A Word a Year — Communicate

I can almost feel myself pull away anytime I suspect something is a fad. It’s not like I never hop on a fun bandwagon–I certainly loved Downton Abbey at the peak of its popularity. But I’d argue I watched it because I loved it, which I did.

To jump-in on a fad just because it’s a fad is not usually my way of doing life. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I don’t dislike them as much as I distrust them. And distrust myself, namely my motives for doing them–like, maybe I’m wearing this pair of torn jeans to fit-in or to get compliments.

So, when I first started hearing about the “Word a Year” trend, I immediately tossed the notion in the “fad” pile and moved on, thinking it would pass and have little relevance on my life. (I thought that about capris once too. Of course my closet is full of them now).

In 2014, the idea of having a word for the year popped up on my radar again. As I was scrolling through Twitter one day, I ran across a Tweet with a link about someone’s word. I clicked it. Read the post. And was impressed with how that person’s word of the year had impacted her life, her spiritual journey. Then I moved on.

Till the idea came across my path again–this time in an email. God was getting my attention. I wondered if He was trying to point me in that direction, so I said a very simple prayer to the effect that if You want me to have a word for 2015, Lord, I need you to knock me over the head with it.

He didn’t exactly do that, but when the word communicate kept popping in my  head at random times, I puzzled over it. It wasn’t very holy sounding. And I thought I was a pretty good communicator–I sent tons of emails and texts every day.

But God didn’t relent. Communicate peppered my thoughts at a consistent rate, so I finally gave in and asked God to show me what I needed to learn about communicating. And He did.


In 2015, my responsibilities on staff at our church increased, my husband was traveling with his job, our youngest son was in competitive gymnastics, and our middle son was super engaged on the last leg of high school. With one son already doing the college thing, my husband and I wanted to be intentional about being present and involved with our younger boys’ final years at home. So, we were busy. All the time.

Communicate slipped-in to my life here and there at first.

Sometimes I’d be tempted to make a decision for our family for efficiency’s sake instead of calling my husband to do that together. Shelley, communicate.

Other times I’d be in a hurry and forget to pass-on vital information about one of the boys or the house. Communicate.

Then there were the times I’d put things on the calendar–for myself or both of us–without checking-in with my hubby first. Communicate.

God was opening my eyes to the fact I was not communicating well with Larry, my husband. And I’d had no idea.

So, I started working on it.

When a decision needed to be made, I’d stop what I was doing and text or call Larry. We’d figure it out, and I’d feel the burden lighten.

Larry and I carved out time to have some face-to-face communication, even if it was while we were driving to a football game, so we could talk through bigger issues more fully. Together. We discovered anew that we worked pretty well. Together.

I developed new methods for calendaring that involved communicating with Larry first. I began to realize that how I scheduled my life affected his. And we had way more fun planning things with each other than I ever had on my own.

As 2015 turned the corner through summer and headed into the new school year, Larry and I had a much better rhythm, which worked to our advantage as we entered another senior year full of football games and events.

Funny thing, as my eyes were opening to my lack of communication with Larry, I started to see I had some similar habits with my colleagues. So, I set out to communicate better at work too. I stepped into that fall as a new supervisor more equipped and better aware of my tendencies. 

In fact, I found myself thanking God for my word of the year because not only was it serving me well in basic communication within my marriage and job, but because Larry and I had so greatly improved our communicating, I was confident in bringing him questions about being a supervisor–something he’d had much experience doing.

He became my best encourager and advice-giver in a season I needed it most.

And I wouldn’t have had that if I hadn’t listened to God and followed Him down the communicate path.

Word a Year.  So. Not. A. Fad.


By year’s end, I found myself eager to discover what my word for 2016 would be, anticipating what God would do through my new word.

And I’ve had one every year since:

  • 2015–communicate
  • 2016–ask
  • 2017–anchor
  • 2018–give
  • 2019–obey
  • 2020–trust

Each year God has challenged, amazed, and blessed me with my word. Some years the word has been prominent, finding it in my studies, my devotions, and songs. Other years the word has been subtle, making itself known to me in a whispered prayer or a random conversation.

But every year, I’ve grown. I’ve become a better version of myself because of my willingness to engage in this intentional word-walk with God.

Last year my word was obey. I believe 2019 was one of my more intense years for “Word a Year,” and I can see that it will overlap greatly into 2020. This blog, in fact, is an obedience to pause long enough in my life to reflect on this “Word a Year” path I’ve been following. So, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll do a post per word. I know it will do me much good to look back and see where I’ve been and how I’ve grown.

Want to come with me?

More fully communicating, Shelley Johnson



Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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