A story

You may not have total plot control, but the theme is your choice.

You may not have total plot control, but the theme is your choice.

“You have a story.  It doesn’t have you.”Mark Brunetz

At year’s end, we often take stock of the past twelve months, and this can lead us into contemplation about past years.  For many of us 2015 has been more remarkable for its difficulties than for its successes or gifts.  Come to think of it, the same could be said about our entire lives…but only if we choose to see our stories through a harsh and unforgiving lens.

Each person’s life is important, and we gain nothing by flinching at the unpleasant truths our biographies contain.  Discounting or ignoring pain and trauma does not defeat despair.  At best, it allows for a temporary escape that may only worsen the blow when reality intrudes again, as it inevitably will.

But there’s a difference between denial and discernment.  We can recognize the pitfalls of the terrain and use that insight to be selective about how we build upon it.  Just as every story has its sorrows and failures, so each contains unique beauty, or at least the seeds of it.  There’s no doubt that some lives are more burdened with tragedy and suffering than others.  Yet history teaches us that amazing, world-changing ideas, movements, art, science and progress often come from people who have faced bitter uphill battles.

If you are reading this, you have survived another year.  That’s an accomplishment in itself, and for some of us, it’s a rather remarkable one.  I invite you to join me in celebrating the past year and all that it brought us, whether pleasant or painful, ecstatic or agonizing.  Our enduring task is to take whatever life brought us and turn it toward good.

Perhaps our difficulties made us more patient, or compassionate, or wise.  Or maybe we’re simply happy to be on the other side of whatever it was that was so unbearable…or, if we aren’t yet there, we are looking forward to a time when we DO reach that other side. Meanwhile, let’s celebrate our own grit and determination and  tenacity.

If you read the comments here, you know that Alys recently mentioned choosing a word for the coming year.  I love the concept of having a one-word theme in lieu of a list of resolutions.  I was casting around for precisely the word I wanted to have as my theme for 2016, and while writing this post, it came to me.  My word for 2016 is a word I’ve always thought profoundly beautiful: redemption.  There are many nuances to this word, but for me, it encapsulates the concept of taking what seems damaged, useless or compromised, and transforming it to something richer and more complete.

Whether your own story this year has been full of woe or wonder, delight or disappointment, or (most likely) a mixture of all these, I hope you will remember that your life is always a work in progress, and the tale is not yet finished.  What word will be your bellwether for 2016?

Thanks for being with us on this journey.  I wish for all of us a year of growth, discovery and contentment.  Happy New Year!



  1. Julia, thank you so much for the New Years card. I loved it. My word for the year will be persistence. I am trying to lose enough weight to get off my blood pressure med. I have about 10 lbs to go. Please keep me in your prayers for persistence. Off to walk my 45 minutes! Love to you, Jeff and Matt.

    • Cherie, persistence is one of my favorite words, too. I will pray for you AND me both — 10 pounds is my own personal goal too, but I keep losing and gaining the same 2 pounds, which is quite annoying. (“Those first few pounds are just water weight” Jeff likes to remind me.) I do admire your goal of getting off your BP meds — easy does it; when I get frustrated, Matt keeps reciting one of his favorite phrases: “slow and steady wins the race.” Enjoy your walk! I’ll think of you when I head out for mine. Love and blessings to you for a wonderful 2016.

  2. Mary Ellen

    Redemption. What a beautiful and hopeful theme! Happy New Year, Julia and everyone!

    • Thank you, Mary Ellen! Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, too!

  3. blseibel

    Great thoughts as we leave another year behind, I need to look ahead and make good come from a sad year. I think Triumph might be my word. Triumph over financial adversity. Triumph over feelings from a broken marriage. Triumph over despair.

    A very happy new year to all!

    • I love “Triumph” as a theme. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:37: “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” I believe in your resilience and will pray that 2016 will be your best year yet. Remember — “You (and I) have a story. It doesn’t have you (or me.)”

      • blseibel

        Thank you, I have been feeling that the story has me and I being swept along and flailing to keep my head above water.

        • We often feel helpless at such times, but simply keeping our heads above the water is evidence that we are enduring. Even on days when that’s the best we can do, it’s still a victory of sorts. You’ve probably heard this quote already, but I’m sending it along to you today. It’s one that has inspired me for the past year or so.

  4. Sheila

    Julia, just saw a post that seemed appropriate to share with your blog. “Tomorrow Is The First Blank Page Of A 365 Page Book. Write A Good One.” Happy New Year! Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, a perfect thought to go with today’s blog! Let’s sharpen those pencils and get those creative words flowing. No telling what all y’all might get up to this year. Us too! Love and gratitude to you, today and every day!

  5. Thanks for the mention, Julia. I’m going to expand in this in a future post, but my word for the year is health.

    I love your choice of words. I hope you’re guided forward into brighter days. Sending love and compassion your way.

