About the Author

Mary is a writer and speaker who lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons – but lives because of God’s grace. She writes about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places at MaryCarver.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Mary,
    Rooting for you as you choose joy in 2016!! My word is “See”. In order to truly see, I need to be outwardly vs. inwardly focused. I want to stop, be intentional, and actually see God in new and glorious ways. I also want to truly see others and what’s going on in their lives so that I might love them better. I want to not be in such a hurry that I can actually focus on the here and now…what is right in front of my nose. I want to truly see the pain others are suffering and lend support whether it’s across the street or across the globe. I also want to see myself as God sees me…to look at life through His lense…not my own. So that’s it. Here we go…
    Happy New Year Mary!

    • I love this, Bev. Several years ago, my theme was VISION. It’s very similar to SEE. May the Lord give you rich insights as you see Him in every circumstance of your life in 2016.
      Happy New Year.

  2. My word is SUBSTANCE. I just wrote a 12-day, advent devotional series on my blog called Choosing Substance. I’m going to try to practice what I preach and do less mindless, scattered activity in 2016.

    • I think that’s a great idea, I have really devoted myself to serving the Lord, but now and then I have to get away and find a little mindless entertainment.

  3. Last year was my first time to be apart of this. I was amazed how my word carried through the whole year (peace). Three days prior to Christmas I had my word for 2016 “ME”.
    Taking me time … in yesterday’s sermon as my husband shared I wrote on my January calendar Psalm 90:14 as the verse for the year ….. let God satisfy me early in the morning so have joy through the day.
    Taking time for me, setting me as a priority, … I know God will be near and will shine in the broken areas and bring calm.

  4. JOY was my word of the year the first year I did it. I truly made me experience JOY in every day life. My word this year is CONNECT.

    • Judy, I have been thinking and thinking on this for 2 months! And my word is connect as well. Four years ago I moved back home (home state) unwillingly and have been fighting it and a lot of other things since. Now my word for the year is connect, so that I can see the beauty around me and the connections. With faith, with family, with friends, my community, my dreams, my present, my past. I’m curious, why did you choose connect?

  5. I love this, Mary! It’s so transparent and inspiring, both characteristics I look for in others’ writing and which I need for my life. Like you, I can get overcome with all the responsibilities, goals, and tasks of a New Year looming ahead. It is at once exciting and terrifying (not your word, but mine). Many years ago, I decided to try living by a theme (what is now called one word in a number of circles). Sometimes, I sense the Lord asking me to repeat a theme (I’m a slow learner), and this year, it’s BRIDE. I know–it’s a strange word. That was my theme last year, and now again in 2016. Having just celebrated my fortieth wedding anniversary, I am hardly a bride. And yet, Jesus is my Bridegroom, and I was surprised at how many Biblical references there are to bride. I love the book of Hosea, especially, to give substance (Christan’s word below) to this word. And God is inspiring me with so many points of reference to a bride….the things she does, who she is, but especially who her Bridegroom is, when we think of Christ. And talk about having joy in knowing He is my Bridegroom!! I hope that you will post here again a year from now to let us know in what particular ways the Lord manifested joy in your life. I love the week between Christmas and the New Year. For me, it has always been a gift. The calendar is clear, the guests are gone, and it is just the Lord and I. I think before we can really move ahead into the New Year, it’s good to reflect upon what the past year has been–where we moved forward or where we regressed spiritually. I often close a journal listing the highlights and lowlights of my year. Have I obeyed the Lord? Where have I failed or succeeded? How did I live out that theme? Do I really know myself, see myself, under the Holy Spirit’s search light? Do I really know Him? Granted, that will all take a lifetime, but there is something so special about reflecting back before we move forward. I would also simply add a slightly different perspective re: joy and happiness. I really don’t think there is a difference. Over the years, I had heard many teachers make this distinction, but I could never find a biblical reference point. I have been reading a marvelous book by Dr. Randy Alcorn called, simply, Happiness, and he makes a strong case for happiness being the same as joy. Not trying to argue here whatever, but simply to offer another perspective. Thank you so much, Mary, for a wonderfully encouraging post. May the Lord flood your heart with JOY in 2016.
    Happy New Year!

