My One Word for 2020: Attentive
One Word - Attentive

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I used to, but they never lasted more than a few months at the most. A few years ago, I began adopting one word to focus on throughout the year as a substitute for resolutions. One word that would apply to multiple areas of my life. Each year, my “one word” for the new year became abundantly clear during the month of December.

This year my one-word for 2020 did not become clear until the end of December. For most of the month, it seemed as if the Lord was pointing me to two words: listen and focus. But neither stood out as the word. By December 28, I wondered if I was supposed to have a word for 2020. Perhaps I needed to take a year off.

Then it hit me with such clarity that I knew. I knew this was the word. I knew it because it took the two words I thought I was being led to and combined them.


To be attentive is to do more than just hear. It involves listening with focus—my two original words. To listen without mentally preparing a response. It involves processing with both my mind and my heart. To pay attention to not just spoken words but also to body language. And to the effects of the circumstances. Being attentive requires being in sync with the other person. And I need to become much better at doing these things in all the areas of my life.

A friend recently forwarded a meme to me. It was a picture of two ears placed side by side, forming the shape of a heart. The message noted the word “ear” is at the center of the word heart. And it said the way to someone’s heart is to listen to them.

  • Attentive to God
    I want to connect with the heart of God even more intimately in 2020. That means learning to be more attentive to the whispers and prompts of His Holy Spirit. It also means being attentive to His Word, for the Bible is my instruction book for life and for a relationship with Him.
  • Attentive to People
    This is an area I especially need to develop. To be attentive to the needs and desires of others. To weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And to listen and respond with time and kindness in addition to material resources.
    My need in this area was highlighted a few days ago with a friend. We shared our “one word” with each other over lunch. After we arrived home, she moved to get in her car while I walked to the mailbox, not realizing she had asked a question. Sigh. An epic fail at being attentive before the new year had even begun!
  • Attentive to Myself
    This does not mean I intend to cultivate self-centeredness. It does mean paying attention to setting healthy boundaries. To rest when I need it. And in this season of loss that’s still fresh, to give myself permission to grieve as those moments continue to come and go.

Attentive. It has a somber ring, doesn’t it? I can almost hear my school teachers admonishing me, “Pay attention, Ava!” Yet when I shared this word with some friends, one person commented that I can be attentive…or I can be attentive with anticipation. I love how anticipation adds a note of joy to my one word.

Anticipatory attentiveness. Eagerly watching and listening for the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Reading God’s Word with anticipation for the treasures I’ll find. Waking each morning to view the new day with anticipation for the adventures it will bring.

Being attentive with anticipation for how the Lord is working in my life, even if I can’t always see it. Viewing unexpected events, not as interruptions to my agenda, but as activities woven into His plans for me. And anticipating the deepening of friendships.

This year I will be aware of my need to be attentive. And I purpose to do it with anticipation!

Do you adopt “one word” in place of resolutions? Share it in the comments!

One Word for 2019

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I used to. But I was as successful as 80% of Americans who, according to U.S. News, make and break their new year’s resolutions by mid-February.

So several years ago I gave up resolutions. Instead, I began the practice of adopting one word for the year. One word to help maintain a right focus. To filter my experiences. A word to help me grow emotionally and spiritually. In past years my words included release, joy, hope, and gratitude.

It seems my one word becomes more challenging each year. Last year began with gratitude—a word that tested me in ways I could not have imagined. Because of great loss, part of me wishes those events never happened. But I also witnessed—and learned—a sense of gratitude that plumbed the depths of my spirit and carried me to new heights as I watched God glorify His name.

This year, my word is the most difficult one yet.


Even typing the word is a bit scary.

I’ve always thought I was pretty good at trusting God. Good at encouraging and teaching others to trust Him, too. And no matter how complicated life became, I knew God was in control.

But now? Now is (cliché alert!):

  • when I put my money where my mouth is.
  • where the rubber meets the road.
  • when push comes to shove.

You get the idea.

This is the year where my ability to trust God will be tested more than ever.

The year in which everything has changed and nothing’s the same.

When most decisions I make will lead me into uncharted territory.

Where I must trust God for not just the things I need, but to be my husband and father. My encourager and comforter. My All-sufficient One.

And the year when listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will be more important than ever.

I’ve trusted God for eternal life. Now 2019 will reveal the depth of my trust in Him for everything else.

