The ice has heaved in a strange way this year. I am no expert on ice heaves or on Lake Okabena or on winter in general, but the ice is doing something I haven’t seen it do before. A river has formed on the lake. An ice-melt river. This river begins not too far off of our point and carries on around the western edge of the lake almost to Vogt Park. On sunny and warm(ish) days, the top layer of ice actually melts. I thought I was imagining things when I saw water flowing freely along the Great Okabena River, but no, it’s really there.

The southern edge of this “river” is formed by the ice heave, which created a mountain-range border a foot (two? three?) high, giving the river definition and offering a warning to anyone daring enough to venture out onto the lake.

More than once over the past two weeks, brave snowmobilers and ATV drivers have driven along the edge of the lake and, when they’ve reached our point where they have no choice but to cross this new-formed river, they’ve stopped their vehicles, walked gingerly to the heave and checked the ice to see if it’s safe to cross. I have not actually witnessed this, but I’ve seen their footprints in the snow, evidence of their restraint. Since no machine-sized holes have appeared in the ice, I think I can accurately report that no one has fallen into the lake.

The fact is, no one wants to fall through the ice — with or without their costly vehicles. And so they investigate. They “test the waters." They err on the side of caution. Better safe than sorry. You do not blindly trust where so much is at stake.

My word for the year in 2019 was “trust." Focusing on trust made me step out in faith a few times in ways that I may not have been willing to do, had I not had that word foremost in my mind acting as a carrot dangling before me, the donkey. This trust-carrot encouraged me to move forward, knowing in whom I was trusting. I was not trusting blindly.

Well, now it’s a new year, and that means a new word. Choosing a word is a good thing, I think. Trouble is, I have no idea what word to choose.

I have narrowed down my choices. Or at least I thought I had. There were three words I was considering, and then suddenly it was New Year’s Day and I still hadn’t decided. And now it’s Jan. 11 and I’m farther than ever from choosing. JUST PICK A WORD ALREADY!

I decided to choose a word that wasn’t even on my narrowed-down list. I liked it for about 10 minutes and then I started to suffer word-choice anxiety.

Then I was tempted to choose something willy-nilly but the very thought made me feel like a reckless fool. By then I was convinced that whatever word I chose was going to control me for an entire year and what if I hated it? You can’t go back on your word!

I then thought maybe I should choose “no” because I need to say no to more things, but that sounded too negative. Now I have no idea what to pick, and I’m not sure I even care anymore.

Perhaps I’ll just choose “Jesus” — the ever-standard Sunday School answer. I can’t go wrong with Jesus, right? But of course if someone asks me what my word of the year is and I say, “Jesus” I don’t want them to think I’m swearing.

Oh, the pressure! Maybe I will go with “no," after all. Then when someone asks me, “Have you chosen a word of the year?” I can reply “No,” and rather than being negative they’ll just think I’m saying I haven’t chosen. Then, when they ask me to join their committee, I’ll say “No” because it is my word of the year.

Remember Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first? What’s on second?” Confusing, sure, but oh, so memorable.

Yes, “no” is definitely on my short list.

“Say just a simple ‘Yes, I will’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough.” Matthew 5:37 TLB



Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is gcodon@gmail.com.