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. That is the perfect word to follow on the heels of humility, Laurie. I have no clue what my word in 2021 will be (I had two this year – submit and trust – and boy, did I need those), but like you, I wait for God to give me that nudge. After all, He knows best about what we need.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Laurie, I was so eager to read this post when I saw the title…and I feel so quietly…humble!…as I finish reading it. Starting the year clean, empty, and open is a beautiful concept. I look forward to reading about it in 2021.

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  3. Wow! You are right, running does make me feel empty – in a very good way. When I finish my run, I feel like I’ve left it all out there and am taking on a fresh start.

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  4. Laurie, You remind me how each race does evoke a flood of memories. It is almost as if they have a life of their own. Wow, โ€œspent, accomplished, and a little bit stunned…….burst into tears.โ€ Relatable. Two thought-provoking words of the year with levels of meaning โ€œhumilityโ€ โ€œemptyโ€. And, yes, โ€œemptyโ€ in a good way. I get it. Nice to start with a clean slate. x

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  5. That is a great explanation for the word โ€emptyโ€, Laurie. I like the idea of a clean slate and being open to uplifting things.
    That is the reason why I follow your blog. I find it very positive and beneficial. Thank you!

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  6. so thoughtful and thought provoking. This sounds like a Buddhist way of being to me, peaceful, empty, making room for the daily blessings. If a room is empty any ornament becomes the focus is my thought. Thank you for sharing this deep and meaningful word.

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  7. Youโ€™re one step ahead of me. I havenโ€™t given any thought yet to my Word of the Year for 2021. Iโ€™ll be interested to read about how โ€˜emptyโ€™ shows up for you. I had a similar experience after my first fun run. #lifethisweek

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’m big on learning from rookie errors like popsicle sticks and potato chips, so you can look back and think about how far you’ve come. I loved that story of your first marathon, and your word for 2021 is very intriguing.

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    • As a former science teacher, I am big on learning from mistakes too. It’s actually part of the scientific method. Glad you enjoyed my marathon story! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. That’s a great word – and the way you’ve explained it makes sense. It also turns it from a word without hope into a word full of hope and potential. I haven’t decided on mine yet…although there are plenty circling around in my brain.

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  10. Wow! Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I have read other bloggers writing and focusing on their WOTY and it may be something I will try. If I have the confidence to let the word reveal itself. I also appreciate your statement to: “to steadily reflect the pure, holy, clear, lucent glow we are bathed in each day.” A personal mission statement. Blessings for Thanksgiving, Michele

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  11. Hi Laurie – what an interesting WOTY! I’ve been pondering mine and it’s been quite different to this year’s one where I struggled to come up with something. I’m thinking next year’s might have to encompass several words to cover the things that have been running around in my head with the prospect of turning 60 looming on the 2021 horizon. I’ll definitely be reading to see what you do with “empty” and how it unfolds in the year ahead.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Leanne, My word came to me months ago and I knew right away I needed to follow and see where it led me. I think you’re allowed to have several words of the year! ๐Ÿ™‚ No hard and fast rules here. 60 isn’t bad at all! I was dreading it, but I do have to say, I found it freeing!


  12. Love how you’ve tied the 2020 word to the one you’re choosing for 2021. I’m not a runner – I have trouble walking most days! – but I can understand about feeling empty in a good way. Praying that God continues to bless you and teach you in your endeavors!

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  13. Oh so lovely, I didnโ€™t think Iโ€™d ever say this but hereโ€™s to being empty then…and I love the moon comparison about the power to only reflect light ๐Ÿ‘Œโค๏ธ

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  14. Laurie,
    May this is why the Christian’s faith journey is often compared with a long race (or marathon). It is the process of slowly being emptied out so that there is room for Christ to fill us up. Love this analogy and your choice of a word for 2021. You are already a head of the game!
    Bev xx

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  15. Interesting choice for a word of the year. I get your logic for choosing it. “Less ME, More THEE” is prayer/mantra I learned along the way. I look forward to seeing how this word manifests in your life.

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  16. love this! Having a word for the year certainly helps add focus for us as we look towards what He is calling to in the coming year. My 2020 word was intentional and my 2021 word seems to be peace.

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  17. Ha! This is great:

    โ€œHow many marathons have you run?โ€ one of them asked me.

    โ€œIncluding this one? One,โ€ I replied and promptly burst into tears.

    The women were sympathetic. โ€œYou need something to eat,โ€ they said.

    Exited about your word of the year for 2020. The first thing I though it was “I wonder what she’ll fill empty up with?

    Looking forward to it.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I keep ALL my bibs too.

    I’m glad you mentioned your word. I always forget mine. That means I probably shouldn’t pick one lol

    Well, my word was Patience – in hindsight it was perfect but not for the reasons that I selected it. Who knew how 2020 would turn out? And 2021 is still in limbo re: the pandemic.

