When in doubt…GO

January 7, 2014 | 39 comments

I got a word of the year! The same day I said I wasn’t inspired to do one, God gave me one. It was one of those rare moments of getting a very direct and clear inspiration that definitely did not come from me. I was thinking of something else entirely, then, out of the blue, I was overcome by the message: HERE IS YOUR WORD.

Before I tell you what it is, a bit of backstory:

In our pre-kid days, Joe and I used to throw parties. Our building had a large deck on the 25th floor that included a pool and sweeping views of downtown Austin to one side, the state Capitol to the other. As much of an introvert as I am, you can’t not host events when you have access to a space like that for free.



Initially, the sole purpose of these events was to drink wine with friends. But as the parties got bigger and the guest list grew more diverse, we began to notice that amazing turns of events were starting at these parties: an unemployed friend would meet a manager who was hiring; someone would decide to pursue a long-dreamt-of hobby after running into an expert in the field; folks would learn about India and France and Iraq by chatting with our friends who are from there. A couple we know who’s been married for over 10 years met at one of these events!

Many of us were already connected virtually; we all spent plenty of time going back and forth over email and instant messenger throughout the weeks. Yet what these events hit home to us is that there is absolutely no substitute for the in-person connection.

Later, after my conversion, this would make even more sense: the God who made himself human obviously thinks that flesh-to-flesh meetings are pretty important. Instead of revealing himself to each person individually, he insisted that we get to know him through his Church — which requires hanging out with other people, in person.

Ten years ago, I understood intuitively that it’s always good to get people together, even if you can’t predict exactly what the benefits will be. Though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, one of my unspoken life mottos was:

Hang out with people in person.
Ask them about their lives — real questions, not small talk.
Watch the magic happen.

But over the years this truth has gotten buried under other, more pressing truths (like, say, There is nothing more difficult in ALL THE WORLD than finding matching pairs of shoes for six young children). I’ve turned down more and more opportunities for in-person connections, to the point that my default answer to most invitations is no.

Some of that is a good thing. I need down time to do my mental decluttering. Also, as a wise friend once said, to say no is to protect the things you’ve said yes to.

But the no‘s are not coming from a place of prayerful prudence anymore; they’re now a knee-jerk reaction borne of a constant low-grade feeling of being overwhelmed. Especially when it comes to hanging out with kids involved, which exponentially increases the work and stress level for me, I say no without even thinking about it. No pausing to discern if this might be something God wants me to do, no second moment to consider the countless blessings I’ve seen from in-person interactions — just a flash of thinking about how the kids always end up screaming when it’s time to put on seatbelts, and I spit out a decline.

So here is the word that God has given me for this year:


Get out more. Remember the importance of in-person connections. Take a second to ask for guidance before I decide to stay home.

It’s been fascinating to see how God has developed my understanding of this word in the few days since I first received it. It’s bigger than just accepting invitations to playdates:

This weekend I was praying the mystery of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and I imagined Mary hearing the same inspiration: GO.

I’ve been having pangs of worry about whether Hallie and I can actually pull together the conference, but when I turned to whine to God about it, the answer I received was: GO.

Today I had to take my wild two-year-old to an adult podiatrist to have a sore on her foot examined since pediatrics was booked, and I dreaded the use of time and the potentially ear-shattering experience for the poor doctor. But then I was moved to consider the possibility that there’s a nurse out there who needs a kind word today, or maybe something about treating my daughter would inspire this doctor (perhaps to a vocation in a Carthusian monastery). And as I thought about all the little possibilities that could come from this seemingly inconvenient trip, I heard it again: embrace this opportunity to connect with others, no matter how mundane it may seem. GO.


As I was typing this I found out that I have to take our one-eyed cat to the vet during my prime productive time tomorrow. Just when I was about to launch into my well-rehearsed soliloquy titled I CAN NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE AROUND HERE!!!!, I remembered that this theme for the year isn’t only about leaving the house per se; it’s about putting my heart into all opportunities — both chosen and unchosen, both exciting and mundane — to interact with other people.

Considering that I’m an introvert to the extent that my ability to enjoy long periods alone in silence borders on a superpower, this won’t be the easiest word to embrace. But it feels right, and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for my year of GO.

. . .


