On Being Foolish and Choosing One Word to Name the Year

by | Jan 7, 2016 | Shine


I made a few foolish choices over Christmas.

Eating too much sugar is the obvious confession, but being predictable isn’t a high value for me, so no, that isn’t what I’m about to tell you.

I went to the biggest mall in London on Boxing Day.

If you are an American, this doesn’t seem at all like a confession on foolishness. But right now, all of my British friends are nodding while saying, “Yeah, that was stupid.”

And then I went back a second time – on the first Saturday after Christmas.

A foolish choice only if you presume my going to a place of complete chaos, where masses of people are focused on finding bargains, is about shopping.

God loves to make beauty out of our mess, remember?

On Boxing Day, I was planning to spend my Christmas gift on some clothes at Zara. For my American readers, imagine marrying Ann Taylor with H & M and that’s Zara. Trendy meets classic and on Boxing Day: Economically classy meets fashionably cheap which is hard to find in London.

See how I turned foolish into wise right there?

There were no dressing rooms available on Boxing Day. Not because of the crowds or long lines to try on clothes. No, they don’t make them available. Like, at all. Hello new culture.

Imagine a store filled with hundreds of people pulling on new clothes over their old clothes in front of public mirrors while stepping on discarded coats and blouses heaped on the floor.  Foolish, I tell you.

It turns out I’m a fool who loves a good challenge because I bought a sweater. After trying it on while sharing a mirror with a stranger.

My saint of a mother-in-law, Geri, immediately stood in the line designated for making purchases when we discovered the path to the cash register was stacked with people outlining the perimeter of the store.  By the time I assaulted all the hangers with sale tags, I joined her at the front of the line.

We stood in line listening to a multitude of languages being spoken. A cultural experience for £17.99; what a bargain!

When I got home, I discovered a hole in the neck of my new red sweater. Foolish was mocking me now.


On Saturday, I stood in another long line at Zara to return my sweater but this time my heart was peaceful, as if I was supposed to be there somehow.

In front of me, a tall woman wearing a fur coat turned around and began showing me why she was waiting in line, addressing me as “Darling.”  The dress she picked out to wear on Christmas was sewn with one small error. The hole between the shoulders wasn’t big enough for a head to fit through.

Obviously, trying on clothes isn’t really a thing in London.

And then I invited her to church.

Our conversation transitioned from poor quality clothes to spiritual things and luckily, she was completely open to it.

Before we parted she said something random that resolved what I’d been contemplating for days.

“I knew there was something different about you. You were standing there shining,” she said.

I was shining?

I was thinking about all the clothes I tried on that didn’t fit well for eating too much trifle, mulled wine, and chocolate cake. Lamenting over the aging process and wishing I could wear that tiny dress she was returning. Shining? Really?


Here’s the thing: Every year I pray about a word to name the year. And in 2016 the word I keep hearing is Shine.

Choosing Shine sounds “me” centered but truthfully, it’s foolish to think shine is really about me at all.

“Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.” (1 Cor. 1:27-31, MSG)

As providence would have it, amidst throngs of people, our paths crossed again and my new friend introduced me to her family members. As I handed them each a business card her mother exclaimed, “It’s good to know other Christians in London.”

If you’ve begun the year feeling as though time has been wasted and everything feels meaningless, may God reveal His face shining upon you in the mundane moments of life.


This year, every week, I’m keeping account of the way His face shines on me and sharing the encounters with you. This story is the first account. Want to join me by keeping track? Set aside a journal just for this purpose.

“It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you may well miss the brightness.” (2 Cor. 4:6, MSG)

Tell me how His face shines on you this week in the comments.

Linking with Jennifer and #OneWord365


Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. Mary Gemmill

    Standing there shining ? WOW~! Who wouldn’t love hearing those words !

    I have begun my journal with the words God chose for me:
    Hunger[ to know Him more than ever before] and
    Receive [ cos I am a giver but a very bad receiver and God wants to change my heart this year and teach me how to receive ALL He has for me.

    Laughing at the ridiculousness of SHUT changing rooms……. glad you got to have this ” fun” experience so you will be able to laugh with other UK women about it all 🙂

    Praying God’s richest blessings upon you ALL.

    love, Mary.

    • Shelly Miller

      You are such an inspiration Mary, the way you always hunger for more of Him. May He continue to transform you into His likeness this year with a beautiful radiance of the incarnation. Hugs.

