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When God Picks Your Word for the Year.



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If you’ve hung around these parts long enough then you likely know I kick off every new year by picking a word. A word to blanket the year. A word for pressing into. A word that, fingers crossed, will come to serve as a meaningful theme for life over the next 365 days.

Some years I choose the word. Some years the word chooses me.

In 2021, the word I chose was “prepared.” I thought prepared was a good word to get me to a level of organization I hadn’t yet seen. I pictured myself being ahead of schedule, wrapping up my Christmas shopping in July, and scheduling things months in advance. That was the kind of “prepared” I wanted to have more of in my life.

In actuality, 2021 felt like the most frazzled year of them all. I barely prepped for anything. I was behind on most things. I missed important dates. If I did get ahead, the moment was fleeting, quickly replaced by something else that came rushing at me with even more urgency.

2021 was a year we spent trying to figure out a slew of medical mysteries that had us admit Novalee to the hospital twice. It was a year I would have told you I wasn’t “prepared” for it. I’d later say I picked the wrong word because I wanted to be prepared in the “organized, Home Edit sense.” I didn’t want preparation if it meant it would be complicated. Couldn’t God see that?

In 2022, I chose a different word. An easy word. A word that, no matter what, could never test me or try me. The word was “vegetable.” I imagined myself simmering, sauteeing, and cooking my way through the year. I envisioned plates of green and red, exotic dishes, and new cooking adventures. Yes, 2022 held that for me, and it was a great word, but I think vegetable became a word I learned on a much deeper level.

In 2022, I learned how to slow down the pace. I learned how to forgive myself and be gentler. I learned how to be rooted in what mattered most to me. I learned that the best things take time to grow.

On the eve of 2023, I sat down with my journal and Bible and prepared to choose a word. I prayed first, as I sometimes do when I am feeling okay to release the grip I have on my obsession for control. And at that moment, I felt God nudge me toward a specific chapter in the Bible.

Just a sidenote about nudges: I believe in them. I believe God speaks through his Word. But I also think we must test everything. Sometimes I’ll think I hear something and move to that spot in the Bible, only to find that spot in the Bible doesn’t exist (please don’t tell me I’m the only one). I keep every word I hear with open hands until I feel confirmation in my spirit.

As I started to read, a single word jumped out at me. Not once or twice. But over and over again. It was undeniable; this was the word for 2023.

And let me just tell you, this word was the exact opposite of any word I would have readily chosen for myself. If I’m being honest, I hated the word instantly. For a number of reasons. The word itself makes my skin itch. The word bothers me because it ultimately means I didn’t have full control. The word is not one I would choose for myself. It feels like a word I, ten years ago, would have chosen. I don’t know why that bothers me so much…

I immediately felt a strong aversion to the word because the word didn’t hold meaning yet. It isn’t a straightforward word or a word I could tell you makes sense to me right now. But I also can’t deny the peace that comes from knowing this is the word and that God is going to help me understand, day by day and month by month.

This likely feels like a teaser because I haven’t said the word, and I’m not planning to. So why share, Hannah? Well, because the lesson is still the same: it’s okay if you have no idea what God is going to do next with you.

It’s okay if you felt a word spring up in your heart at the start of this new year and yet the word makes no sense to you. Or you don’t like the word. Or, try as you might, no clear direction seems to be coming to you. It’s okay if you feel as if you entered into the new year with empty hands.

Sometimes we enter into a new year, and fate seems so clear. We create intentional goals. We map the way. We plan our lives down to the minutiae so that no surprises can enter.

There’s nothing wrong with plans or goals. I think ambition can be beautiful. But I’ve also known, from personal experience, how easy it is to walk into a new year with just our own ambitions. I know what it looks like to set goals and send them, like a flighty email, over to God’s inbox to ensure he gets with the program. I know it’s entirely possible to make all our own plans, not even thinking of what God wants to do with us. We take up all the space with our dreams, goals, and plans and assign God to the margins.

We take the God who is mightier and more extensive than our wildest of thoughts, and we try to whittle him down to a task manager, to an assistant whose only job is to execute the neverending demands we’ve stacked onto the task list. This isn’t God’s role.

And then there are those sacred years where we enter with our arms raised, saying, “I don’t know. I don’t have a clue where I’m going.” Sometimes we choose this surrender and sometimes the year before throws us around so good that we’re too tired to do anything but surrender.

We enter in– sort of hungry, sort of hopeful, and sort of done with the ways we did things in the past.

I think these kinds of years can be the best years because it means we have to lean on God for the turn-by-turn directions. It means we have to follow closely. It means we have to borrow strength like a library book. It means there is no other way.

That’s how I feel right now. I have my plans, and things I think will happen this year but, I can only imagine what God wants to do. I’m open to it. No clenched fists here. I’m leaning all the way in.

