The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 105: Word of the Year 2023
Well, happy new year, friend! Today we’re talking about choosing a word for the year. If you feel like that might be a helpful practice for you, and no worries if it’s not, I’ll model my own process which is contemplative in that I ask God’s direction, but you can choose your word in prayer, as a reflection of your own desires for the year to come, or with a word generator. It’s all good! My word for the year ahead often comes to me on a run sometime in early December. There will be a flash of inspiration and then that word will make itself known to me in lots of places throughout the month as a kind of confirmation. This year, because of a lingering hip injury, my running was kind of sporadic, haphazard and a little bit clunky, and so was the process to find my word.
I told a friend in mid-December that I thought my word might start with the letter ‘p’. Now I know that sounds kind of woo-woo, but to me, it was unsurprising that the word, like my running, would come in dribs and drabs. The letter ‘p’ was confirmation for my friend, though, who was zeroing in on her own word with options like ‘presence’ and ‘peace’. I almost hated to tell her that I myself was exploring words with a bit more edge: precipice and prophetic – scary words, I know, but if you look around at the political, social, and economic realities in the US and the world, those words don’t seem completely out of bounds, do they? There’s war in Europe and a resurgence of Nazism. Then there’s rampant tribalism, election denialism, and predictions of a global recession in 2023. Lots of dark shadows looming.
But my word isn’t about the state of the globe. My word is for me, just as your word is for you, and I hope that as I walk you through my process, weird as it is, might help you in your own discovery. A word for the year can be quite a clarifying and helpful thing.
Last year, I felt strongly about words like ‘threshold’ and ‘liminal’ but ended up with the word ‘relay’. All three words describe the kind of in-between feeling I had about how 2022 might unfold, and as I look back, all three words feel accurate. This year, I went slowly through a few doors, transitioning from one thing to another, mourning what had been and seeing joyful inklings of what could be.
This year, as I look to 2023, my spirit has resonated not with words but with images, and these are such an odd mix of images which create such a weird amalgamation all together that I hesitate to even share it with you, honestly. I’m not sure it will make sense, even to me, but as in most things, I don’t really know what I think until I start writing it down, so here goes.
The first image comes from Indiana Jones – The Last Crusade. (See, friend, I told you it was weird!) Anyway, I had a picture in my mind’s eye of Indiana scattering the gravel on that invisible bridge toward the end of the movie. He took a leap of faith onto what they called the ‘Path of God’. I wonder if you’ve seen that scene – gosh, I hope so, but if not, I’ll link it for you in the show notes. I’ll be honest, friend, that image scared me at first. Had me thinking about the trust and faith I might need to muster up to do something impossible like stepping out onto an invisible bridge leading who-knows-where. But when I went looking for the clip from the movie, I realized that Indiana doesn’t throw the gravel out for himself. He crosses completely, then turns around to scatter a handful of dirt behind him for those who will come after, so that they can find their way across the invisible path that he has already walked.
The second image came to me the night after Christmas when I was lazing out on the couch watching a feel-good movie, You’ve Got Mail, on my laptop. I wasn’t on the lookout for anything except maybe a nap, but when Tom Hanks suggested a meet-up place to Meg Ryan at the end of the movie, something in my spirit said to sit up and pay attention. Hanks’ character was directing Ryan’s character to a place in a park “where the path curves and there’s a garden.” They meet up at a spot filled with wildflowers of every color – it’s a really gorgeous setting and it makes a lovely scene. I’ll link that for you, too, so you can see it for yourself, but I have to say, friend, that by then I was kind of stumped about the ‘word’ of it all, so I asked God: What do these two images have to do with each other? What’s the connective tissue? Where is my word?
The third image came while walking around the college campus in my neighborhood. They have this collection of very large fiberglass bears scattered around campus to represent their mascot, and each one is painted with a different theme and color palette. Well, this one bear had been newly repaired and repainted in black and white with a variety of local wildflowers and plants. For some reason, I had not yet noticed its return, but something in my spirit said to pay attention to this graphic mix of flowers and plants and how they came together to make something really beautiful, so I did.
Okay, so, discerning one word from these three very disparate images might seem like an impossible task, but as my then-teenage daughter used to say, I can find meaning in just about anything, no problem. It’s kind of my thing. For me, it seemed like the common denominators of the three included trails and walking and maybe even flowers or nature, and the word I circled around was ‘path’. Path of God in the Indiana Jones movie, path to a garden from You’ve Got Mail, and the walking path leading to wildflower and nature art on my college campus. It seemed to me that maybe my 2023 path might lead me to some surprises, maybe good ones at that.
Once I chose ‘path’, I saw the word everywhere, including literally just a few minutes ago as I searched for that You’ve Got Mail scene to link for you. The ad that popped up on the youtube video was for an office product company I have never heard of before called Path by Humanscale. Friend, I’m not joking – I even took a quick picture of it for you before it disappeared a few seconds later, and I’ll link that to the transcript of this episode so you can see it. God is so funny sometimes, don’t you think?
Well, like you, I don’t know where I am on my life’s path but this year, I’ll be looking for the unexpectedly delightful things, the surprising things that come from trust, the things that come around again, or the beautiful things that might have grown from seed I scattered in an earlier season. Maybe things on my path that once seemed kind of scary or jumbled will start to make sense like a bridge that takes form under your feet as you walk across it or a way that God makes out of nowhere in the wilderness. Gosh I love that scripture, don’t you? And I’ll look for the ways in which my walk on my own path might be a help to others who will follow behind me. I’ll want to pay close attention to that this year, I think.
In 2020, my word was ‘walk’, and I had no idea when I chose it how relevant that would be – gosh, I took a lot of walks that year – but ‘path’ is different from ‘walk’. Path means that there’s a rhyme and reason – it’s purposefully designed and created with a plan in mind, even if that might seem invisible to us at the time. This year as I go, I’ll try to trust that God is making my path for me and that He is walking with me, whatever 2023 brings. As it says in Psalm 16, He makes known to me the path of life; in His presence there is fullness of joy; at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. And I don’t know about you, friend, but that ‘fullness of joy’ promise sounds pretty good to me, so I’ll walk out this year’s path with Him for sure, one step at a time, and just see where it leads.
Thanks so much for listening today, friend. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, we thank you for the ways in which you focus us for the year ahead. You know the fullness of what 2023 will bring, and so we thank you for how you care for us and provide for us, how you encourage and inspire us, and how you intersect our lives together in the fabric of time. God, I ask you to bless each one listening today, and all of our dear ones, too, as we walk out this path of a new year together.
In the name of Jesus and wrapped in the mantle of His Mother and ours, Mary, we pray, amen.
Well thanks so much for listening today. I wish you a blessed new year ahead, and I’ll see you next time.
This week I’ll model my process for finding my word for 2023, and hope that you might find your own, too.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Leap of Faith – Path of God scene from Indiana Jones – The Last Crusade
2. Garden Path scene from You’ve Got Mail
3. Article: “A Fresh Coat,” on the transformation of our neighborhood college botanical bear
4. Word of the Year Generator, by Jen Fulwiler
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