I started picking a word of the year a few years ago. I usually pick the word during December, and throughout January, I think about it and write about it and commit it to memory. Then, I honestly forget about it—that is, until it pops up for me in the most unusual way. The word will come to me again with the most profound meaning during the tiniest, most unsuspecting moment of the year, as if God’s hand gently rested on my shoulder for just a breath before it was gone.
Unlike the words of the past few years (mindful, grace, perspective), I didn’t know why or how my 2022 word came about. I searched for a word for a while, but I couldn’t find the right one. Then suddenly I just knew on New Year’s Eve 2021, it would be journey.
This time, there were no subtle moments. The word journey smacked me over the head again and again this entire year, every time life threw me yet another major turn in an ever-winding road. The last turn happened just as the word was about to expire. But this time, it wasn’t just a turn. I was suddenly on a brand-new road in an unfamiliar place.
It happened on a Wednesday morning in December, a bustling morning full of final exams and Christmas wishes. Instead of hustling around, however, I was laying down exhausted on the couch while my son, who was home with the flu, played happily near me, content with his “day off.” It was somewhat relaxing until the phone rang. From the calmest, most monotone voice, I heard: “Mrs. Crowder, your test results are in. Most everything looks good but two results. But they are really important. You need to go to the ER as soon as you can.”
The next few days went by in a blur of tests, nurses, doctors, family visits, and much time staring at the TV while aimlessly refreshing the hospital app that could tell me the latest test results. That app was gold. It was how I already knew even before the doctor confirmed it for me that I had Addison’s disease. (Thank you, Google.)
Basically, Addison’s disease means that my immune system decided my adrenal glands were the enemy, and as a result, I no longer produce cortisol and aldosterone, two hormones that help keep us hydrated and alive. I now measure how I’m feeling, my blood pressure, my heart rate, and my instincts. If I don’t, I could go into an adrenal crisis. Cortisol rises naturally with unexpected larger stressors (“fight or flight”), but mine doesn’t. So, I’ll have to carry an emergency injection kit just in case something really bad happens. But if I manage my stress well, pay attention to my body’s signals, and trust my instincts, I’ll be just fine.
In all my frantic Web searching on this new reality, I read on various social media posts something like, “God chooses the strongest ones for the roughest roads.” I don’t like this sentiment, because it implies God looked at this particular road ahead and said, “I know exactly who could endure that journey because I built her strong.” Sorry, but that’s just not the God I believe in.
Instead, I think God saw this road ahead and knew when I reached it, I would finally understand where the journey was leading me. I think God stood next to me and said with tear-filled eyes, “I got you.”
And now, as 2023 begins, a new word has finally come just in the nick of time. I felt this word long before I heard it. It kept me warm and calm and safe. It saved me when I chose just the right time to trust my instincts and get myself checked out at urgent care one busy Monday night. It walked with me back to my car when I was ready to leave the hospital five days later.
And it is the only word that could possibly make 2023 what it is meant to be.
Not just for me, but for you, and for all who didn’t see this one coming—and for the incredible things that even this road can and will offer.