    • Alys, health is a great theme for this year and every year, especially as we age get older become more and more experienced. Thanks for keeping that love coming my way. You are a ray of sunshine in my life.

  6. Happy New Year!
    The other day, our “Gentle Yoga” instructor gave us the word “savor.” I like that, because it is both permission to slow down, and an invitation to experience and enjoy the moment. I hope to do more savoring in 2016!
    Warm wishes of many delightful and delicious moments to savor, to you and yours this year!

    • Happy New Year, Susan! I love “savor” as a theme. It’s so portable, too. Almost anywhere we are, we can look around us and find something to savor. Even if we are waiting in a line someplace wishing we were elsewhere, we can enjoy the sights or smells or sounds around us just by paying closer attention to them. I’m going to remember this word next time I am wishing I was someplace else. And also when I’m right where I choose to be, such as sitting here right now sipping hot tea on a cold morning and visiting with all of you! 🙂

  7. Happy New Year Julia!
    I like your thoughts about redemption. It can be hard to see, but if we have life, we can have or carry hope…
    If I had to choose one word, it’d be gratitude.

    • Hi Timi! WOW, we have gotten a lot of great word suggestions here, but yours might be the key to all the others, including mine. I can’t think of anything more transforming than gratitude. It works alchemy on almost any situation, turning lead to gold. It’s great to hear from you! I hope 2016 is full of blessings. Thanks for being here with us.

  8. Sheila

    Julia, in thinking of one particular word to guide me through this year, I would choose “Grace”! I’d like to go into this year, this day, with grace and follow through with a daily dose of motivation, Oh, and to be WORTHY! Thank you, Lord. 🙏

    • Sheila, grace is something I need more and more each day. I’d like to be on both the receiving end and the giving end where that virtue is concerned. Then I’d automatically be a bit more “worthy” too. I think Grace is a lovely name for girls; I am surprised it’s not more popular. But if I had been named “Grace” I would have been even more ridiculed, since I’ve always been clumsy. Unless the word became a self-fulfilling prophecy, which I suspect such things sometimes are. But I digress… 😀 Thanks for adding a lovely word to the fabulous collection in progress here. Hope you have a wonderful week!

  9. Rene

    Happy New Year Julia! Love the book reference, one of the first things I do each New Year is decide on a few books I’m going to read in the coming year (I’ve had to make the list smaller & smaller each year, but still I persist…

    • Rene, that’s a great idea, to choose titles at the beginning of the year. I might start trying that myself. I have a long “to be read” list that tends to become a black hole of good intention. If you have never tried audiobooks, you might want to give that a try. The public libraries have wonderful unabridged collections via Overdrive and other such sites. Audiobooks have greatly increased the number of books I’m able to get through in a year. Kudos to you for persistence! It’s a fantastic trait that is responsible for more achievement than almost any other I can think of.

  10. I was looking at your photo and thinking about chatting away the morning around the table and evenings in Tiara and housecoat, ha!
    I almost feel guilty for having such a wonderful year, when I know you and other friends have had struggles. I’ve never chosen an annual word, but I like the word ‘Imagine’. I always have. Alys posted John Lennon’s song the other day and it asks us to imagine a peaceful world. It seems almost like a naive dream, but one worth hoping for. With an imagination, all things are possible, I like that. You’ve chosen well Julia, ‘Redemption’, is a lot more ambitious and weightier. I’ve often struggled with that, call me lazy. xo K

    • K, I honored your request to keep the tiara photos private, hee-hee. But I have some that look really regal and/or saintly, and I get a big kick out of them. 🙂 Don’t feel guilty for having a great year!!! As I said to you once before, as you allow your happiness to flow through you with great generosity, your happiness blesses countless others. It’s only when people try to hoard happiness for themselves that it can become a snare and transform to greed, selfishness, arrogance and other problems. I’ve never seen this in you, only joyful sharing.

      “Imagine” is a wonderful word choice. It is one of the most important prerequisites of being able to hope. It’s also necessary for redemption; to transform someone or something, especially ourselves, we must be able to see beyond what is in front of our eyes or in our hearts, and imagine what could be. Let’s all put those imaginary tiaras on our heads and be the noble, giving, loving and forgiving people we are called to be, even if we’re not there yet. It starts with being able to imagine ourselves there…

  11. LB

    Goodness, I am behind! It’s January 9th and not only have I not made a resolution, I’ve also not chosen a word. I guess it’s time to ponder! The suggestions within this post are good ones.
    I do celebrate with you, Julia. You have handled this past year with grace and strength, understanding that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard, and of course you have been pushed to your limit.
    Blessings to you in this new year, my friend.

    • Thank you LB! Your energy and willingness to serve have been a great example for me. Just thinking of you is an instant energy boost.


  1. Perceptibly nearer | Defeat Despair

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