Give Me a Word: Third annual Abbey giveaway

Two years ago I began what has now become an annual tradition at Abbey of the Arts during this time of new year reflection.  I offer the same invitation this year, again with some prizes to give away on January 6th, and this time with a free gift for everyone who participates.

*Everyone* who shares their word for the year and a brief description in the comments below also gets a *free guided meditation recording* from the Abbey with an *Embodied Examen Prayer for the New Year.*  It is a great way to reflect on the past year and tend your dreams for the next.  To claim your free gift, read through the instructions below and when your word for 2012 emerges, share it in the comments (scroll to the bottom of the page) and then email Eveline, the fabulous Abbey admin at and request the link.

Then share this invitation with others!  Help spread the love and opportunity for reflection!

Read on for more inspiration:

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 my word was sanctuary. Sanctuary has multiple meanings: the sanctuary in a church is the place where the holy of holies dwells, but we also create sanctuaries for animals needing protection or for persons fleeing persecution. The layers to this word shimmered throughout my year, but especially the sense of finding sanctuary within my own heart, to feel at home in the world.  This was the grace of this past year, its fierce lesson for me.  This year my word is *savor* (click the link if you want to read more about its meaning for me).  It came to me in a moment of silent prayer as I reflected on the call I am feeling these days to deeply savor each moment of my life, to immerse myself even more in the present moment.  I am eager to discover what the word holds for me this coming year.

If you want help in letting a word choose you, scroll down for several suggestions.

  • 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 6th and then email Eveline at for your free gift.

You will also be entered into a drawing to win one of several prizes from the Abbey and beloved Abbey partners:

Leave your word for the year ahead in the comments below plus a couple of sentences describing your choice. Please note that I have my comments moderated for those who are new to posting here (meaning I need to manually approve them) so it may not show up immediately, but should within 24-48 hours.

You can earn additional entries in the drawing by posting this invitation to Facebook (make sure to link to Abbey of the Arts of Christine Valters Paintner so I see it) or Tweet it using #AbbeyoftheArts.

Letting a Word Choose You

For some of you the word may have come right away, but for some you may desire a word to ripen within your soul these coming weeks and months, but one doesn't seem to be coming. So here are some suggestions for allowing a word to choose you:

  • Release your thinking mind in this process, this isn't about figuring out just the right word to improve yourself this coming year. The word comes as gift, often your sense of it being "right" is more intuitive, a more embodied sense of yes. The word (or phrase) is one that will work in you (rather than you working on it). Remember that a word that creates a sense of inner resistance is as important to pay attention to as one that has a great deal of resonance.
  • Lectio divina is one of the primary practices we have in Christian monastic tradition for listening for a word or phrase that shimmers or calls to our hearts. Lectio is traditionally applied to scripture, but can also be engaged to pray with life experience. Allow some time for prayer and in your imagination review this last year, honoring it as a sacred text. As you walk through your experiences notice which ones stand out, call to you for more attention, or shimmer forth. There may be more than one, but for this time of prayer select one of them (and you can return to others in future times of prayer). Enter into it with all of your senses. Remember it in all of its detail. Experience it from this place you are in now. Notice if there is a word or phrase which rises up. Then allow that word to unfold in your imagination and welcome in images, feelings, and memories which stir in you. After a time of making space for these, begin to ask what is the invitation or call rising up from these noticings? Where is God calling you to a new awareness or action in your life? Close with some time of silence.
  • Approach a soul friend, a spiritual director, or a wise elder for your word, as in the desert tradition. They might need some time to ponder this with you. It is always wise to consult with a soul companion or community when testing the fruits of prayer.
  • Create a time of retreat for this holy time of year. A couple of hours is enough. Make space to sink into silence, journal, reflect on your experiences of the year past. Write about your dreams and deep desires for the year ahead. In the space of contemplation and stillness, notice if there is a word, image, or phrase which rises up.
  • Go for a contemplative walk where you aren't trying to get anywhere. Your sole purpose is to be as present as possible to each footfall. Listen for how your inner life is calling you forward with each step. Be present to the gifts of creation around you (even if it is the city pigeons and trees planted down the sidewalk). Listen if they might have a word to offer to you.
  • Listen to your dreams in these coming days. As you go to sleep, lay a piece of paper and pen by your bed as a sign of your willingness to receive the wisdom that comes in dreams. Consider strong dream images as possible words calling to you. Pay attention to synchronicities through the day. Are there images or words which seem to repeat themselves? If so, take note.
  • Allow time for the word to ripen. This may be a slow process. If you hear a word calling, sit with it for a couple of days. Listen attentively to the stirrings of your heart in response. Eventually there will be a tugging inside of you, where you feel yourself drawn again and again to this word. Allow yourself to be in a space of unknowing with this and practice being present to your anticipation knowing that things of the soul unfold in their own time. This is a journey of transformation and the word may not make immediate sense to you, but trust that over time more of its meaning will be revealed.