I’d love to hear from you:

In moving my blog to a newer platform, I sadly had to let go of the thousands of comments and conversations that came from readers over the last 10+ years. This grieves me deeply but I know there will new conversations, fresh words of wisdom, and opportunities to create close community once again. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. I’ll be reading + replying on a regular basis.


  1. Laura says:

    Boy, do I know this feeling well. The year God gave me the word “surrender” for the second year in a row, I was disappointed. I wanted a shiny new word to share, not one I had JUST poured over and into for a year… but God said I wasn’t done working that path and clearly, He was right.

  2. Faith says:

    Oh my goodness hannah, after reading your words the word has come to me this year was surrender. And then I read the comment below wow mind blown I guess God is speaking to a lot of us about this thing surrender..

  3. Sarah says:

    I love this. This year my word is "satisfied". Not satisfied in a "I’m fine, everything’s fine" kind of way, but being satisfied in God and what he has given me. I so struggle with wanting and not being content. In all areas, not just materially, so I’m really wanting to be satisfied in the Lord. Just Him. He is enough. My verse for the year to go along with it is Psalm 90:14, but really the whole chapter of Psalm 90 is one I am dwelling on. I think when God. really leads us to what He wants us to focus on in Him, He will help us make it stick. I learned so much the year my word was "abide". Lessons I remember even now. I’m hopeful this year will bring the same, even if it makes me very uncomfortable!

  4. shelee says:

    Hannah, I believe in nudges & I test them too. It’s the best way to make sure the evil one isn’t mucking things up. My word for this year is CREATE. Last year, pray. The year before, steadfast. In all of the words, God brings us to his side and teaches us a little more about who he is and who we are when we draw near many blessings with your word in 2023.

  5. Diane Kemp says:

    Oh my Hannah!! I thought my word was one thing and just now I realized it’s not. I just wrote in my journal about surrendering the sudden death of my 40 year old son to Him and just realized that’s my word for this year. I may be surrendering this everyday but in that I will find hope and comfort. And I believe He will lead me to comfort someone else. Thank you for your wisdom and always showing up Hannah. You are truly a woman after Gods own heart ❤️

  6. Barbara says:

    Years ago God gave me a word and I thought "No… that isn’t my word. I don’t like that word." He ignored me (LOL) and continued to speak that Word into my life. I point blank scolded Him (me scolding God!) and said No.. not going there.. Guess who won? It was my word.. and it did play out in my life that year.. and it was a word I always hated and while I cannot say I love it now, I don’t hate it or fear it or dread it as I once did.

  7. glenda says:

    Thank you for your words and not sharing your "word"…. I believe GOD can have a new Word for us every day. Just being surrendered and open is enough. GOD bless you.

  8. Suzy says:

    my word is contentment. It came to me as a rebuke, i think, from God during a prayer time. I had a serious health crisis a few months ago. Was hospitalized for 6 weeks (was in a coma, had two surgeries and during one of those surgeries I had a stroke), spent 3 weeks in rehab and 6 weeks with at home rehab. I am left with a chronic illness. And although I am grateful to wonderful medical care and the fact I am recovery well, there has been a complaining spirit about what I can’t do. SO this year I will learn to be content, no matter the circumstances, and I hope in my seeking contentment God will see I am trying to trust Him.

  9. Suvi says:

    Thank you for your words Hannah! Trusting God this year by learning to surrender! That is my word for the year.

  10. Janice Spraggins says:

    Hannah, I completely understand “ word, no word.” Thank you for sharing your words
    I am depending on God. I am leaning and relying on God more than ever in this season. I surrender all to God!!! My expectation is in Him to do great and mighty things in me and through me for His glory!!
    Expect A Miracle! In Jesus’ mighty name,

  11. Elisabeth says:

    Enjoyed your thoughts and words. My OLW has found me for this year…Trust
    Last year was LESS and it seems my journey has brought me to this place. It’s true sometimes the word just keeps knocking until you answer. The nudges are real 🙂

  12. Sarah says:

    Love every word of this! So true. I find that the uncomfortable moments we experience many times are the exact periods that enormous growth takes place within us. Each new year I have chosen words and sometimes I feel they have fit and others I didn’t. Even still I know that change has still taken place from within. This year I’m not exactly sure what God has planned for me. I honestly do not know. As a planner and someone who is extremely uncomfortable with the unknown- this year I’m ok with what he has for me. I don’t have my word yet 100% but I know it will come and most likely with a “nudge” Yes I believe those too! It might not always make sense to me but I know he knows what does and I am ok with that ❤️

  13. Holly says:

    I chose “surrender.”
    It felt like a relief.

  14. Donna Larson says:

    Thanks Hannah! Wise words! Started my word earlier just after my birthday in November. “Intentional “! Having a hard time with some things but I plow on!

