Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

A new year, a new word.

In 2015, my “one word” for the year was release—a word I didn’t like, but did need. These posts explain my choice and my experience in applying my one word.

The following year, my word was joy…a word that seemed to be the opposite of release, yet I quickly learned it complemented and built on the lessons of the previous year. You can check out the reason for my choice as well as my success and failure in applying it.

You might imagine I was eager to learn my word for 2017. Or after reading my previous successes and failures, perhaps not so eager. My one word for 2017 came to me in early December. Once again, it was not a word on my short list of considerations. But hope kept coming to mind. And it confused me.

I could see reasons for the words release and joy, as I blogged earlier. But would I really need to focus on hope as a daily activity? Hmmm, since I teach and write, perhaps I was to focus on hope as a way to encourage others. To be a vessel of hope to those who may be struggling under waves of despair.

I didn’t have to wait long to learn why hope is not only my word for 2017, it’s one my husband is focusing on, as well.

On January 4, Russ entered the hospital with sharp abdominal pain. He thought it might be kidney stones. Instead, tests confirmed the presence of a pancreatic tumor.

While we waited in the ER for the admission paperwork to be completed, a nurse placed a glass stone in my hand. “Here,” he said. “Hold on to this.” I looked down to see the word hope etched across the glass. Hope

Within 2 days, Russ had 2 surgeries. One to stop internal bleeding and the other to remove a cancerous tumor, his spleen, and parts of his pancreas and stomach.

If ever a diagnosis calls for hope, it’s cancer. These past several weeks have been jam-packed with medical tests and doctor appointments as he recovers from the surgery and makes decisions regarding further treatment. Discussions about radiation and chemotherapy are now a normal part of our conversations.

Through it all, we trust our Savior and cling to Him.

Yes, hope is precisely what I need this year. And, although I didn’t realize it then, the Lord began preparing me for 2017 in December 2016.

What is your “one word” for 2017?

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  1. Ellen Frogner

    Ava, I am constantly astounded at your strength in the face of this. It took us over a year after Joran’s accident to relax and not be afraid of the news that might come each morning. It took me over a year after she died to realize that God was gracious and gave us five years with her after the accident before He took her home to learn to trust that during that time (because she was not saved before). I have come to believe that what we went through was in fact for good as Romans 8:28 promises, but it took me much longer to accept it even though it was an often quoted memory verse of mine. You and Russ will live to inspire us all!

  2. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Ellen!

  3. Sannie Demaray

    Praying for Russ and you ever since we heard. Thank you for your transparency. As you share, may many find and come to trust in the One in Whom you place your hope. In God’s scheme of things, good does not just redeem the bad – it requires it. Without the test, there could be no triumph. May you continue to be led as Christ’s captive in His triumphal procession and be used to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere! (2 Cor 2:14)

  4. PauletteBeurrier

    Sorry to hear all this has been going on. Prayers for you both as you face this together. One of my Ds mom-friends uses “forward with hope” as her tag line. Hope is the perfect word for you this year.

  5. Twila Belk

    Sweet, sweet Ava–one who has been so encouraging to me over the last year–I’m praying for you. May God be especially close to you right now, and may He fill you with HOPE, JOY, and PEACE as you trust in Him. I can’t take away the pain and icky stuff you and your husband are facing, but I can guarantee that God has a wonderful plan through it all. He doesn’t waste anything. I love you and am holding you in my heart. Big hugs, Twila

  6. Jan Daley

    Oh Ava I had no idea about Russ’s condition and what you have recently been through. I am so sorry. Please tell Russ he will be in my prayers and you too dear one. Love you both and I love the word hope!

  7. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Jan! <3

  8. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Twila. I know you, of all people, understand!

  9. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Paulette.

  10. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Sannie.

  11. Diane Jellen

    Beautiful story of trust. My prayers are with you and Russ. Jesus is the Hope we hold in our hearts, and He is with you both.

  12. Mary Anselmi

    My dear friend of 45+ years… You know that I will be praying for you and Russ. When Michael had his open heart surgery in July at age 29, I would have gladly traded places with him. But God blessed us , and though we still walk this journey to health, I know that The Lord uses these times as a learning experience. Ironically, at the gift shop at NY Presbyterian, during Micheal’s surgery, I picked up a stone with Hope on it, as well as one with Believe. These gave me so much comfort. So my word for this year will be BELIEVE. Love you and God Bless.

  13. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Diane.