When the word emerges, please share it with me and others in the comments section below. I am truly blessed by the sharings offered there – it is such a gift of hope in this time of holy darkness (and if you share by Friday, January 6th you are entered into a random drawing for a chance to win one of several prizes!)

If you want to be notified of more Abbey gifts and offerings, consider subscribing to our email newsletter (which includes another free gift just for signing up!)

458 Responses to "Give Me a Word: Third annual Abbey giveaway"

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Stillness. I know the strength that stillness offers me and I have been intentional as 2012 begins to clear the clutter out of my schedule so that I will be freer to listen to the still small voice. It's ever a challenge though, so I choose this word to guide me … into deep places … where I long to go.

  2. Rosie Huart says:


    Riches reminds me of so many other words like blessings, abundance, prosperity, love, gratitude. My intent is to focus on the riches that envelope my life. What I see, hear, taste, smell and feel is the vehicle that connects me to my riches.

  3. Manette says:

    I feel my resistance to this word, even as I recognize Her call. I have no children, yet in this last year particularly I have come to see how often I am called on to mother: to mother other people's children, the child in other adults, new and developing projects, groups I participate in, and myself.
    My father died this past year, and my own mother and I have been on our journey of forging a new relationship together.
    Mother carries all experience, through birth and life and death and birth again. She holds us. She holds the mystery.

  4. Janet says:

    Wow! Quite an informal word, true enough. And yet this simple word is used to express wonder and awe. And so, this is my word and my prayer for 2012. Help me Lord to keep my eyes wide open so that I may see the wonder and awe in all of creation. Help me to love all, without exception and to know everything belongs, just as it is. Help me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Guide me as I accept your invitation to be fully present to the wonder of wonders in all of life. WOW !

  5. Rev Buck says:

    My word "NIMBLE" came only this morning. As I skipped up the six steps into our building I noted I may not be as nimble as I used to be. So that is my word for the year. It is all too easy to become too heavy, too comfortable, too physically and spiritually sluggish. This year's vision is to lose a few pounds, quicken the step, become lighter on the feet and less resistant to change and serendipity. Nimble!

  6. Stephanie Soon says:


    I received Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkerson for Christmas. It explores the differences between feeling punished and pruned by the Spirit. My prayer for 2012 is to allow the Spirit to prune me so that I might be a more compassionate presence in the world and in relationships.

  7. Sara A. says:

    Last year the phrase that came to me was "Lose the attitude". I'm still working on that. This year "Be present" resonates with me. It means to really pay attention to my family and friends even when I've heard the story before. (They may be telling me/ asking me something quite different in the same old words.) It means to cut down on all the blog reading I do and to zero in on a few that are real inspirations and helpful to my soul. I've spent over 70 years floating on the surface of my life. In what may be these last years it is time to really be present.

