My Word Of the Year

The death of self is marked with scars.” – Shannan Martin

One good thing about keeping all of my race bibs is that I can take a stroll down Memory Lane anytime I want.

Curious to know exactly how many marathons I have run since 2005, I searched for all of my marathon bibs and came across this one from Steamtown Marathon, my very first. Seeing it brought back a flood of memories from that experience.

I remember traveling north to Scranton the night before the race. I was with three friends, all marathon runners, and it had rained so much that day many roads were flooded.

Due to the driving conditions, we didn’t arrive at the expo in time to pick up our race bibs, but luckily we could call a friend who was already in Scranton to pick them up for us.

On race morning, I knew I would be running 26.2 miles alone. I didn’t have a realistic prediction of my finishing time, but I knew I was slower than all of my running friends.

I found runners along the racecourse to chat with as we made our collective way from Forest City to Scranton – runners are typically a friendly bunch – and finished feeling spent, accomplished, and a little bit stunned.

As I stood in the food line with other runners, I struck up a conversation with three women who had just finished too. They were happily comparing this race to others they had run.

How many marathons have you run?” one of them asked me.

Including this one? One,” I replied and promptly burst into tears.

The women were sympathetic. “You need something to eat,” they said.

It was true. I knew nothing about nutrition then and had not eaten anything during the course of my long run. I was depleted and craving sugar and salt.

I took a popsicle and some potato chips from the food line.

Now, post-marathon is a good time to treat yourself to a food splurge, but it was lunchtime, and I had just run for over four hours without anything but water and Gatorade in my belly. By the time I found my friends, my stomach was queasy. Rookie mistake.

I should have found something more nutritious to fill my empty belly.

For the past few years, I have been selecting a Word of the Year to focus on. My word for 2020 is humility.

I have written about humility, thought about humility, prayed about humility, and tried to infuse more humility into my life every day for the past 10 1/2 months. Well…almost every day.

As it turned out, 2020 was the perfect year to consider humility. The pandemic reminded me often to be humble; my thin illusion of control was regularly shattered.

Each year I have allowed my word to come to me, rather than searching one out. This year, I knew my word for 2021 months ago.

My word is empty.

Empty may seem like a strange word to focus on, but it is what I am feeling right now. It is the perfect word to follow humility.

The need for clean slates calls to me. I crave blank pages, hollow walls, and empty bowls.

I want to empty myself of my self.

Photo by Pixabay on

If I am too full of myself, I become selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed. If I am too full of myself, there is no room inside of me to be filled with God’s light.

I am like the moon – I have no power to emit Light, just reflect it. My goal is to steadily reflect the pure, holy, clear, lucent glow we are bathed in each day. First, however, I must make myself empty, tabula rasa.

In a recent post a running blogger I follow asked her readers to describe how running makes them feel in one word. Many readers responded competent, confident, strong, tired (yes…so true).

I considered responding “clean” to the question but finally answered “empty“. Running makes me feel empty. In a good way.

Running has a way of scrubbing away impurities, paring the unnecessary, exposing bare bones. It makes me feel empty, ready to be filled with whatever is coming my way.

It is therefore important I am certain what comes my way is beneficial. I need to take in only nourishing, positive, uplifting things.

Not popsicles and potato chips.

No more rookie mistakes.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30

You can find the places I link up here.


  1. After many marathons I still occasionally make rookie mistakes. I love looking back on those memories though. My first marathon was in Honolulu in 1996 and the memories of the race and the time leading up to it are so clear. So is the nausea that I also dealt with both during and after the race!

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  2. Laurie, I LOVE your word for 2021 and how it ties so beautifully into your word for this year. I hope to post about my 2020 word next week … it was β€œfull.” πŸ™‚ (And now I’m curious … how many marathons have you run since that first one?) Happy Thanksgiving, my friend!

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    • Full is an interesting word for 2020. I’m excited to read what you have to say about it! I have run 28 marathons since that first one! Happy Thanksgiving!!


  3. One year I picked the word “Joy” because I was planning to find the joy in everything. Well, it can be hard, but I didn’t want to always be negative. Maybe I will choose that word again for next year. Here’s to many wonderful and joyful things in 2021!!

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  4. That’s interesting Laurie as the word ’empty’ has negative connotations for me so it’s interesting you see it as a positive.

    And what a great idea to keep the old bibs as I’m sure – like a picture or a smell or sound – they would bring back vivid memories!

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  5. Empty….I like that. This year I was so focused on being ready for motherhood I didn’t have a theme or word for 2020, but I would like to get refocused in 2021.

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  6. Laurie I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I love your word of the year for 2020, as that word seems to grab me perennially. But after reading your post I realize no lesson on humility would be complete without also considering “Empty” or emptiness in the way you describe it. As I have studied and meditated upon Phil. 2:8 in the past, the word for humble there actually carries the connotation of Christ “emptying” Himself. Chewing on that in the past, I only lingered on the fringe of full understanding until now. YES, emptying myself of myself! all of the self focus and absorption, etc. So that I may actually reflect Him. This is transforming for me. Thank you!!!

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  7. I like the word empty – I did a word study on that work in Ruth. For 2020 I had no word, just couldn’t come up with one. I called it my Jubilee Year. I didn’t realize how it would really be that as I faced major surgery that took months to recover. I have not yet thought about my word for 2021.

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    • Oh, that would be an interesting study! 2020 was probably a good year to skip, especially considering your surgery. If you are meant to have a word for 2021, I am sure God will whisper in your ear! πŸ™‚


    • I am looking forward to seeing how God uses my word in my life too. Your comment reminds me of this Anne Lamott quote: “I’ve heard it said that the Holy Spirit very rarely respects one’s comfort zones.” πŸ™‚


  8. I like the connection you’ve made between running your first marathon and the word for next year as well as what it means for you. I haven’t even started thinking about 2021 as I’m just trying to get through 2020. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I usually don’t start thinking about my word until just about now, but for some reason, I knew what 2021’s word would be months ago. I hope your holiday season is great too!


  9. I hope a word will find me because I’ve got nothing!! Hey…maybe that’s my word?

    Empty sounds lonely to me and a little bit sad. I guess I think of it in terms of feelings maybe…drained. The opposite of having a full heart would be an empty one. And I would never ever think of you as having an empty heart, or mind.

    But I like the idea of a clean slate, a fresh start. I think that is what Covid has given many of us. Time to reset. To think. Maybe even think too much at times. But time to refocus.

    Will be anxious to follow along with your word of the year. Mine for 2020 was ‘believe’ which I chose because 2019 was pretty lousy for my family and I was hopeful, wanted to believe that 2020 would be better. YIKES!!

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  10. ‘Empty’β€” in a good way, sounds lovely to me. I love that. My WOTY is ‘Nurture’ and since I’ve been feeling so drained already from the past couple of years, I’m really looking forward to all the lovely things coming my way to feed my mind, body and soul (everything ‘beneficial’ as you say!) to be able to take on whatever the future has in store for me.
    May life bring you loads of happy chances and possibilities, Laurie.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. WOW! I would love to be able to run someday. Then later progress to run a marathon too. I have taken baby steps to create a daily walking habit this year. I would need all the inspiration in the world to reach that running goal. Love your word of the year. Mine is “Serendipity”. Best wishes for 2021.

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  12. Believe me, Laurie, when I started reading you I thought what a depressing word for new year but as I progressed and reached the line that said I want to empty myself of my self, I understood the deep meaning underlying.
    Such a powerful thought for thr year ahead.

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