How to Choose a Word for the Year and Make Your Own Creative Journal

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As you stand at the entrance of a new year, do you ever reflect on a word for the year that could be yours throughout the year?

I do this practice every year. For me, this has never been an exercise such as coming up with a New Year’s Resolution (which never works anyway, right?)

Taking time to discover how to choose a word for the year prompts me to pause to reflect on the year that I’ve lived through and consider what God might be inviting me into in the new year ahead.

What is the Word for the Year?

In December 2019, I began asking the Holy Spirit, what is the word for the year for 2020? It didn’t come immediately.

It took time and intention to allow God space over several days to begin nudging me with words that arose.

Certain words began “calling” to me. I knew the season ahead would require my openness to change and unknowing as I wondered about what life would look like as I faced retirement in 2020.

The phrase “Open to Wonder” became my focus for 2020 as I anticipated the new year and new decade, and like all of the world, I had no idea that the need for openness to change and unknowing would be required for more than being newly retired.

But God did.

He was inviting me to be open to the wonder (both the awe and the questions) that living out retirement AND the reality of a worldwide pandemic would require.

It would be a year like no other…and He was ever-present to me in it.

Here we are in 2021…about to come to a close of 2020. Good riddance, we might be thinking, but what if we took time to reflect on the year we’ve been given?

notepad and flower-word for the year

Why Choose a Word for the Year?

We each stand at the threshold of 2021. We may wonder why choose a word for the year and will it be worth giving time to?

In Psalm 90, Moses contemplates the largeness of God and his relationship to Him. These verses remind me why it’s good to consider what I’ve experienced and what I hope to experience in relation to God and His world in the next year.

Teach us to number our days [with intention] that we may gain a heart of wisdom….Let Your work appear to Your servants and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us. Yes, establish the work of our hands.   

Psalm 90:12, 16-17

 I find that contemplating on my word for the year is a way for me to “gain a heart of wisdom”…to be in a position of receiving God’s wisdom about my life – where I am now and what He might be inviting me to join Him into in the days ahead.

I desire Him to “establish the work” of my hands…to bring purpose and meaning to each of my days on the earth.

How do I Choose a Good Word for the Year?

To learn how to choose a good word for the year, it’s necessary to set aside times of silence and solitude over a few days. We can’t be in a hurry.

Choosing a word for the year has nothing to do with the Holidays or New Year’s resolutions.

This practice is intentionally connecting with God to discern what He’s up to in us, for us, through us. And doing this is best done in quiet and aloneness.

We’ll need to parcel out some time for reflection. I know how busy our lives are, but choosing a good word is like “mining for gold” and time for discovery is needed.

During my set-apart time, I find it important to begin by connecting to my breath – inhaling through my nose slowly and exhaling through my mouth fully.

This practice helps bring me to a settled place where I can connect to the immediate moment where God’s Spirit is present to me in each breath.

In this space, I then ask the Spirit to remind me of moments – events, memories, emotions – that have made up this past year. I let Him remind me of where my word given at the beginning of the year came into play and how I responded.

I am remembering God’s faithfulness.

Don’t expect your word for the year to come in your first sitting. It’s wonderful if it does, but in my experience, it rarely does. We must be okay with that.

Think of selecting your word for the year like a rosebud unfolding. It’s a process and forcing it won’t help.

lady writing-word for the year

7 questions you can ask yourself to help choose a good word for the year:

  1. Where did God show up for me this year?
  2. What lessons was I able to grab onto?
  3. What came to me this year that I might take into the next?
  4. Where am I now?
  5. What am I longing for?
  6. Is there anything new rising up in me?
  7. Has God been speaking anything lately?

My 2021 word for the year came to me after about 5 or so days. At one point, I recalled something God spoke to me during online church in the spring of this year.

I heard within “I am freeing you. I am releasing you.” Those two small sentences served to anchor me in the midst of the stay-at-home mandate.

I also was reminded of something a friend had asked me a few years back that deeply impacted me – “What would it look like for you to thrive?”

As I mulled over the impact of those two experiences, I found my word for 2021 – Freed to Flourish.

What you need to know about “your word for the year” is that even after your word comes, you have no idea the depths of its meaning until you come to the end of the year.

Your word for the year’s purpose is to serve as an anchor, as a focus, like a seed being planted for next year’s harvest. It’s like a thread to follow throughout the year to see God at work.

That’s what my new word for the year will be for me.

Notepad-word for the year

Creating a Word for the Year Journal

Once I have my word for the year, I create a word of the year journal. I use a black and white composition book and decorate the front and back covers with collages.

I find words and images in magazines or online related to my word for the year, arrange them in a meaningful way on the cover, and then glue them into place. I paint the covers with Mod Podge to seal and protect the images.

