My Four-Letter Word for 2017

When the idea for my word first came to me in November, I shoved it aside. I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge. Nothing like my words from the past:

2016 DANCE 

2015 SIMPLE  


2013 FOLLOW 


I thought I’d aced this particular word a long time ago. But it kept popping up. Everywhere. It’s behind my laptop on an ideas board I made back in August.

It’s on the cover of this Angels on Earth magazine on my desk.

I started reading a book on my Kindle by Sheila Walsh, The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads to the Heart of God. (Great book!)

The word is in the verse at the very beginning of the book, the command from God:

LOVE each other. John 15:17

I do love people. I’m not mean. 

I got a little nervous when I read the title of my BFF’s blog post, Love is Costly. Robin opens with this picture below and says,

“Love was costly for Jesus. Love was costly for God. Of course, love is costly for us too.”

(photo credit All Things Heart and Home.)

I felt an uncomfortable sensation churning inside. An uneasiness. 

God had a grip on my heart. I didn’t want to give in.

This was getting deep, and I wasn’t sure what LOVE might cost.

Taking the Christmas decorations down, I noticed the burlap ribbon on the tree in the kitchen. Leftover from Valentine’s Day. Covered with red hearts.

I’m not craftsy, but I wondered if I could use the ribbon on the front porch–where my Christmas decorations were.

For Valentine’s Day.

Not for LOVE. 

I wrapped it around a grapevine wreath and tied a bow at the bottom.

I brought my old pitcher outside–the one with hearts on it–still arguing with God about the word.

Okay. This looks nice, but it doesn’t mean I have to pick LOVE for my word.

I get it. 

We’re supposed to love people. 

And I do.

Then the word showed up at the bottom of my prayer journal.


An arrow.

Straight to my heart.

The verse nailed me.

Love one another as I have loved you. 


I don’t do this very often, Lord. I don’t love people unconditionally. Sometimes it’s for show. Or for personal gain. Or because it’s expected.

But to love expecting nothing in return…

This scares me.

Because I don’t know how. 

And I can’t do it without You. 

With trembling fingers, I handed God my heart and said, “Will You teach me how to love others?” Click to tweet

I have no idea what’s next, and yes–I’m still a little bit afraid of my word.

Have you chosen a word for 2017? A theme? A goal? Are you a tiny bit scared too?


Julie (there’s my word again!)







  1. Anna Haney says:

    This is a great word. It’s hard to do, for sure. I know that there are many times when I’m aggravated by people, the one thing that keeps me going is the fact that God lives them and He expects me to love them, too. Easier said than done. You can do it.
    My 2017 word is adventure. I want to make my life an adventure with God. That word is easily tossed around Sunday School curriculum and Vacation Bible School, but how often do we as adults seek an adventure with Him?

    • ANNA, what a cool word. Adventure! I can’t say it without smiling. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Sounds like you’re embracing whatever comes your way with your arms wide open.

      Oh, boy–I really can’t wait to hear what all you discover!!!

  2. My word for 2017 is Called. God got my attention recently when I reread Moses & the burning bush. Just like He called Moses by name, He calls us by name. I’m excited! And I also know it won’t be easy. I expect He will stretch me with it. But, then, I think He can use any word to stretch us! (My word for 2016 was persevere…and I am ready to move on! lol)

    • I bet you ARE ready to move on and leave persevere behind, Laura. 🙂 I would be too.

      It’s go to hear that you know it won’t be easy, and you’re excited. Yay!!

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone choosing “Called” before. I love that it’s such a unique word choice.

      Let us know!!

  3. Patricia Martin says:

    What a wonderful word, Julie! You are a loving person and you have shown us all so many different kinds of love! Love for your children, love for your spouse, love for parents, siblings, and tough love for loved ones who may struggle with personal issues. Letting go and letting God is hard sometimes, but I think that that is also a part of love (our family practices this with some loved ones). Have a new year as wonderful as you are.xo

    • Absolutely, Patricia. Letting go is also a part of love. For sure! Thank you for your sweet words. I have a feeling God might do some rearranging this year with me. Not sure how. But I’m willing.

      P.S. We might get a little snow in GA this weekend!!

