13. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Wishing you a year full of blessings ahead for you and your family Julie, much love, Helen xx

  14. Just Julie says:

    Thank you so much Helen! I wish the same for you and your lovely family! xxoo

  15. sue raimo says:

    Happy New Year Julie. I have had a word focus for the last 10 years. I was stuck on Kingdom for 4 of them. This year I debated between Mystery and Faith. I chose Faith after reading this quote: “I have fewer certitudes now, just naked faith.”

  16. Just Julie says:

    Thank you Sue! I like that quote, and I agree. The older I get the less I know and am sure of, yet my faith in Christ never wanes. I feel like His mysteries deepen, His ways can baffle me, but He is the One for me. He’s the One for you too, I know. 🙂 I look forward to seeing you soon, dear friend! xxoo

  17. Ember says:

    I will try Les Miserables.

    I have been thinking and thinking about your post here – looking for one word. Today, I know what for me that word must be.
    With the shooting in Connecticut hardly off our news-screens, the protests over gang rape in India still raging, and the breaking news of fatwa issued in Saudi Arabia for the gang rape by soldiers of Syrian women and girls, I know my word for 2013 must be Ahimsa. If it sounds too unfamiliar, then let that be ‘gentleness’.

  18. Just Julie says:

    That is a word that I could have chosen too, Ember. Thank you for the link (which I will look at now), and thank you for your thoughtful comment and caring life. xxoo

  19. Janet says:

    My husband and I have each chosen one word for 2013. Just in discussion as we spoke of this, he chose the word Alive. I have chosen the word Promise. This past year has been a year of many prays, some that are still unanswered. but also many that have been been fulfilled. As we prepare for our 50th Anniversary this year I shared with him that our commitment and our legacy is a alive promise that is still being lived out and is only because of the restoration and the Love of Jesus Christ. I truly look toward to this year as a year of promise for all that are in our hearts and for those that are yet to know the love that we have to share. May quietness and confidence continue to be our strength.

  20. Just Julie says:

    I think it’s so fantastic that you and your husband talked about this and chose words together, Janet! Thank you for sharing your very thoughtful word choices for 2013…I hope to hear more as these words take on greater meaning as the months pass! God bless you and your dear family…Xxoo

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