It’s January. Again. And while I don’t really enjoy resolutions, I do enjoy the aspect of picking my one word. It’s a thing I started a few years ago and something I actually look forward to doing in January. Picking one word feels like a big accomplishment when I actually get it done. It’s the one word I feel like focusing on for the year. It helps me to take a sort of singular focus on several aspects of life and run them through a fine filter. For a mind that functions with ADHD, a fine filter of focus feels like a gift. So picking a word of the year feels like a gift to myself.

I’m not always that great at the follow through on my one word. My first word was enough and I tattooed it on my right arm. It’s the word that started a lot of self-discovery and inside work for me. I didn’t commit quite so hard to the words I’ve chosen since, at least not in the tattoo sort of way. But I have learned from each word.

So how do I pick my one word? Well, to be honest, there isn’t a foolproof system. I start with prayer, asking God to reveal something He wants me to see or learn this year. I look at lists of words, browse dictionaries and thesauruses, and dig into definitions. But generally, I pick a word that feels right.

The word I landed on this year is authentic. I wrestled with the word authenticity for a day or two but finally ended up with the short version. Authentic felt a little more precise and the definition lined up more with my heart.

The word authentic could be defined as genuine. It’s when something is done in an original way or faithfully resembles the original, like when you eat Tex-Mex and it tastes delicious and reliably gives you honest delight. It can also mean that something or someone is trustworthy and honest.

But as I was searching up authentic, I learned that there is another lesser-known definition that has to do with music and it intrigued me a great deal. I wasn’t quite sure I understood it as it’s been nearly thirty years since I studied any form of music theory. I texted my daughter at school, feeling that my writing and studying felt, at the moment, worthy of interrupting her school day. But I also texted my friend, the worship leader, and another friend studying who is studying music at college. None of them knew the answer, which meant I had to dig deep into the web.

The best answer I came to is that an authentic note is the opposite of a grace note. A grace note is a note added into a line of music to give it beauty or feeling. It’s an embellishment to the original score. So the authentic note would be the one intended, by the writer of the piece, to be played. It’s the note being what it was created to be.

Listen, I’m sure there is a music theorist out there who would cringe at the simplicity of that definition. But for the sake of the post, it works. And for some reason, it feels like the definition that is most workable for my soul this year.

As I lean into the word authentic, I feel like it fits right into the path I have already suited up for this year. It’s a sort of continuation of last year and the year before, and also the year before that. Each word has been about asking God to help me see who He intends me to be and what He wants me to make of my life. There are lots of great things going on in my world that bring beauty and light and life; things that add depth and definition. But the question I have to ask is if these things are what God intends. Is my life song being played as He wrote it?

Today would have been my mom’s 71st birthday. One of the last conversations I had with her involved her telling me that I didn’t need her anymore. I can’t think of a statement that’s more false. I need her so much every day and I miss her incredibly. For a long time, I tried my best to be like her. I wanted to cook like her, make people laugh like she did, and be strong and independent like she was.

It turns out those things were already in me. I had already learned or they were just naturally ingrained. But I’ve also had to look at the things I learned from her that I should have left alone, and that is taking some deep soul-searching and pruning.

Pruning involves cutting back the unhealthy parts of the plant; the parts that have become diseased or died and are holding back the growth. But it also involves cutting back some of the healthy parts of the plant, trimming off beautiful blooms and strong growth. It means shaping up the plant to allow it to be it’s most beautiful self.

I think my authentic self is my most beautiful self. It’s the song God wrote and intends for me to play. It is trustworthy, reliable, and honest. And it’s who I long to be.

Vulnerability On A Sunny Day

To say my world is unsettled right now would be an understatement.  There are big things and little things, exciting things and sad things…life things. My life is probably no different from yours…just different things. We all have stuff.  Some days though…some days jump up and teach you lessons. Some days you have experiences that may not be so big in nature but big in that they show you where you’ve been coming from and where you are going. These “Ah-Ha!” moments that allow you to suddenly make sense of the pit you’ve been carrying in your stomach and not understanding.  I had a moment after lunch today where I felt the irony of life so thick I could have karate chopped right through it.

I lunched with a group of ladies who are so dear to my heart. We just completed over 9 months of step study together. We did all the steps – all twelve. We poured out our hearts and souls to one another each week as we worked to release our hurts, habits, and hang-ups. We sought God’s blessing and guidance as we learned to be our true, authentic selves. We were able to laugh together and poke a little fun at ourselves…things we can do because we all readily admit that none of us have it all together. We recognize that life is cuckoo and we are doing our best to, not just survive, but thrive.

After lunch I raced back to my house (which is on the market to sell right now) to get a report for my agent. I quickly adjusted fan speeds, put down toilet lids, and straightened pictures in case a showing booked this afternoon or evening. I want the house to look perfectly sell-able. I want someone to walk in and love it immediately and know that it’s the house of someone’s dreams. I need everything to be in place. Perfect. As I was racing back out the door I had to stop and catch myself. I’ve been so angsty lately and wasn’t sure why. And there it was. Perfection. Perfection is the opposite of the true and vulnerable self that I strive to be.

How ironic that I bolted from a meeting celebrating my imperfections to race home to put on an air of perfection?  As I was stepping off the front porch this little guy and his lunch caught my eye. Two very different stories of vulnerability.

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I’m used to seeing these little green lizards everywhere. This time of year is ripe with green creatures all over the bushes, the flowers, and the sides of houses. I’m pretty sure, however, this is the first time I’ve ever seen one mid-munch. I squatted down to watch him for a minute and snapped a few pictures. He would turn away from me but couldn’t run or else he might lose his lunch. He would tilt his head back my direction as if to say, “Do you mind? I’m working on something here!”

I only watched a moment because I know what it feels like to be so vulnerable. Living life in a place of authenticity is hard…especially when there’s a chance you’ll be judged. We worry that life, our own lives,the lives we live in as much normalcy as we can muster, will seem abnormal to someone else. We are afraid that in the middle of our lunch someone will stop and take a picture so as to further examine our oddities at a later time.

Part of why I love my step study friends so much is there is no judgement. We all have loads and loads and loads of crap in our satchels and no one person’s load is heavier than the other. We all needed, er, need God’s healing and power.

It’s for the same reason that I do not enjoy having our house listed. There will be a beautiful family (for which I am already praying) who will be blessed by our house. There will be a day when their agent will call and want to show our house to them. They will walk in and won’t even know how to explain it. They’ll just know that this is their new house. Until they find us though, there will be many others who walk through and judge. They’ll judge the flooring choices, the color of the walls, and the fixtures. They’ll question why this is here and that is there and I will feel a different vulnerability like my winged friend above…waiting to be devoured by someone who is just trying to find what they need. I know this to be true because in order for us to sell our house we have had to tour other house options for ourselves. I’ve said all those things and asked all those questions and felt all those feelings.

Authenticity is hard. Vulnerability is hard. But worth it – they are both so very worth the effort that goes into them. Opening up and showing my true authentic self has blessed me beyond measure with my friends and family. It has allowed my faith to grow by leaps and bounds. Of course there is a flip side. There are days that I stand in the open view, raw and tender, and a big green mouth opens up and swallows me. That sucks in a really bad way. But I have to keep coming back, reminding myself of the rewards of being the exact woman God has created me to be. There is a richness in life that comes when we open the curtains and throw back the shades and allow God’s light and love to penetrate every pore. I’ve been both and I’ve done it both ways. Imperfect and vulnerable is better.