  4. Excellent. This will be an interesting journey to follow.

    TC&BG, Chuck

    • Thanks so much, Chuck. I’m thinking your word for every day of the year is always “Encourage.” And you certainly can’t beat that one!

  5. Martha Franks says:

    God has nudged me with my word for the year: Delight. Not my delight, but how God is delighted with me! He dances and sings over me! Outside of Zeph:3:??, I have not discovered too many scriptures, but they will come. I’m looking for books on the subject. Love Max Lucado’s quote:”If God had a refrigerator, your picture on it, if He had a wallet, your picture would be in it. Face it, friend, He is crazy about you!” I am excited as I begin this new year with such a wonderful idea!

    • Oh, yes, yes, yes, Martha! I’m jumping up and down here at my desk. I love Delight–and the idea of opening our hearts to how much He delights in us. I think this word choice will spread to those around you. They’ll sense it too–just how much He loves us. Be sure to pop in and share it with me and the bloggy friends. 🙂

      And great quote from Max L!

  6. We picked the same word! I love hearing, and seeing how it came to you- in abundance! Isn’t it such a big and powerful word? I feel like I have so much more I can learn about it. Saying, “I love you,” in my childhood wasn’t something we did- at all. We would show it, and I was certain it was there, we just didn’t express it. I feel its simply time to for me to make up for lost time, and fully come to know love in all ways.

    • Me too, Vicky! I feel the same way–like I have SOOOO MUCH to learn about LOVE. Agree about the saying, “I love you” in childhood. We didn’t do it either.

      I have a sneaky suspicion we won’t be able to get to the very bottom of the LOVE mystery–that maybe it’s so much bigger than we can understand. But, my heart’s wide open. So glad we’re in this together!

  7. Love reading your blog, Julie. And a reminder to LOVE is a GRAND thing for this New Year! Thanks for sharing and keeping the LOVE fire burning for our God.

    • Such good words, my writer-coffee-drinking-friend!

      The word is already working on me–just starting each day by writing the word “Love” at the very beginning of my journal entries.

      So Out. Of. The. Box!

  8. Ah, Julie, you are a brave soul, indeed, and one that on a day to day basis seems to exude the love you write about. But, of course, with God there is always more, so here’s to seeing what God is up to in 2017. Thank you for your faithfulness to follow God and providing us an example to do the same. Much love to you and yours. Bev

    • That’s exactly what I’m thinking, Bev…this love thing….I don’t think I’m going to get to the bottom of it. Or top. Or sides. It’s beyond massive.

      Your comment means so much–coming from another writer’s soul. You get it. 🙂

      Much love to you and yours~

  9. Kim says:

    Oh goodness Julie. We both have 4 letter words this year. And yes, mine makes me a little nervous too. I’d boiled it down to Know and Hope. Both kept showing up, over and over. I felt more inclined to take on Hope, but reality is they are actually integrated through one another.

    The Hope I’m leaning into is the Hebrew definition of the word, meaning to wait upon. In a Beth Moore study a couple of years ago, she explained that this form of Hope is to be gathered together, joined, bound and twisted to one another.

    This is both beautiful and scary. I am fearful of what may lie ahead that I may need to cling to him through.

    • Kim, are you responding to the other Julie? HOPE. It just flows off the tongue, doesn’t it? (You know my word is LOVE, right?)

      I “love” how Beth M defined Hope. Sounds like once you’ve fastened yourself to Hope, you’re NOT going to let go. I love it.

      Keep clinging, my friend. I am too. xoxoxo

      • Kim says:

        The way you said that makes me smile. “Once you’ve fastened yourself to Hope, you’re NOT going to let go.”

        And, believe it or not, I’ve already had an opportunity to practice this!

        Last night I was up for a couple of hours with a sick child. I was oh so tired and of course I was worried… All I could do was pray. As I prayed, Hope came to mind. So I visualized that definition of clinging to God and I was able to find peace and comfort and ultimately rest. And so was she.

        Then this afternoon in a follow up conversation, a friend and I were touching base on things shared and thought about since the previous days conversation, how mothering and worry, for so many, just seem to go hand in hand. And how we know that worry is against what God wants from us.

        I told her, You know, even though we’re not supposed to worry, it comes out of a place of Love. Then I shared with her my word, Hope, and last nights experience and the freedom from worry that I’d found.

