Each December, I choose a vision word for the upcoming year. It’s a tradition inspired by the One Word 365 movement, which encourages people to choose one word to help them grow in the coming year, rather than make New Years resolutions they probably won’t keep.
A Recap of 2018
For 2018, I actually had two words: GROW and EXPAND. I must admit, when I first prayed about them, I thought it might mean a year of expanding our family. But as the year went on, it became clear that I needed to do a very different type of growing.
In January, I started using the Dynamic Neural Retraining System to treat my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The neuroscience-based program was incredibly healing for me, and it helped me see the role that trauma was playing in my illness. DNRS points to both emotional and environmental traumas (like mold exposure) as factors that can cause a perpetual fight-or-flight state in the brain. This can eventually develop into a full-out freeze response in which the brain deems the world so unsafe that it shuts down at the slightest stimuli. Unfortunately, I experienced multiple kinds of trauma. And at the height of my illness, I was in a classic freeze state: bed-bound and unable to do the simplest tasks.
Thankfully, my life expanded again in 2018. I spent hours in therapy and implemented a daily DNRS practice to rewire my brain. As my brain healed, my physical abilities grew exponentially. I started being able to read, write, parent, shop, and socialize. The growth was hard-won, painful, and often slower than I would have liked. But looking back on the year, I am truly proud of the progress I’ve made.
At Home with Myself
As I began thinking about my One Word for 2019, I wanted to take this growth to the next level. Externally, the “next level” might look like being able to work again or building up my tolerance for exercise. But if 2018 has taught me anything, it’s that the real work needs to happen internally. There, the next level is to feel at home with a body, soul, and mind that have drastically changed during my illness.
That’s why my One Word for 2019 is HOME.
For me, HOME means a place of safety, comfort, and acceptance. It’s where you can unbutton your jeans and watch sappy Christmas movies without anyone judging you. HOME is where you’re the least polished but the most loved. It’s where your family is—whether biological or chosen—and where you’re sheltered and supported through all of life’s storms.
My primary goal for the year is to feel more at HOME with myself. For much of my life, I was in survival mode. I forced myself to be strong and push through no matter how I felt. Now, I want to learn to love and care for the parts of myself that are vulnerable, weak, sensitive, and even impractical. I’m going to work on releasing myself from shame and perfectionism. I also want to spend more time doing things I like to do, which has always been hard for me. I learned growing up that I shouldn’t be selfish or lazy, and self-care tasks often look like both of those to me. But I’m starting to accept the radical notion that I can do things just because I enjoy them. And that that in itself makes them worthwhile.
At Home in my Body
I also want to feel at HOME again in my body. Like many chronically ill people, I’ve felt betrayed by my young and supposed-to-be-healthy body. At the height of my illness, I became so angry with my body that I forced extreme diets and protocols on myself. At the time, I told myself that they were healing regimens I needed to suffer through to get better. But they were really punishments for my misbehaving body.
This year, I want to start accepting the body that I have. It’s still more frail and limited than most of my peers, but it has also done tremendous things for me. My body has been my HOME for almost 30 years. It’s taken me around the world and grown a beautiful baby. My body also forced me to confront a lifestyle that was hurting me. Angry as it made me, I credit my body for finally getting me to take care of myself.
I want to continue to cultivate gratitude for my body, and find gentle ways to take care of it. I plan to go for walks (a newfound skill), eat well, and get as much fresh air and sunshine as I can.
Coming Home to Faith
You may have noticed that I rarely wrote or spoke about faith in 2018. There’s a reason for that. About six months after we left the field, the full shock of our five years in missions finally caught up with me in the form of a massive spiritual crisis. I realized how traumatic a lot of our time abroad had been for me, and how I had subscribed to some cultish beliefs and behaviors along the way. This realization was completely devastating for me. Although it hasn’t changed the fact that I believe in God, it has made me question almost every aspect of theology and church practice.
Now that I’ve had some time to sit with the shattered pieces of my faith, I think I’m finally ready for them to find their way back together. I feel in many ways like a prodigal daughter who has had a good temper tantrum / pity party and is now very ready for her Daddy to scoop her up and carry her HOME.
I’m not really sure what this homecoming will look like, but I do know that God hasn’t been fazed by any of my questions or emotions. I trust that He is still there, and He will help me find my way forward.
Making a Home in America
Finally, I hope that 2019 will be a year of really making our HOME in America. We’ve been back for over a year now, and in our own apartment for about six months. But after years of pouring our lives into mission work, it’s been really difficult to transition into normal American life. I sometimes don’t remember how to do simple things like deposit a check at the bank. And career-wise, I’m pretty much starting from scratch.
Thankfully, I do have a vague plan: I’m going back to school in January to pursue a masters degree in Clinical Counseling. I’m starting out very slow (just one prerequisite this semester) but hope to finish in 3-4 years.
Signing up for school did make it a little more real that we’re here in America to stay. No more packing up every two years or trying to furnish an entire apartment in one trip to Ikea (true story). I think my brain may be catching on: I’m nesting like a crazy woman who hasn’t hung up wall decor in half a decade. And our apartment is starting to feel like HOME.
What’s your One Word for 2019?