Robin's Blog

A Word For the Year

A friend of mine recently read a book I wrote a few years ago titled, Victim of Grace.

Victim of Grace coverIn the book I wrote about how I ask God for a banner word every year and how He always gives me one. It becomes a theme for that year. She asked if I would share with her the process that I go through each year and this is what I wrote back to her. I wanted to share it with you.

I love words. You probably guessed that.

It seems that throughout my journey with Jesus He has chosen to give me words because He knows it’s my love language.

The words He gives me always remind me that He’s with me. He loves me. He sees me and He knows my heart. The process in which I receive a word from Him has been different each year. It’s a sweet mystery.

The first time I asked Him for a word was a few decades ago. I was in a needy place. I wanted reassurance and direction from Him. I remember sitting in my snuggle chair in the corner of the living room by the fire place, opening my cupped hands to Him like a beggar and whispering, “Please Sir. Can I have a word?”

He gave me what I asked from Him. A word pressed on my thoughts the way the palm of a mother’s hand gently presses on the forehead of a feverish child. I felt instantly calmed. The fever was still there, so to speak, but I felt His presence. I knew He was taking care of me. And I had a word to hold onto.

Other years the word has come and settled on me like an affirmation. Those times it’s been more like a relaxed conversation with a best friend while sitting under a beach umbrella. The friend says, “You know, you really have been faithful lately. I like that about you.” And I say back to my Friend who-is-closer-than-a-brother, “No, you’re the one whose been faithful.” And then it’s as if I close my eyes, lean back to relax and think, “Hmmm. Faithful. That’s a good word.” I’m going to write that down.

And there it is. The word for the year.

                                                 Faithful

Some years I’ve waited and waited and it’s felt like being in a waiting room at a hospital watching for the doctor to come through the doors. The news can be either good or bad. I never know. I’m hoping for good. But I’m preparing for bad. The door in my heart opens, the word is presented and it is mysterious. Beyond my understanding. I feel solemn, hopeful.

Ever hopeful.

A few times when I’ve stopped everything, sat before Him and asked for a word, it has come immediately. The word resonates in my spirit, echoing off the walls of my soul. Those times I’ve cried the sort of tears that come with no sound, no effort. They roll down my face and stop only when my heart whispers, “Thank you”

Since I love words, I’ve kept a journal each year as long as I can remember. They are like treasure chests filled with words. Every year when I set aside the time to be with the Lord and ask for a word, I do so with two journals – the first journal is from the prior year and the other is a new, blank journal for the year ahead.

JournalsNewYear

Last year at this time Ross was recovering from having his quad muscle reattached to his knee so my “sit and wait before the Lord” time was choppy. It didn’t matter. I slipped out on the lanai early on the first day of the new year and as the morning came, I felt a settling sort of peace in the midst of all that had been so unsettling. The word sort of floated up in my thoughts like a soap bubble. It was as if I reached out and caught it and quickly wrote it down.

The word was “wait”. Who wants to hear that word ever? I liked it. I wanted it. I took it and held it close.

Two years ago I was more purposeful in having a day set aside to be with the Lord. I wrote it on my calendar. “Word Day”. The morning began with lots of distractions but I stopped everything and got in the car with my Bible, two journals and a beach towel. I drove to Coffee Bean, got a yummy coffee and kept driving south. I thought I was going to Big Beach.

Instead, I felt compelled to turn sooner and rolled up in front of the Congregational Church at Makena.
MakenaChurch2

The doors were open. I left my slippers at the door as if I was entering the home of a friend and went inside. The trades were happy that morning. They ran through the open doors like children at play. I sat on one of the hard wooden pews and listened. I drew in the sounds of the steady waves curling and uncurling, the palm trees giving a shimmy and a shake and the doves cooing contentedly.

It was a lavishly holy moment.

I pulled the hymnal from the rack in front of me and feathered through the pages until I found a hymn I recognized. “Holy, Holy, Holy.”File Dec 31, 1 59 39 PM

I sang it to Him. Just to Him.

“Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee . . .”

Then I tried it in Hawaiian, reading the words in the hymnal.“He Hemolele ‘Oe, Iehova”.

File Dec 31, 2 00 41 PMI kept going through the hymnal, humming along to “Fairest Lord Jesus” and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken”.

I sat in silence for some time. Waiting. Expectant. Feeling worshipful in every pore of my being.

Two tourists came in. They took pictures of the altar. They asked me if I worked there and wanted to know how much further they had to drive to get to the lava fields and if there would be a gas station on the way.

Less than thrilled with the answers I gave them, the visitors left, arguing quietly.

I pulled out my Bible and journals. For the next half an hour I read my journal from the year before. Every time when I saw something listed that I’d prayed about, I wrote the update and/or answer next to it. I shook my head at all the silly things I’d worried about the year before. I smiled at all the surprises God had given me and thanked Him for all of it – happy and sad, good and bad. It all came from His hand.

In the new journal I wrote out a prayer of thankfulness for the prior year. I listed all the things He had done. I listed concerns and questions I still didn’t have answers to. This has been a typical pattern each year when I ask for a word. I look back at what I journaled about during the prior year and sort of make peace with all the unsettling and unresolved pieces.

