The Gift in Naming a Year

by | Jan 5, 2015 | Joy


As someone who wrote here every day in October about moving to England yet still lives in South Carolina, it should come as no surprise to you that trust was the word I discerned God chose for me in January of 2014.

Last year, instead of making resolutions I never keep (because I’m a true ENFP) I joined thousands of bloggers, praying for a prophetic word as a theme for the year. Have you ever done that?

Trust found me like a finger tapping on my shoulder while reading a good book, continually interrupting my thoughts.

This is what I wrote here last January: Behind the broad chested posture of trust is the phrase I tend to repeat to myself in such a small whisper it’s barely noticeable, unless I’m quiet. Are you ready for it? Here it is:  But what if– then I add the scenario.  And trust doesn’t have buts in the sentence because trust doesn’t control outcomes; it lays them at the feet of Jesus, walks away, and doesn’t look back.

Honestly? I thought I was brave when I chose trust as my word for 2014. Now I realize I was naïve and shortsighted.

I overlooked the mystery inherent in the person of Jesus when I welcomed trust. Months of walking through the wilderness in our transition to London broke the what-ifs in my faith like a wild horse resisting a saddle.

Oh, I can write about the mystery of God and make it sound concrete, predictable and fun but living with it, that’s just uncomfortable. Painful when you insist on figuring out unknowns and controlling outcomes. Frightening when you live in the grip of scarcity.

God cannot be figured out. I knew this in my head but my responses to a lengthy, unforeseen waiting period to England said my heart wasn’t convinced.

The gift in naming a year as it begins is the redemption you see when you look back.

I wrote open-handed when describing an intended posture with trust for 2014 in that same blog post. Then H called me stubborn a few months ago. And I repented for how often I assume a tight-fisted posture without noticing.


Before Christmas, H was asked by a church we love in Phoenix to give the sermon on Sunday morning with less than twenty-four hours’ notice. It turns out he had a backlog of sermon illustrations to use longing for the right moment. The theme? Waiting.

H opened vistas of thought about a recurring theme in the Bible. Righteous, God fearing women who are childless — Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth– live much of life waiting, even after God promises birth.

Their stories powerfully illustrate how waiting with Godly desire is linked with barrenness. Last year, discerning a call to England resulted in delay, disappointment and ultimately dependence.

We can tell you with the utmost confidence that a barren wilderness in the middle of your dreams often leads to the fulfillment of promise with these outcomes.

Trust – In seasons of waiting, one of the primary questions God asks of us is this. What or who do you trust? He already knows but he wants you to experience revelation.

Deeper Intimacy with JesusIn waiting, God gives us a choice. Choose to trust in His unwavering friendship to guide you or figure it all out by yourself.

“A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver.” Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Joy – Finding joy in the Christ and not in your circumstances. While we know joy is sure in fulfillment, true joy is realized when we know Jesus loves us completely, even in lengthy periods of silence.


Honestly? Joy is the hardest one to grasp. But He’s highlighting that word Joy and naming my 2015 with it. Wherever my gaze seems to look, joy is waving back. I’ve learned not to make assumptions.

I’m going to tell you later this week how my friend Margaret Feinberg is teaching me the truth about Joy from her own experience.

Have you chosen a word for 2015 yet? Tell me how it found you, this year or last. I’m excited to walk this calling out with you and share our unfolding plans as they happen.


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  1. Lyli Dunbar

    My theme for 2012 was “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Steal My Joy,” and I went on to have the hardest year of my life. James Chapter 1 and I became good friends that year. Consider yourself warned. 🙂

    This year, I am being a bit rebellious once again and choosing a 2-word theme. I am going to “Pray Big” in 2015.

    Looking forward (as always) to reading your story here in the days ahead. Hugs

    • Shelly Miller

      After a year with trust, I’m learning to leave the outcomes of the word he gives me to Christ. The good, the bad, the ugly. Of course, we always hope that the good is the majority, right?

  2. ThandiweW

    Ah, Shelly, how often you inspire me. My words have never been predicticable…last year’s word was Crucible, giving a name to the season of hard growing I knew I had to endure. This year it’s Petrichor, the sweet fragrance that rises from the earth after the rain. It’s a way of honoring this time where my dry bones are being refreshed by His Living Waters, and I want to remembering both being dry AND being watered. I cannot fully appreciate the joy of refreshment without acknowledging the before. It was a random Word of the Day in my newsfeed, but it never left me, and now I understand why. As a friend once spoke to my spirit, even when God seems silent, He is ALWAYS working, Glory to God.
    May blessings abound in your life this year,

    • Shelly Miller

      What a beautiful word Chelle, I’ve never heard it until now. Love that! You, my dear, are that sweet fragrance already!

    • Shelly Miller

      Penelope, praying that healing and restoration are yours in 2015. May it be so Lord! I’ll pop over and read what you wrote, thanks for sharing it with me.

  3. Natalie

    I’ve never chosen a word for the year–until this year. I’m not a resolution maker. I’ve decided I’m more of an evaluator and course corrector at regular intervals throughout the year, most especially at this time of the year. Over the past few weeks, I kept sensing the need engage better with whatever I am doing or whatever I learning or wherever God has me or with the people I am with. Over and over. So, 2015: Engage.

