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Moving Forward: One Word at a Time

| written by A.J. Coulter | 13 comments

I can tell from Op-Ed pieces, Facebook statuses, tweets, and every year-in-review special that 2013 proved to be an extremely hard year for a lot of people. My family and I were no exception. It was actually two and a half years of one thing right after another. 

My son almost died from MRSA pneumonia. My parents split after forty-four years of marriage. A church I loved dearly was torn apart, and as a result, I lost many close relationships formed over thirteen years of serving together. We made two moves of over 800 miles each. Two central figures in my life died within a year. Enough already! 

Sure, good things happened, too. I welcomed a new daughter into the world. I changed jobs. I started a writing group.  However, even with the positive, the pain I carried and the stress that accompanied them almost ended me.

Some days I still struggle to function with my relational roles of husband, father, friend, son, brother, much less the professional ones of instructor, writer, and medical professional.

But I noticed something. On the days I struggle, it is because something from the past seems to be pulling me backward. It could be a memory, a phone call, a Facebook post. Something will try to take me back to the pain, the dysfunction, the helplessness. I needed to move forward—for me, my family, my faith.

A friend of mine had embraced the OneWord challenge for a couple of years, and at the time, I thought it was cute. Everything seemed nice and neat, tied up in a bow, complete with graphics for social media. 

I did not understand the power of the simplicity. I did not realize the overreaching effects one word could have on every facet of your life. However, I did see that she changed, that it affected her in a profound way. I felt I needed to join.


As I contemplated my word, I reflected on what I desired to change. I wanted to get out of the rut. I needed to move beyond the pain. I longed for the ability to just get on with it. Then, it hit me—FORWARD

What a simple term. What a simple word. Or so I thought. 

As I reflected the last day of 2013 and the first day of 2014 about this “simple” word, it became evident that it is more than a direction; it is a lifestyle. 

My prayer now is that this word, FORWARD, becomes a filter through which I see my world. I aim to ask myself: Is this decision positioning me to move forward? Does this relationship hold me back? The answers may not be easy ones, but they are answers to my prayer, nonetheless. 

How might your word change you? It may seem simple, but I assure you it’s deeper than you think. I am glad to be on this journey with you.

One word. One choice. One mission. 


A.J. Coulter writes fiction and poetry that often explores themes of identity, faith, relationships, and Southern Appalachian life. He founded the fiction critique group Hendersonville Writers and occasionally teaches college writing courses. You can find him on his writing blog or Facebook.