One Word 2014 : Thrive.

I chose Faithfulness as my One Word for 2013. It’s from a favorite hymn of mother’s, the last one she sang to me before she died and the one we sang at her funeral. I had it inscribed as a tattoo on my wrist on the anniversary of her death last January.

The lyrics to the chorus go, “Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

But honestly, I think I got the Faithfulness thing backwards in 2013. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to achieve an elusive measure of faithfulness that would make me feel satisfied, confident and whole. And at the same time, I was trying to hide from the hard parts of faithfulness : the showing up and being present in my life every day, the vulnerability of it, the steady work that it takes – whether or not there’s an end or an accolade in sight. Yet when I sat down to make a list of everything that marked this year – books I read, music and movies I loved, places I went, people I met, friendships that flourished, words I wrote, tasks I accomplished – I was astonished by how full my life was.

For the record, this is what Faithfulness looked like in 2013 :

Books :
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
- When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman
- Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt
- A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
- A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
- Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
- Quiet by Susan Cain
- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
- The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
- Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott
- Rereads: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series & The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneggar, Homecoming by Bernard Schlink

People I Connected With (online, some face-to-face) : 

- Natalie Trust
- Tamara Barrick Rice
- Cara Strickland
- Abi Bechtel
- Suzannah Paul
- Dianna Anderson
- Dani Kelley
- Benjamin Moberg
- Micah Murray

Places I Went :
- The Dominican Republic : service project
- Eagle River, Wisc. : camping with the hubs
- Bloomington, Ind. : visiting friends from my study abroad trip
- Norwalk, Ohio : my first-ever speaking gig!
- Nashville, Tenn. : vacation with my hubs
- Fargo, N.D. : Thanksgiving with my sis in-law & niecey

Words I Wrote (most popular posts) :
- Where Have All the Millennials Gone? Entitlement in the Economy & the Church
- RELEVANT : Angelina Jolie and Every Woman’s Choice
- I Am Done With Being Quiet
- When It’s the Worst Thanksgiving Ever
- When the Story Isn’t Mine to Tell
- It is Good : An Ode to My Body
- When I Say I Wouldn’t Trade It
- On Mourning Mother’s Day

Personal Accomplishments :
- got a tattoo
- paid off my credit card
- finally worked out a reasonable payment plan with Sallie Mae
- hubs & I both received raises AND bonuses from work
- finished & submitted a first draft of my book proposal + two sample chapters (update on this coming soon)
- got my first-ever speaking gig

BUT SERIOUSLY. Why had I been so hard on myself about living up to a measure of faithfulness when all of this good stuff was already happening? (Why is this always the question I’m asking myself?)

I’m reading Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly right now, and in her chapter “Vulnerability Armory” she talks about our habits of deflecting vulnerability. As I was reading, I realized that “foreboding joy” is a big shield for me : living in a constant state of anxiety over the worst case scenario. I use it in an effort to prepare for and/or shield myself from pain, but it has kept me from fully living into joy. It leaves me desperate and insecure, unable to see the blessings in my midst and therefore totally ungrateful for them.

This year taught me that every time I think faithfulness is about me and my ability to measure up or follow through, it is in fact, about God’s faithfulness – His radical, loving, everlasting and totally unconditional faithfulness to us. Just as the hymn goes.

I decided that this year I want to put down that shield of foreboding joy. I want to stop letting anxiety and desperation control me. I want to notice the blessings in my midst. I want to act from a place of abundance and enough-ness, instead of scarcity.

And so, the word that I’m choosing for 2014 is THRIVE.

It’s not a list of goals to accomplish or taking the year by storm. It’s not behavior modification with a bunch of new habits. It’s not about measuring up or fitting a standard. It’s about being vulnerable enough to feel joy and practice gratitude.

Thriving is about living into His faithfulness to me.

  • Danielle

    I had a complicated relationship with my one word last year – Thrive – last year, as you know, but every single word you wrote here resonated with me so deeply. Every. Single. Word. I think you are going into 2014 with this word so graciously and wisely, and I can’t wait to see what this year holds for you!

  • Cara Strickland

    I LOVE connecting with you, Bethany.
    And I’m so excited to see what this year looks like for you as you read Daring Greatly.
    Here’s to thriving!

    • Bethany Suckrow

      thanks, friend! <3

  • kimanzi constable

    What an amazing year, really enjoyed your words throughout the year :)

  • Catherine

    When I first saw your word from 2013 – Faithfulness – I thought, “How do you measure that?” And I thought maybe Thrive was just as difficult. But there is something about the broader definition of “thrive” that opens the doors to an ease in accomplishing it. To thrive is to be faithful. To thrive is to grow.

    I also love your book list! I absolutely LOVE Joan Didion.

    • Bethany Suckrow

      “To thrive is to be faithful. To thrive is to grow.” < LOVE this, Catherine. It's so true.

      Funny story about my book list in light of your question on whether or not "faithfulness" is measurable : I wasn't sure I could measure faithfulness, either, and I also had every intention of setting a goal for how many books I would read in the year and found that I could not keep a goal or schedule to save my life. I thought I'd be lucky if I could read 12 books in 2013 ( avg of one per month.) I gave up on trying to keep track of how "well" I was doing, and just read what I could when I could. Looking at the list now, I read nearly double that – 20 books! And they all had a huge impact on me and my spiritual/emotional development this year. That is some serious, quantifiable faithfulness right there. :)

      And yes, Joan Didion. It was the first book I read of hers, but I definitely want to read more.

  • Debbie Crawford

    “Thrive” reminds me of Psalm 1 and being like a tree planted by streams of water.

    • Bethany Suckrow

      That is beautiful imagery, right? I think that’s really the kind of thriving God invites us to, when we look at Scripture. Thanks for commenting, Debbie!

  • Briana Meade

    Hey Bethany, I read you regularly and we read like, all of the same books this year. So funny. I also read The Year of Magical Thinking. Love me some Joan Didion. I really like your writing and always anticipate your next post. Would you have time to check out my site? I want to be the first on the list to connect with you in 2014. Haha. I write at

    • Bethany Suckrow

      You’re always a faithful reader/commenter, Briana, and I really appreciate that. Time I returned the favor, eh? Glad we’ve connected over the past month or so. ;)

  • Hila

    This is beautiful Bethany. And you have accomplished so much! I have a feeling this year will be good – just a deep down feeling. xx

  • Andrea Beltran

    Beautiful post, Bethany. I know you will continue to thrive. Happy to know you!

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