  6. Joy was my word for 2015… in fact #choosejoy was my theme on Instagram and Twitter all year! It’s amazing how fulfilling it is to focus on just one word throughout all the ups and downs of a year! My word for 2016 will be TRUST… because I have a penchant for letting fear creep in — fears of all shapes and sizes. I want to just TRUST in Him — in His love, His provision, and His path for me. Blessings to you all!

  7. Hi. Happy New Year! I thoroughly enjoyed this article! The word that came into my heart and mind wa kindness.

  8. God gave me the word “unhurried” back in November for the upcoming year….I believe He’s encouraging me to live more in the moments, not hurrying on to the next thing. To take time studying His Word -not treat it like something to check off my to do list for the day. Spend more time listening for His voice in my prayer time-not hurrying through all my requests…..I’m excited to see all the other reasons He gave me that word at the END of 2016…reasons He will reveal that I haven’t even expected!! He’s a good, good Father…

  9. Four Bible verses spoke to me as I was going through the process and my one-word for 2016 is PURPOSE. Proverbs 31 (The Proverbs 31 Woman walks in virtue, walks with purpose, walks by faith), Colossians 3:23 (Live for an audience of One), 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whatever you do, do all for the glory of God), 1 Corinthians 10:8 (Run with purpose).

    • Last year the Lord gave me scriptures to back up my word, and I need to seek that for this year’s word as well. Thank you for this reminder, Racquel!

  10. My word is compassion. I’ve been struggling the pass few months and this word keeps coming back to me.

    • Toni, it’s a brave and wise thing to lean in to the thing you are struggling with. Praying you find compassion for others and yourself on this journey!

  11. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. Jn. 10:27 Asking Jesus to speak a word over the coming year is so life giving. Being still and listening for His answer requires that I listen until I hear His voice. He then begins to repeat that word or theme throughout the year in various ways. So personal and intimate. He alone knows what is to come and what I’ll need to abide with Him through it all. I heard ‘trust’. His heart is for me no matter the circumstances. Amazing grace. Thanks for sharing this! Happy New Year! Mary

    • Lisa, I love that you’ve chosen RESPOND instead of OBEY. A few years ago I chose OBEY and it didn’t necessarily drive me to respond. I don’t know; the words are similar but not the same. I’m thinking in circles right now, but I guess the point is – you’ve made me think about this! 🙂

  12. God has made it clear that “steadfast” is my word for this upcoming year. 1 Cor 15:58. I was to stop the roller coaster and be steadfast and consistent….day in and day out!

  13. This year my word is “Enough”. As in I am enough in God, I have enough stuff, I do enough. I am trying to simplify and rest this year, and hopefully this word will remind me that things are ok just as they are….I don’t need to buy more or do more or be more than I am.

  14. I’m choosing hope because going through the ordeal with my husband (he’s wrongfully imprisoned) I tend to lose hope that he will ever get out, but without God we should never lose hope

    • Miranda, I can’t fathom your situation, but I’m so inspired by your commitment to hope nevertheless. Some of the other commenters today have shared great scriptures to support this word. Praying He shows you “the thrill of hope” this year!

  15. My One Word is Hear
    Scripture: “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24 NIV
    Webster Definistion: “to listen to with attention”

  16. Great post. I have Chose Joy as my Facebook page photo. My word is Focus. As a person with ADHD I find myself chasing squirrels (they are cute). God has been helping me to FOCUS. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Joy was my word for the second half of 2015. My husband passed away in June, and I needed to find joy to balance the grief. This year’s word is “trust,” as I need to stop worrying and trust in God.

