I’ve been hosting a link-up I call “Life: Unmasked” on Wednesdays for over a year now, in an effort to encourage you and I to stop pretending and be real… to write naked. A few brave souls link up each week, sharing the always complicated, never perfect, often messy truth about themselves, their lives, their stories. Please know this: I am so thankful for each of you who have participated. I would be hiding behind a mask if I said I wasn’t disappointed in myself for failing to read and comment on each one of your posts. Your stories, your willingness to put yourselves out there, and your comments here have encouraged me so much, so my own inability to reciprocate the way I’d like to weighs heavy. I took a break during the month of December to think about whether or not to continue and if I did, how to be a better host for each of you who participate.

masks
Some of you may have seen the flurry of “One Word” posts in the past week. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, some people select a single word to represent a goal or an attitude or a theme for the next year. I had a word for 2011: Cultivate. We had been through a fire and in many ways, it felt like our family and our lives had been scorched to the ground. But I knew life remained, under that blackened soil, and that I needed to do my part to tend it and coax it back up into the light. Cultivate represented the hard work I needed to do as a wife and as a mother to restore the relationships in our family that had been battered and bruised by the grief and pain we’d been through.

Last year, 2012, I didn’t have a word. I thought about it last December, but nothing came to me. Let this be an encouragement to you – if you don’t have a word or a resolution or a Pinterest-worthy meme for the beginning of the year, that’s okay! Don’t force it.

I had the chance to meet some bloggers in 2012 when I joined the World Vision team that traveled to Sri Lanka in August. One of the women on the team told me later that she expected me to be much more aggressive and dominant in person based on what she had read on my blog. Apparently, meeting me was a pleasant surprise. On the one hand, I’m glad to hear that in person, I’m pleasant to be around and am not overbearing and domineering. On the other, it gave me pause to think that my writing voice might give the impression that I take charge, don’t listen, spout off, or don’t care what anyone else says or thinks or feels.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, I do take charge when it’s my responsibility to do so. But I do listen, and I’ve gotten much better at holding my tongue (I hate confrontation and hurting people’s feelings). I care very much, both about your feelings, and about your perception of me. Criticism, rejection, and correction cuts deep

As I have written for Life: Unmasked and as I have bared my soul over doubt and depression, I’ve experienced some negative backlash. It’s inevitable, I know – anytime you make a statement, someone is going to disagree or feel threatened. I want to soften or avoid or apologize so that doesn’t happen because criticism and offense feels like (and often is) rejection. Rejection is like being stripped naked and then kicked in the gut – it leaves you humiliated, desperate to hide, gasping for breath and crying out in pain because every breath stabs.

Confession: I am afraid of going through that again. I’ve been fighting against the temptation to walk away, to put the mask up again, to hide behind questions instead of sharing where I am with those questions.

So it should be no surprise, really, what word I got for 2013. It just materialized in the last week. Maybe while I was taking a shower (I do some of my best thinking in the shower, or while jogging).

My word for 2013 is BRAVE. 

I will live into this word, this theme, this year. I will keep telling the truth, all of it, the messy and ugly as well as the places where God is patching me up and healing.  I will continue to host Life:Unmasked, though this year I will host it once a month, the first Saturday of the month, instead of weekly. I think I can keep up with all of you better if I host the linky once a month. NOTE: I’m hosting the Life:Unmasked linky today for any unmasked, real-life post you’ve written in the month of December! (Please add the direct link to your post and include a link back here. Thanks!)

Will you join me for Life:Unmasked this year? What is your one word, if you have one? How do you approach your fear?