Esteemed Christian author and fellow Austinite Jennie Allen has a new book coming out, and I heard that she was hosting a book signing last night. After I wrote the draft of this post, it occurred to me that stopping by her event would be a great way to support a local author while embracing my new word. I was excited! I read the location of the event as being “Costco, ” and I was about to blow up Twitter with jokes like “@jennieallen I’ll be the one pushing a shopping cart full of Cheez Whiz and Doritos!” and “@jennieallen Don’t mind me if I have a jumbo package of toilet paper in one hand while you sign my book!”

ALAS, my incredible lack of attention to detail struck again, and the book signing was actually at Contigo, a trendy eastside restaurant.

Contigo. Not Costco.


I need to discern whether God meant for the full message to be, GO…to a remote cave and never come out again.



  1. Nikita

    Beautiful entry, I must say that your entry reminds me of something a relative commented on another relative’s Facebook of how children take away your life. This post beautiful helped me not want to go after the relative (verbally or virtually…lol). You and a few other bloggers I know have done this where they chose a word for the year…I must pray and reflect to see if God wishes me to do the same. (For I do not want to feel I am just a band wagon, if you get my meaning.)

    I hope you do well during this week and God bless,

  2. Amy

    I love this. I am often the same way about wanting to hunker down in my house. I never thought about the connection part like that. I’m still trying to figure out my word for the year…

  3. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    OKay….I really, really love this. I’ve been feeling more called to be more social this year as well. Although for me, it is not so much in accepting invitations (we don’t get that many) as in extending invitations…being the one to initiate contact and host people (even though our house is really, really, really small). In person contact is just so, so important and it’s easy to withdraw into ourselves and get stuck in the busyness and not make the time and effort to really connect with other people. So, I am trying to make an effort to invite more poeple over, arrange more gatherings, and work on friendship more.

  4. Sarah Scherrer

    I have often “heard” a similar command, sort of like the old B&W movies: “Shut up and kiss me,” meaning quit yer yacking and love.

  5. Smoochagator

    Love this! Very excited to hear the stories that come from this year’s word. And yes, you will be VERY surprised at the ways God uses you, even in mundane situations, even when you think you’re not being a blessing. In fact, in my experience, people have told me that something I said/did when I thought I was being a total dork or completely useless was what touched them most of all!

    (That picture of your daughter is super adorable, by the way. I hope the sore turns out to be nothing serious!)

  6. tanya

    reminds me of my friend, Kathryn, who always says, “When in doubt, choose relationship.”

  7. MemeGRL

    Oh, I would cringe if “go” were my word…but as an extrovert I am wondering if mine is “hunker” this year, as in “hunker down.”
    Meanwhile, while I am glad you got to go to a trendy spot, I am with you–I would be downright giddy if an author held a signing at Costco! I think you are on to something big here.

  8. Jesabes

    Hey! I see Jen Hatmaker! All the cool kids live in Austin.

  9. Susan

    Once upon a time I had five children six and under. During this same era, my mom’s favorite way to connect with us was to take us out to lunch. With very little warning. As in, “can we leave in 30 minutes.” I loved these outings, but they also made be crazy. Here are a few tips that might help.
    1. Consider putting together a “go bag” of everything you need and leave it in your van. Include juice boxes, diapers, non-perishable snacks, etc. Try to never touch it except in an “emergency” such as a last minute invitation.
    2. Ditto the above for a bin of clothes, underwear, shoes, etc. suitable for going out.
    3. (Hope this doesn’t sound mean) Keep girl’s hair cut short in a cute, no care style until they can take care of it themselves.
    4. Keep a couple of “suitable to take to a covered dish event” items on hand at all time. Go with pre-made and don’t even think about trying to cook.
    4. Teach every child to fasten his own car seat as soon as they can.
    5. When unloading your van somewhere, try this method: everyone buckled while you get out and get the stroller. Next, stroller kids out and buckled in stroller. Next, oldest so he can hold the stroller. Then remaining who can unbuckle themselves. I know this sounds crazy, but having a procedure in mind does help.
    Anyway, maybe all this is TMI. I just thought some of it might be useful.

  10. Casey @ My Love Is Too Little

    This idea of GO really struck a chord with me. I’ve been pondering what my word to describe 2013 would be, and I think it is DISCONNECTED. I’ve felt very disconnected from God, friends, health, service, God’s will for my life, just everything. I know this year’s focus has to be on reconnecting, building relationships, trusting and doing. Honestly, getting started is a bit overwhelming! I guess I need to just GO as well.

  11. Lauren

    Very nice. One of my goals for the year is to make a geninuine effort to rekindle and maintain old friendships with those I may have lost touch or wish were closer. This word, and your story is a great reminder of one way to do that. Thank you!

