It was almost the beginning of a fresh new year. For as long as I could remember, I had been praying and asking God to give me a word of the year.
It was more than a habit or a ritual; it was a message and a reminder that I was not alone.
I loved doing this because each time, the word of the year God gave me was an encouragement and an affirmation that He was with me.
Asking God for a word reminded me that He knows my future and has already been there. I know He will go with me through every valley and hard place.
Excited to hear my particular word of direction for 2020, I began to pray and listen for God to speak.
Just as a toddler trying to fall asleep the night before Christmas has thoughts dancing through her head of the presents she asked to receive, I entered this time with God expectant and joyful.
Would my word of the year be ‘favor’, I wondered. Could my word be ‘prosperity’? Maybe God would promise me joy or healing, I excitedly mused.
I sat in my favorite leather chair with my eyes closed and my heart open. “Speak, Lord,” I said quietly, ”your servant is listening.”
A worship song began to play in my mind. I sang with it, my voice piercing the tranquil morning air around me.
“Waymaker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness, My God, that is who you are.”
God Reveals a Word of the Year
Suddenly, a word broke into my mind and left me completely silent.
As clear as the sound of my voice, I heard it, “Vacancy.” As the word filled my spirit, I began to see a vision of a neon sign that you would see outside a motel. It was vibrant, with red blinking letters illuminating its message in the night sky.
“Vacancy,” I said out loud in utter dismay. “What kind of word is vacancy, Lord?” I complained. “I can’t be hearing you right,” I thought. “That is not a positive word of the year, God,” I said under my breath. “And why am I seeing a neon sign?” I asked myself.
The immediate conclusion I came to was that I had not heard God at all. I must have been making it up.
All the words I had received before were hopeful, but this word was weird, awkward, and felt as empty as its meaning to me.
Completely deflated, stunned, and a little upset, I just sat there without moving or speaking. I had even stopped breathing for a moment. As if holding my breath would make the word of the year change.
I got up from my chair and grabbed my journal reluctantly. I think I was afraid, at that moment, to ask God anything more.
In my mind, all that could come from a word of the year like vacancy was negativity and loss. But as is most often the case, God knows better than I do.
As I sat listening to God and journaling, things began to come into focus. God wanted to meet me in the clutter of my life and help me to prepare a clean place for Him to fill.
There were gifts He planned to give me that couldn’t be in an unclean space.
I hadn’t realized everything I had accumulated over the years. I hadn’t only collected tangible things. But I had been managing habits, mindsets, and ways of living that were never meant for me to keep. In this vacancy season, God offered me a chance to begin anew.
He wanted to fill me with more of His purpose and Himself, but I had filled my heart, home, relationships, and thoughts.
Some places looked neat and tidy. They were cleaned and set in order, but there were rooms with shut doors and piles of clutter in them, which were covered in cobwebs. Cobwebs are not the same thing as spiderwebs. A cobweb is an abandoned spider web.
Although, the sticky silk is meant to catch necessary prey. It lays dormant and catches dust and debris. Under the weight of this unnatural conclusion, the webs loosen and hang limply in the room’s corners.
Picture your heart. Where are your cobwebs? What are the places left so long in disrepair that not only haven’t you bothered to clean them, but even the spiders have left because nothing lives there?
How a Word of the Year Changed My Perspective
Would you call it ironic that God gave me this word of the year right before the world shut down? How could I have ever known the ways that life would change during a pandemic?
Or would you call it prophetic that God gave me this heavenly glimpse into the good things He was planning to do during one of the most desolate wilderness times I would ever endure?
About a week before the world around me came to a standstill, my son and I moved in to care for my elderly parents. I had a house of my own filled with my belongings. Now, I had my parents’ home too, which was overflowing. And I had a life deflating before my very eyes.
I canceled every book signing and speaking event that I had scheduled. I couldn’t go to church in person. I wasn’t even able to hug my other child because I now lived with my parents, who were considered the most vulnerable to the virus.
God had given me a dream to be a writer and a speaker, and that had been coming to fruition. I had just released my second book and had many opportunities to speak.
What was going to happen to my success? Was God really in this anymore? As I questioned God in silence, suddenly He said, “Embrace the process.”.
Maybe I just saw success differently than God did.
If I could embrace the process of His plans for me, I could shift my focus onto His perfection. God was working, and I knew that I could trust His goodness.
At that moment, as I sat busily shoving clothing into big black trash bags, I suddenly realized how much I had that I didn’t need. I felt deeply how frivolous I was and how me-centered I had been living.
I fell to my knees in the center of my room, surrounded by piles and piles of things to pack.
“Forgive me, Lord’” I yelled, lifting my chin towards the ceiling, “I don’t need so much of this. Thank you for your patience with me! You have been so kind to me. Help me, Lord, to be patient with my parents. I am afraid, but I know that you have asked me into this season. I know you are with me, so it is well with my soul.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I again sang as my voice trembled,
“Even when I don’t see it, you’re working; even when I can’t feel it, you’re working; you never stop; you never stop working.”
My thoughts went to the world around me. Perhaps “Vacancy” wasn’t just a word for me in 2020 but for the world as well.
The governor told us to shelter in place where I lived. Every day, new instructions came in from our governor and the CDC. It became clear that no person knew all of the implications of this pandemic.
As I drove from my house to my parent’s house to bring carloads of my belongings, it struck me that the towns I went through were once vibrant and bustling, but now they were vacant, too.
Food Stores and pharmacies were the only things open. People were all sequestered in their homes.
I ended up throwing away or giving away more than half of what I owned during that move. God freed me from the need for so much stuff!
As I emptied my home, I allowed God to empty my heart, too. It was a Spring Cleaning like no other!
Everything unnecessary had to go. And let me tell you that this was a beautiful thing. I hadn’t realized that by having so much excess, there wasn’t enough room for the necessities.
Once I cleared the clutter, I was able to organize and clean. God helped me load those black trash bags purposefully.
I learned to be open and accessible to receive what God had for me.
A Word of the Year Leads to New Beginnings
My life became one that God could pick up and pour through. The pandemic raged on. Eventually, we got vaccines, medicines, and some freedom back.
God gave me new words such as favor, breakthrough, healing, and identity in the years to come. He reminded me that I was chosen and dearly loved.
It was during this season of being completely cut off, God gave me a new platform. I began a podcast from a closet in the farmhouse where I live and still care for my parents. I share the stories of everyone that He brings to me. And together, we share God’s story.
God has taken this podcast worldwide and shown me that the things that I may think are impossible are in no way too complicated for Him!
He also showed me how all the words He had given me worked together to change my perspective.
“Vacancy” in 2020 made way for favor and breakthrough in 2021. That led to the healing of my identity in 2022. And it ended with the word of the year, “chosen.”
As I write this blog post, December approaches again. It is time for a new word of the year and a new year. I am anticipating God’s word of the year for me in 2024.
I know the word will be good whatever it is because God knows what I need and always does what is best for me!
Amanda Schaefer is a podcast host, author, and speaker. She carries with her the goodness of looking through a lens of gratitude. She hosts the global podcast, “A Cup of Gratitude”.