        • You’re moving so fast down the road of Hope. And I’m learning from you, Kim!! I LOVE how you’re working Hope into everyday living and conversations. And even taking care of a sick child.

  10. marci says:

    What a wonderful word for the year. You are already so full of love, that you show to all of us. It will be interesting to take this journey with you and see where LOVE takes you. I had the word Love, a few years ago, and it was quite the journey. And, yes, as said above in a comment.. Sometimes Love is letting go. It is a big thing to realize that. A lesson I had to learn.

    Sometimes even when I feel love it has been hard to say it. But I have learned to say it anyway.

    I have not settled on a word for this year yet. Last year it was to ‘Show Up”, and as one of the group suggested calling it Live by intention. I thought I was good with that, but last year showed me, it was something I had room for improvement.

    I am glad you shared the arguing with God, not ready to say “yes”. As I have done that. And the “OK, God, I am doing this but that doesn’t mean- (that will be my word), and I smiled, understanding! And how many times have I said to God, “Are you sure God? Are you really sure? But….and then comes my argument.” God may whisper, but sometimes He whispers pretty loudly!
    May God Bless you this new year, and each person here. May He hold their hand, lift them, guide them. Where they are hurt, may He heal. What ever their need is, may He answer the prayers in the way that is best for them. And may we feel Him with us all through the year.
    Much Love,

    • Julie Gilleand says:

      Marci’a, you have “shown up” for me in more ways than I could even count and I am so grateful for a friend like you. The cards and notes you sent that I never ever expected were so nice and thoughtful. The prayer shawl so comforting, especially now. And you are the only person I know who likes to read and write LONG emails as much as I do, lol. And because you told me about pima cotton I have the most comfortable shirt ever! I haven’t even mentioned your kind thoughts and prayers which are the most important of all. Thank you, Marci’a, for showing up in my life. I am blessed to know you. And since I too have not yet discovered my word for the year, we can have fun discovering together 🙂 God bless!


      • YA’LL this makes me soooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy–what God has done here. He’s brought together new friends. Real friends. I have one of Marci’a’s prayer shawls too.

        Leafy, you’re so right. Yes, yes, yes, she has shown up and been faithful. I think the Lord has gifted her with such compassion. Active compassion. Constant prayer. A tender heart.

        Love you, Leafy. Praying the days are getting a little lighter for you. Even though it’s January.


      • marci says:

        Oh, dear Leafy! You touch my heart so much with your words. Thank you! My spirit is lifted by your words and by Julie’s. You have both been dear friends, and I treasure you both. Sorry to be so late at writing a reply. As you know by now, there have been personal things going on in our lives.
        Love to you both.

    • Ohhhh, Marci’a….you are such a prayer warrior. I know I’ve told you before, but I’m telling you again. 🙂 Your heart always seems to be in the right place–about other people.

      Yeah, I remember your “show up” word last year–thought it was a brilliant choice. I had no idea you’ve also chosen LOVE. Bet you have a lot to teach me. 🙂

      Okay–let us know when your word arrives. I’m sure the timing will be right on schedule. As always ~~~

      Great big hugs to you, my friend.

      • marci says:

        I replied to this but I am not seeing it. I know this is really late, and you may not see it. I was so touched by your words, and Leafy’s words to me, It is such a comfort and lifts my spirit.
        I wrote more the first time, but now, I will just keep this short. As you both , you and Leafy know by now, we had something come up that has taken our energy and time. A bit of a shock. And as you both know by now, just in the nick of time, the Lord gave me the word Small. which I so needed.
        I also wrote some for you on the reply above, for Leafy.

        Love to you and to Leafy.
        So grateful for the gift of friendship.
        God Bless,


        • My heart is with you, Marci’a. I’m so grateful you found your word. I can’t wait to see how BIG your word becomes in your life.

          Thanks so much for being you.


  11. “Have you chosen a word for 2017? A theme? A goal? Are you a tiny bit scared too?”

    Yup, my word for 2017 is GRATEFUL. I found a personal pocket calendar that says “Color My World” on it and “Be Grateful.” It’s in beautiful colors and I love it. Ohhhhh…and there’s YOUR word! I’m embracing my word. Leaning on my word. Filling my soul with my word. Because it’s time for me to be truly grateful for everything in my life…the good things, and even the things which challenge me.

