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 of the Year for 2020?
In December 2019, I began asking the Holy Spirit, what is the word of 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?
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, it’s necessary to set aside times of silence and solitude over a few days. We can’t be in a hurry. This has nothing to do with coming up with 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 it like a rosebud unfolding. It’s a process and forcing it won’t help.
7 questions you can ask yourself to help choose a good word:
- Where did God show up for me this year?.
- What lessons was I able to grab onto?
- What came to me this year that I might take into the next?
- Where am I now?
- What am I longing for?
- Is there anything new rising up in me?
- 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. Its purpose to serve as an anchor, as a focus, as 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.
Creating a Word of the Year Journal
Once I have my word, 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, 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 since journaling is a regular spiritual practice for me, and I’ll need enough space for the whole 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’ve done this for years, 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.