Living and Writing via ‘One Word’

Around the Internet you’ll see references to One Word as an alternative to New Year’s resolutions. One site says, “This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus…just one word.”

Rachel Olsen, co-author of the book ‘My One Word‘, is a guest on the Seekerville blog today, talking about the One Word she chose in 2012, which was ‘Create‘. She hoped it would help nurture her creative impulses. Her thought: “…if I refuse to create—because I am afraid, or feel inferior, or for any reason really—I’m refusing to live the life God has called me to live. Not to mention I’m refusing to use the talents He has given me to invest, and there’s a little parable about that….” ‘Create’ was a good choice for her.

Joy Ornament

After encountering Sara Frankl online some years ago, I was inspired by her ‘Choose Joy’ attitude, and ‘Joy‘ became my One Word for 2011. (One of my posts about Sara is here.) Through Sara I found Ann Voskamp’s blog, and subsequently her book, ‘One Thousand Gifts‘. My 2012 One Word became ‘Thankfulness‘. Life can get pretty ho hum when we blunder through each day oblivious to the little miracles that surround us. Ann’s challenge was to become observant and each day of the year record three everyday things for which to give thanks.

I’ll admit I wasn’t 100% faithful in always recording three, but my journal that year was filled with little snippets of the everyday I might otherwise have seen but not really absorbed as gifts. Acknowledging and appreciating them brought gratitude, and gratitude brought joy.

Other One Words since then haven’t always provided such clarity, but having just one word on which to focus throughout a year has been far more effective for me than all the New Year’s resolutions of the past. Whether my One Word has been applied to life in general or to writing in particular, each has helped me decide on a progression of desirable ‘intentions’ and stay on track.

My 2015 One Word hasn’t been revealled to me yet. I thought fleetingly of a good one, but I lost the thought before writing down the word! There are any number of inspirational words from which to choose — Rachel Olsen’s website has a graphic offering several that would be suitable, as does the 2013 list from Seekerville — but I’m waiting a little longer to choose one that speaks to me. I’m hoping my lost thought will return before January is over.

We’ve talked here before about resolutions and intentions, but perhaps not about a One Word. It’s something worth your consideration. If you could sum up your desires or ambitions for 2015 in a single word, what would it be?

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Remembering Sara


“At times our own light goes out
and is rekindled by a spark
from another person.
Each of us has cause to think
with deep gratitude
of those who have lighted the flame
within us.”

(Albert Schweitzer) 


Two years ago today a very special light went out in our world. Sara Frankl, known around the blogosphere and by her family and friends as Gitz, died. She had a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, a genetic, systemic, autoimmune disease.

Sara was a person who had every reason to complain, but instead she chose a more positive route. On her ‘Gitzen Girl‘ blog she said, “I’m just a girl who used to write for a magazine to make a living, and now writes a blog to make a life. Extremely blessed, well-loved and choosing joy while learning that homebound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.”

Sara & Riley

(Sara and her Riley, borrowed with thanks from the Gitzen Girl blog)

In one of her later blog posts she explained that she was allergic to most of the drugs the doctors would have liked to give her, and “the one medication I take for the disease [other than the pain killers] I can only take in a limited amount before my white counts drop to a level the doctors aren’t comfortable with. In other words, I’m stuck. And I’ve exhausted every option. And yes, I’ve tried homeopathic things that were worse for me than any drug I’ve ever taken. I spent years fighting, and I will always try what I can in the future, but accepting what is, living with it, embracing it and finding joy in it is the only way I know how to live a productive life.”

She was a light in so many lives, right up until hers flickered out. But her life continues to inspire. It was because of Sara that my focus word in 2011 was “Joy“. That year hers was “Praise“. Through her I found Ann Voskamp‘s ‘A Holy Experience‘ website and later, Ann’s book, ‘1000 Gifts‘ that urges us to thankfulness by living fully and counting small everyday joys.