    Your word…Love…is beautiful. I would find it a tad bit scary too. It’s a big word. But it’s a little word too. Like love small, simple moments. Like loving little indulgences like a cup of hot tea with honey and lemon. And there’s the big love things: people, family, projects, even things you don’t like. But you can do it. You’ve challenged yourself. But you will do just fine.

    I’m excited to see how we both feel as the year progresses. I just know I’ll be grateful, and I know you’ll love how it will all turn out!

    • B.J., oh, what a powerful, life-changing word you chose. And to discover that we’re supposed to be grateful in all things–even the difficult ones. Wow. It just doesn’t come naturally. Has to be God working in us.

      I have a feeling this year will be incredibly profound for both of us–typing this phrase a tiny bit scared, but there’s no other way than to “feel the fear and do it anyway” as you’ve reminded me bunches of times. 🙂

      I love you. And I’m so very grateful for our friendship.

  12. Terri Damon says:

    My word in 2015 was Love. I used 1 Corinthians 13 to study the word love.
    January – I studied and focused on ‘Love is Patient’
    February – I studied and focused on ‘Love is Kind’
    March – I studied and focused on ‘Love does not Envy’
    And so forth for 12 months. I meditated on how do I show love to someone by being patient or kind? How do I show love to others by not being envious? How do I show love to others by not being rude, or not being easily angered. I enjoyed this approach and it kept it fresh each month.

    • Terri! This is amazing!! I’ve been praying about how to divide LOVE into months…how to narrow the focus b/c it’s huge.

      Thank you! This is a wonderful idea.

      I’m so blown away by how God works through us all. So kind of you to post this comment.

      Hugging you from my little loft office (and it’s cold today in GA!)

  13. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Somehow, I believe “love” takes a major role in every person’s “word-of-the-year,” don’t you?

    Two years ago, I learned of this challenge through your blog, Julie. I came up with the word “Now!” as my word, certain God meant it for me – “now” was my time to get moving on my writing career, “now” was the time for this…for that… However, another word kept whispering through my heart, the word “ours.”

    I probably explained this before in a comment, but just to recap: Since my husband and I married and began our family five years later, I unconsciously took ownership of everything…including our three lovely daughters. I would tell people about “my” daughters, “my” home, “my” homeschool…and so forth. Sure, I didn’t actually think they were solely “mine,” but little by little, I fear my husband began seeing them that way. It was time for a change, and God did it through the Spirit reminding me to use the word “our” instead of “my” when talking to others. And I did…and do…even in my journaling (definitely not an “our,” Kevin hates writing!”).

    So, 2016 burst on the scene a little over a year ago, and once more, I chose “Now!” Wasn’t it time YET? I needed the “win” I planned to have by the end of the year, the one from “now” spelled backward to produce “won!” I was ecstatic!! Nope…God didn’t let me get far into January 2016 before He literally led me to the word He’d planned…”listen.” And wow, have I ever had to listen this year! Listen as family members made wrong choices and tried to explained why. Listen as my almost-80-year-old uncle told me over and over about his exploits in New Mexico, from where he’d just returned after six years. Listen as my dying aunt talked of her cancer and her fears and her dreams that would never come true. Listen as God said “no” time and again. Definitely not a “now” kind of year.

    But, the word for 2017 came BEFORE the year hit. I wondered if “now” would finally be the one, especially in light of some interesting happenings in my writing world. But I believe I have the correct word to start with this time around – “redirection.” I discovered the word on a missionary couple’s newsletter, explaining how God redirected their dream of eight years, put it on hold for the foreseeable future, and kept them in the ministry they’ve been with for a long time. For them, the first dictionary definition fit – “to change the direction or focus of something.”

    This word jumped out at me, but not with the same definition…well, at least, not JUST with that one. It also has to do with the training tool we use with our puppy…and with our almost-one-year-old grandson. When either are doing something we’d rather not let them do…or in the case of the puppy, he knows full well he shouldn’t be doing…we “redirect” their attention to something else. Puppy barking at the other pups in obedience class? No trouble, we’ll redirect him to the agility equipment he loves! Behrgen trying to pull the Christmas tree off the platform? No trouble, we’ll redirect by getting out his light-up ball or offering a story.

