My 2021 Word of the Year

DOUBLE DOWN. That’s how we’re rolling into 2021.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on

But before I unpack what exactly “double down” means (and gloss right over the fact that it’s two words rather than one…), I’d like to look at how having a word of the year has affected me, particularly my understanding of how any given trip around the sun plays out.

Initially, I thought of having a word of the year as the means through which I would muscle my brilliance into the world and grit my teeth and pull up my bootstraps to make things happen.

In reality? Having a word of the year has largely shaped the way I see what God is doing in my life. And it’s awesome.


I had big goals and plans for 2018. I was going to get fit and get pretty, finally figuring out how to dress like a grown-up. I was going to build better routines, even better relationships with my kids, and an online presence so I could sell my dang book.

Ahem. Largely, none of those things happened, though I did launch that book into the world.

But at the end of 2019, I saw what God was building in 2018:

UAMS brought Matt on as an assistant research professor, ensuring we’d live five minutes from a children’s hospital in 2019.

That also meant a pay bump for him, making my freelance editing work more optional. I could work when I liked the job/client or had a goal to save for, but our bottom line worked without that income, which meant I had more time (and mental space!) for homeschool and general parenting.


With that work life off my shoulders, I was floundering a bit. How do I keep the pressure on to get my stuff done? How do I not fall into lazy habits? So 2019 was the year I would ATTEND to things: house, people, relationships, etc.

Until June 24 when Claudia started throwing up blood clots, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s leukemia, and didn’t leave the hospital for 40 days. We spent the rest of the year in and out of (mostly in) the hospital. Attend was the best word possible because that is all I did.

I attended to Claudia’s needs and heart at the hospital.

I attended to my own stress and trauma during short breaks (read: break room/cafeteria for caffeine/sugar/YouTube to numb all feeling).

I attended to Ellie and Roger as best I could when I was home with them (and came up so, so short. We’ll get to how God smoothed that over in 2020…).

I attended to Matthew with solidarity, neither of us able to give much else.

That makes it look pretty bleak. And it was. So much of it was. But God held us, held our daughter, and showed us His sustaining grace in ways we would never have known otherwise.

Claudia’s chemo treatment ended in December. We had a couple last niggling hospital stays because of fevers (having a port and a fever means automatic ER visit because port infection is very serious, even if it’s unlikely), but we were done with staying overnight at the hospital.

And ready for a change.


When Claudia’s immune system recovered in January, we hit the ground running. We still had to go in weekly for blood draws (then monthly, and in 2021, every other month), but we went back to church, co-op, and select play dates, anticipating doing more when cold and flu season were done.

We even headed down to Orlando for Claudia’s Make-A-Wish trip: she wanted to see the ocean and Harry Potter World, but the MAW Orlando package also includes Disney and a weeklong stay at a magical resort just for Wish kids (if you have a few spare dollars, would you consider supporting this awesome organization?).

We packed in all the magic we could and went home tired but so full of hope.

And came back to lockdowns.

2020 took a turn I wasn’t ready for, and I spent a few days moping on the couch about it. It took a while to pivot, but we came up with a new plan, and it ended up being really good for us.

This year has been devastating between the virus, natural disasters, seeing how deep and dark systemic racism still is, loss of life, and more. The pandemic has affected every person–and some have paid so dearly, whether in the lives of loved ones or jobs or mental health. But for our tiny family in our little nucleus, this year has been better than the last–which feels terrible to say in the midst of so much pain and darkness.

But God has redeemed, for us, the time we lost. We have had steady days upon steady days at home without much deviation. My younger two are not jumpy or concerned that I’m going anywhere. Matthew and I don’t panic over every passing discomfort Claudia mentions. I sleep now. Even having to give up our co-op made me see where our homeschool needed to adapt.

And that’s the other “renewal” part I didn’t expect: change. We are not the same. We know God’s care more deeply and walk in a steady confidence we never felt before. Where the pandemic illuminated hidden things, we have stepped into new light, more certain of the path before us.

2020 was bad, but God still did good, and we are excited to step into what He’s doing in 2021. Which brings me back to…


Early in December, Matthew sent me the link to a TEDx talk about marriage. As we texted about it, he said something to the effect of wanting to “double down and triple down on us.”

And it stuck.

He’s been brought on full-time as a tenure-track professor, which means we’re not going anywhere (until we buy a house, yay!)–and means we’re not changing from homeschool. At least, we don’t feel that pull yet. So since many things in our lives are not changing (but hopefully this vaccine rollout will mean some things can change…), it’s the perfect time to double down on exactly what God has put in front of us.

I’ve even simplified how I classify those things. Here’s what I’m doubling down on in 2021:

  1. Pursuing Christ.
  2. Caring for my family.
  3. Loving others.
  4. Caring for my body.
  5. Writing.

In previous seasons and mindsets, I’d break that down in the nitty-gritty for all the internet to see, but I don’t feel that need anymore. It’s a short list, but it’s getting as much of my waking attention as I can give.

What about you? Do you do a word of the year?

Published by MK Jorgenson

Thinking, writing, and talking about Christian stewardship in all of its facets.

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