The following blog is written by MiKalla Cotton, Elevate’s Creative Design Intern, as she shares her passion and perspective around the new year.

Over a year ago, I received a letter from a good friend that I’ve kept in my journal ever since. That note was important to me for a few reasons, but one being the intentional words she used to encourage me. She used several adjectives, but the first was “brave.” It was humbling that she used such a word to describe me because it was one I had never used to describe myself.

 

How the “word” began for me

In the summer of 2014, as an upcoming sophomore in college and working my second year of camp, I met a girl named Kristin, who quickly became my camp bestie. I was so encouraged and inspired by her passion, and I remember her mentioning her “word” of the year. At that point, I had never heard of anyone having such a thing, and with a deep love for words, I was immediately intrigued. By December, I was scrambling around trying to figure out my word – “A word! I totally forgot! I want a word, but how the heck do I figure out my word?? And with two weeks to spare!” Basically, my brain was singing “S.O.S.” by the Jonas Brothers.

Kristin discussed her process so fluidly and her word choice so confidently, and I felt so unprepared and clueless as to how to do this word thing gracefully. Of course, I wanted a word, but my heart longed for it to be designed just for me in that year, knowing God would be in all the details (and that’s my all-time favorite). I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get so worried about “figuring it out” that I almost miss the actual discovery. Truth is, I don’t really ever “figure it out” because in time it’s revealed to me. With just days left in the year, my prayers were answered and my word was made crystal clear.

 

What it looks like now

Ever since then, whether it’s a few days – though now it seems to be several months – before a new year, my word is always overt. 2018 will be the fourth year for me with a word attached to it, though some words aren’t always for exactly one year, but it might seep into the year after, years after, or becomes more like a “life” word – a focus that seems to continually present itself in various seasons. (Those are fun). Looking back, I’ve loved every year’s word better than the one preceding it, simply because it just gets better. The best is always to come, am I right?

 

It may not be for you

Before I continue, I just want to recognize that everything is not for everyone, therefore, having a “word” may not appeal to you – and that’s okay! I realize that for those of you who don’t dig this idea, the conversation about it can be annoying, so know that I hear you. There’s an abundance of eating plans and workout methods because there are millions of people on this planet and, thankfully, we’re all unique. You don’t have to embrace a definitive word in order for your year to be successful. Focusing on a word doesn’t ever promise “success” in that life season; it just promises a new way to view that life season. There are multiple ways you can renew your perspective and grow outside of your comfort, and words are just one of my favorite ways.

 

Why it gives me life

Words make me all giddy inside, writing is the thing I can’t not do, and my faith grows and my heart thrives when I get my words outside of myself. My wiring points to the clear truth that I not only love systems, I love focus and closure. As a result of that insistence, I desire focus in every life season, as well as having clear beginnings and endings when transitioning from seasons. Having a “word” for a specific amount of time provides that fresh start or sweet closure that sets me up to thrive. Ideally, if I were to make a timeline of my life from my brain’s perspective, it wouldn’t be years labeled by numbers, but rather seasons labeled by words.

 

Obviously, I could talk about this all day; so if you’re intrigued at all by words and life seasons and all the details in between, first of all, let’s hang out please – but also, if you relate to any of this conversation, I would encourage you to embrace more words.

 

A glimpse at last year

The specific focus isn’t just a reminder to “be more of this” all year, but rather a reminder of “keep your eyes open to this” all year. I walked into 2017 with the word “abundant,” with eyes open to the truth that every season holds abundantly more than you can imagine. I walked into the year with eyes wide open to see that in every situation, there is always more. Without the truth behind that word, I would tell you that last year was a hard one. There were numerous closed doors and “no’s,” failures and disappointments. The things I thought I wanted most refused to come to fruition, and the areas I never saw myself falling short in lifted high my deficiencies.

 

With the truth of that word, I wouldn’t just tell you that last year was a hard one, I would tell you it was the best one. In every closed door, there was more. In every “no” response, there was more. In every failure, there was more. In every disappointment, there was more. What do I mean by “there was more?” I mean there was better. When the ‘good’ opportunities and relationships I thought I was called to were shut down, I was given the ‘best’ ones I didn’t realize I was ordained for, in return. Those dreams may not be what you wanted, and probably won’t be what you thought, but I promise they will be best.

 

2017 held a lot of hard stuff, but I am being completely real with you when I say that I would live it all over again in a second because it was so sweet. If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, you’ll remember that, in the end, the joy is almost never present without the sadness. Life is just the same, for without the hard stuff, the great stuff isn’t so great. In relation, last year was good almost because it was hard. The “best” would’ve never seemed so grand without the background of slammed doors and unexpected failures.

 

In life, the “best” comes whenever we choose to let go of the “good.” There’s not much wrong with the “good” stuff, except for the fact that there’s always better. I walked out of 2017 confident in the truth that as long as I live with open eyes and open hands, I can’t lose. As big as my dreams can be, I trust that there’s even better – abundantly more, to be specific.

 

A look into this year

Last year’s word is one I think will remain prevalent in every season to come, however, back in the fall it was clear to me that 2018 would be one of a word I had never used to describe myself. You guessed it – “brave.” It’s funny how it started, really. Arriving at Elevate in August was the epitome of there always being more than I could dream – it was better than I could’ve imagined for that season, and in the closure of a ‘good’ thing, it was the ‘best’ thing. But don’t be fooled, for, of course, I didn’t know this until after the fact.

 

If you viewed our most recent Value Vlog on bravery, released just this week, you know where my head was before I submitted my application. I told my best friend that the thing I wanted to do scared me. She said, “sometimes the thing you’re most scared of doing is the thing you’re most ordained to do.” That thing was interning at Elevate.

 

It was after I received the internship that I realized it was the answer to a prayer I’d never prayed and the fruition of a dream I’d never dreamed – it was more. It was also after I received the internship, not just for the fall but again this spring, that I realized it was the start of a courage already within me I had never before uncovered.

 

Being chosen to be on this team was not only a huge role in the “abundantly more” of 2017, but it was the beginning of “brave” in 2018.

 

The real-life truth is that I don’t hold the blueprint, big picture, or finished product of 2018. It’s much clearer to look at last year where I am now, seeing how “abundant” played out in far too many intricate details to count, let alone ever even see. Thinking back to this time last year, I could get out-of-my-mind pumped for what was to come, but I couldn’t possibly grasp the entirety of it, for it had yet to exist. Therefore, to be honest, I don’t quite know yet what “brave” fully means or looks like for this year. Chances are, it’ll make way more sense in the months to come, and that’s what makes it exciting. My guess is that it has nothing to do with pride, fear, or comfort zones, and everything to do with actually doing the dream, even if that means doing it scared.

 

So, what?

Like sophomore me in December 2014, it’s easy to think you have to figure it out, that you have to find a word, but chances are the word will find you. It’ll pop off of pages or come up in conversation, and you might notice it more often. If you’re not huge on the specificity or intricate meaning, just pick a word you want to focus on in your season, and you too will see it come out of every avenue and relationship as you grow in it. You’ll be challenged by its value and keenly aware of it all around you.

 

Like I mentioned, words are my favorite thing, but they may not be yours. If this doesn’t excite you, choose another way to intentionally grow this year. But if it does even in the least bit, I challenge you to uncover the word or phrase that helps you come alive and relish in every chapter of 2018 and beyond. Chances are it’ll be more than you could’ve imagined, and if that’s the case, I want to hear all about it.