I began January 2013 at home in Illinois, well-rested from a long Christmas break and excited to get back to my Pennsylvania home and school and work. But that didn’t last long before the bone-chilling cold crept up on me and the grey monotony of winter set in: emotionally as well as physically. I am not a stranger to winter, to the harsh landscapes of depression; but even so, weathering January was unexpected and hard. Now, while the snow is still falling soft and pixie-like, I am lighter of heart and mind. After years of long winters, I am quicker to notice when something is wrong and better able to both live with it and change it. I am gladly welcoming February, a new month with new chances, and a month that always seems a bit warmer–if only because of the warm-hued valentine themes. 

In mid-January, I found myself curled on my bed, looking at my one word that I had written on a dry-erase board: “placed.” At that moment, “placed” seemed more like a curse than a call or even a blessing. And as the month continued, the stormy moments confirmed that the word “placed” is full of pressure for me, to be happy where I find myself whether I like it or not. So while it may be “cheating,” I’m changing my one word for 2013 to something a little less pressurized, a lot more grace-filled, which captures the same things I loved about being placed: dwell.

Dwell retains the idea that place matters. It also speaks to the significance of staying where you are, being where you are, sitting in it awhile: be it sunny summer or wild winter. I may not be happy there, but I can still dwell right where I am, sticking it out, and have a heart that is dwelling in grace regardless of where my body is dwelling. I had originally considered dwell when thinking about my one word. The definitions are as follows:

  • to live as a resident; reside
  • to remain for a time; stay
  • to exist or live in a given place or state
  • to fasten one’s attention, keep the attention directed
  • to linger over, emphasize, or ponder
  • to speak or write insistently

I like the variations on a theme. Dwelling is more than where I am physically placed or what situations I find myself in; I do dwell in Beaver Falls and sometimes I dwell in situations I don’t like: winter, of any sort. But at the same time that I am dwelling there, I can seek to dwell in joy, in grace, in peace: in a state which does not waver. I also love the focus on attention.  A pastor once told me, “Our ability to pay attention is sacred,” and I believe this to be hugely true. Paying attention to our lives, to our selves, to those around us, to the movements of God in our lives, to the gifts he is giving us, keeps us grounded in what is true and life-giving. And as I attempt more writing this year, I liked the last definition as well.

So there it is. A new year is still very new; I am starting a new month with new tools and habits and perspective, seeking to dwell in grace in 2013.


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