I’m old enough to remember when people didn’t come up with “a word for their year.” I remember a few writers deciding to name their year with a word, a decade and a half ago, and the rest of us in the Christian world followed suit. (Am I correct on that timing? Perhaps this has existed since the early church, but somehow it was not a part of my experience.)

I like the idea. It feels like an important distinction — marking one year as different from the next (even when they most often blend into one another). It builds anticipation, creates a listening heart, and allows us to look back and examine.

But it doesn’t have a spiritual magic. In the same way that I don’t think God is impressed by my Bible highlighters that don’t bleed through the pages, or the way I categorize my journal, or how I structure my Bible study, I’m not sure He’s waiting with bated breath to give me my word for the year.

But He enjoys me and I enjoy naming my year, so I suppose that’s enough.

Every year, just as the calendar turns, I spend twenty-four to thirty-six hours alone … exhaling the year before and preparing to inhale what’s ahead. I always stay in the same place: a half-mile walk to a city park with a rose garden and stretches of green pasture under large shade trees. In December, the rose bushes are bare and the fountains — in this City of Fountains where I live — are frozen over or covered, but something about their placement makes my winter walks there once a year magical.

This year, as I walked the circle around the park and watched my breath against the 30-degree winter grey, I prayed about my word — this naming game that God graciously entertains.

Psalm 23 danced through my mind. I’ve read it so many times that I’ve accidentally memorized it. Like a metronome, my feet moved and my mind recited each verse … slowly, steadily.

Perhaps this whole chapter will be my one word?

Then I stubbed my toe on restore.

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul.

I want this after some years of tired living, tired navigating a hard that doesn’t seem like it will lift. And isn’t the word we have for the year so often what we want?

So I dismiss it, hoping for pixie dust or some such to help me name my year.

And I continue to recite Psalm 23 and that particular verse, now out loud. My lips move slower, struggling against the cold as my body shudders. And in so doing, restore becomes …


I say it outloud: “re-story.”

Ah! This is it, I think. The story from 2023 bled right into 2024; parts of the hard of my life aren’t lifting. New year, same story.

But what if it’s a new year, the same story … and a different narrator?

Same main characters, same set, but a slant on the plotline because the narrator has changed.

Re-story: new year, same story, new Storyteller.

Somehow I know God’s take on where I am and what I’m walking through is different than mine. He has a different angle.

Even if this isn’t your word (and, by golly, tell me if it is!) … I’ll let you borrow it as a perspective. You — living the same story in a new year: perhaps you, too, need a new narrator.

Perhaps you need to be re-storied or have your story, told back to you, by Another.