  15. Deana says:

    "it’s okay if you have no idea what God is going to do next with you."
    I needed to hear this! I am heading into my final year of grad school and am starting a whole new profession at the end of it and I have no idea where I am supposed to go with it and keep beating myself up thinking I should. My hands are open and I am giving it to God. He will direct my steps.

  16. Kerry Sees says:

    Thanks for the reminder that I don’t have to have it all mapped out in January. It’s ok for me to just have what I need today and that the God who loves me and controls all things will reveal what I need on a daily basis like manna from Heaven. “Just enough light for the step I’m on…..”

  17. Glenys says:

    Every year for the last 5 years I pray for a word for that year. My word this year is LIGHT ; last year my word was FRUITFUL. Each word also tends to go with a Bible verse. What I love most about it – is that I grow closer to God through each word. I spend the year thinking & learning about what it means – learning what God says in his word about it ; and trying to understand how it applies to what I am experiencing. It’s one of my favorite practices.

  18. Gaby says:

    Thank you for these words, Hannah. My word for 2023 is "commit". I am committing myself to happiness, to adventure, to finding love within myself, to forgiveness and to new beginnings. Happy New Year to all.

  19. Teri says:

    I remember the year my word was DISCIPLINE. It was the year so much of our life came crashing down (no, not 2020!!), and I was definitely not feeling any sense of discipline in the way I had envisioned it. I pretty much just scrapped the whole idea of the word that year because I was just trying to stay afloat. When it came time to start talking to God about my new word for the year, I remember saying to Him, "I suppose You’re going to make me do DISCIPLINE again!" I know, sounds pretty pouty, but that’s how I felt. Instead, God so gently spoke the word RENEW into my soul. It was like a breath of fresh air. After the year we had had, I could get behind being renewed! I had to laugh as I was looking up the definition and synonyms for it, one of them was REDO! So, in a sense, God was asking me to redo discipline, but in a kinder, gentler way. He’s so good to us. This year I had a word (TEACHABLE) that kept jumping off the page at me, but every place I’d look up definitions, etc, I just wasn’t feeling it. Then on December 31, as I sat down to read my Bible, the word LEARN jumped out and spoke deeply to me. So, LEARN is my word, but it carries so much of being TEACHABLE with it! We’ll see what God does!

  20. Lisa Thornbro says:

    You know, Hannah, I have always believed in God and His Holy Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but I don’t attend church, which I am ashamed to admit, but it’s the truth. I wasn’t raised going to church. Anyway, reading this, what really amazes me is that I have NEVER, EVER thought about God leading me or choosing for me, I read Jesus Calling daily and I usually read the Bible daily—I haven’t for some time, so I decided to start with Matthew in the New Testament. I can’t believe I have never thought of this before, ashamed and amazed. Like I make all the choices and I’m in charge, God just watches and judges my choices. I’m grateful for your story here, because it has opened my eyes yet again that I am not in charge, but God is, and I should be following Him, talking to interacting with God. I do pray, and I do talk to Him, but I never, ever thought of what God wants me to do about this or that. I haven’t been consulting Him about what He wants, just doing my own thing and hoping I’m doing the right thing. You have opened my eyes to another aspect of what my plans are—but what plans God has for me, and asking Him for guidance. Instead of me choosing everything I think is right, I need to be asking God for His opinion, guidance, and treating Him as being in charge of me, and not the other way around. I have been thru a lot of trauma since 2019, my life has been full of unexpected injury that ended my nursing career, the death of my mom, less than a year later, the loss of my oldest brother unexpectedly, and 5 mo. later the loss of my father in law. I believe my injury and loss of my career was a gift from God so I could spend more time with the loved ones I lost before they were gone, but I am just starting to find my motivation, despite disability and grief. I am beginning to recover somewhat, for which I am extremely grateful. I am going to try to turn the reins over to God this year, and pray for His guidance, instead of acting as though I am in charge (it’s difficult, because I was a nurse for 38 years, and took charge of a lot of things in my career and in my life.) Thank you for opening my eyes to see things in a different light, and acknowledge that I am not in charge, and treat God as my Creator, Omnipotent, and instead of acting on impulse, treat Him as the King of my life. I need to follow His path, not the other way around. Boy, have I had this all wrong all of these years!!!! Thank you, Hannah!!!

    • Hi Lisa! Thank you for sharing so much of your story with me! Please don’t feel ashamed by anything- we are always learning and growing! That’s the beauty of life!

  21. Pam says:

    My word came to me this morning- rest. Oh how I want to stop striving to prove my worth, to trust God. I am so weary from trying. Rest. I need this word .
    Blessings on you and your sweet family.

