Formations over Goals: A Word A Year

During harvest this year, I was on the phone with Natalie and she asked me if I choose a word for the year. She then went on to share how she "chooses" her word and her explanation literally shook me. It was so special to hear her talk about how she prays for guidance and then interprets answers to those prayers.


So special that I had to ask her if she would share with all of you!


A note from Natalie:


Wondering who Natalie is? Head over to my introduction blog post.


A couple of years back, I was burnt out and overwhelmed. I knew I needed to do something different, and I saw the new year as a fresh start - as many people do.


However, goals weren't going to cut it for me. My soul needed something more, something more transformative and restorative.


In 2019, I had graduated with my undergrad degree, took a job as a Special Education Teacher (an area of education I had ZERO training or experience in), I began a graduate program (required to obtain the position), all while being newly married, and in the midst of a family crisis.


I was being drained from all sides, and my soul started to feel the effects.


A family member of mine had shared with me how they prayed for a word at the beginning of the year and walked me through how that word played out in their life over the next 365 days.


It inspired me to pray for a word and let the word guide my next year.


When I say, I pray for the word, I don't mean to over-spiritualize it. The Lord never audibly tells me my word, rather I believe the Lord speaks to us through our thoughts.


Around November/December of each year I begin to simply ask the Lord in prayer,

"What is my word for next year?"


"What is it that you want me to focus on this next year?"

Once I pose these questions, I allow the space for God to move. Any time a word pops into my head that I feel relates to the next year, I jot it down in the notes app on my iPhone.


Then as time goes on, I continue to seek the Lord in it and there is usually one word on my list that sticks out from the rest. One word that feels right.


In 2019, I felt my word for 2020 was REST. This was my first year embracing a word.


Although my circumstances did not change, I had a focal point. I had a sense of direction for my soul. Despite the pandemic, it was the most restful year of my life. When I say restful, I mean ... I felt calm in the chaos, I was able to remain rooted in what served me and my family without getting caught up in overextending myself for various reasons, I was able to make rest a consistent routine, rather than a long awaited reward.


I kept the word, "REST," visible at the beginning of my journal.


In 2020, I dove into what the word REST meant. I found scripture surrounding REST. I truly learned what it meant to REST in the Lord and discovered ways to fully allow myself to REST.


At the end of 2020, I began the same process. I was 6 months pregnant with my first child. I felt the Lord leaning me toward the word, "REJOICE."


I knew the season of motherhood would be filled with newness, with challenges, with exhaustion, with blessings, and with more than I knew I could imagine. I felt like the word REJOICE was going to continually remind me to give thanks, even when I wouldn't naturally want to. For example, when I got up 4 times a night to nurse a newborn, when my flesh would internally complain, I would remind myself to REJOICE. I would force myself to say aloud, "Thank you for the opportunity! I GET to wake up with a baby. That I have a newborn that I GET to nurse tonight."


I keep the word REJOICE on my letter board above my coffee bar so I see it each day.


I've gone through each year, not feeling like I've mastered the word I'd chosen but INSTEAD allowing my focus on the word to FORM me into more of the person I want to become.

It is absolutely astounding to me, that the Lord is so intentional, so personal that He knows exactly what I'll need the following year. I don't think I will go a year without asking Him what my word is, because each year leaves another small transformation.


Now that I've started this tradition, God reminds me each year to not disregard the previous years' words as they all act as building blocks. This is a process and growth journey that continues to change me as I learn more about myself and lean into guidance from the Lord.


Formations, not goals.


Thinking of focusing on a word for 2022? Invite the Lord into the thought process and the conversation. Simply put: Ask. Simply open your heart and ask for a word. Notice words around you. Which words stand out? Which words feel right? Keep a running list and then narrow it down. Go with your gut, that can be a God whisper!


He knows much better than I what I will need in 2022.


If you are wondering, I do have my word for 2022, it is ROUTINE. As I find my rhythm as a full-time-working-from-home Mama I am going to allow ROUTINE to guide my year. After sitting with gentle, routine, serve, and reflect, I felt drawn to choosing routine. I felt guided to routine.


I hope you'll join me in opening your heart for a word and letting it form your year, day by day!


Since we chatted God quite a bit here I wanted to share a few of my favorites for my time spent in the Word.


This exact Bible isn't in stock any longer, I've linked the current version. It has plenty of margin for notes, which is my favorite part!


These highlighter markers are an absolute must for me in Bible and books. They are called Mildliners because they have this beautiful mild color instead of the bright fluorescent colors you find with most highlighters.


The Rest of the Gospel is a book I discovered in 2020 when diving into REST. I have read it 4 times through so far; I read portions of it each day as I find it incredibly life-giving and it keeps me in a calm and peaceful headspace. 10/10 would recommend!


Best wishes,


Natalie Carlson

Executive Assistant


Questions? Reach me at @natalie.kate.carlson on Instagram.