    BTW: you sound like the least self-centered person I know.

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  19. I find myself too full of self as well. This posts reminds me of a stanza in the hymn, Channels Only by Mary E. Maxwell:

    Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
    A clean vessel in Thy hand;
    With no powโ€™r but as Thou givest
    Graciously with each command.

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  20. What intriguing word selections, Laurie. Thank you for sharing your thought process behind choosing them. I remember my first (and only) full marathon. I lost a toenail! Rookie mistake of choosing running shoes in the same size as my street shoes–and running a slightly downhill race.

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  21. I recall you ran Steamtown but didn’t realize it was your first marathon! I lived in the little town of Jermyn for 3 years before moving back to the area (Jason is from Scranton) and I know the route passes through there. I’ve heard you really have to prepare your legs for the long downhill of that course, like 8 miles of it? Thoughts on that?

    i agree that running often makes me feel “empty” – empty of negative thoughts, empty of stress, empty of the world! It’s a great way to hit the “reset” button and refresh.

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    • I didn’t know what I was doing at all before that race, Tracy and I didn’t prepare very well. After the race, my quads were absolutely shredded! I remember after the race, I was walking back to the Y to meet my friends, and a man who had just finished put one foot up on the steps at the Y and asked me to untie his car key, which he had tied to his shoelaces for safekeeping during the race. He was so sore he couldn’t bend down to untie them himself! ๐Ÿ™‚ Steamtown is an absolutely awesome race. There is a lot of downhill, but passing through all the small towns is so inspiring. Lots of wonderful crowd support. 2 hills once you get back to Scranton, though. At that point in the race, they feel like the Alps!


  22. Laurie, I like the thought of choosing a word for the year. Your word empty makes me think how we can be empty vessels for God to fill us to our brim. I enjoyed hearing how running makes you feel empty in a good way. Thank you for your insights, and a very thought provoking post. Blessings.

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  23. What a great story and memory to share Laurie! I love your word and the story behind it. It’s funny that my word for 2021 came to me recently and I’m looking forward to sharing it soon. #lifethisweek

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  24. I really like your take on the word ’empty’. ‘If I am too full of myself, there is no room inside of me to be filled with Godโ€™s light’ – this resonated with me. I’ve only just started thinking about my word for next year but I’m not actively searching, I’m praying and will let it find me. Thank you for sharing.

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  25. I will admit for me empty has negative connotations, so that wouldn’t be my choice, but I understand what you’re saying — and after all, it’s not about me! I choose a word every year, too. I’ve been thinking about it a lot, naturally, but so far nothing has come to me.

    I actually have a Yin video I filmed yesterday, which I hope to share on Thanksgiving. I actually talk about how what we take in is so important (and not just with food) — why it’s important to choose carefully. But mostly it’s a more restorative practice that should feel good after Thanksgiving dinner. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  26. Laurie, your explanation of the word and how we need to be empty for God to fill was beautiful. You have made empty something to desire. Looking forward to see how this word shapes your year and writing. I am wanting to hear more.

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  27. So insightful, and thought-provoking ๐Ÿ˜‰ Empty is good…we often get so “full” of ourselves that we cannot accept anything from well-meaning others. I was just thinking this morning, ironically, that I need a new hashtag for 2021…a hashtag that represents my focus, drive, goals. Wish me luck! Have a nice Thanksgiving, Laurie ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    • Thank you, Kim. Yes!!! That is exactly what I meant when I wrote about empty – we are often so full of ourselves, we cannot be humble enough to accept advice or help. Good luck with the new hashtag. I know you will come up with a great one – you always do! Happy Thanksgiving!


  28. I like your positive take on the word empty. When you first said that was your word, I couldn’t help but wonder where you were going with it. For me, empty has such a negative connotation! I was thinking about this after reading your post. You’re right, running does empty me–of stress and negativity. That’s a good thing and I’m grateful for running more than ever.

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  29. I did not pick a word for 2020 but perhaps it should have been patience … I seem to lack it more and if it is due to 2020 or just getting older, I don’t know, but I must do better in 2021. Patience is a virtue.

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  30. What a woman and what a story. I really like that word. I saddled myself with words these past few years and they sure did inspire me on days (and some nights) when dealing with my life as a cancer patient. I am not having a word for 2021. I am considering lots of ways in which to be more free than I have been to explore the world and as I age. So, that in 2021 that’s my plan. But, of course, never say never. I am pretty sure my post in 2021 will make greater sense when I have time to consider it too.

    Thank you so much for linking up for #lifethisweek. I am glad you did and look forward to seeing you next week. The optional prompt is 48/51 Self-Care Stories #7 30.11.2020. Denyse.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that is a wise choice for you, Denyse. We each have to learn to listen to that little voice inside of us telling us what is the right thing for us to do. For me, it was telling me…”empty”! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much for hosting.


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