It’s the beginning of a new year, and we are full of hopes and dreams for what it may hold. I have all kinds of goals for this year. If I'm honest, I am both excited and nervous about the potential this year holds — potential for failure and for rousing triumph alike.

Both are essential parts of the story.

As the year begins, I am led to the choice practiced by several of the bloggers I follow around the Internet: the choice of a word for the year. Your chosen word sets the tone for what you want the year to be like. It serves as a reminder of identity, of goals, of the way you want to live. It reminds you how you want to relate to others, as well as how you want to treat yourself; it spurs you to a new place in your relationship with God. I have known certain words of the year that utterly shaped the period of 365 days that followed, in totally unexpected ways.

Naturally, I love this, so I’ve spent some time over the last few days thinking about what I want MY word of the year to be. I know that if I don’t write it down, I will change it at least five times over the course of the year, or forget about it. Settling on "the perfect word" is difficult -- but I’m learning that life doesn’t have to look perfect all the time. By the end of the year, the word will inevitably mean something different than it does at the beginning, as life bends and stretches.

With that in mind, I’ve chosen a word of the year for both Adventure Joy the blog and Sara the woman. For Adventure Joy, that word is epic. Since Christmastime, I’ve been writing in a style that reminds me of Tolkien— I call it "minimalist epic." This style of writing encourages me to look carefully around me and observe the adventurousness that teems beneath the surface of Life As We Know It. Everywhere I turn, I can smell the adventure on the breeze. I am constantly amazed at the truly epic ways God works among us — ways fit only for grand tales out of the North. This year, I want to write about the sheer epic-ness of what we’ve been given, the true nature of this grand Quest that we’re all on together. I want to search the horizon with you, for one of us to point to the star above our heads and say, “Look! There it is!”

And as for me? I’ve thought long and hard about my own word of the year, and I’ve chosen one that fits well with the season I'm in, my life as an artist, and my inner life.


I wrote it big because it's a declaration.

I want to live big and free. I want to divorce from the fear in my heart. I want to move toward others in warmth, sing with wild abandon. I want to be unabashed.

Sometimes the word "shameless" is used to mean brazen, the quality of being too open, too forward. But I think that shamelessness can be reclaimed from this negative connotation. To be shameless is to turn the fear voices down inside your head, to share your story with your whole heart with the people that have earned the right to hear it. It doesn't mean throwing yourself into the world. It means simply stepping into it, standing firm, and looking others in the eye, believing and resting in the fact that Jesus has redeemed your whole story, both triumph and failure. It means listening and being a kind companion for others who need to know they are not alone. It means being brave and taking a few chances, secure in your identity.

Of course, I’m not going to be completely free of shame until I get to the Next World. Total elimination of shame isn't possible in this one. But I want to develop what the marvelous Brené Brown calls shame resilience: the ability to move away from shame. And with that, I can move away from fear and toward courage and connection and unabashed song. Amen and amen.

Happy New Year, friends. Here’s to a year that is as true and rich and epic and shameless as the great tales and heroes from out of the wild North.