There are snow flurries coming down outside. I’m parked on my couch, recovering from a minor surgery and attempting to be intentional about the time I have to sit and reflect on my year. And I’m looking forward to 2023 as well, beginning my journey with the Lord for my “Word of the Year”. This is my seventh year participating in this adventure. I didn’t even know it was a trend the first time I did it, I just felt the Lord clearly say to me at the end of 2016, “Your word for 2017 is Surrender.” And oh my was it ever. The next year I sought a word more intentionally, and I have continued that pattern. A few years ago I found out that this is actually a thing that people do and it’s all over the internet, but I think my take is a little bit different.
A Word of the Year is an anchor point, a way of tracking growth and of finding meaning. To me, having a word to look to has shown me the deeper meaning behind so many things I’ve walked through. My process of choosing a word of the year is focused on asking the Lord what he has for me and where he wants me to see him working. It’s also a way that he’s used to show me where he wants me to grow and how I need to change. Sometimes it becomes clear in an afternoon, sometimes it takes a few months before I settle on the right one. The word will come up frequently in songs, in books I’m reading, in my bible study, and even from friends or family. As I pray over it, it becomes more clear. And once I think I’ve landed on the one I take it to a few close friends to pray for confirmation for me.
Anyone can choose a word of the year, and many trends give different methods of picking one out, from word randomizers to choosing what you want most in your life in the next year. But there’s something special about partnering with God in what he has for you. There’s a beautiful relationship available when you sit with him.
In 2019 I felt the word “Intentional” was the word for 2020. The definition of Intentional is “done on purpose; deliberate.” Little did I know what was coming just a few months later! And looking back on that year, I can see where the Lord was asking me to be intentional and to learn intentionality. I needed to be intentional with people so they wouldn’t feel alone, and I wouldn’t be alone. I needed to be intentional with God as my regular pattern of worship was upended. I needed to learn a new way of intentionality with my family as we learned to communicate through hard and growing things. My year was littered with growth in intentionality.
At the end of 2020 I, like everyone I think, was tired. So incredibly tired. In keeping with the Word of the Year tradition I made my way to the throne room (which is available to all of us! See Hebrews 4:14-16). I remember praying, “Jesus please don’t let the word be something scary like ‘growth’ or ‘change’. I don’t think I have that in me.” His response was a gentle whisper that year: Your word is Victory. I still tear up when I think about that season and his promise. I held on to that word with a death grip through 2021, and he was faithful. I saw incredible victory in recovering my mind and body from a brutal season of life. I saw victory in my home, my marriage, my career path. And I played the song See A Victory by Elevation Worship approximately 4 billion times.
Walking into 2022 my word came in like a freight train….I think I saw it 30 or more times in one day? It was incredibly clear, incredibly quickly. Courage. Above my desk this whole year has been a C.S. Lewis quote from one of my favorite books, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. All it says is “Courage, dear heart.” It is given as a message in the dark to one seeking the light. This year has been marked by an increase in courage, in facing things that are scary knowing that the King is on my side. I can see where he’s asked me to be brave, I can see where courage has served me. I’m reminded of the quote, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
Here we sit, looking forward to the fast approaching edge of 2023. I’m back in the throne room, asking the Lord what he has for me in the coming year. How does he want to partner with me? Where does he want me to grow? And what does he have for you? I encourage you to sit with him and ask. Ask, and then be quiet long enough for him to answer. What adventure does he want to go on with you in this coming year? I promise it will be a very grand adventure if you’re willing to take his hand and step into it.