    • Shelly Miller

      What a fabulous word. I’m thankful for the way you engage with me Natalie. May God open up new vistas for you this year through engagement. And I feel the same way about resolutions.

  4. Mary Gemmill

    i sense great JOY ahead for you and H.
    When I think of Joy, I think of Jesus, who for the JOY set before Him, endured the cross. This past half year has been a time of enduring for you both….and now that you have endured, there will soon be JOY beyond your greatest imaginings. [ Eph 3 18-22].
    My word for this year is ” Invest”, and it came about reading Jean Fleming;’s book: Pursue the intentional life. I felt God would show me how to invest in things of eternal value [ money being only a small part of this ],,,,but already He is speaking volumes to be about what he invests in us. I’ve written 8 posts already and am wondering about a blog in 2016 when He’s had a year to teach me all I need to know about it~!
    I know that listening is an important way to invest in people, as is my time and my talents……watch this space 😉
    Or rather, my space.
    May God’s blessings rest powerfully upon you all as the adventure in Him begins in earnest. ..

    • Shelly Miller

      You’ve already practiced investing in my life Mary, in ways that will have eternal benefits, I promise. Can’t wait to see how He unfolds more for you. I want to read that book, I keep seeing it circulating. And a blog? I hope you do it! I think it would be amazing.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Ditto on Mary’s blog!

      • Mary Gemmill

        I’ll post to you as soon as you leave for UK…you know what your address will be so at least you won’t have to house-hunt.
        Thanks for your encouragement……maybe…one day I’ll have a blog and a helpful mentor to guide me.

  5. Teresa

    My word for this year is NEW. It found me in a newsletter that had Isaiah 43:18-19. Last year my word was Still. Having 12 years experience in the hospitality field, my current job is only paying minimum wage with no insurance, vacation, or sick days, and I am working 6 days a week. I felt that God was saying,”be still in this place until I open a door. When I saw my word for this year, I know God is opening the door to a new, better job and a way for me to write the book He wants me to write

    • Shelly Miller

      Teresa, new is such a wonderful word holding endless possibilities. I hope you will stay in touch and let me know how He defines it for you this year.

  6. Kelly W

    What a beautiful word to be chosen for you!

    What I love about One Word is that while I have forgotten pretty well all previous “resolutions”, the One words underpin my last 2 years; and those threads follow me, they are still visible in the warp and woof of my life tapestry: Worthy, Play, and this year: Savour.

    • Shelly Miller

      Savor. That word has such depth of meaning. The first thing I thought about was food and then moments in time and then stillness. And I also thought about the book Shauna Niequiest is writing called Savor. Maybe there will be something in it for you!

  7. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Very meaningful post, Shelly, and we’ve lived it with you, praying and agonizing, too. I think faithfulness is a word that could be applied to both you and God as you trusted Him with your very life and livelihood. As you were faithful to trust, He has been faithful to guide and provide. For a number of years, I’ve chosen what I call a “theme” to my year, and once I became active in online reading and community, I saw all the One-Year buzz. I think it’s a useful and inspiring way to live, provided we let God have His way in our lives and just not try to fit circumstances into the word and force things, which I know you are not doing. And admittedly, sometimes I get so caught up with living that I don’t explore my word/theme to the depths I would like. But I think if it’s a guiding principle, it can be helpful and enlightening. For the past couple years, my words have been vision, completion (twice in a row), beginning, and now Bride. This last word has really thrown me for a loop, because I’ve not been a bride for forty years. And then I had this horrible thought: What if God would take my husband away and I would be a bride again–totally reliant on my heavenly husband, and I feared the word. But God is not capricious, and like you, I must learn to trust Him (sans fear). I have begun to be excited about my word……because I am part of the Bride of Christ as a member of the Church at large, and I realize that the Bride is to prepare for His coming. But a Bride is also fully devoted to her Groom, and is passionately in love with Him. So I’m praying this is a tme of renewal for my love for Jesus and that I can also be pure as a bride should be. I’ve thought of other applications, too. So, I am excited about it now. I’m also very excited for you and what the Lord is doing in your life. I can feel your joy spilling over, and I know He will continue to increase your joy with your move and your new life in London. I’m so grateful for all the means of communication we have in this day in age, because you will be as near as a phone call or a touch of the keyboard. Can’t wait to see what God will do, and please know how much I share in your joy!

