I’ll Lend You My Word

Each year, I choose a word of the year. A word that I hope will help me grow or change or cope or stretch.  Two years ago, when I was juggling two demanding careers and a growing family, I chose the word Balance.  Here’s how I visualized Balance:

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Last year, feeling a little more on top of things, I chose the word Depth. It didn’t seem like it was enough to just go through life’s motions, even if the going was easier and smoother than it had been. I wanted to get into the cracks, ask the tough questions, dig deeper.  Here’s how I pictured Depth in that post:

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This year, I really struggled to find my word. Actually, that’s not true. From the beginning, I had the word. I merely chose to reject it over and over again, thinking, “No, not that one.”  But the more I tried to find another word, the more I knew that my word for 2018 was Courage.

I just didn’t know why.

Ironically, choosing the word Courage scared me. What would I face in the coming year that would require courage? It almost sounded like an invitation. Hey, Trouble, come on in. Disaster, Disease, you can come along just for kicks. 

But Courage continued to be the only word that wanted to be mine this year, so I gave in. And then I waited for my world to fall apart so that Courage could say, “I told you so.”

Within the first week of the year, three offers on two different books fell into my lap. Now, for those readers who aren’t writers, let me explain. Book deals don’t just fall into the laps of authors every day. Or every week. Or every year. In 2017, I had two books release, but no new contracts. It had been more than a year since I’d signed a contract, and suddenly, I had three offers on the table on two different manuscripts.

I won’t go into details, but by the end of January, I had signed a contract for the publication of a new picture book. That’s right, “a” contract. So, what happened to the second book? It had at least one offer, right?

It did. And I was thrilled. I really believe in that manuscript. I loved that a publisher believed in that manuscript. I should have been popping champagne corks and toasting my 12th book. But I couldn’t.  After careful consideration and research, I realized that this wasn’t the right publisher for that book. It nearly destroyed me, and I changed my mind a dozen times, but in the end, I declined the offer. I declined an offer of publication. Ten years ago, I would never have believed I’d do that. I wouldn’t have believed anyone in their right mind would do that. But I did. And it was the right thing to do. And you know what?

It took Courage.

It’s only the first week of March, and I’ve already had to put my word to use several times. As a people-pleaser and peace-maker, I’m usually one to choose the path of least resistance, even if it means sacrificing some part of me. My time, my desires, my plans, my opinion. It takes a lot of courage to decide to speak up, make a change, say no, or even say yes.

So, what great visual does Courage get? My first inclination was to go here:

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Who needed Courage more than the Cowardly Lion? He went to great lengths to find it, only to discover he’d had all the Courage he needed all along.

And, then, this happened.

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Meet Henry. As I write this, I’ve known him five days – he’s only been on this earth for five days – and I’m already head over heels in love. My second grandson was born last week with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, which his parents learned about at his 20-week ultrasound.

He’s got several surgeries to face in his not-so-distant future. But he’s an absolutely perfect package of sweetness and softness and strength (which he likes to exert in the wee hours of the morning). He has already knocked his feeding goals off the charts.

Henry has everything he’s going to need for the journey ahead. He’s got parents who are smart, prepared, and dedicated. He has a team of specialists like I’ve never seen, not to mention a doting extended family.

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He’s not old enough to know fear. Fear comes from having seen or experienced something negative. It’s sense of dread that bad things might happen to you – for the first time or again. So, instead of lending Henry my word for the year, I’m going to offer it to his parents. There will be long nights, doubts, worries, tearful moments of parting as they send their baby off to surgery. All of that sounds a bit scary. An extra dose of Courage might come in handy.

I’m no longer scared of the word I’ve chosen. I’m going to continue to use it when, in the past, I might not have been bold enough to do or say what needed done or said.

And, if you find yourself in need of a bit of Courage to face what’s ahead in 2018, please help yourself to my word. So far, it’s served me well.

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10 comments on “I’ll Lend You My Word”

  1. Connie

    Dearest Michelle,
    Each time I read your writings I experience a new sense of awe and appreciation for that wonderful written word. I love how a single word can evoke an infinite number of stories, all unique but connected. Your precious representation of your word choice for this year, I believe, will not only teach you what true courage is, but will provide you with a new depth of understanding and be a constant reminder to keep that balance between personal and professional.

  2. Margo Lacy Thomas

    Today I witnessed a lot of courage when visiting this little bundle of joy. Henry slept so peacefully while I held him, then Mimi fed him with his special bottle, and he drank it with no problem at all! Courage surely filled that loving home, with his well-behaved dog, Clyde, sleeping on his own dog blanket, and his big brother Jack, playing with his toys and adjusting to this big change in his life, his loving parents knowing there will be many trips to the hospital and preparing for the checkups and surgeries that will be needed. Talk about courage! Thank you Michelle for choosing the word COURAGE this year. So appropriate! May it serve us all in the days ahead.

  3. Jayne McBurney

    Oh girl! The tears of goodness are flowing down my cheeks! Sweet Henry is a wonderul little guy, so good to read Great-Grandma’s words that tell me ‘everything is gonna be alright’. The kids live in a great place with excellent medical care north and south! I will get some amazing local PRAYER WARRIORS on the direct line to pray over Henry, Jack, Mom and Dad, Mimi and Grandpa, the Greats, and Clyde. This will be the year of COURAGE!

  4. Mary McMurray

    Courage is a perfect word. And makes perfect sense that your first maternal instinct is to pass it on to your children. ❤️
    My Mom used to tell us that sometimes God gives us challenges that we conquer to make us stronger for the road ahead. I’ve witnessed that many times in my own and others lives. I have no doubt that your children will have ample courage to face head on whatever comes their way. Hugs to you all in your journey.
    Meanwhile, remember you have a whole team of prayer warriors in your corner.

  5. carole calladine

    Dear Michelle. Our unconscious often throws out the image/word before us lighting our way when we need it. Trust your feelings and intuition. Courage. What a wonderful word. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Nancy Roe Pimm

    Beautifully written Michelle. At Bible study last night we discussed thanking God in advance. So I am thanking God for Henry and all that that precious little one will teach us. I thank God for watching over Henry and his family as he goes through his future surgeries and basks in the healing hands of Jesus. Amen.

  7. Rinda

    Wow, Michelle! I didn’t know what to write last night. Today I do! So many times you’ve used courage already, but I’m glad you had it, to help Henry. To help your family. To help writers like me face rejections and to realize that we can say no to an editor or publisher, even if another isn’t around. Thanks for the courage to tell your 2017 writer’s story, and here’s to where ever it leads you. 2018 is already proving to be an incredible journey. Bon voyage!

  8. Cathy Lentes

    Thanks for sharing, Michelle. We never know where our journey is going to take us, or when courage will be needed. Your words will help many.

  9. Debra L McArthur

    A beautiful post, a beautiful story, a beautiful baby. You have inspired a lot of people with this!

  10. Andrew Speno

    Michelle, It was good to meet you at Ohioana yesterday. It is doubly interesting to meet you as a writer today. What a post! It took me on a journey with unexpected turns. Thanks for sharing.

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