one word [part 1]

As an Upholder, I am a January One Lover. December 31st doesn't really excite me; this year I fell asleep on Aaron's shoulder in a room of people.

But January One is definitely a holiday I celebrate.

A fresh start that everyone participates in, a new expectation from myself, a time to put the previous year behind me.

I do a lot of things to prep for the new year--like fill in The Little Planner--but the most important thing I do is listen to Small Things, Big Differences, a series from Craig Groeschel. He preached it in 2014, and I have used those sermons to help craft my year since then.

The series is based on this idea:

It’s often the small things no one sees that result in the big things everyone wants.

He gives examples like reading through the Bible every year takes 15 minutes/day, and getting in shape requires working out and eating right, showing that it really is the small things that make the biggest differences.

I re-listen to the series every year because I get new things out of it every year, and it re-centers me. I think the Holy Spirit whispers new things to me, like he does with the Bible, enlightening me to nuggets I need for the months to come, reminding me what's most important.

In this series, Craig Groeschel asks us to pray about one word to frame our year. Then with that word, he challenges us to find a scripture, a thought or phrase, and a discipline to help us accomplish that word.

In 2017, my word was Humility, and my year has been filled with humbling moments. When I decided on that word, I thought my year would be filled with reprimands. Instead, I've experienced so much grace and moments where I felt honored. My boss at Planning Center has been more understanding of my crazy ministry life than I deserve and has given me opportunities to try new things in my role. My husband and I traveled and spoke into some circumstances that we, seemingly, aren't qualified for.

I was aware all year that humility should guide me and even more aware of moments when I was prideful.

In a sermon I preached last spring, I told our students about how God was gently humbling me and how I had to look my pride and anger in the face this year because of my word. I also asked them, and others, for accountability--and they gave it. I got snapchats during sermons, texts to meet up about a hard conversation I was involved in, and screenshots about cool quotes or verses about humility.

My tribe allowed me to be vulnerable, and instead of putting it back in my face, they welcomed my vulnerability and held me accountable with such grace.

It was the coolest and most humbling experience I've ever had.


This year, my word is Self-Control based out of 2 Timothy 4:5, where Paul tells Timothy, "But as for you, exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evanglist, fulfill your ministry" (CSB).

I'm a words person, so I'm gonna break this down for you in the way that it makes most sense to me:

But as for you

I'm really good at look around me for comparison. If someone else is eating dessert, I can have dessert. If someone else is glaring at the cashier for not giving the discount, I can glare. But the beginning of this verse narrows the scope for me in such a hardcore way.

exercise self-control in everything

It's that in everything that trips me up here. If we left that out, I could pick and choose when to exercise self-control. But, this tells me that even when I'm frustrated at my hubs, and no one else in the world will hear me snap on him, I still have to exercise self-control. Even when I'm home alone and want to tell Netflix that "yes, I'm still watching," I still have to exercise self-control.

endure hardship

You wouldn't have a hard time guessing what I'm feeling at most times of the day; I wear my feelings on my face, specifically in my eyebrows (now y'all are all gonna stare at my eyebrows when you talk to me). But that's not enduring those moments. Endure means to suffer patiently, and if you see my eyebrows go up on you or my face fall flat out of boredom, you know I'm not being patient with you; you can see my "suffering" right on my face.
No more. No more eyebrows telling you all my thoughts because I know how my facial expressions affect our conversation, and I can control them, so I should.

do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Aaron and I talk about purpose a lot around our house. Are we living it out? Are we fulfilling it? What is our purpose in this season?
I've had ministry in my heart probably all my life, but it wasn't until college that I decided to pursue it. I've had times of rejection in ministry, times of betrayal, times of burn out, and I've allowed those times to dictate the work I did to fulfill that ministry. I gave those times the control that I had all along.
So, this year, I'm gonna pursue that work and fulfill that ministry.

The parts of this verse are hard for me because I can't control them all on my own. I have to rely on God and the nudges of the Holy Spirit to be able to exercise self-control.

But, that's what makes this whole word thing for me worth it: taking a chance on allowing God to develop something in me I couldn't have developed on my own.

And there's the challenge for ya: what's your one word?
Or if you set goals, what's the over-arching theme of those goals?
What do you want to focus on this year?
If you haven't yet decided, check out the series and ask God to help ya find some direction.

Leave your word or phrase or goal in a comment below!

Jessica LittleComment