    • Jylnn says:

      I can resonate with your comment, especially the blog reading part. Every year during the week between Christmas and New Year I don't read any of the blogs I follow for the whole week. After that week I go through and weed out the ones that are no longer inspiring, ones that have gotten filled with snarkiness and hateful comments, ones that are no longer updated regularly…

      I find that the week without gives me the ability to see more clearly and whittle down the list each year.

      Being present is a wonderful phrase to take on for the year. Good luck and blessings.

  8. Alisun says:

    you believe in God
    believe also in me…. that's ME!
    annoying thoughts and ideas….BUZZ OFF!
    be here now and appreciate the moment

    my word captured me on january 1 and look where its taken me already!

  9. Ken Blackham says:

    I just returned to Pittsburgh from a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl Parade. We were going with the Friends and Family of the Franklin Regional HS Band. Two days before we returned, I posted to Facebook that I had completely run out of compassion and love for people (except my wife). After taking time to reflect on what happened, I had to remember that the chaotic, hectic flow of life requires time to make sense of it. Since private time was not scheduled in the itinerary, it was my responsibility to take personal time to integrate what was going on. So, to remember, I'm claiming the word SOLITUDE , since it is required in order to reflect and maintain sanity.

  10. Anne Chrisp says:

    My word for 2012 is attend. I have chosen attend because it is alert and active, yet quiet and receptive. It has connotations of paying attention and watching closely; of attendance – turning up and being present. Attendant is part of its word family, and carries the image of a doorman waiting expectantly for guests to arrive, discerning the invited, welcoming and ushering them over the threshold. In 2012, I endeavor to be an attendant to all life brings me.

  11. Kimberlee says:

    My word is forgiven. I don't have to be perfect, I can make and learn from mistakes, I don't have to be responsible and in control all the time. I can relax, move on from the past, and be more comfortable with who I am.

  12. Thank you so much for raising this! My word for 2012 is "embrace"–both the noun and the verb. The noun "embrace" reminds me that I live in God's embrace, and that I have no reason to be afraid. As a verb, it encourages me to accept the present moment as a gift from God, and to not just accept it but welcome it joyfully, whatever it brings, because God's presence and grace is here, with me, right now. To embrace the present moment and all it brings also means accepting and cherishing the people in my life–as the gifts that they are. Embrace–means accepting that I am loved and rooting myself in God's love, and then sharing God's embrace with others.

    Thank you for the encouragement to reflect in this way!

  13. Kathleen says:

    TO-DAY will be my word for all the days of this year. I'd been living with the idea of "unknowning," because I'm both living with a health issue that seems diagnosis- and treatment-resistant and struggling with some old learnings and beliefs from by religious heritage. But the word "unknowning" feels a bit awkward, a bit pretentious. I hoped for simpler syllables, a word that could also be a mantra. I thought of "day," because the day we are living is all: "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

    Not quite right yet. I want not just to receive the day, but to use it well–even, perhaps because of, the unknowing. So TO-DAY: The usual meaning and a salute, too, "To-Day!"

  14. Carolyn says:

    My word is responsibility.
    It's not sexy I know – but it's come to me so true and with such resonance that I can't dismiss it. This year I want to deliberately and consciously engage in the spiritual practice of taking responsibility: for my own actions, my own experience, my own growth, my health, my emotions. For too long I have outsourced my happiness and well being. I often feel entitled to having it provided: by husband, children, my job.
    This year is about discovering the freedom and power in taking responsibility. This response-ability is not a heavy burden put on me by others, but a choice made to step up to the plate with my whole self, to not step away or look to others in challenge or difficulty. Amen.

  15. Bethany says:


    This is the word that has been coming to the forefront the past few days. Mindful of my time with God, mindful of my stress levels, eating, interactions with others; this is what I find myself reflecting upon. "What is man that thou are mindful of him" Psalm 8 is one that I have never really paid much attention to. It was a recent lectionary selection. I think this year it may the time to seek more wisdom from those words and the art of being mindful of self and others. God is present, bidden or unbidden, if St. Anselm ( Yes?) is correct, so I mean to be mindful of the Presence!