The (in)Courage community created a video about her for their online conference last year… ‘Sara’s Story‘. When you have a half hour to spare I encourage you to watch it. Or hop over to SoundCloud and listen to her sing. I hope you’re provoked to Choose Joy for yourself.

I’m remembering Sara today.


“In the same way,
let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father
who is in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:16)

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Finding the bright spot

Daylight Saving Time wasn’t a problem for us. My hubby systematically turned all the clocks ahead during the previous evening and we went to bed an hour early without really noticing. Judging by the attendance at church on Sunday morning, however, not everyone fared as well.

There were a number of empty seats, and I overheard a lot of mumbling about lost sleep, the struggle… the reluctance… to get moving in the morning, and more than the usual grumbling about the drizzle after a much-too-brief sunshiny Saturday. Then in the sanctuary I found this exquisite bouquet on the chancel. A small note in the bulletin said it was placed in celebration of a child’s first birthday. I don’t imagine those parents got any more sleep than the rest of us, but they had found a reason for joy and shared it.


The news broadcast last night told the story of a young woman whose joy was to sing. She has developed a rare form of throat cancer and yet she’s found a way to make the best of the situation while she waits for surgery.

I know people who are discouraged and/or depressed for many different reasons, but I also know others who are in equally difficult circumstances but still manage to find something, however small, on which to focus and glean joy. Ann Voskamp, author of ONE THOUSAND GIFTS, has suggested the answer to surviving our bad times is to express thankfulness. It sounds outrageous, I know, but she’s right.

“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.”

“…life change comes when we receive life with thanks
and ask for nothing to change.”

Joy isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice. I remember first hearing that from Sara Frankl. If you don’t know Sara’s story I hope you’ll take the time to check out this Dayspring video, Sara’s Story – Final. For years before she died Sara kept a blog. At a time when she needed much, she gave of herself to everyone she encountered. Her blog is still being maintained by her family, but on its sidebar you’ll find Sara’s own words:

I’m just a girl who used to write for a magazine to make a living, and now writes a blog to make a life. Extremely blessed, well-loved and choosing joy while learning that homebound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.

Ann Voskamp talks often about choosing joy, too, and has created a Joy Dare Collection of little cards that you can print out for each month with reminders to search for specific joys each day… to help us make a habit of looking for the tiny moments of joy that otherwise may slip past unnoticed.

As I step into this new week I am once again aware that no matter the circumstances, there is always joy. The choice is mine whether or not I will look for it and be thankful.

How about you? Can you think of at least one thing for which to give thanks today?


“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.”

Psalm 9:1a


* Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are


Losing Sara

On Saturday evening the blogging world lost a beautiful person. Sara Frankl had been confined to her house for several years, with a progressive autoimmune disease called ankylosing spondylitis. It’s a disease that usually begins by attacking the joints, and for Sara, began in her spine. Over fourteen years it caused her excruciating pain, digestive problems, bouts with iritis, breathing issues, and exhaustion. She also had leucopenia and because of the low white cell count had to protect her health by living much of her final years in relative isolation.

But Sara didn’t complain. On her blog she said, “I’m just a girl who used to write for a magazine to make a living, and now writes a blog to make a life. Extremely blessed, well-loved and choosing joy while learning that homebound doesn’t limit your life, just your location.”

She encouraged others, shared her faith, and looked forward to resting in the arms of her heavenly father. She chose joy. She modeled that joy to all her cyber friends. She leaves the fragrance of her joy behind.

Today, Wednesday, a funeral service is being held for Sara at 1:30 p.m. Central Time at St. Cecilia’s Church in Algona, IA. Take a moment at that time to rejoice and give thanks for a life well lived. There will also be a memorial service tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at St. Stephens Catholic Church in Cedar Falls, IA.



Obituary link.

Here’s a link to the site where the service will be live-streamed at 1:30 p.m. CT today. The link will be found “at the bottom of the page, beneath Live Video from SCCS Sports.”

And here’s a link to a newspaper article about Sara.