My Word of the Year

Many of the bloggers that I follow use a WOTY, a Word of the Year in their writing. I have read those posts with interest and considered following suit for 2021. Some have been able to incorporate pictures that demonstrate their WOTY (Deb’s World, for instance).

I wondered how I would know what word to choose? Would I choose something serious, or timely? My word should be something that would help point me in a forward direction. One thing I knew for sure, it would be important to choose wisely. While I wasn’t quite sure how I would incorporate it into my life or blog, it seemed like it would make a good occasional feature for The Beach Girl Chronicles.

I wish I had made notes of the words I considered and cast off. Perhaps like a high school youth, who hesitated to make a commitment in case a better idea came along, I shied away from getting stuck with a word that might pale by comparison to THE word. Yet, nothing was coming anyway.

I almost despaired of finding a word when the funniest thing happened. My Word found me! I was not sure such a thing could happen, until it did. In a moment of clarity and levity there was my word, and not a doubt in my mind either!

How it happened

Messy Church is an international and intergenerational Christian movement and that has become an important part of my pastoral ministry. A few weeks before Christmas I received an email from one of our national leaders containing some Christmas Song lyrics that had been re-written by our founder Lucy Moore (MessyChurch UK). I started to sing the first one and was shocked to hear the sound of my own laughter.

It may have been one of those things where “You had to be there” to appreciate the humor in the moment. So, I won’t replicate them here. Suffice it to say though, that the moment of laughter brought my word along with it. JOY!

Picture of Christmas decorations, ed and black flannel cloth and the word "JOY" in the center.
Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels

It was not the first time that the word had caught my attention. One of my neighbors has the word JOY in lights on their roof. I had noticed it several evenings while walking the dog. When I saw the word on their roof, using it for my WOTY did not occur to me. I was more curious about whose house it was, why they chose the word, and if I would have the nerve to ask what it meant to them?

For whatever reason, some nights the word is lit and you can see it for several blocks away, and other nights not. When I had chosen my WOTY, or rather it had chosen me, I quickly thought of Comedian Bill Engvall and his trademark line “Here’s Your Sign!”

I am a bit of a smart alec now and then (you hadn’t noticed, I’m sure) and I like church signs, professional pre-occupation perhaps. Two of my favorite church sign messages are “If you are looking for a sign from God, this is it!” and also the one that says “Sign broken, message inside!” I admit, after having a word choose me, and after noticing my neighbor’s roof again, that “sign from God” thing really caught my attention.

Why Joy and not Happiness?

They are not the same thing. Joy is hopefully deeper and not fleeting or dependent on circumstances. Christians are supposed to “Rejoice in the Lord!” (Philippians 4:4-8) and Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” These are just a few of many quotes from the Bible, New Testament and Old Testament (The Hebrew Scriptures).

The number of times any given word appears in the Bible will vary depending on translation and versions. But according to one online source, “Joy” appears 114 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and 68 times in the New Testament. That is from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, my personal favorite. So biblically speaking, joy is dependent up on God, God’s self, not on our circumstances. It is about relationship.

The thought does beg the question though, what was in the minds of the Founding Fathers when they included “the Pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence? I am pretty sure that would be its own study. I also suspect that current definitions of Happiness would vary greatly from the original intent.

picture of art supplies with the words "Choose JOY" in the foreground.
Photo by Bekka Mongeau from Pexels

Why JOY? I put that question to my neighbors and here is their gracious response: “Here is what Joy means to us: You have to choose JOY every day. YOU are the only one that can make YOU happy. As a community, during a pandemic, we came together and we chose JOY! It is certainly our word of this year, too. Joy is something that you choose! During this time it’s so easy to focus on the negative. We all have to look for joy and choose it!