Do you choose one word for the year?

One Word Update – Wrong Word for 2018?


By most people’s standards, I picked the wrong word for 2018.

For several years now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I’ve practiced selecting one word to focus on each year. Actually, it’s not so much that I select the word, it’s more that it’s the word I believe God gives me.

As I posted this past January, my word for 2018 is gratitude.

My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of 2017, and after chemotherapy, radiation, and more chemo, was declared to be in remission by October. When I selected gratitude as my word, we had not yet learned of the remission. Still, as we waited for my husband’s PET scan results, I knew the choice I had to make. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Sadly, the cancer returned with a vengeance early this year. It metastasized, yielding a terminal prognosis. We are walking that journey today.

If gratitude is based solely on pleasant experiences, then I did, indeed, select the wrong word for 2018.

But despite the hurricane-force winds ripping through my circumstances, one thing will never change. Because of my relationship with Jesus Christ, I will always belong to my heavenly Father. And I have the comfort of knowing my husband has the same assurance.

We’ve been given the gift of eternal life. The incomparable gift of eternal life. A gift that will always eclipse our physical circumstances. It overshadows the worst diagnosis and outlasts the saddest prognosis. And it speaks hope into our brokenness.

So yes, gratitude is still my word for 2018. It’s still the right word for 2018. I’m grateful for the forty years of life my husband and I have shared together. Despite the terminal prognosis, I’m grateful for the remaining time—however limited—we do have, whether months, weeks or days. And I’m grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is upholding and strengthening us during circumstances that would otherwise be unbearable.

Surely that is reason enough to always be grateful. Grateful for what I have, regardless of how long it will last. Grateful for who I have, regardless of the soon-to-be fulfilled prognosis. And grateful for who I—and we—belong to, because He is holding us close and wrapping us in His love.

Did you choose “one word” for 2018?
Share your update…

My One Word: Hope Leads to Gratitude


A new word for a new year. A word I knew—last September—would be my focus for 2018.

Last year, my One Word was hope. Holding on to hope carried me through a difficult period. Hope held fear at bay when hubby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hope carried me—and us—through months of chemotherapy and radiation and more chemotherapy. And hope strengthened us as we sat with the doctor to hear his prognosis at the completion of the treatment protocol.

My One Word for 2018 is gratitude. I became convinced of it after Hurricane Irma and before we learned the results of my husband’s last PET scan. Regardless of the test results, I knew my One Word for the new year had to be gratitude.

Here’s why…

I’m learning a thankful perspective has nothing to do with whether I get what I want. What I’m wishing for. What I’m hoping and praying for. A thankful perspective has everything to do with what I already have.

Someone once asked me, “If God never answered another prayer with ‘yes,’ would you still be grateful?” Still love Him? Still serve Him?

If He never again provided physical healing.

Or financial provision.

Or restored another broken relationship.

What if He never again answered yes?

Would that be my cue to say no to Him? To tell Him I won’t follow Him if He doesn’t give me what I want? That I won’t live for Him if He doesn’t provide what I think I need?

Or will I say yes, regardless of the number of times He says no?

Will I say thank You, even when my heart is aching…or breaking?

As we waited for my husband’s PET scan results this past October, I knew I had to make a decision. To choose gratitude regardless of whether the cancer was still present. To hold on to thankfulness, no matter what.

Because whatever happens, this life is temporary. It’s a stopover—a glorified bus station—on the way to my eternal destination.

That’s the real reason I choose to be grateful. Because the most important thing God ever did for me—the one thing that outshines all else—is that I’ve been given the gift of eternal life. Nothing else I could ask for could ever compare. And added to my joy is that I know my husband has that same assurance.

The PET scan results would test my resolve. What if the cancer still hid in hubby’s body?

The news was good—the cancer appeared to be gone. And we are grateful.

Still, there will be more hurricanes. And more PET scans. And the results won’t always be what I want. But for this new year, gratitude follows hope. I choose to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. To focus on what I’ve been given, even temporarily, rather than what I don’t have.

I choose to focus on gratitude in difficult circumstances, knowing the Lord will work in me and through me by His Holy Spirit, regardless of my situation. Because one thing will never change…I belong to the God of the universe, the One who calls me His child because of His Son, Jesus.

And that alone is reason enough to always be grateful.

Have you selected your One Word for 2018? Leave a comment to share it!

Next Page »