One Word that Can Change the Next Year

1:42 PMHeather

Words are powerful.  The written word.  The spoken word.  Even the words that crowd your brain.  I wonder, on this last day of 2014, what words are crowding your brain?  To be perfectly honest (as I usually am), my brain today is crowded with some unpleasant words like discouraged, waiting, frustrated, tired, regrets, wondering...and wandering.  Coming to the end of a year, with the bright hope of a clean slate tomorrow, we can tend to get bogged down in the things that didn't happen for us over the last 12 months. We can tend to dwell on our stuck places.

Is that just me?  Or do you feel pinned down with prayers not yet answered?  Or things prayed for and hoped for that still haven't happened?

Maybe resolutions from last year that you realize you need to make again, as resolutions for the new year?  Fitness goals.  Financial goals. Relationship dreams.  Parenting improvements.  Marriage goals. Healthy eating habits.  Organization habits.  Blah blah blah.

For a perfectionist like me, resolutions and goals are pretty much a millstone around my neck.  They drive me like a slave and I can get pretty wound up in them.

So I just quit making them.


I quit making resolutions.  Oh, I still have goals.  I'm not a total sloth.  But, the older I get, I do tend to pick up a bit of wisdom. And I'm learning to look at the big picture.  At the broader overview rather than over analyze every single tiny detail.

I love to follow the wisdom of Paul.  Because I wonder sometimes if he is a kindred spirit to me...doing things he doesn't mean to do, struggling to do what he knows he should do...although I don't think clean eating habits and strengthening his core was necessarily what he had in mind.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

Can I get an amen?  I have not been made perfect.

But I press on.

I have not yet taken a hold of all that Jesus means for me to grab.

But I press on.

I must forget what lies behind.  The failures.  The disappointments. The frustrations.  The wounds of the past.  The things that can cause bitterness to grow within me.  The things I struggle to cover in forgiveness.

Forgetting what lies behind.

Straining forward to what lies ahead.

I press on.

I feel that Paul is helping me take a step back here.  Rather than dissect every tiny thing and obsess over every little misstep or be bogged down in regret... Paul says forget what lies behind.  And just keep putting one foot in front of the other, toward Jesus.

Paul says just keep pressing on.  Toward Jesus. If you had hoped to run a marathon of faith this last year, but you only finished a 5K...then just press on.  If you have fallen and stumbled and regressed, then shake it off and pick yourself up and just press on.

Several years ago, at the advice of a dear friend, I quit making resolutions.  I quit setting myself up for failure in a new year and I tried something new that I have done ever since.

I pick a word for the year.  I prayerfully consider one word that I will claim and explore and keep in mind in the new year.  One little word.  That can change the next 365 days.

I urge you to try it.  I beg you, bloggy friend, to consider this spiritual practice...this approach for entering a new year.  Really! 

In the past, my words for the year have included embrace, intentional, grace, gratitude and love.  And ever since I started this in 2010, it's been quite interesting.  Inevitably, the word suddenly appears everywhere.  In every sermon I hear.  In every book I read. In social media feeds.  On the lips of friends in casual conversation. And the word usually takes me places I never anticipated.  I've started each year thinking I knew what the word really meant and what lessons I needed to learn.

And I've ended the year in a totally different place with it.  

I can also look back and see how these words actually fit together, from one year to the next.

So I triple dog dare you to give it a try.  

Here's my lessons learned on choosing a word for the year.

1. Give it some thought...and prayer.  Really think about any themes that have suddenly become recurring.  Any ongoing struggles or areas where you feel God is starting to pick at you and get into your business.  Ask him to reveal to you clearly what word you should claim for the new year.  And ask for eyes to see it.  

2.  Then just choose it. Um, duh.  That may sound like a blonde statement.  But I can get wind myself up wondering if maybe there's another word?  What if I didn't pick the right word? Maybe I should keep looking or thinking on it?  What if a better word comes along in a week or two? (Yes, if you have suddenly have visions of how awful I am to shop with because I just never decide, then you are totally accurate.  Just ask my sister).  Look, if you keep thinking about one particular word or one seems to jump out at you, choose it and move along.  You can keep a list of runners-up for next year if you'd like.

3.  Research. Oh, yes.  Doesn't that sound like fun?  No, really, I've found the perfect starting point is to look up your word in the dictionary.  Maybe start a journal concentrating on your word. Look at the definition.  Really consider new meanings or facets of the word.  Then, look in a Bible concordance.  Jot down a list of Scripture passages with your word.  And begin to study those passages.  Dwell in them.  Marinade in them.  Think on them.  I assure you...your word will begin to take on some rich and new and unexpected meanings.

4.  Pray on your word. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see and ears to hear all that he wants to reveal about your word. Then stand back and wait and see.  I'm pretty sure it's like when you get pregnant and suddenly everywhere you look, you see babies.  Or when I tell someone I work in adoption, and I suddenly hear everyone's experience with adoption.  Your word is going to jump at you from songs, Instagram posts, books, sermons, Facebook feeds, conversations, etc.  Really.  I've found that once I begin to ask God to help me see what he wants to teach me, my word suddenly stalks me.  It's pretty cool, actually.  More fodder for your journaling. 

5.  Keep your word ever in your mind. Perhaps claim a particular verse with your word.  Write it out and post it on your house.  For the last year, my little chalkboard in my family room has said, "Do all things in LOVE."  This has been a great reminder about my word and often prompts me to pray for God to equip me to approach my day with love. In years past, I have sought out books about my word.  Even some fiction books that seem to weave a theme related to my word within them.  I have listened and re-listened to songs about my word.  I have actually laughed this last year at how many times I've heard David Crowder's How He Loves. I think my Pandora stations are in a conspiracy with God. As well as the radio stations I listen to during my daily school pick-up runs. I believe I can reassure you that God will honor your choice and your commitment to dive into the new year with a particular focus. But I also think that the effort you put into the endeavor is important, as well.  

One word.  It really can change the next year.  It can be an instrument to grow you and challenge you and teach you and bless you.  

One little word.  Or one really long and big word.  Whatever.

Won't you join me, on this last day of 2014, and keep in mind the words of Paul?  Forgetting what lies behind.  Straining forward to what lies ahead.  Knowing that when we take the hand of our Savior, he is faithful to lead and guide us.  He is faithful to be found when we seek him.  He is faithful to hear our prayers, and to show up when we ask him to do so.  

Your one little word can be the key that unlocks treasures untold.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:18-19

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