  12. jeni

    Oh no that bonus story is TOO good. ha! Sounds like something I would do, really.

    And I’m inspired. Think I’ll pray for a word this year as well. Thanks!!

    <3 jeni

  13. Cordelia

    Contigo is a Spanish word that means ‘with you’. I think i have my word for this year …

  14. MargoB

    Jen, that’s COOL! When I read your post yesterday, my thought (honestly; no offense intended) was “?? I don’t think the Lord works like that…” But when I read this post just now, my heart leapt, and I found myself praying, “!! Lord, can I have a word for the year, too?? Um, ok, I know I was thinking You don’t work like that, but Jen’s story, here, really hit me. Do You want to work like that with me? If You want to, I’m askin’!”

    So – thanks for telling the stories you shared, yesterday’s and today’s! Made me put some more trust in the Lord 🙂

  15. Eva

    NOOOO! stay home! No good comes from spending time with exhausting, energy draining people!
    Na, just kidding. I spend my work days surrounded by hundreds of teenagers so I know it’s important to ‘get out’, as my Nanna would say. Its just that during the holidays (ie, now) you wont catch me doing things like ‘socialising’. Euch 😉

    • Eva

      ALSO ( look, I get internet ranty when I dont mix with real people enough 😉 ) you’re point about listening and asking real questions really struck a nerve with me. We have to travel interstate next week for surgery on one of my boys and I swear that every person that I’ve mentioned it to ( there haven’t been that many because I tend to ask people questions rather than talk about myself ) have used it as a great opportunity to talk about their visit to the GP or their child’s slight limp or whatever. Its ALWAYS about them. It would be just nice occasionally to be the one listened too, you know?

      OK, unloading on internet strangers. It’s clearly time to leave the house…

  16. Susan

    Thank you so much for this! My husband and I used to be very, very social before kids, and even after we had just 2 or 3. But, lately, with #6 on the way, I’ve noticed that our trend is to say, “No” to stay home and to take care of everyone here. But, you are right…there is a world of love and life and evangelization outside of the home (and not just a church activities) where Christ is to be met and introduced as well. I feel so encouraged by your words today. Thank you!

  17. Bonnie Way

    Great word. One I should use too. 🙂 Great picture of you as well. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Trisha Niermeyer Potter

    I admire your willingness to accept a word that seems so contrary to what you often are inclined to do, especially with a posse of small children to contend with. Though you feel stressed and overwhelmed, so often there are people who will be struck in a brief moment by how precious one of your children is, and that may change their day, week, month, year. My husband and I don’t have children of our own, and we may never be able to, so we are often struck (usually figuratively instead of literally, but sometimes both) by the children we see. Though you may only see the mismatched socks, ill-fitting outerwear, tangled hair, someone else sees a ray of hope, sunlight, joy, just being in the presence of a little one. GO and be blessed as well as a blessing!

  19. Laura

    i am picturing you at the restaurant with a giant roll of toilet paper under your arm.

    this is all really wonderful, and my first time here in your space, so although we are not face to face, thank you for a great time.

    the image of you with the toilet paper aside, my next favorite image you paint is of Jesus…the flesh to flesh connection, that was so important. this stuck out for me. because i think it is so much easier to say “no” and to “not go” in todays world, because we have this constant insta-connection all day long…a false sense of true connection…a make believe communion. because we tweeted and updated our status and pinned and posted and took 600 pictures of our food and our feet, we FEEL like we have connected.

    but you are right. we are not connected. not like the way we connect face to face.

    i just heard this at a Cristian concert…that there are no neutral encounters. every single encounter is an opportunity to shine.

    so you GO girl…get on out there and shine for others, face to face, flesh to flesh…with a giant roll of toilet paper under your arm!

  20. Joanna

    fabulous post and wonderful word for this year. we are expecting our first kiddo in april and I’m trying to get as much friend time in before this little girl makes her debut and takes a good chunk of our time. really trying to reach out to those around me and making connections. community it what it’s all about!

  21. Kay

    I LOVE THIS POST!!!! Thank you for sharing! Totally made my morning. Love the idea of having a word — but instead of a word for me, your post showed me how gorgeous a blessing it is to have a sense of humor!!! I think God may be calling me to take myself a little less seriously 🙂 My heart literally skipped a beat. God love you!!!

  22. Redfin7

    Oh, I love this. Thanks Jennifer.