  2. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Holy Cow…so I’ve been soaking in those verses in Numbers for like 3 days, looking up cross references, re-writing it in two journals, etc.and read it in a post by someone else the other day. Now yours….hmmm, maybe it’s that Divine Librarian. Thank you for the confirmation~that we shine when we look to him. (stunning photos of the spent clematis vine, I’d daresay, yes?)

    • Shelly Miller

      I love it when God does that — highlights, confirms, convicts — all so we know He is near and loving us. And I’m not sure about the clematis but think you are right. I took the photos in the Cotswolds last week when the sun was shining bright for the first time in weeks.

      • Jody Ohlsen Collins

        another verse that is a favorite which came to mind, somewhere in Proverbs? Psalms? “they looked unto Him and their faces became radiant.” I love that word radiant. It describes your smile.

  3. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, a quick note as I pack for the cabin. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have done well without a dressing room (sounds like a great story Florence Littauer used to tell about Filene’s Basement bargain sales in Boston–you’d have to hear her tell it…just hilarious), but God obviously had a reason for you to be shining where you were. Can’t wait to hear a followup w/ your lady coming to St. B’s! Oh, yes, God’s face has shone upon you in blessings too numerous to count through your British transition. And I would add that you are a shining reflection of Him. Don’t you love this verse from Philippians 2: Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Isn’t this what you are doing whenever you radiate His love (and stand peacefully among chaos without grumbling?) May the Lord continue to shine on you and H in your London ministry, and may you, in turn shine like stars as you hold firmly to the word of truth, sharing it with those who need Him most! God’s face just shone on us tonight in one of the most unusual evenings of our life in a unique visit w/ a couple that we met over Christmas…in what is the most random of meetings (though I know better…I realize it has been orchestrated by Him). I wish I could detail it here, but no time to do so. But let me just say that God has given us a wonderful opportunity to shine for Him. Blessings on your New Year, dear one.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for sharing that verse with me Lynn. Like most things in life, when God is trying to get a message through, he repeats and highlights it over and over again so we get it. I’m taking note. And that story of meeting that couple sounds intriguing. xx

      • lynn d. morrissey

        Shelly heading off to the cabin, nad will share when we get back. so neat. love you
        shine on!

  4. Pat S.

    This is a great idea. I love your word for the year and the journal idea. My word for the year is Renewal (including some Sabbath rest). Praying God’s face will reflect off mine this year. Thanks.

    • Shelly Miller

      Pat I love your word and I’m so glad you are part of the Sabbath Society!!

  5. Megan Willome

    I don’t have a word for the year, but I sure like yours. Thanks for giving me a safe place, Shelly.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad you feel safe here Megan. Love you!!

  6. Nancy Ridder

    I had “Shine” as my word of the year several years ago. I was blessed so much by it. I pray you will be too. I used the verse ” We are to Shine like stars” , can’t remember from which New Testament book. I also took it that Jesus’ light shone through us and onto others. I still have the word on my office wall to remind me.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks for the blessing Nancy, good to know Shine was a good year for you, that feels hopeful. I think that verse is in the book of Daniel?

  7. Nancy Ridder

    Forgot to say my word this year is “Lift up” as in Lift up my hands in praise and gratitude; Lift up my eyes from whence my help comes and Lift up others.

  8. Lisa

    I have experienced what your random new friend reported as she said you were “shining”. I have had Christians like that in my life, those whose faith is unwavering and infuses them with tremendous perseverance and compassion. They do indeed SHINE.

    • Shelly Miller

      The thing that speaks to me about shine is that it isn’t about what we do but who we are in Christ. It is Jesus’ work in us and His love through us that shines forth.

  9. jenni ho-huan

    Shiny Shelly as a rather nice sound to it! thank you for this warm story. my word is Unafraid which I am afraid to claim!

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m not sure I want to be known as shiny Shelly, that makes me laugh. When I hear that I think of my face looking greasy, ha!! Unafraid is a god word, look forward to see how you live it out. Thanks for connecting!!

  10. Kris Camealy

    This is amazing, Shelly. I love the way God chooses to communicate to us-Shining is a great word, and a wonderful theme that He will undoubtedly expand on in 2016.

    • Shelly Miller

      The way he communicates is always surprising and humbling, don’tcha think? I love it too!

  11. Celeste

    I wrote on the FB page saying I would have an answer soon. Today I was reading and it came to me.
    “And Christ is there with us on our way as surely as the way itself is there that has brought us to this place. It has brought us. He is with us–that is our faith–but only in unseen ways, as subtle & pervasive as air”-Frederick B.
    I have been thinking of travel and moving. Sometimes it appears as a mere wish, other times a consuming, disruption. You know how sometimes it feels like you’re holding your breath in while you wait? I wonder about the future and what is on our plates and I find myself behaving as if I am holding my breath until the moment arrives.
    So, my word is “breathe”.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love Buechner, he’s one of my all time favs. He writes in a way that always inspires, in the same way he inspired you toward finding your word.Breathe Celeste, just breathe. Yes!

