Over the past few days I’ve seen a couple references to selecting a “word of the year”.  The concept seems to be that you pick a word to focus on during the upcoming months.

I’m a big fan of words, patterns, and themes, so this seemed like a fantastic idea.  Only I couldn’t pick.  So many great words!  How do you narrow it down to one?
So I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the word that would best sum up what I should focus on for 2013.
Immediately, the word “respite” came to mind.
For a number of reasons, I balked.
1.  It’s not a pretty sounding word, like “glimmering” or “marmelade”.
2.  It’s not a word that conjures up the same things that “luxurious” or “plucky” do.
3.  It means this:
Sure, sure, there’s the “rest” aspect, but that’s only part of the word’s meaning.  It’s a brief rest from something unpleasant.  A breather before you have to go back out there and keep slogging through whatever it is you’re slogging through.


I asked the Holy Spirit for some pretty firm confirmation that this was the word He wanted me to meditate on for the next 360-something days.

You know, in case I misheard, and He really wanted to tell me something like, “naps!”
While I waited for a sign, I kept remembering the last Christmas we spent in Mississippi.  It was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had.  For the entire 10 days of Ken’s vacation, we got to spend time with our best friends, getting to hang out with them almost every day.  The four of us would go see a movie while our kids played together.  They’d come over to our house for dinner, or we’d go over to their house for dinner.  We’d played so many games of Settlers of Catan during that time, laughing until we ached over Kim’s ability to roll whatever number she needed.  Stupid funny, the kinds of stupid funny that grown-ups don’t get to enjoy very often because we’re so busy dealing with plain stupid.  We’d sit in the living room and talk for hours, while our kids, all best of friends, ran around laughing like hyenas  and got to be kids.  It was such a wonderful, unusual time of leisure and pure happiness that even while I was in the middle of it, I knew that I was being given this gift to strengthen me for something difficult to come.

This picture has nothing to do with my post.
But Ken doing the Gob Bluth chicken dance is too good a picture
to not be shared.

And sure enough, within a couple weeks of Ken returning to work, we learned that we were being transfered to Connecticut.
Two months later we were gone.

That Christmas was the last time our whole family got to enjoy the friendship of another family in that way.  The last time Ken and I got to spend easy, completely comfortable time with a couple we had fun with and had so much in common with, while our kids and their kids called each other best friends.  That time, that golden Christmas, was respite from the challenges we were about to face (and in some ways are still facing) in moving to New England.

So the word “respite” conjures up bittersweet memories for me.

Add that to the fact that just the other day, I had some women from the local homeschool group sitting around my dining room table.  We were planning for an art class we’re co-teaching, and the surprising thought flashed through my mind that these women were ones that I would like to get to know better.  I enjoyed their company, their conversation, and their kids seemed to be getting along well with mine.

On the heels of that thought, came this one:  “You’re starting to make friends, to put down roots.  Timer’s started, and within 18 months you’ll be transferred out of here, too.”

Now, I have no idea if or when we’re going to be transferred again, but still, that specter is always there.

So when the Holy Spirit revealed the word “respite” to me, I froze.

Respite from what?  Another move?  A health issue?  A job loss?  A spiritual battle?  What?

Then, I got this email from a friend of mine, who had no idea that she was writing to a loony tune woman freaking out over the concept of respite.  She just thought she was writing to a loony tune woman freaking out about possibly being transferred again someday:


“Okay, you and my husband are exactly alike.   Exactly!  This is you simultaneously loving and hating the exact same moment because you fear that loving it will lead to disappointment so you’re bracing yourself for the inevitable crap-fest waiting for you on the other side.  Do not do this!  Do you know when he starts dreading Monday morning?  On Saturday.  “Because it’s practically Sunday and then Sunday goes by so fast so it might as well not even be a day off at all.  Pretty much I should just go to work right now.”  Embrace the new friendships!  Let Connecticut give you what measly fun it has to offer (insert winky face here).  That way no matter what happens it will be good instead of no matter what happens being bad.  Because truly anything in the world could be the beginning or the end of either something good or something crappy depending on which part you call the beginning and which part you call the end.”


When you ask the Holy Spirit for confirmation, He does not mess around.  “…you’re bracing yourself for the inevitable crap-fest waiting for you on the other side.  Do not do this!”

(Yes, I think the Holy Spirit would use the word “crap-fest” when talking to me.  It’s the kind of language I understand.)

Doing this would be completely counterproductive.  You can’t get relief- even brief relief- if you refuse to take it when it’s offered.  There’s going to be a crap-fest, yes.  But there’s always going to be a crap-fest.  That’s the nature of our fallen world.  That’s why it’s called a “vale of tears” and not a “vale of laughter” (plus, “vale of crap” sounds sort of vulgar).  So to turn my back on those moments of relief and rest just because they’re surrounded by crap-festivities is stupid.

So now I get to meditate on times of respite this year.  Both when I’m experiencing them, and when I’m offering them.  I will try to be mindful when they’re happening (like the 40 minute drive to Costco this evening, when I focused very hard on enjoying singing to the radio with my kids as a means of rest before the horror of dragging those six kids through the store), and I will try to relax into them in order to regain strength, rather than seeing them as occasions of weakness.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Micaela

    Love love love. Love hearing about your friendships and your past. Love hearing about your connection to the Holy Spirit. Love hearing that I’m not the only one who counts down the end of vacation from the very beginning. (T-minus 76 hours for us. Nooooooo!)

    Respite. It’s a good word, and a good one to meditate on. Also, it has the word “spit” in it, which is just giggle-worthy enough for my middle school sense of humor.

  • Aging Flower Child

    You remind me of my hubby and my daughter-in-law. I am always admonishing my hubby for not being ‘in the moment’ – always looking ahead and preparing for….the worst? Not always. But every summer (his favorite time of year, for many reasons) we laugh because he will start singing this gloomy dirge, “summer’s almost gone….” earlier and earlier. It has become our joke. Before he went into business for himself he would also do the weekend thing like your friend in the article’s husband. Exactly! Living in the moment and being spontaneous means I worry a lot less. On the other hand, I am also always late. Not so much fun for those waiting for me. Love your posts!

  • Mark Garcia

    I was thinking of the new friends that you meat along the way as maybe parts of an ever expanding beautiful portrait. It’s true that we like the stability of the good things that we have but maybe God’s enriching your lives and the lives of all the others by having you move. Also as I have grown spiritually, I have noticed that God acts to keep us from being to attached to the things we like even if they aren’t sinful things. I love reading your articles and look forward to many more throughout 2013.