Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
One Word - Attentive

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I used to, but they never lasted more than a few months at the most. A few years ago, I began adopting one word to focus on throughout the year as a substitute for resolutions. One word that would apply to multiple areas of my life. Each year, my “one word” for the new year became abundantly clear during the month of December.

This year my one-word for 2020 did not become clear until the end of December. For most of the month, it seemed as if the Lord was pointing me to two words: listen and focus. But neither stood out as the word. By December 28, I wondered if I was supposed to have a word for 2020. Perhaps I needed to take a year off.

Then it hit me with such clarity that I knew. I knew this was the word. I knew it because it took the two words I thought I was being led to and combined them.


To be attentive is to do more than just hear. It involves listening with focus—my two original words. To listen without mentally preparing a response. It involves processing with both my mind and my heart. To pay attention to not just spoken words but also to body language. And to the effects of the circumstances. Being attentive requires being in sync with the other person. And I need to become much better at doing these things in all the areas of my life.

A friend recently forwarded a meme to me. It was a picture of two ears placed side by side, forming the shape of a heart. The message noted the word “ear” is at the center of the word heart. And it said the way to someone’s heart is to listen to them.

  • Attentive to God
    I want to connect with the heart of God even more intimately in 2020. That means learning to be more attentive to the whispers and prompts of His Holy Spirit. It also means being attentive to His Word, for the Bible is my instruction book for life and for a relationship with Him.
  • Attentive to People
    This is an area I especially need to develop. To be attentive to the needs and desires of others. To weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And to listen and respond with time and kindness in addition to material resources.
    My need in this area was highlighted a few days ago with a friend. We shared our “one word” with each other over lunch. After we arrived home, she moved to get in her car while I walked to the mailbox, not realizing she had asked a question. Sigh. An epic fail at being attentive before the new year had even begun!
  • Attentive to Myself
    This does not mean I intend to cultivate self-centeredness. It does mean paying attention to setting healthy boundaries. To rest when I need it. And in this season of loss that’s still fresh, to give myself permission to grieve as those moments continue to come and go.

Attentive. It has a somber ring, doesn’t it? I can almost hear my school teachers admonishing me, “Pay attention, Ava!” Yet when I shared this word with some friends, one person commented that I can be attentive…or I can be attentive with anticipation. I love how anticipation adds a note of joy to my one word.

Anticipatory attentiveness. Eagerly watching and listening for the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Reading God’s Word with anticipation for the treasures I’ll find. Waking each morning to view the new day with anticipation for the adventures it will bring.

Being attentive with anticipation for how the Lord is working in my life, even if I can’t always see it. Viewing unexpected events, not as interruptions to my agenda, but as activities woven into His plans for me. And anticipating the deepening of friendships.

This year I will be aware of my need to be attentive. And I purpose to do it with anticipation!

Do you adopt “one word” in place of resolutions? Share it in the comments!

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  1. Diana Parker Owens

    This is so true. Love the one word. Sometime I us two words.

  2. Cindy Zuidema

    Love it! Stealing your “attentive “ word! 😁

  3. Vicki Wickert

    Perfect word for today’s fast paced multi tasking way of life! Good reminder for most of us ! I intend to “steal”
    It from you also, and share it with friends! Thank you

  4. Ava Pennington

    You’re both welcome to it, Cindy & Vicki!
    Glad to know I’m not the only one who needs it, my friends!

  5. Rayma Zugel

    Sue had those of us at Care Net consider choosing one word for the year a couple of years ago. I will admit over the past few years I think I “settled” on a word rather than truly letting God choose for me. However, this year God gave me the word, STAND, which is what I already do, but will now choose to do it more abundantly and with more purpose.

  6. Gena

    Love this! Interestingly enough my word for 2020 is FOCUS.

    Since the moment the Lord revealed it to me, I keep seeing the word focus everywhere. Affirmation and confirmation.

    I love how the Lord helped you resolve your two words into one that had so much more depth to it. I am excited to see what God reveals through your words in 2020.

  7. Ava Pennington

    Wow! Rayma, I wonder if God may have given you this word because there will be situations that will require you to be even more committed and intentional about standing?

  8. Christine Olazagasti

    I would like to share a poem with you that was sent to me after my husband made his passage home. It has given me comfort during those reflective days.

    Not Gone, Only gone before, where Love lives on forever more.
    Not lost, Only lost from sight, as one who walks ahead at night
    Not Parted, Only just apart, but in Memory left close in My Heart
    Not of the Past, but now to be, a Part of all Eternity.
    Author Unknown

    May God grant you His precious comfort and peace this year!

  9. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Christine.

  10. Suzann Zoltner

    Such a good word. You are a blessing. Thank you for your insight and sharing.

  11. Ava Pennington

    Thank you, Suzann. Happy new year!

  12. Jill Steele

    Immediately, as I prayed for my word, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Soon.”
    It hit it like a surge through my entire being.
    I am looking forward to the Lord’s glorious appearing, and staying alert to share Him with everyone.
    Bless you, Ava!

  13. Barb Haley

    Rayma, you, too, could add with anticipation or expectation to your word stand. Ava, thanks for sharing. You are already attentive. How sweet of the Lord to bring you to a new level. My word is POSITIVE. I’m not normally a negative person anyway, but the Lord is leading me to search for the positive in everything and speak the positive more often. Happy new year to all!

  14. Ava Pennington

    Love your perspective, Barb! And I always think of you as positive already!
    Happy new year!

  15. Melissa Henderson

    I don’t choose one word for the year. I believe God changes my word daily and sometimes moment to moment. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your word.

  16. Candice Brown

    Love your word! Maugh I always attend to the Lord and those he’s placed in my path. I had action as my word but felt prompted to change it to surrender.

  17. S. A. Foster

    I started focusing on one word a few years ago and it has been really effective. The word attentive is a great one. I have been struggling with this lately (too much multitasking) and noticing that it is impacting my communication with others. It wasn’t my word this year but definitely something I need to work on. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Julie

    It’s such a good idea to choose a word for the year and make that your focus! Love this!

  19. Ava Pennington

    It’s so much more helpful to me than trying to keep a list of resolutions, Julie.
    My word for the year is easy to remember (even if it’s not easy to fulfill!) and it permeates every area of life!

  20. Jackie O.

    My word for this year is “consistency,” God confirmed right in our leaders meeting, as I wriote time management & consistency on my prayer request little did I know the person next to me wrote something very similar. Later in the morning as we talked she told me she vowed to be more consistent this year and I informed her that’s me as well along with time mgnt. We agreed to hold each other accountable this year to our commitment of consistency & time mgnt (CTM). It’s working, praise God. Thank you Donna & thank you Ava!!!!

  21. Anne Mackie Morelli

    I have also chosen one word to focus on at the beginning of each year. But last year it was pressed on my heart to focus on Jesus throughout the year – to learn as much as I could about him by reading as many books and articles on him as possible and doing Bible studies with him as the focus. It profoundly deepened my understanding of Jesus, his character and ministry. This year my focus is going to be on the Holy Spirit and I have already started two Bible studies. So we have the same idea – choosing a focus for the year – but slightly different approaches.

  22. Ava Pennington

    I love that idea, Anne!

  23. Ava Pennington

    Good word, Jackie!

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