  18. I have started a journal called Finding Joy – so we share that word “JOY”. Too often we overlook the the small joys and treasures that are presented in our day-to-day lives. In 2016 I plan to discover these blessings and praise Jesus for how rich I am.

    I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. ~ Psalm 34:1

  19. My word for 2016 (after a lot of anxious striving/worrying over Just the Right One) came to mind after listening to O Holy Night: A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
    THAT is why I’m choosing Hope for 2016.

  20. Last year I chose the word Stronger and will continue with it this year. While I have grown stronger in some areas, I still have work to do. I picked a scripture each week of 2015 and for 2016, I will focus on these scriptures as I continue my Stronger Journey. I am exited!

  21. I love having a focus word for the year. In the past my word has been NOURISH. This year it is LISTEN. These words whisper to my heart, not what to do, but how to live it.

  22. My word for 2016 is purpose. I find I can go through a day without a sense of purpose, and this year I have bought a Passion Planner to help me cultivate purpose in several areas of my life.

  23. The first word that comes to mind this year is Abba. I truly desire to look to Him in everything; in every relationship, action and moment.

  24. My word is RESTORATION believing God can restore my family and bring my adult sons back to their childhood faith. Isaiah 61:1-4,7,8,9.

  25. My word for this year is BE!

    BE present, a blessing, of good cheer, prayerful, patient, joyful, an encourager, strong, thankful, bold. Just to name a few! I’m excited to see how the Lord will use this word in my life in 2016!

  26. I love reading what everyone’s words are – it always inspires and encourages me.

    My word is FOLLOW… because following involves so much I need in my Christian walk right now – it involves seeking direction, listening, staying close, trusting, obeying… and I think I will find a lot more as the year goes along!

  27. I’m trying to figure out what would be a word I could make up that incorporates “obedient” and “be still”. Besides trying to pray and being in the word daily, I also need to be still. “Intentional” maybe?

      • RESPOND it is. I can choose how I respond to certain circumstances. I can be mindful how I do respond to my days and time. Thank you.

  28. Thank you. I started choosing a word 3 years ago now & have been amazed at how they flow together in my life. 1st was Strength, then this year has been courage and now 2016’s word is Obedient. Last year I had trouble understanding or hearing what one word the Lord was calling me to. This year it came through loud & clear in October. Exciting! Can’t wait for your book.

  29. My word for 2016 is also joy! I am currently reading several books about joy, gratitude, happiness, and contentment. I have a few more books about joy that I will be reading next year. Joy is a theme that keeps finding me, so this year, with all of the changes my family is facing, I want to go through them with joy!

  30. I love the idea of focusing on one word each day, I’ll mention that on my blog. I don’t make resolutions. I probably never will drink enough water and I can’t eat just one BBQ chip, but I can love Jesus and my word is rest. It’s funny that we have to work at getting to the rest of Lord, that supernatural rest. Blessings in 2016!

  31. God gave me “remain.” and last year I had “trust.” Remain is not a word I was excited about, but I am learning to embrace it. For me, it’s about remaining where I am in life right now and continuing to do what God has called me to do. Love your word this year Mary!

  32. This is my third year in choosing a word. My word this year is “reach”. I feel like God has given me this word to start reaching out to others and share his love.

  33. Hi, Mary, & anyone else who reads this comment. 🙂

    I received the related email for this post a little while ago, & I’ve been pondering & praying about the word that God wants for me this year, &, at first, I was thinking about JOY since I need to be more joyful. Then I thought about THANKFUL or GRATITUDE, which’re related to each other, since I’ve been learning to have these in my life over the past several years, which’ve been extremely hard for me.

    After a while the words FAITH & TRUST kept coming to mind. I need more of both. While I’ve been learning to live with more of both in my life, the one that I need most of all is TRUST. I have faith & do need to be more faithful to God, & one way that I can work on this is by working on TRUSTing Him a lot more.