  23. Aimee M. Cooper

    Learning to recognize and respond to those impulses is a life=long process – our own mental clutter does so easily get in the way. And the inspirations change day to day: one day it’s “sit down and pray deeply,” the next it’s “get up and get to work!” And often contrary to my natural inclination. “GO” – and do what the Lord is asking you to do today, into the cave of prayer, or into the world!

    And Jennifer, I’m glad to know you’re an introvert, because I am, too. Weird that I’m called to be an evangelist. But then it forces me onto the grace of God, because it really is NOT my own natural ability.

  24. Patty

    You are so right. Cyberspace can never replace personal contact. Jesus taught the apostles while they lived and traveled with Him. Can you imagine if He had just told them…follow Me on Twitter?? I’ll tweet you everything I want you to know.

  25. Caroline M.

    Some days I wonder if I didn’t miss a vocation as a desert hermit. But then God reminds me how self-centered I get if there aren’t a bunch of people around. This is brilliant, and introverts are the ones who need to hear this most.

  26. Gina

    You are amazing and inspirational, Jen.

  27. Monica

    Love this post and your word GO has really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Katie

    Jen, As usual, you have your finger on the pulse of my life. This is the exact dilemma I face going into the New Year. Multiple little kids + finite energy = super reluctance to commit to anything which also = isolation. Thank you for sharing your burst of inspiration, and even though my word for the New Year is kindness, one of my 5 goals is to have more fun (have you read Kristen Armstrongs blog on Runner’s World? I think you would love her New Year Resolution posts (she and her brother have a system they have been doing for years). http://www.runnersworld.com/womens-running/one-word

  29. Jules

    One of my CrossFitting friends invited me to some invitational meeting about running this week. I couldn’t go as I had church, and when church got cancelled I still planned to skip it. Your post came to mind though, and so I decided to “go.” I’m now signed up for 9 weeks of training and a 5k… I can’t decide if I should thank you or stop reading your blog forever! Great post. 🙂

  30. Little Wife

    I just wanted to pop in to let you know… your post about not having a word of the year inspired me to pray and think about a word of the year, too! I think I’ve got one, but it’s a toughie. More prayer needed- =)

    I can definitely understand feeling that it’s so hard to “go.” We’re in a sort of unusual situation- we live and work at a Camp. It’s pretty awesome, but can also mean that we see the same people all the time, and we don’t get out much. It’s been such a blessing to get involved in a church and a small group that’s very active- we really needed it!

  31. Annery @ home

    I’ve so enjoyed reading other’s words. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Lisa-Jo Baker (@lisajobaker)

    Been thinking similar thoughts lately – it’s what prompted me to host a meetup in South Africa for blog readers/friends. I mean, who does that? Hang out with strangers from the Internet…and yet, it felt like the most natural thing to bring together all these people who read and experience and connect around the same themes. The power of in person. Yes. That. And also? Trying not to break that whole “Thou shalt not covet” commandment that you got to hang at Jennie’s book release. Sigh. Austin is for the cool kids. But I will be there for IF. I shall!

  33. Beth Anne

    So this is crazy but we have the SAME word of the YEAR..mine is GO as well haven’t written about it in detail (just a quick take today). I’m going to all the places I’ve been wanting to go to for years and taking a leap of doing things this year.

    Also I met Jennie Allen at a conference she spoke at in October and received a copy of her new book. I’m giving away a copy of it on my blog in a few weeks 🙂

  34. K D

    You have written so many fantastic posts over the years and this one ranks among them. This is exactly what I needed to read. Even though my life is very different from yours (this is our first year as empty nesters) I still need to heed your thoughts. With that in mind I’m going to get off the internet, write my late Christmas cards and thank yous, and make some phone calls.

  35. Jennifer @ Little a Silly Goose

    I love the idea of a word for the year and cherish those moments when God’s voice can be heard so clearly. I think go is a great word, and it’s got me thinking about how I need to join our church mom’s group for an event again soon. It’s so hard for me to get out with young kids, but it is so important to take the time to be with others and support and encourage each other. Thanks for always giving us great food for thought.

  36. Amy

    I love this post. I love your word. This is the first year for me to pick word, and it took quite a while for me to feel like I found the right one. I finally found it! It came to me yesterday out of nowhere. OPEN. That’s my word for 2014. The possibilities are endless… 🙂

  37. Mary Anne

    My word of the tear is BALANCE. I haven’t digested that fully yet but it my mantra (cloud).

  38. Mary Anne

    (Wow-that’s a good typo. I meant word if the YEAR. Probably why I need balance!!!)

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