  22. Alyssa Puckett says:

    My 2023 word is "Trust". Definitely a scary word to step into and give God with open hands to do what He wants with this year!

  23. Nikki says:

    My word came to me yesterday, focus. I need to stay focused on God’s word and not get distracted.

  24. Allison says:

    Just getting to this now (my week… LOL)
    Anyway…my "word" for this year isn’t a word, but words. It is Coram Deo, which is a Latin phrase meaning "the face of God." I want to live this year remembering that I live before the face of God everyday (or as often as I can remember it).

  25. Lynn says:

    I am also choosing two words that I have had placed before me over and over in the last few weeks. Be Still. I have been so busy running away, trying to do everything alone( I don’t need any help) was my thinking. Well if they isn’t a serious lie. I need help and I need God. So I am sitting Still, listening more than talking, leaning instead of running

  26. Jaimie says:

    "And then there are those sacred years where we enter with our arms raised, saying, “I don’t know. I don’t have a clue where I’m going.”’ You truly couldn’t have summed up my thoughts going into this year any more clearly. At first it felt so uncomfortable to not have "plan" but, that seems to be exactly how God wanted this year to begin. His ever planning and scheming and goal setting daughter needed to instead begin this year SURRENDERED. Just before the end of the 2022 year the word ‘surrender’ was spoken to me by the Lord on several occasions. I wanted so much to throw it back and choose the other word that came to me ‘delight.’ That seemed so much more attainable and joyful. Surrender sounded out of reach, uncomfortable, and just plain impossible. But it’s where He continued to lead me. I do not know what it entails…but I can only envision He has fruit to grow and weeds to pull along the way.

  27. Jo says:

    It took three weeks for me to come to terms with my word, but Jesus is a patient and kind and gentle teacher. When it comes to 2023, He said it was time to EXPECT. It’s ok to get my hopes up and look forward to what’s ahead. After plenty of hard and lots of waiting, I can’t wait to see what this word becomes this year.

  28. Kristina says:

    Thank you, Hannah. 2022 year was full of change and challenges for me, but it also guided me to your writings and beautiful sharing about your depression and how you navigated through dark woods. Your words were an immense comfort to me and led my wounded mind to a lighter pathway.
    I started this year reading your book "Come matter here". And "matter here" is my words for this year. I want to be present, aware of this moment right now and make the most of it. Even if that might be something very simple and little, I will strive to take it as a gift, appreciate it and live it to the fullest. Wherever God sends me, I pray to be mindful to see and understand what He wants from me right there and then.

  29. Mary says:

    Hannah, I just happened upon you and I feel God has thrown me a lifeline! HE seems to drop into my lap just what I need when I need it. Bless you for your transparency and baring your soul so others know they aren’t alone on this journey home.

  30. Fiona says:

    Please approve my comment….

    My boyfriend is back after he broke up with me 3 months ago ____

    Thanks to this relationship doctor for restoring my relationship,

    He made everythings possible…

    I am the happiest lady on earth,

    Stop Infidelity.

    Stop Cheating.

    Stop Betrayal.

    Stop Mistrust.

    Stop Divorce.

    Stop Poor communication.

    Stop Long-distance woes.

    Stop No emotional connection.

    Stop Lover from breaking-up

    Stop Toxic or abusive behavior.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  31. Tiffany says:

    This past year, the Lord spoke the word "purity" to me. Not gonna lie, when I first heard it, I thought, "Lord, come on. I don’t mean to be rude, but that sounds kind of lame and ‘holier-than-thou.’ Plus, how straight-laced do you want me to be?" Boy…God was right. Purity was exactly the word I needed this year. He exposed some destructive habits, tendencies, and relationships that I was denying or justifying.

    A few months ago, He spoke to me a word for 2024…"sweetness." I hesitated at the word, because honestly, I thought…this is a nice word…what’s the catch? Usually His words for me are challenging…spot-on but challenging. Sweetness seems so…nice and easy to receive lol. I wonder what He’s up to and what that’ll look like in 2024.

  32. Terri Yubeta says:

    Hannah-I just found you today! Or-God lead me to you, and I FINALLY listened to Him.
    I have no words to express my happiness in being lead to you! I have never had “A Word”, but I am anxiously waiting to get a nudge. I also have struggled with depression for over 30 years, and have sometimes felt I have wasted so many of them not feeling like I am truly walking in God’s path for me-because of being told by my church and pastor that I don’t have enough faith, or strong enough faith, to get over my affliction. It just makes me sink deeper-I have spent most of this afternoon reading your blogs, the posts from similar sisters, and cannot express how much I am praising my Savior for being lead to you! I look forward to reading more of your writings and hearing from others that I am not such a bad person after all! May our Lord richly bless you, and continue to use you to encourage and help others as you have been

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Hi, I'm Hannah

I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!


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