    So my word for 2016 is TRUST, & the verse that I’m making my verse for 2016 is Isaiah 41:10 ~ “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (ESV)

  34. For 2015 I had SMILE and today when in town visiting my mother in law, a 2 men TV mini-team wandered through the streets and asked me my ‘goals’ for 2016. I told them that I’m not taking the risk of promising myself something I wouldn’t hold but that yesterday, Sunday, I had one word coming up to my mind several times and I decided that that one word was my 2016 motto: JOY… same as yours – but that’s OK! 🙂

      • Dear Mary,
        Today, on May 11/16, I think once more with gratitude to this ‘motto of one word’ to accompany us throughout a whole year…. I not only look for one joy per day but the set goal (easily done!) is at least FIVE JOYS – minimal as they may be in themselves, they are reason to be thankful, joyful, filled with courage and smiling into the day/moment/minute.
        Love you for the post…. Kiki

  35. I didn’t consciously choose a theme for 2015, but looking back the one that emerged was SURRENDER. For the new year, as I looked back over my life I realize how much of it has been ruled by fear and anxiety, so I was already planning to declare 2016 to be my Year Without Fear. Thinking about how to sum that up, I was going to say that my word for the new year is TRUST, but after praying about it I think my word for this year is supposed to be LEAN. As in, lean into God–trust Him, rest in Him, let Him carry me when I need it.

  36. I had already had chosen this word, So now I think it was meant to be! Now gettin’ ready to be joying this new year. My verse is Romans 15:13

  37. As we come to the close of 2015, a very difficult year for me, and begin to look towards 2016 the word that has made a resounding presence on my spirit is the word Thrive! Last few I struggled with finances, being out of work more than working, and over the last few years my walk with God has fallen away due to all the struggles I have been facing, as well as a falling out of the church I attended before my husband passed away in 2012. I have been reluctant to step out and find a new church because of the hurt I suffered before and because I never fully felt accepted as I was even though I was active in women’s ministry and worship. As a single mom I have always focused on making sure my daughters are confident and tried to raise them up in church so that they would be able to succeed in life and in faith. However I didn’t worry about whether I was succeeding in my own life, it was always about everyone else, and figured as long as we were getting by than we were ok. God has been teaching me that I am worthy too, worthy to make a difference in this world, worthy to do more than survive, worthy to succeed by His standards and so my one word for 2016 is Thrive! I will thrive in my walk with God, I will thrive in getting healthier, I will thrive in finding a job I love, I will thrive in making new friendships and building relationships, I will thrive in finding a church community to become a part of, I will thrive in learning to love who I am and in finding the things that make me happy and fulfilled.

  38. I’ve chosen one word every year–this is my 5th! This year is “gather.” Gather together everything I’ve been collecting, and gather women together. I did joy as my first word!! 🙂

  39. My word for 2016 is SURRENDER. I have been a follower of Christ for a long time but God has recently shown me some areas in my life that I have not fully surrendered to Him. It is time!!

  40. I would like to choose the word LOVE for this year ahead in my first time of doing this. I want to be ready to express love to myself and to others more readily and in a way that will reflect Jesus in my live. the words of a hymn or chorus come to mind as my prayer, that God will teach me to love as He loves and do what He would do.

  41. My word for 2016 is fearless. As someone who lives in and battles with a spirit of fear on a daily basis, this year’s one word both excites me and scares me.

  42. Mary, I am with you! After spending time pouring over Sara Frankl’s words and getting to know her through your words in your book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, I couldn’t choose anything but JOY! Last year my word was SIMPLIFY…and my husband and I did just that over the course of last year. I love the idea behind One Word. I bought and read Ashcraft and Olsen’s book My One Word a couple of years ago. I am tickled pink to be a part of One Word 365 this year.

  43. I’m also choosing JOY as my word for 2016! 2015 was a year of grief for me, after losing my dad, who was my my best friend, on November 24, 2014. I’m praying for restoration of the true JOY that comes only from the Savior, one day at a time

  44. Mary, I chose a phrase to focus me this year: simple is satisfying. Joy was my word last year. I stenciled JOY on a canvas then hung it above my desk to remind me everyday. It worked!