  14. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Mary, my long-term friend! <3

  15. VickiSibert

    Our hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and
    Righteousness…… This beautiful hymn is what came to
    Mind immediately after your sharing the word hope.
    Also YOUR words of encouragement to me that God is
    Good……. ALL the time. You dear friends are in our
    Prayers daily. We love you, Vicki and Ray❣

  16. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Vicki & Ray. Yes, that’s a favorite hymn of ours, too. And yes, we firmly believe God is indeed good all the time! Love you, too! <3

  17. Diana Owens

    Oh Ava. Sorry to here all this had been going on with Russ and you. You definitely know who is in control. Praying for you and Russ to make the best decision for his treatment. Love you guys as family.

  18. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Diana. Love you, too.

  19. Cheryl Townes

    My dear precious friend, heart broken and devasted is how I felt and feel having heard this. My word this year is trust. I sow my prayers in tears for my dear friend. Praying and fasting regarding this very difficult season in your lives. I love you both so much. You’re on my mind, in my heart and prayers daily.

  20. Ava Pennington

    Sweet Cheryl, thank you so much for your precious prayers.

  21. Marlene Bagnull

    Dear one you know I’ve been praying and will continue praying. Posting this on the conference websites. Much love – Marlene

  22. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, dear Marlene.

  23. Jennifer Baringer

    Such a good word for all. Praying for Russ and you.🙏

  24. Kathryn Ross

    Ava,may the Lord encamp about you and Russ in this stormy season, sheltering you with His mercy, strength, and wisdom. Your hope is in Him, may peace be your companion, too.
    Joy in season and out,

  25. Pamela McDermott

    “Personal”….this is the word that came to mind as I reflected on this post. Thank you for sharing this personal Hope! Christ is personally all our Hope lies on Him… As much as we love and value the body of Christ as they lift us up we, I, forget that He calls us to be personal so we can reflect that True Hope in Him….

  26. Cheri Cowell

    I’m praying for you my friend. God has certainly gone before you and prepared the way. May you know his presence every step of this journey. I love you.

  27. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Kathryn.

  28. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Pam.

  29. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Cheri. Love you, too, my friend.

  30. Mary Sayler

    God bless you, Ava. May God bring healing to your husband and strength to all your family.

  31. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Mary.

  32. John Williamson

    Ava, thank you for sharing this passage for Russ and you. We are praying for you both. For healing, for wise doctors, for your comfort and peace, for God’s glory in all things.

  33. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, John.

  34. Barbara Farenwald

    Oh my gosh, I didn’t know you were going through this. I’ll add Russ to my prayer list for Gods wisdom in treatment and you for the strength you need to be there for him through this battle. Believe in miracles…..we’ll be praying for you both. Much love, Mark and Barbara
    Mark is at the men’s retreat with CF this weekend…….

  35. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Barbara.

  36. Kelly


    I was sorry to read about Russ’s diagnosis and will be praying for health and healing for him and peace and comfort for both of you. If you are ever in a Martin Health System hospital, let me know. Lifting you up in prayer.

  37. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Kelly.

  38. Mary Ann

    Sweet, Ava, you started your lecture this past Wednesday with the statement, “We are better givers than getters and the reason is pride.” What a beautiful example of “giving” all of us your “hope” as you and Russ begin this journey; and, what a wonderful example of a “getter” as you have allowed yourself to receive the love, prayers and encouragement for both you and Russ from those of us who love you guys. Thank you, my friend!

  39. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Mary Ann – for your love, encouragement, prayer, and support.

  40. Becky Spencer

    Oh, sweet friend, how I wish your 2017 word were for something else instead of this very personal battle. But it is the right word, definitely.

    Hope is a blueprint for our faith, and I’ll join mine with yours.

    Praying you sense the sweet presence of Jesus walking with you every step.

    And sending you a big hug.

  41. Joni

    Ava, I just came across your blog as it popped up on my Facebook feed. I have never met you, however, I am in a home Bible study group with Beth Johnson. We have been and will continue to lift you and Russ up in prayer!

  42. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Joni. What a blessing to be part of the body of Christ!

  43. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Becky. I like your phrase, “Hope is a blueprint for our faith.” Amen!

  44. Debbie Bartlow

    So sorry you two have to take this journey. You are in my heart and prayers. I’ve been there, done that, and it’s very difficult. Graciously,God never leaves you to “journey” it alone.

  45. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Debbie. Yes, He is, indeed, Emmanuel – God with us.

  46. Pat Weimer

    Dearest Ava.
    Just heard what you and Russ have been dealing with. May you feel God’s comfort and strength as you go through this concerning and confusing time. Keeping you close in our hearts and prayers. Sending love and hugs to you both.
    Pat and Charlie

  47. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Pat & Charlie.

  48. Susie Murray

    Ava, your hope is in Jesus who will see you through this. Prayers for you and Russ. Much love. Susie

  49. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Susie.


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