Saturday, January 1, 2011


1. to spread or shake out from a furled state, as a sail or a flag; unfold
Isaiah 54
2010 was the first year I named.  Or the first year that was named for our family.  I'm not sure I did the naming, especially since its name was Change and there's only so much change one person can affect. I got the idea from an incredibly thoughtful and encouraging blog and I found I liked having a name for the year, a word to encapsulate it from start to finish.  And I found as the year went on that it was stunningly well named, this year of change.  So around the start of Advent, I began praying for a name for 2011.  This was weeks ago and I wasn't anxious as I prayed, just quiet.  I waited for the word to come. I didn't throw out suggestions to God or toss around ideas to the Spirit.  I just tried to listen for the word.  And one morning as I was laying in the bathtub, the word came: Unfurl.

Unfurl?  Yes, unfurl.  Clear as a bell.  Unfurl is the word for 2011.  I've known for a few weeks that this was our new word.  I say "our" new word, but I'm not sure whether this word is meant for our family or for just me.  I'm claiming it for the whole family because that makes it a little less scary.  Because change?  That was a word I could handle.  But unfurl has knots of anxiety taking up residence in the pit of my stomach.

Unfurl is a word that I approach with some trepidation, so I waited and listened to make sure this was the word for 2011 for quite a while before even looking up the definition.  Unfurl brings to my mind a flag, flapping in the wind, for all to see. I held onto that image for days before looking to see whether there was more to the word.  Turns out that's a pretty representative image.  The primary definition as shown above uses a flag or sail to illustrate the meaning.  But I wanted a bit more, so I looked up "furl."  After all, if something can be unfurled, it must first be furled.

The definition of furl brought little comfort:  to gather into a compact roll and bind securely, as a sail against a spar or a flag against its staff.  Hmmm. So if furl means bound securely, then unfurled means... Uh-oh.  I'm right back where I started with finding this word a tad on the terrifying side.  So I'll not just be at the top of the flagpole, but exposed and unbound as well?

When the word unfurl first came to me, I wasn't scared by it. I imagined how this word could help us embrace our daughters for who they are, could help our family remember to celebrate the things that are unique about us.  It sounded like a word of freedom.  And I suppose it is that very freedom that's begun to worm its way into my mind, making me wonder whether I can make it through 2011 if it is a year of unfurling.

I told J this morning that the word for 2011 was unfurl.  He threw out some images that came to his mind, including one of a woman letting her hair fall down over her shoulders after being pinned up.  He later told me he hopes he's not one of the bindings that needs to be loosened.  I replied that I think he's the flagpole.  Sound crazy?  Maybe.  But I think a key for me to approach this year as something worth embracing is to remember that an unfurled flag doesn't slip away on the first breeze that comes along because it is anchored.

And I am anchored as well.  To a husband and family who love me, but also to the One who gave me the word unfurl.  I know He will not let 2011 rip me to shreds as the unfurling happens because a tattered and torn flag is not worth flying.  But one that has been bound securely and needs the air to fly is worth some gentle untying to be free to do what it was crafted to do.

I don't know if reading the word unfurl conjures images in your mind that are beautiful, fearful, both or neither.  I don't know if you have ties, chains or bandages around parts of you that want unfurling.  But I hope and pray for you that 2011 will be a year that brings you the word you need, whether that be change, unfurl or something else altogether your own.


aimee said...

beautiful thoughts my friend, praying for a year filled with an untamed(but purposeful and spirit-led) wind that picks you up and sets you free.

Rachel said...

I have an unexpected day off and so am catching up on your blog! Reading this, the image I had was more of a sail...maybe that it's because being from the UK we don't have flags flying so much...or maybe it's just because when I was 17 I learnt to sail.

I can completely relate to the feelings of fear and uncertainty with the word unfurling, but I also got this exciting picture of a sail being released from being tied tightly (but still anchored!!) and then filling out with the wind - a colourful sail that was more than just beautiful, it had power with it and started to move the boat - it took the wind and the boat and suddenly combined them together and there was movement...and a boat that is sailing is a whole lot more exciting than one that is moored with the sales furled. :) Enjoy the journey - and thanks for planting seeds for the seeds for this picture, though I think my year is more likely linked with the word change!

WordGirl said...

Ah, Rachel. Thank you for that beautiful image. I especially love thinking about how the boat is only able to move as it should when the sail is unfurled. I'll keep your image in mind as I walk through this year. Thanks for the encouraging words.