Often, I make two books since journaling is a regular spiritual practice for me, and I’ll need enough space for the whole year.

journal with pen word for the year

If this is your first time deciding to “find your word for the year,” don’t stress over it. Simply do it and have fun with it. The Lord is with you in it. If you often select a word for the year, enjoy the process another year.

Once you have your word for the year, would you be willing to share it below in the comments? I would love to hear about your word for the year!



Lord, give us a word. May the “seed” be planted deeply into us so that we may gain a heart of wisdom from the year ahead. By Your wisdom, we will cultivate the work of our hands for Your kingdom of love in the world. Amen.


Susie Scarborough

Susie Scarborough is recently retired after serving on a church staff for sixteen years. Previously, she was an elementary teacher for twenty years. With this newfound freedom, Susie is able to spend time with family and friends, pursue her lifelong love for writing, and enjoy creating experiential spiritual environments to be shared in community with others. She calls the New Orleans area home and enjoys staycations when out-of-town friends visit.

49 thoughts on “How to Choose a Word for the Year and Make Your Own Creative Journal”

  1. Mary Rooney Armand

    Great wisdom Susie! I love how purposeful you are choosing a word and your beautiful journal! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I can’t wait to do this! What a wonderful idea, this is going to be fun and very meaningful and a great surprise at the end of the year to reflect on how the word manifested throughout the year. Thank you!

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Teeny, it truly is wonderful to notice how your word is woven throughout the year by God’s grace. Blessings to YOU in 2021!

  3. Oh I love this! I love journals and I have chosen a word of the year for the last several years. For 2021 my word is “peace”, specifically seek peace. I am focusing on my theme verses too: Psalm 34:14, Isaiah 26:3 and Colossians 3:15. You have a beautiful blog and I am so glad I stopped by!!

    1. Mary Rooney Armand

      Thank you for stopping by and reading! I love the word peace and pray you will find much peace in 2021!

    2. Susie Scarborough

      Mariel, your word for the year – peace – how anchoring that can be when the world all around can seem unsettled. Thank you for sharing it. I encourage you to try your hand at creating a peace collage that expresses visually your word for 2021. Blessings!

  4. Susie, what a great article! Very inspiring and well done as always! I especially loved seeing the picture of your 2021 journal which helped me with ideas for doing my own. :).

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Stacey, don’t forget to post a picture of your journal once it’s done. What’s your word for 2021?

  5. Thank you, Susie, for the idea to create a special word-of-the-year journal; haven’t done that before. I’ve just used a divider in my quiet time notebook and added looseleaf pages as I’ve needed them. My word for 2021: courage. Seems especially appropriate during these troubled times!

    1. Mary Rooney Armand

      Nancy, thanks for stopping by! Susie has created beautiful journals over the years. I love the word courage. It is not the easiest to demonstrate but worth the effort. May you be blessed with courage in 2021!

    2. Susie Scarborough

      Nancy. I wholeheartedly agree that your word COURAGE is so appropriate for these days. I can’t wait to see the journal you create to visually express “courage. ” Blessings in this new year!

  6. Mary, I love the phrase, “Open to Wonder” that you shared. Thank you for sharing your practical journey for listening to God. And thank you for sharing the practical way of making a journal collage cover. Your covers are beautiful!

    1. Mary Rooney Armand

      Lisa, my friend Susie is the author of that wonderful phrase and the journals! Thanks for stopping by and glad you were inspired!

    2. Susie Scarborough

      Lisa, I’m so glad that the idea to create your own journal with a collage cover was meaningful to you. I truly cherish my journals as they depict my year’s journey. Blessings in your 2021!

  7. Susie, I love this post! I am an advocate for journaling in many guises! It was one of the greatest tools as a therapist I shared with patients.
    And although I journal regularly including my word for the year, I hadn’t thought of doing an art journal specifically for it!

    You’re most welcome to join me in a cuppa at Tea With Jennifer where I share my word of the year journey. 😀
    Bless you,

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Jennifer, is your page Tea with Jennifer a Facebook page or your website? I’d love to visit and hear your word. I’d also love to see your cover collage you create for your journal?. Blessings in this wonderful new year!

  8. Wonderful post Susie. I love the prayer. My word/phrase for 2021 is “In Christ.” I believe if I remember to do everything in Christ, then it will be a good year according to His plans. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Yvonne, your word “in Christ” is so powerful to serve as a reminder to re-center again and again. Thank you for sharing it. May it always guide you in the months and weeks and days and moments of 2021. Blessings!