    • Shelly Miller

      What a wonderful word God gave you Lynn. You have my curiosity piqued about how Bride will speak to you this year and enfold. We serve such a creative, intimate Savior, the possibilities are endless. Btw, I agree with your assessments about choosing words. I’ve often been hesitant about choosing a word because it feels self serving.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey

        Yes, I get the hesitancy. And than kyou for sharing in *my* joy abuot this word. Admittedly, it’s very unusual, and I’ve not seen anyone else choose it. =]

  8. Jillie

    Hi Shelly. Admitting I’m glad the Holiday Hoopla has come to an end and things can now get back to ‘normal’, including reading my favourite blogs. I do not yet have a word for 2015, although I certainly love this idea over making resolutions that inevitably make me feel a failure in one way or another. I hate resolutions! Already, you are amazing me with your patience, despite the clenched fists of opposition at times. This whole ‘adventure’ that is England has not been easy on you and I am as anxious as you about its final fulfilment. I am so excited for you in the new life that awaits, whenever it actually begins. Joy will come in His perfect timing, of that we can be certain. In the meantime, I look forward to all you have to say in the coming weeks. Blessings, my friend.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m feeling the nearness of God as we get closer to the fulfillment of our call to England Jillie. Thank you for being here to witness it. You’ve been on my mind and in my heart over the holiday season. May God give you a 2015 that is restorative and flourishing in new adventures. xoxo

  9. Janet from FL

    I have been choosing a word for each year for several years now, and I love the focus it gives to my life, and the word will come over and over throughout the year teaching so much. This year, my word is “Encouragement”, and I will be focusing on giving encouragement to others. I am so ready for 2015!

    • Shelly Miller

      I know you didn’t ask me but I think Encouragement is a perfect word for you. Or maybe that’s because you practice so much on me. *wink*

  10. Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    My word revealed itself as I was taking communion at the High Calling Retreat in November. It is release…and I’m not exactly embracing it. And these words drive straight through my heart this morning Shelly… “And trust doesn’t have buts in the sentence because trust doesn’t control outcomes; it lays them at the feet of Jesus, walks away, and doesn’t look back.”
    I will trust (or learn to trust) that releasing means ONLY that which is for my benefit and His glory.

    • Shelly Miller

      In my experience with prophetic words, it seems that they resonate with something down deep inside of us with definition that is often surprising. Praying that release will be a word that ministers to those places in you Caryn, that at this same time next year, you will look back at the ways God used it to transform you for His glory.

  11. Nancy Ruegg

    You always provide nuggets of applicable truth, Shelly. Today’s example: “Joy – Find joy in Christ and not in your circumstances.” That truth would apply to all our needs, such as peace, contentment, strength etc. It’s all about focus, isn’t it. Focus on Jesus. And the bottom line is trust. Do I trust him to supply all my needs or not? Oh, Lord, help me pinpoint my trust in a straight beam upon you, with no wavering doubts!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m praying that same prayer with you Nancy. I want to hear His heartbeat in all things and surrender.

  12. pastordt

    Last year, my word was obedient. I didn’t want it, I didn’t choose it, it chose me. This year, it is stretch – and I’m looking forward (I think!) to all that means in 2015.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh yes, this could be a good one. The first thing I thought of with that word stretch was new possibilities for you Diana. Praying it will be a glorious year for you.

  13. Jennifer

    My word is ENDURE. I was searching for a word that made an offering. Not sure why…I just knew that word was seeking me out. When I searched for definition it jumped out in several words related to offering, and found me.
    . It’s only been a few days, but endure is a Teacher. It
    Stretches me. It’s taking me places. Good ones where others can hear it’s message. Excited about what the end of 2015 shall bring!

    • Shelly Miller

      I enjoy hearing how you found your word Jennifer. I pray Endure is filled with meaning for you this year.

      • Jennifer

        thank you!

  14. Becky Keife

    I LOVE this, Shelly! I love your authenticity and willingness to let us in on your process. My word of the year found me, too.

    As I was seeking God for the year ahead, He first asked me to look back. I was waiting for something new, exciting, different. But instead God
    showed me that He is already up to something significant. And I have
    the humble joy of being invited to continue with Him on the journey.

    So my word is CONTINUE. Continue following God on the path He is revealing. Continue being faithful in the big and small of faith steps He’s providing.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh Becky, I love your precious heart. May God continue the good work he started and may you continue to notice His presence with you. Love you friend! xoxo

      • Becky Keife

        Love you, too, friend!

    • Jennifer

      i almost chose continue, Becky. Actually the word “endure” (my word) , is very close and was found in its meaning… 😉 amen & selah.

      • Becky Keife

        Oh, love that, Jennifer. Blessings to you!

  15. Celeste

    Hi Shelly, I’m a little behind with my answer. I have the word peace on my mind. Not that I will have much of that once the next adoption goes through. But what I am talking about is what goes on inside my head. That space where no one else can hear the condemnation or the internal conversations.
    Peace also stands for acceptance of those things beyond my control and peace from believing that the reason or fault lies with me.
    Simply peace.
    And the quietness that comes with it is like gazing upon an empty field full of newly fallen snow where no footsteps have tred. Silent, bright and clean.

    • Shelly Miller

      Celeste, that imagery of peace is beautiful, truly. Standing with you and agreeing, may God answer your prayerful heart. Always love seeing you here when you have the time to leave a comment. Thank you.

  16. joni

    I so needed to hear this in year 3 of wilderness. I guess i dont get it. It is hard feeling not knowing what to do n been a season of doubt more. So 2015 year of trust and belief. Its not just one area but my whole, complete life of wilderness.

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