It’s Just One Word

How can a word shape a whole year?

Have you heard about the simple concept of adopting a word for the new year or letting a word adopt you? It is one of the most powerful ways I know to keep a spiritual focus or intention through a whole year.

The first writers I knew about to introduce this practice were Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen in their 2012 book, My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word.

One of my clergy friends, Rev. Jenn Pick, has been giving a word to her church members and others at the beginning of each year. She prays over these words and calls them Star Gifts tied to the Light of Epiphany.

Epiphany is the season in the life of the church where we celebrate the wise ones following the star to see Jesus. It is also defined as a sudden striking realization or aha moment.

One of our little grandsons told me that his favorite Christmas Carol was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I told him that was perfect and then rambled on about following stars and light that leads us to God and all kinds of wake-up moments. He listened pretty well for a six-year-old.

I’ve been asking Jenn for a word the last several years. I trust her to pray for God’s Spirit to guide her in choosing a word that is right for me.

Last year (2022) the word I recieved was invitation. I knew last January that we would be having a family wedding in September. I thought I knew what all this invitation business was about.

What I did not know was that I would also be:

-invited to learn on January 4 that our son would be deployed overseas with the military.

-invited to understand that the Ukrainian war would keep his unit in “readiness” status most of the same year before he deployed.

-invited to face a new health challenge that would both end up helping me and scaring me (there was a danger the surgery I needed might damage my voice).

-invited that same month to a new job opportunity which was only public speaking.

-invited to get my mind around my husband’s decision to announce his retirement as a school superintendent.

There were other invitations of course, to grow and change in countless different ways. Many of those invitations were pretty uncomfortable. It was a perfect word for an imperfect year. I placed it on my decorative Scrabble tile on a shelf so I could see it daily.

This year, my friend Jenn is at it again. When she gave me my word for 2023, she said it had two parts, the first part was Release.

I waited a day and then impatiently asked her about part two. When she texted back Peace, my eyes filled with tears.

She mentioned that she felt Release was first, then Peace. I knew that too.

I know what I think it means. Release anxiety, release control, release things, release old roles, release toxic relationships. Who knows what God has in store though?

Do you need a word? Do you need some spiritual focus? Do you need a bit of guidance this new year? Do you need some star light to guide you through a dark season?

Jenn said you can email her at It does not matter if you know her. She has said my friends are her friends. Just say, “Cindy mentioned I might need a word.”

New year’s blessings to all of you. Can one word change a whole year? Absolutely.

Just remember this, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 God has always specialized in just one word.

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor and Mosa to Keller, Pace and River. To read more blogs, see upcoming speaking events or to sign up for Cindy’s Inner Circle monthly emails go to

4 thoughts on “It’s Just One Word”

  1. Hi Cindy, loved your words relating to “Word”! thanks for sharing & for sharing an address for Pastor Jenn. When she was at GVUMC her Bible studies were some of the most enlightening I had ever experienced. I was truly saddened when she was transferred, as were many others. Continued prayers for you and Robin as you explore the new opportunities of Retirement!!! Love & Peace, Paul McClure

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