It always feels like I’m untangling a knot in my stomach. All the crazy-making ropes are still there but they’re no longer intertwined and pulled tight. They are just there. I leave them to Jesus.

After I wrote my prayer of confession and thanksgiving and resolve, I knelt and prayed in the church. It was difficult to do because the pew space is narrow and I’d been sitting for over two hours.

When I rose and sat again on the pew, the word for the year was in my heart. It fell on me like a seed that had been planted in prepared soil. I easily traced the letters in my fresh, new journal.
“Receive”.

A banner word for the year ahead. “Receive”. That word permeated my thoughts all year long. No striving. No shame. No complaining. Just receive all that the Lord chose to give to me. Double portions. Gifts. Forgiveness. Instruction. Wisdom. Hope.
I wrote out a long prayer of preparation and expectation in my new journal. My spirit was reset.

I was ready to dream again in the year ahead. I felt happy and I felt brave.

As this year is coming to a close I feel an eager rustling in my spirit. I want to get away and be alone with Jesus. I want to listen and sing to Him and write a new prayer in a fresh journal.

He doesn’t have to give me a word. I always tell Him that. I’m not demanding it of Him. I’m not seeking marching orders. I know what He has asked of me. I want to do it all.

Every year I ask.
Every year He gives.
Every year I grow to love Him more.

I don’t yet know what day “Word Day” that will be this year. I don’t know where He’ll invite me to meet with Him. It’s a sweet mystery. Just like the word for the new year is a mystery, too. I feel the butterflies of anticipation and it makes me feel young and alive and very much in love with the One who calls me His own.

He knows me.
He sees me.
He loves me.
Sweet, sweet mystery.

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  • Renee

    Beautiful, Robin! My word for last year, “Home”, came to mean moving to a new home. That was not what I was expecting as 2015 began. I have a word in mind for 2016, but I am waiting to make sure it is His word for me. What I feel when I look at the picture you included of the Congregational Church at Makena seems to confirm that it is indeed time to return to Maui!

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      “Home” was indeed the perfect word for you last year, dear Renee! I hope you return to Maui soon.

  • Laurie Gross Newman

    Wow! So beautifully said! Now I’m waiting too to hear what word He gives you! Have a blessed year! You have blessed my life for sure! From your “sisterchick” in Palatine IL! XOXO

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Thanks, Laurie! So sweet to hear from you as the New Year begins. May the Lord continue to be your rock and your high tower.

  • Jessica Riddle

    I love this! I have been doing something similar for the past few years. Not a word, necessarily, but a theme, a prayer, a hope for the year to come. In years past it’s been ‘learning to love’, ‘forgiveness’, ‘a season of beginnings’. This year I felt God stirring that this would be a year to know Him. Not just about Him, but truly KNOW Him. As Father, Savior, Friend. Thanks for your words! I love hearing your heart.

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      That’s beautiful, Jessica. You know, the apostle Paul said the same thing in Phil. 3:10. His life goal was, “. . .that I may know Him”.

      • Jessica Riddle

        I love that! Even before on verse 8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. May that be the passion of all of our hearts :)

        • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

          Yes, yes and amen!

  • Cultivating Tranquility

    I loved the book Victim of Grace so much. Without realizing it I have also asked God for “banner words” each year. Journals fill boxes to the brim in my closets. Last year’s word was “faith.” This year it is clearly “humility.” Though the idea of humility can encourage anxiety, there is a sweet peace covering it as I remind myself that any word from the Lord is precious. If he has taken the time to cover me with a blessing this new year, I can be nothing but thankful and receptive.
    Please come visit cultivatingtranquility.com to pray with me as I search God’s heart for ways to stir up his kind of rest in our lives.
    God bless you Robin!

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      I’m so glad you enjoyed “Victim of Grace”! Yes, I agree. Any word from the Lord is very precious.

  • http://www.skgfun.com/ SKGfun

    I love this idea! My word for the year would definitely be “patience.”

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Then you are going to learn a lot about love this year because the first description God uses to explain true love is patience. I Cor. 13. Love is patient.

      • http://www.skgfun.com/ SKGfun

        Very very cool! I will keep that in mind. :) Thanks!

  • http://www.graceandpeacecoaching.com Grace & Peace Coaching

    Oh Robin, I have chills. I have asked God for a word each year too. This year I felt him impressing a word on me that seemed almost too good to be true after an intense few years. As I started to read your words, I felt more and more like my word couldn’t be right so I stopped right in the middle of your blog post and asked God to confirm to me today, very clearly that I heard him right and this was his word for my year. And less than two paragraphs later, I started laughing and crying all at once when you shared your word from last year. It’s my word for this year. I’m going to stop doubting, stop striving, and simply receive.

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Yes! Simply receive your word – chills and all! There is so much freedom in having faith and being vulnerable in these things. You can’t define what you’ll “receive” this year and you can’t explain what it means. Accept it and be thankful. As the year unfolds the deeper reasons and meaning may or may not come into focus. The freedom is that you are willing to live inside the mystery because you want to get closer to God’s heart. That’s the real gift.