  16. vonne says:

    surrender is the word that I have been given ………

    Past experience has shown me that if on waking I surrender the day to God I can relax into the day as I am guided as a co-creator with God minute by minute, hour by hour. It has helped me so much in the past and yet I forget this valuable gift and grace..
    I have more energy at present. ( I live with severe chronic fatigue) and have over the last few weeks been feeling myself getting excited at what I might be able to 'do' this next year ….

    So I am not surprised that God has gently, and with the humour of a loving God, planted this seed of a word in my inner knowing as of such importance to me at present. Not to dampen my abundant enthusiasm to be 'doing' but to protect me at the same time as helping me to fly.

  17. Elizabeth Walton says:


    After a week of searching, "Being" came out of the ether without any forethought. Being–such a simple word – of course, I am being. But
    am I? Am I present in life moment to moment to moment? Am I "being"
    in speaking, writing, playing, dancing, driving, and the myriad activities
    of the day? Or, am I on automatic pilot, channelling through "eager to please"
    becoming mode. Am I authentic? Love without expectations? Live now
    in the wonder, delight and astonishment of the moment.

    So, BEING, here, now, is my exploration, challenge, ongoing goal now and

  18. Sue Cash says:

    BEHOLDING ……. being present …staying with ….being held …holding .. a unity of presence in 2012

  19. Judith Minear, csj says:

    My word is Homecoming. This year feels full of invitation to deepen my coming home to myself, to Divine Mystery, to the world in new ways. So…I am opening myself to receive, to celebrate, to dust off, to prepare…to do all of the things we humans do when we welcome our prodigal selves back home!

  20. Catherine says:

    My word for this year is free …
    free in Christ to be that person He wants me to be, free from guilt or worry, free to create, live … be.


  21. Patricia says:


    The word was given to me during a quiet time. Not sure why. I suppose I often lack courage but more likely I misunderstand it. Along with the word I was led to Joshua 1:9 which will be my verse for the year.

    Whatever word I am given for a year it is a word I need, to ponder, wonder, think about and learn the sometimes hidden aspects and reasons for it being "my word".

  22. marianne says:

    Thank you Christine and all you other inspiring and nurturing pilgrims on the journey to transformation. My word is THIRSTY. I visualize myself next to a flowing stream, waiting to be watered within and given new life. I'm THIRSTY for the Creator's love and desire to go deeper and deeper into that Divine Life. And when I am parched, may I not stop searching and desiring.

  23. Rebecca says:

    The first word that came to mind as I went through this process was 'wrestle' and nestled in the middle of that word 'rest' emerged and I knew that this was the word speaking to me. I look forward to what 'rest' has to teach me in the coming year. I will begin by 'resting' in the present moment and listening to what truth lies there.
    Thank you Christine.

  24. Deb Buckhout says:

    My word for 2012 is non-dualistic. Instead of seeing the world as either/or, I want to try to see it as both/and. It is easy to see things in the light of black and white, good/bad, right/wrong. It is a struggle for me to look for the blessing in all conditions – even the ones that fall short of my expectation. I want to try to see the God, the Cosmic Christ, the Universe, in every person, every experience, every situation this year.

    Blessings on your journey!
    Deb Buckhout

  25. Joy Fry says:

    Fire ~ it showed up this fall and has lingered, wanting to be my word for 2012. The refiner's fire of transformation, "Living Flame of Love", passion and spark,and a dragon or two for good measure. Am shaking a bit in my boots. Last year was tree/trust and this fire seems to be quite a contrast.
    "O Living Flame of Love,
    pierce the center of my soul.
    Gently and lovingly awaken in my heart.
    There in secret dwell, and with thy sweet voice,
    Full of grace and glory,
    Fill my heart with love." St. John of the Cross

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