    So you see, my…our?…no, this one is totally “MY” redirection, and it will be multi-faceted this year. My job will be to discern just how God is saying it. I’m sure I need redirecting in my dreams and goals, and I’m definitely redirecting the chaos of our home. But I also trust Him to redirect me when I want my own way and His is better, when I choose a path that could have a detour, when I think I know better than He.

    Redirection! I can hardly wait to see it in action!

    • Cathy Mayfield says:

      Well, I didn’t think the “action” would come less than 10 hours later! 😉 Of course, right now, it’s still in the “thought” stage, but in a couple hours, the action will begin.

      Our eldest daughter has made some life choices over this past year which have torn this mama apart. They actually began a few years ago, but this year, they escalated. Our once Christ-centered, mission-field oriented, young girl counseling/mentoring daughter (32) moved in with her current boyfriend and didn’t tell us for over a month. I won’t go into the hurt and disappointment and other issues, as I’m fairly sure you can imagine them.

      When Holly was in her early teens, she decided she wanted a crocheted lace wedding gown. Over the next ten years, we dreamed and designed and chose pearl lavender beads for me to crochet into the motifs. I began it right away, only to have to start over a year later when I went to buy more thread and found the whites didn’t match! (Who’d have thought?)

      As the years passed and God didn’t bring “Mr. Right” and I developed carpal tunnel, the unfinished dress lay in its box, waiting for the time when she was in a solid relationship. However, that didn’t happen as I thought. Now, the young man she’s living with asked for her hand and proposed the day before Christmas. A December wedding is being planned, and I dreaded her asking me to finish the dress. I just couldn’t do it with the joy and anticipation I had before.

      But God knew my heart. Holly decided she doesn’t want to use the pieces in the gown, but maybe on a special table. And this is where I should mention that her intended IS a Christian man, and before they moved in together, they had started praying together every day and attending an on-fire church. This table will hold an open Bible and the sign: “Please bless us by underling your favorite Bible verse.”

      No, it didn’t make it all right, but it has helped me to see my need to “redirect” my heart. The other day, Holly and I looked over her Pinterest boards for the wedding, including some lovely snowflake decorations. We decided to start making tatted snowflakes to starch and add some sparkle to her plans. This is my first “redirection action” of the new year! Today, I plan to begin tatting a few samples while our youngest and I watch a fun movie this afternoon!

      Sorry these ended up so long, but I would love some prayer for this year. It’s still going to be tough, especially with losing my aunt in December and the tenth anniversary of my dad’s death looming in April. However, God is also adding some writing project possibilities and a brand new laptop, so things are looking up! (He even gave me a devo this morning to write, one called, “Knotted Dreams.” Hint – tatting is a series of knots!)

      Love you all and thanks for the prayers!

      • Cathy,

        Do you see what’s happening? It’s so beautiful…He’s redirecting you in so many ways–stretching you, leading you, reshaping you. I just “love” what’s happening. What I feel is His grace pouring through you. Holly will sense it too.

        And look–new writing possibilities! A new laptop! Knotted Dreams!–love that title–love, love, love it. Sounds like a great title for a novel.

        Keep on, my friend. Sounds like God’s leading your heart.

        Love and prayers,

        • Cathy Mayfield says:

          Now, why did you have to do that!!?? 😉 A novel??!! Yes!! It actually fits one I’ve toyed with over the years, looking for…oh my goodness…”redirection”!!!!! Now I have MORE work to do! 😉 I’d love to share it with you sometime. Blessings, sweet Julie!

    • Cathy——you know what Redirect says to me? It says you have a willing, humble, open, ready heart. I think it’s an incredible word choice. I get a sense of your leaning into Him too–the way you gently by “my” down and went to “ours” and softened with “now.”

      And just look how He used you in listening. I’m convinced that’s a huge need. Just to be listened to and heard. It means, “I see you. I care.” And if we know that just one person cares, we can believe maybe God does too. Such a gift–to be a good listener, and to be willing to redirect. Even our thoughts, moment by moment–when they’re going in the wrong direction.


