Do you participate in #OneWord365? My sister has for a few years now, so I credit my practice of this New Year tradition entirely to her. It’s the idea that you select one word to focus on per year, instead of the typical New Year’s resolution that often fades from memory long before the annual calendar rolls to February.

2014 was a difficult year for our family, for many reasons. When it was time to turn the calendar over to 2015, it was clear our direction needed to be “choosing joy.” Although it didn’t quite fit with the “one word” trend, choosing joy was “one concept” that our family needed to focus on intentionally changing. 

I spent a good portion of last year learning about what it meant to lead a joyful life. What stuck out to me the most throughout all of the study was that joy was a choice: a moment-by-moment, day-by-day choice that was 100% under my control. We led our family through the weekly (ok, almost weekly) practice of recording our moments of joy in a Joy Jar. We didn’t master “choosing joy” in 2015, by any means. But, joy helped us throughout the rocky year of transition that was 2015, lead us down a new pathway, and helped shift our perspective about life’s journey.  

As 2015 gave way to 2016, I sensed a new word was needed to help us continue processing in our new day. In the quiet and stillness of seeking prayers, the word “illuminate” dropped into my heart. And, as often happens when revelation arrives, an entire concept was birthed together in one single moment. Illumination – and all of its synonyms – was needed to drive us into truth; illumination was needed to drive away from the darkness; illumination was needed to guide us down a new path. 

According to Merriam-Webster, a simple definition of illuminate is to “make clear; to enlighten spiritually or intellectually; to shine a light on something.”[1] Oh Yes. This is certainly our word for this year. There are so many places we need illumination in our lives right now, both spiritually and intellectually! New home, new schools, new church, new jobs, new ministry, new friends – newness abounds in our world. And, while that’s exhilarating, it’s equally overwhelming. We often feel like blind leading the blind, as we lean on each other to sort through the maze of issues that arise with starting over at this stage of life. If anyone needs a light turned on this year, it’s us. 

Psalms 18:28 says “For you will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” (NKJV). This has already become my hallmark verse for 2016 – it’s filled with such promise and relief! Imagine walking around in a dark room, unable to find your way and someone offers to light your lamp. This psalm rolls all of the pressure for illumination on an eternal King to reveal His hidden mysteries.  

Scripture is filled with words of illumination, such as: light, enlighten, shine, sun, lamp, radiate, and bright. Although I’ve only been exploring this theme for a few weeks, I’m already finding so many consequences of illumination: it marks time (Gen. 1:3), darkness is dispelled (John 12:46), it’s tied to gladness (Ps. 97:11), it leads to health (Prov. 15:30), it exposes sin (1 Cor. 4:5) it affects our walk (Ps. 119:105), and light brings knowledge (II Cor.4:6). 

Oh Lord, open our eyes to see your lighted paths Help us lay down the idols of yesterday that prevent us from walking with you in the new places. Enlighten our understanding and cause us to be a reflection of your light with all those we encounter. Lead us into the truth that only comes through heavenly illumination. Cause your face to shine upon us and to give us peace (Num.6:25-26).