I love the trend among bloggers to pick a word for their year. The words are often thoughtful and inspiring: Risk. Go. Grow. Slow. Balance. Nourish. My birthday is two days after Christmas, so I have always used blowing out my candles to reflect on my hopes for the upcoming year.  Meaning that from my 12th until my 17th birthday I blew out my candles, and wished, as the lights winked out, for a kiss.



But I have this childish persistent ritualism: you can’t share what you wish on candles. The wish might not come true. And those wishes tend to be rather private—something I’m only comfortable sharing more than a decade later.  But still, I know that words and desires spoken aloud have power. So I asked my family to take a few minutes last week to put a new spin on the pick-a-word-for-the-year tradition: we picked words for each other.



Now, it is a bit delicate. You don’t want to pick a word that seems like a criticism, or a word that taps into unresolved interpersonal conflict. But in that vulnerability and intimacy, there is also power to speak blessing into each other lives. There is a sweetness in hearing the hopes and dreams of your family for your year.





To hear my brother give me the word “breakthrough,” and I know he’s praying blessing over my writing, that is a gift.



His wife echoes it and gives me “productive.” My mother speaks the word “gentle,” and I know that she knows my heart to bridle my passions and my tongue in gentleness. My dad thoughtfully says, “joyful” the hope of a father for his little girl to see beauty and art in daily work.



And Evan gives me the word “friend,” knowing that this year is going to be a year full of change, and Lord willing, a few new friends to soften the sadness of so many goodbyes.


This year, we also spoke blessings over my tiny niece tucked inside her mother’s tummy until May: Healthy. Cherished. Smiles. Breath. Sleep. Gift.



There is something so sacred about choosing a word when we’re all gathered together before we scatter for the year. It’s quick, just a sacred, slim moment, and I know that my family does it because they love me. (Well, and my mom does it because she loves this kind of thing too. Actually, as one of her Christmas presents this year my dad made a little booklet for me to write down all the words, so she can keep it and look at it all year.)



The power of these few words also reminds me that all year I can choose to use my words to speak life and love into others’ lives.  I am struck by this power of words as I spend my days with a small child who is learning words. I quickly see their power to build up and tear down.



Almost every day we repeat the phrase, now a little liturgy in the middle of trips to the playground and unwanted naps, “Jesus gives us a gentle heart to use gentle words and gentle touches.” I need to hear those words more than the toddler at times. And how glorious are his gentle words. One of his new phrases of late has been to exclaim at the top of his lungs, “Hi, Mr. Evvvvaaan! I’m so glad to see you!” It is the most genuine and enthusiastic welcoming.  May I too choose to be glad to see people, and to tell them so, and to speak hope and blessing upon them.



And I want to choose gentleness.  I want to choose joy. I want to choose to be a friend who is kind, a sister who is caring, a wife who is warmhearted, a daughter who is compassionate, and (someday) a mother who is patient. I want this year to be a year where my words build up—to build up my novel, my blog, and my family.  May it be so.



Have you chosen a word for 2014 for yourself or those you love?


7 Responses to Words for the New Year: A Gift from my Family

  1. Brittany says:

    Dear friend, your words bring both joy and tears yet again! I hear in this the challenge to be a friend as well, to you and Evan in this season of change. And to choose joy all along the way. Thanks for sharing.

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Brittany, I think of you as someone who is continually choosing authentic joy–with all the sadness, and questions, and waiting that goes with it! We are really looking forward to seeing you on Sunday!!

  2. Amy! First of all, thanks for the link back to my post on Balance. I’m just so glad I saw the pingback, which led me here to read your heart-felt post. Seriously, tears welled up in my eyes as I read about this ritual that your family did. In fact, I’m tempted to adopt the tradition for our family…maybe for next Christmas. I simply LOVE the idea of speaking a word over each family member. And receiving the words breathed over you.

    Thank you for sharing this story…you have a wonderful way with words, and I was most definitely blessed by it!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Lauren! Sweet Brittany mentioned your blog to me, oh probably six months or a year ago, and I’ve been a quiet sometimes-stalker (is there a more official term for that?). Anyways, I’d highly recommend trying your family choosing words for each other next Christmas, it’s been a hit for us. Thanks for your kind encouragement! Happy New Year! May your year be overflowing with balance!

  3. Deborah Rogers says:

    Thanks for all the love you put into making the booklet and sharing it here. It is good to be reminded that the words and prayers of loved ones is a great way to start a new year! Deb

  4. Hannah says:

    Hi Amy,
    I go on a personal retreat every year and from that weekend through prayer a word for the year emerges (just after my birthday in Oct.). However, I like the idea too because it brings in community and allows other people to speak into your life. That’s powerful. Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Thanks Hannah, it was sweet to go back today and look at those words a few months later. They are still true, I need them all! I love idea of going on a personal retreat and picking a word out! That’s so cool!

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