My neighbors, Shane and Jill Nickerson, are community leaders; he is the town Mayor and she is the Vice President of the Borough Council and active in the local Chamber of Commerce. In truth, Jill probably wears a lot more hats than I know. They are part of a team of leaders and local business owners, who have poured energy into our community, seeking and coordinating volunteers to help meet all kinds of needs, instituting a mask wearing campaign “Wear Kindness” and many other initiatives. I wrote about this a little bit in a previous post “My Christmas Wish for 2021”

I agree with my neighbors; Joy is a choice, in a similar way that love is a choice. The focus of the world is on love is as an emotion, but that kind of emotion can be fleeting and flimsy. The choices of love and joy are crucial to our being able to stand up under the pressures of the marathon that has become COVID.

An electric sign with colorful letters and the words "Make This ay Geat!"
Photo by Alexas Fotos from Pexels

I believe our community has done so well with this because of the marathon outlook and a refusal to give up or give in. Rather, the focus is on creative possibility, and joy. The joy of making a difference, the joy of celebrating life in the midst of some discouraging times and the choice to live and model Joy.

I do not yet know how this will work out in my own life, but I will be paying attention for anything shareable. One small part of my plan is that I got a few Christmas cards with the word “Joy” on them, so I will keep them in plain sight as a reminder. Because you know, “Out of sight, out of mind!”

‘Let us not become weary in doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

Not holding back the tide,


Copyright 2021 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

21 thoughts on “My Word of the Year

  1. Michele, I think your word suits you and will serve you well in the coming year. I like that you make the distinction between happiness and joy. Joy comes from the center of our being, and like you say, ‘is a choice.’ Sometimes we see it in a smile, a kind word, or a thoughtful action and you just know that person is filled with joy. I can only imagine what the world would be like if everyone woke up, smiled and said, ‘today I choose joy.’ Thanks for sharing your WOTY and best wishes for a beautiful 2021.


  2. What a great word and I love the story of how it came to you. That’s what happened to me last year, and in some ways again this year. I’m so pleased to read your post Michele and that you have embraced a WOTY, and in some small way I played a part in that. Thanks again for sharing my blog in your post, wishing you a year full of JOY x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debbie. You were one of the first bloggers I read when I was searching for bloggers with similar interests to mine. Even though I don’t do the photography that you do, you were one of my first connections in this amazing community of bloggers. Happy to share!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved reading how JOY came about for you! Great sharing and great word. My wise husband says, as he lives life in a very mindful and grateful way that he goes from one moment of joy to another. He is far ahead of me in finding peace within but he provides a great model. I hope you will link this post up on Monday too when my link up goes live with Word of The Year! Denyse

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Welcome back to Life This Week in 2021 on my blog each Monday. Thank you for linking up this week. Next week the optional prompt is 2/51 Announcement on Mon11 Jan. Hope to see you back here then too. Take care, Denyse.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I think Joy is a great #WOTY – I’ve always preferred it to Happiness because it’s less dependant on our circumstances and more about what’s within us choosing to see the good and the positive – then it overflows all by itself. I’m sharing my #WOTY on Monday with a link party at the end for any bloggers who want to share their #WOTY post – would love you to join in. x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so glad your word found you, Michele. I am a fan of church signs too. One of my very first posts was about my affinity for signs I see on my long runs. You literally got a sign pointing you in the direction of your word. “Joy” is the perfect word for this year. I love your neighbor’s response to your question. They must be good neighbors!


  6. Some words sound like their meaning – if you know what I mean – and joy is one of them. You’re right, it’s so often intertwined with happiness yet it’s very different indeed. Plus, the best words find you… wishing you much joy in 2021

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a great believer in ideas finding us, Michele – rather I think we’re predisposed to attract them to us!
    Choosing joy! That’s a great attitude to have. Your neighbourhood seem to have lovely, thoughtful people like you, Michelle.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks very much Corinne. I think you are right, that we are or can be predisposed to attracting ideas, isn’t that how we write? I often think it is though we have our antennae up and we can act on or ignore ideas that come. I think, although it’s a simple theory that that is how more than one person can come up with the same or similar idea. Think inventions, even as far back as the telephone or radio. Lots of times I act on ideas and write about them but I miss far too many opportunities. It’s okay though. Blessed 2021. Michele

    Liked by 1 person

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