  12. Leanne

    My one word has been with me since Advent. It is “light”. So I’m looking forward to this!

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh, our words are similar. I hope you’ll join me in keeping track Leanne. Would love for you to share during the year if you feel led.

  13. Becky Keife

    Love this. Love you. His presence and purpose and plan all shine through our mundane messes. Yes! Thank you for sharing. xoxo

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m thankful for the way He always makes redemption beautiful Becky. Perhaps shine is just a continuation of the path I’ve been on here for awhile. Love seeing you here, thanks for popping in.

  14. Pam

    I was just watching a husband and wife ministry program this morn where they were talking about this very thing – that God makes us to shine before the world, literally. The host told a couple of stories where this has happened to him too… One, he was grocery shopping when suddenly he saw a man at the end of the aisle launch himself at him. Turned out the man had been a pastor who had fallen and was on his last rope. He had prayed for God to send someone to him or he was going to end it all. That’s when he saw this host – he told him later that he saw a light shining from him so powerfully that he just knew he was a man of God. They prayed together there in the middle of the aisle and healing took place… Another time the host was on a plane next to two Muslims. They approached him, saying, “we don’t know how to say this in English, but you are “good, ” aren’t you? This turned into a conversation about the Lord living in him and how the Lord shines through His People, and he was able to share the Lord with them. He said they had tears in their eyes and took in all he was telling them. Beautiful… that verse from Daniel 12:3 – those who lead others… shine like the stars… Shine on, Shelly! Look forward to more accounts on this! 🙂 You are right… its a beautiful word, and not really about us at all, but Him.

    • Shelly Miller

      You always have the best stories Pam, thank you for sharing this. Our stories and those of others really inspire me. Your thoughtful, often prophetic comments are such a gift, thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts here, I appreciate you!!

  15. Nancy Ruegg

    I went shopping with my son and granddaughter this week. Such an ordinary event, except that for twenty years we lived far apart and such a simple pleasure was infrequent. Now we’re ten minutes away. God’s favor shines upon us as we revel in family time! (Our other son and his wife live about an hour away, adding to the blessing. Now if only our daughter and her family would move here… 🙂 )

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh Nancy, this touches me in a way you probably wouldn’t have known. As I navigate living as an expat in London, so far away from my daughter and her needs, I understand how this seemingly simple, ordinary event would be a gift of presence unlike any other. I’m so glad you are close to your son and granddaughter now, your heart must be absolutely swoony. xx

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Yes, indeed!

  16. shughes

    Shelly, it has been a joy following you. I have also chosen a word each year (Eucharisteo, surrender, wait). This year my word is PRESENT; as in be present. I so often find myself planning, worrying and trying to figure out the future that I miss what God is doing in the present. I have just left my job as the children’s director of our church and have joined the staff of Operation Christmas Child (part of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse Ministry). I want to see and be amazed at all the miracles God performs. Isaiah 43:19 “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.” I pray that I will perceive His movement as He makes ways and streams!

    • Shelly Miller

      Hi Sandi, I’m so excited to see how God uses your word in your new job this year. Present is a good one. I think we can all relate to how being so focused on the future means we forget to live fully into the right now. I think the contentment that Paul speaks about comes from being present.

  17. Abby

    Some may call it foolish but I say you are brave! That experience would have been absolute horror to me. 😉 God has shined his face on me this week by encouraging me through a friend not to give up on some areas where I’ve been struggling. He is so good and faithful. My one word for 2016 is “awake,” and I pray he opens my eyes to his faithfulness more and more each day. Blessed to find you at #TellHisStory today!

  18. Joy Lenton

    What a beautiful story! I can just imagine you shining, Shelly. It reminds me when a female passenger on a bus paused before getting off at her stop to tell me that I had the face of an angel. And once before, several years ago at a Joyce Meyer conference, I had another woman speak from a row or so behind my wheelchair to say how I was alight with radiance. Both of these things happened when I humanly felt unwell, weak and weary and far from shiny! But it seems that we reveal more of God’s light than we know.
    This is the year when God has whispered ‘love’ to me as the word to focus on. I will aim to see and sense the moments when His love shines through and try to journal about it too. It was such a blessing to read this lovely post. Thank you! 🙂 x

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