  • Karen E.

    Before the new year began, I asked the Lord for a word for 2016. Not long after, He gave me the word “awake “. To become aware, present, and alert to life, and the things that truly matter.

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Oooo! That’s a fantastic word, Karen. I love that the Lord gave it to you even before the year began so that you could truly “awake” at the dawn of 2016 with fresh starts all around.

  • DesperatelySeekingWisdom

    I’m not sure what word The Lord has in store for me right now. I have a few of my own, ahem, since I’m plaqued with horrible morning sickness and nasty, cranky hormones but these words shall remain not spoken out loud. I’m struggling and I’m in desperate need for The Lord to give me a word that will remind me marriage and bearing children are for His glory even when my flesh doesn’t want either. Thank you for your constant stream of words to remind me of my position in Christ and no matter what my flesh wants it is weaker than my spirit and He will be glorified in all of this. He’s been faithful to me, I will be faithful to Him. Blessings and love over The Gunn family and your New Year.

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Hmmm. Faithful seemed to jump out of your post. Learning to develop faithfulness in marriage and through the baby years is humbling and quite powerful. It’s an anchoring word. That might not be the one the Lord is going to impress on you, but what a great word!

      • DesperatelySeekingWisdom

        I agree. I’m just passing the first 2 months of my pregnancy and have been struggling with hormones and morning sickness. Neither are very pleasant. Thank you for the word ‘faithfulness’. It is a great word and it immediately reminds me that God has been faithful to me throughout my life and I am to remain faithful to Him. By obeying His command even when I don’t feel like it, I am honoring The Lord. The hormones will pass and thankfully feelings are fleeting so in another two months I’m sure to be seeking more wisdom for another situation. You’re encouragement goes beyond words and paper, it goes deep into the spirit and lights up dark areas. Thank you Robin, blessings and love over you today!

  • Patricia B.

    I’ve been asking God for a word for the year for many years, too. Your post was a sweet encouragement to me. The word that seems to be for me for 2016 is HOPE. That’s a word that is rather ethereal, intangible, and hard to actually get a handle on. Rather like trying to hold on to a cloud. But, I can’t wait to see how He unpacks and redefines it for me. HOPE and RECEIVE. Good, good things from our Father for 2016.

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Patricia, Hope is such a great word. Have you ever done a study on your word for the year and looked it up to see how many times its used in the Bible? Whenever I find the word anchored in a verse it always feels so personal.

      • Patricia B.

        Robin, I need to do a study of it in the Bible since HOPE is such an intangible, ethereal word. I make a point of looking up the word and all its definitions (and I mean even the archaic ones) so I understand it beyond what I “think” it means. Any Bible study suggestions?

        • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

          I like using BIble Gateway online. Type in “hope” and it will take you to all the places where the word is used in Scripture.

  • CM Hazelwood

    Hi Robin. It has been a difficult few months for me since October. I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after surgery, I have had one chemotherapy treatment, with difficult side effects. I was tempted to quit chemo, but the doctor keeps impressing on me the importance of it, as it cuts in half for me the recurrence of cancer. On New Year’s Day, I was reading some of the posts on facebook about “word for the year”, and for a moment couldn’t think of anything. Then, “Determination–like the Energizer bunny” just leaped out at me. My determination is to follow Christ Jesus, of course, and this time it means to follow the course of treatment regardless of the difficulties. Today the doctor said he will adjust the dosage so it may not be so difficult next time. Thank you especially for the Sisterchicks books.

    • http://RobinGunn.com/ Robin Jones Gunn

      Determination! Yes! What a strong word. I love that you said, “Like the Energizer bunny”. :-) May the Lord bless you with an extra measure of strength to go with that determination as you continue the treatment, dear Sisterchick!

      • CM Hazelwood

        Thank you. It’s so true that it’s daily, sometimes moment by moment.

  • Kelsea Allison

    Dear Mrs.Gunn,
    I love your “word for the year” tradition. As I was reading your article it reminded me of a time, many years ago, when I was searching and longing to hear from God. I lived by a steep hill at the time and one day I decided to climb to the top and have a date with my Maker. I brought with me a journal, my Bible, and one of the Christy Miller books. I can’t say I heard the voice of God that warm sunny afternoon, but it is a memory ever printed on my mind when I felt like I was truly resting in His embrace. My love life with Christ has been one huge rollercoaster ride all of my life. At the moment I feel like I am in a lull, or slowly coming back up. I needed to hear this, thank you so much for being an incredibly powerful positive influence, through your writings, in my life. Sincerely, God’s Peculiar Treasure, Kelsea Allison

  • Emily Torbert

    Faithful is my word for the year! I’m also going by Hebrews 10:25 (I think that’s it). Anything new on the Christy and Todd front? Thanks!

  • Lisa Schulz Glenn

    My word for 2016 is “gracious”. Numbers 6:24-25 – “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee.” All of us desire to have His grace bestowed upon us. More than anything in 2016 I want to learn to be more gracious to others as the Lord is to me. Showing more love, more grace and more compassion to all those I come in contact with.