  9. What a thoughtful way to begin the new year. I usually choose a word or a verse for the year (like you, I gave up on resolutions a long time ago!). This year the verse came to me first, Ephesians 3:20. And the words from that verse: exceeding and infinite abundance.

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Wow! Carla, those words are so spacious and full of promise and possibility. May you see that reality threaded all throughout the year ahead!

  10. My One Word is always an important part of my spiritual journey each year. It’s something I take seriously as well, so I love seeing your advice here! I just shared it with my Facebook group, One Word 2021.

  11. This is a great guide for how to choose a word for the year. If we’re going to pursue a guiding word for the year it’s important to seek God’s input since we know God has plans for our future and has already been preparing us for the work ahead. I teach guided Christian meditation and love your method of finding stillness and sitting with God, as well as the DIY journal idea!

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Rachel, thank you for words of encouragement. I LOVE guided meditation. God has used that practice often in my life to engage with me. Yes, stillness and connecting with my breath always centers and recalibrates me and especially brings me to peace when the world around me is unsettled. Do you have a website or a Facebook page?

  12. This is so beautiful Mary, I never really do “word of the year” as a matter of compulsion, only if God leads me to it. But the steps you have highlighted seem practical enough, and your journal is beautiful too. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Mary Rooney Armand

      thanks for stopping by! The words and journal are lovely and were created by my friend Susie. Many blessings.

  13. Susie Scarborough

    Lisa, I’ll go to your Facebook page to see your word. Thanks for letting us know of your page, and thanks for your words of encouragement.

  14. Susie Scarborough

    Rachel, thank you for words of encouragement. I LOVE guided meditation. God has used that practice often in my life to engage with me. Yes, stillness and connecting with my breath always centers and recalibrates me and especially brings me to peace when the world around me is unsettled. Do you have a website or a Facebook page?

  15. I found it difficult choosing a word, but l love your helpful questions. And my prayer is that no matter what God will draw me closer than ever before to Him through the word l chose!

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Ava, there need be no pressure to choose a word. I read somewhere that sometimes the word arises sometimes later in the year as if “the word finds you.” I liked that thought, especially when it expresses how free we are in Christ to allow His work in us to unfold…like discovering a word that expresses His work in our lives. It’s definitely His plan to draw you to Himself in beautiful and loving ways in the days ahead. Blessing in your new year!

  16. Beautiful post! For the first time, I am keeping my word and Bible Verse from last year … “Blessed” and Jeremiah 17:7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.” ?

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Donna, that definitely is a word to hold onto for another year. That verse attaches trust and confidence to it. Love that! Blessings abound!

  17. Susie, thank you gor the encouragement to find a word or phrase for this year. Mine will be leaninging toward “Now, stand in God’s love and truth.”

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Laura, what a powerful stance to take in this new year – God’s love and truth! I know there will be abundant fruit that comes as a result, bringing God great glory. Blessings in your new year!

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Thank you, Kari! I’ve learned over the years that a word for the year is meant to be encouragement and vision from God I can look for. When I’ve stressed over it, I realize it’s coming from my striving, not from His work within. Each year, for me, the word serves as a thread being woven into life all throughout the year. Blessings in YOUR new year ahead!

  18. I love this Susie. I am a great believer in this process – listening for a word or words about the coming year.
    I have heard God speak two things so far. In this year, there will be gathering and restoration. Now I’m listening for a little more to come – details!

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Wow, Pam…love it…gathering and restoration! Those words hold so much potential and possibility to look for to unfold in the months ahead. Blessings in the year as you have eyes to see!

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Summer, have you found your “word for the year”? I always love to hear what God unfolds and reveals to others about what to look for in the year ahead. And maybe you’ll have some time to create your own journal. Blessings to you as your new year unfolds!

  19. Thank you for this post about choosing my word for the year. My word is ‘trust’. I hadn’t thought about making a creative journal to collect my thoughts in to do with my word for the year. I will do this !??

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Karen, thank you for sharing your word for the year – TRUST. What an invitation that is! I think you’ll enjoy working on your creative journal to contain your reflections. Maybe you could share a picture of it here when it’s done. Blessings in the new year as you journey with God in trust!

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  22. I love this so much!!! I have been thinking about what my word for 2022 will be, and then I read your article and the word I keep coming back to is discipline. I think of God immediately when I picture this word. Discipline to God and allowing Him to take control over my life is, surrendering, is going to be my focus. Great article! Blessing for the new year ahead ??

    1. Susie Scarborough

      Happy New Year, Megan! Thank you for sharing your word for 2022. I can picture your word as well in living for God throughout the new year. The one that arose for me this year is Await and Allow. May both of us live our moments of our days in disciplined awareness of His beautiful Presence. Blessings!

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