"Give Me a Word" (and Abbey New Year Giveaway)

New Year door

In ancient times, wise men and women fled out into the desert to find a place where they could be fully present to God and to their own inner struggles at work within them.  The desert became a place to enter into the refiner's fire and be stripped down to one's holy essence. The desert was a threshold place where you emerged different than when you entered.

Many people followed these ammas and abbas, seeking their wisdom and guidance for a meaningful life.   One tradition was to ask for a word – this word or phrase would be something on which to ponder for many days, weeks, months, sometimes a whole lifetime.  This practice is connected to lectio divina, where we approach the sacred texts with the same request – "give me a word" we ask – something to nourish me, challenge me, a word I can wrestle with and grow into.

Last year on New Year's Day, I embraced my word for the year and it ripened in me as the year unfolded leading me to new discoveries about myself.  This year's word was actually given to me back at the end of October when I was on pilgrimage in Ireland.  One of our leaders told a story about sovereignty – a word I would never have used myself.  It sounds so odd, old-fashioned, something from another time and place.  I resisted the word, making judgments about how I should respond to it.  I knew in all the internal energy it stirred up that I needed to pay attention.  When I allowed my heart to soften, the word began to shimmer in me, rang long and clear like a chime, and began its slow work of ripening.  It still has much more to say and so I claim it fully now.

What is your word for the year ahead? A word which contains within it a seed of invitation to cross a new threshold?

What word, phrase, or image is shimmering before you right now inviting you to dwell with it until it ripens fully inside of you?

** Share your word in the comments below before Friday, January 8th and enter into a drawing to win one of four wonderful prizes! **

As a way to support you in your own new beginnings and threshold crossings, I am offering four beautiful giveaways below from women whose work I am inspired by.  Just enter your word below in the comments (it will ask for your email, but that won't be published) and I will do a random drawing in a week's time. Winners will be announced here at the Abbey Blog.  I encourage you to visit each website and revel in all the goodness and possibility!



The lovely Rachelle Mee-Chapman at Magpie Girl has started a brand new and exciting adventure for the New Year – an online community called Flock a monthly subscription service where you receive all kinds of wonderful goodness to support you in your journey toward more soulfulness including:  rituals for holy day celebrations, a monthly creative project, book discussions, and a team of soulcare providers.  I encourage you to join the Flock as a way of finding kindred spirits and benefiting from Rachelle's wise and sassy presence.

** Enter your word for the year ahead in the comments below for a chance to win a one-month subscription to Flock on January 8th! **




Betsey Beckman, MM is one of my amazing and delightful teaching partners (together we co-teach Awakening the Creative Spirit – a five-day intensive in spiritual direction and the expressive arts. Our book of the same name will be published in February.)  Betsey's gift to the world is storytelling through dance and movement.  She inhabits sacred texts and brings them alive in entirely new ways.  Her latest project is a DVD of Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus' most intimate and courageous disciples.  Through Betsey's Introduction, her StoryDance, and Guided Movement Experience (plus a Guided Meditation led by me) this is perfect for women who want to experience a more expansive story and for women's spirituality groups to break open what it means to be a leader in new ways together.

Betsey has a new website – The Dancing Word – where you can order your own copy of Mary Magdalene or her previous DVD of Miriam and Mary

** Enter your word for the year ahead in the comments below for a chance to win a DVD of Mary Magdalene on January 8th! **



Kayce Hughlett, MA, LHMC is my other fabulous teaching partner.  Kayce and I lead Soul Care Supervision Groups in Seattle for spiritual directors and others in ministries of compassionate listening.  Kayce also co-wrote one of the chapters in Awakening the Creative Spirit on supervision and the expressive arts.

Kayce is a Seattle therapist, spiritual director, and writer (also known as lucy at her blog) who leads SoulCollage workshops (next one on Jan 15th) and Serious Soul Play Retreats (next one on Feb 6th).  She also co-created the beautiful art journal Grace Unbound: New Reflections on an Old Subject with her very talented photographer husband Bill Hughlett

** Enter your word for the year ahead in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Grace Unbound on January 8th! **


Waverly 1GIVEAWAY #4: 2010 CALENDAR

I first discovered Waverly Fitzgerald's website Living in Season several years ago and then discovered that we actually live about ten blocks from one another along the very same street in Seattle.  With my love of seasonal rhythms and cycles I adore the awareness Waverly brings through her work of these gifts.

Waverly offers several different packets for the current season and this year she invited me to collaborate with her again on the French Republican Calendar for 2010 which is based on seasonal themes with photos by me illustrating each month.

** Enter your word for the year ahead in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of the French Republican Calendar on January 8th! **


New Year Blessing

May the year ahead bring
an awareness of the wholeness already within you,
a vision of the dreams you long for,
signs of the birthing of new life,
an experience of the peace you desire,
the courage to enter new doors, cross thresholds,
and discover possibilities
you have yet to imagine.

*Photo above and New Year Blessing are excerpted from my Reflective Art Journal: Crossing the Threshold: New Year, New Beginnings


© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts


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  1. says

    I have many times sought for a word from the Lord for my year and it involved prayer and searching this out. This year I think my word came to me easily and surprisingly…it is "Dance". I will look for scripture to encourage my understanding. This year has started jarringly and not good. I will seek for more understanding.

  2. Susan Arneson says


    "Enthusiasm" came to me recently in a dream of my deceased husband, David, who died more than 6 years ago. Enthusiasm was his signature attribute. He awoke daily full of spirit and energy, singing "This is the day the Lord has made" and ready to await the day's wonders. His life-long favorite saying was, "The Best is yet to come."

  3. Sherri says

    Breathe……puts all else in perspective if I just slow down and breathe, listening to the voice within and the voice without…….breathe……holy

  4. Bev says

    I think my word for 2011 will be "palm." As I struggle with breast cancer and a mastectomy, I feel myself drawn to music and prayers that have to do with being held in the palm of God's hand. And I have recently begun to paint with watercolors and acrylics. I seem to paint a lot of palm trees. I'm not sure how much of that has to do with images of water and regeneration and greenery in the desert and how much to lack of skill – palm trees are easy!

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