      • Cathy Mayfield says:

        Thanks, Julie. Your comments mean the world to me. I’ve prayed for “a willing, humble, open, ready heart.” I’ve been asking the Holy Spirit to make Himself the first thing I think of when I open my eyes in the morning…ready to do His will.

  14. Julie Gilleand says:

    Remember a few blogs ago when you were talking about “loving well”? Your word for the year was already working in you then! I didn’t think of my comment on that blogpost until a few days later when I was praying for my mother. I had prayed so many things for her before that had never happened and didn’t know how or what to pray anymore for her, but I found myself asking God to help me love her well. And in that moment I remembered your blog post from earlier in the week. God had used it to plant in my heart exactly the right thing to pray. Who knew my days left with Mom were so few? Only God.

    I don’t know my word yet for this year, but I am listening for it.

    God bless you in the new year, Julie.


    • Leafy. T.E.A.R.S.

      You’re so smart!!!!! You put that together for me. I didn’t see it. I can’t imagine how I didn’t connect the two.

      Yes, yes, yes, yes!! Thank you. God spoke through you. Sorta holding my breath to see what this year will bring. But His love knows no ends.

      Can’t wait to hear your word………………………………………………………………..!!!

  15. JANE ENSMINGER says:

    I am having trouble right now because a person God has put in my heart to love as another of my children has hurt me by not keeping in contact with me. I understand that I am to love unconditionally as God loves me, but some times it is hard. I feel unappreciated and only thought of when my help is needed. I pray to better live in the aspect of loving unconditionally, even when I am hurting.

    And I am still struggling with my word adopted several years ago, but keeps coming back to me-
    Trust. Sometime is is just harder than others.
    Thanks for you continuing love of others as evidenced by your ongoing writings.

    • Hey Jane,

      I’m so sorry this is hard for you right now. You’re absolutely right. Trust can be so difficult.

      This may not be any help to you–or even the right thing to say right now, but sometimes it helps to pray for the people who’ve hurt us. And I don’t mean a long, drawn out prayer. I mean, “God, I know you understand ______. And I know You love her. I release her to Your care.”

      I’m saying a prayer right now.


  16. Julie, you are so precious. I love the word. 🙂 And well, you love so well. You always show me love … and you don’t have a single reason to have to … but you just do. xoxo And … you’ll get tickled at my blog post for this week … you’ll see why later if you get a chance to take a peek.

  17. I love where God is taking you Julie! Thanks for sharing your journey with me and others. My word for2017 is GO. In Exodus the Lord told Moses I will help you to speak and teach you what to say. Interestingly, my real first Christian Communicator Conference as Co director is located on the highest mountain I’ve ever been on…Lake Tahoe. I thought last year’s mountain was high…Smokies Mountains. Guess 2017 is taking me higher. I better GO. Hugs and loves!

    • Lori–you’ll never believe it but my husband chose the word, “Go” too! I’d never heard of anyone picking it.

      LOVE how He’s speaking to you, and how He’ll use the word GO in your life. He already has!

      Climb those mountains, my friend. Go!

      I’m so thrilled we’re friends–honored! I’m cheering you on in LOVE.

  18. So beautiful. Just like you, Julie. I’m excited for you and your powerful new word for this year. I’ll be writing about, and explaining, mine tomorrow. I LOVE you!

    • Vonda, I can’t think about you without smiling. I love you too. Can’t WAIT to hear your word….I’m smiling now, just trying to figure out what you and God came up with!!


  19. We always hear the word love and often use it even (I love your shoes, I love pizza, I love Zac Efron!), that we think love is easy. But to love is actually sacrificial mostly. Love is service. True love is laying your life for a friend. Love is not for the faint-heart. But I know you can do it, Julie. Have a love-filled 2017!

    • Oh, Lux. You are absolutely right. We just throw that word around like it’s nothing.

      But really, it’s everything.

      You’re a wise lady, my friend. Thank you for your thoughts.


  20. Anna Haney says:

    Your word is doing better than mine, I’m afraid.
    I like the idea board you have in this article. I used to do those. When I was teaching, that was an assignment. Funny. I had forgotten all about them.

    • Yeah, I made that board at a conference. Loved (my word!) doing it. I’d never made one before.

      And our words for the year–I’m telling you, Anna, God has a way of undoing us with our words. I think we’ll keep on learning and relearning all year long.



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