  45. My word for 2016, is INTENTIONAL. I need to learn to be real and present in my walk with Christ. I need to work on relationships with family and friends, and to be intentional in those areas. I need to learn how to be who I am, and not worry about what others think. (As long as I’m BEING who God wants me to be!). I want to be a DOER OF THE WORD, not just a hearer. (James 1:22).

  46. Every year I choose one word that I believe God would have me focus on-for 2016 it is GRACE. I am looking forward to growing in grace and lavishly extending grace to all I encounter. I have a new journal where I will memorize scriptures regarding Grace and am looking forward to seeing what God will do this year in & through me!

  47. Mary,

    My word for 2016 is contentment. I need to be more content with my circumstances and surroundings. I need to look up, around and outside myself to put my petty problems in light of others misery! My focus needs to be on the needs of others and I need put myself in their shoes!
    Blessings 🙂

  48. Love your word for 2016! I’m picking the word “Faith” for 2016. I always thought I had a lot of FAITH in my everyday life. Faith in God, my family, my country, & my friends. Turns out I need to ask if I have any FAITH in myself that God will take all my worry & stress away in his time.
    I want to to truly feel God’s plan for me & watch it play out in my life.

  49. Last year when you had the chose a word I put a question on FB to give me one word to live by in 2015. I had been battling deep grief and depression and having been a poetry writer for years I knew the power of words. I took many of the words and wrote them in paint on the glass of an empty picture frame and hung it by my mirror. I have read this list many times this past year. I have already bought a frame for 2015 and plan on writing Jesus in the middle and many words to describe his unfailing love for me to remember in 2016. That one word project helped me grow in faith and unimaginable love for Jesus!

  50. my word for 2016 is prayer. It seems like a make it a priority but often get caught up in the business of life. I choose this word to remind me I can say a prayer in a moment

  51. My word this year will be CLEAR. My head is swimming in chaos homeschool, bible reading, organizing the house and my time. Schedules, social activities. You name it, it’s crammed in my head, overwhelming me and turning me into one crabby wife and mother. I want to clear my head, my spaces, and my time. Bring it back to zero and slowly reintegrate things. I’m hoping I will feel more clear.

  52. My word is “dare.” It’s a bit out there for me but I’m blogging a bit about why I’m choosing it. Mostly because I think this year will require boldness on my part. Dare to dream, dare to hope, dare to write.

  53. I am choosing “beauty” because it will direct my gaze outside of myself and keep it on the Lord — the maker of all things beautiful. He alone can help me see all that crosses my path as full of beauty. In His strength alone I can leave a trail of beauty as well.

  54. My word for the year is MOVE. Staying on point with this word will help me reach goals I have not even thought of. So here goes, I am going to move!

  55. This was a good thing for me last year, I am picking the same word because it’s been difficult learning it. #listen #oneword365

  56. My word is Grace! For me that means, God, Relationships, Abundance, Cheerfulness, and Ease!

  57. Mary,
    I have chosen the word “Redeemed” for 2016. There are parts of my story that have felt wasted to date; parts I wasn’t ready to talk about. My word for 2015 was “Ready” and it’s a bit ironic that at the end of that chapter, I finally *feel* ready to move into new areas, and to see the hard parts of my story “Redeemed”. Thank you for this post; it has confirmed my need to choose one word and focus this year. Happy New Year to you and your family as well. 🙂

  58. I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and I received the devotional for Christmas. My word this year is Eucharisteo, or Thankfulness. I think that learning how to be truly thankful this year for every easy and/or hard circumstance will help me experience true Joy and see His beauty in all things. This is what my heart longs for.

  59. I would choose COPE.. Knowing has a purpose for all that happens to us. I have had to COPE with a Sister in a nursing home for 13 yrs. with Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, colostomy