Bigger 2016 celebration personal writing The Road to Love tradition


January 1, 2016

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Christian and I have a NYE/New Year tradition where we both choose a word for ourselves – the word we choose is a word that we pray over, journal about, and really embrace in the new year. We write our word on a rock and keep it on our desks and then at the end of the year we put the rock in a big glass bowl that sits in our home – full of all the rocks from past years. It’s one of my favorite traditions!

My word for 2015 was Adventure, and while I didn’t blog about it specifically per se, I learned a lot about what adventuring in life means when you stop seeking it and instead open your arms wide so that it might find you. Christian and I had a lot of unplanned adventures in 2015, here are just a few:

  • moving to Nashville sooner than we’d originally thought. At the time, we had just made the decision to stay in Chicago for 3-5 more years and then move to TN when God said, nope- you’re going in two months. 
  • forgoing fertility treatments and instead signing with an adoption agency (this was definitely my favorite adventure of 2015, one that continues still and is still my favorite!!!!!)
  • traveling to and experiencing Paris– a lifetime dream of mine, one that was granted when Christian was booked for a gig in Europe
  • buying our first house – something we thought we’d do in the next five years, but in no way did we think we’d be doing it within 7 months of living in our new state! God literally put our new house on our path – we walked by it while on a walk one day and less than 48 hours later the house was ours. CRAZY!!
  • deciding to write a novel – a story that unexpectedly grew in my heart and something I never in a million years thought I’d set out to do!
  • (and so. much. more.)

The most amazing thing about all of our unplanned adventures, and the thing I’m most grateful for, is that we had nothing to do with the planning – our adventures were very much His plans for us. They weren’t just the better choice, they were the BEST choice and I am so deeply thankful to Jesus for steering us in the most perfect and beautiful directions – even when we were so confused as to why our original plans weren’t working out. I was so sure I knew just what our adventures would be for 2015 and I was so incorrect on those predictions – on all accounts. And man am I glad I was wrong because His plans are always so much better and I wouldn’t change them for anything!

So for this year’s word, I thought long and hard about what it should be. I prayed about it, thought I knew and then changed my mind, until I realized that the feeling in my heart was so much MORE than just one thing… therefore, it was hard to choose just one word. I began to write down my thoughts in list form which quickly turned into goals for the new year. A few of the things I wrote down were:

  • pray BIGGER, harder for everything – bring everything to Jesus
  • love others greater – be bold!
  • write more, share what’s on my heart – be brave!
  • live with bigger passion, less fear! Less second-guessing myself – trust the gifts He’s given to me!
  • dream bigger!! Work HARDER on my novel! 

When I finished my list I sat back to look at it and there was one word that really stuck out to me… BIGGER. Of course in true word-obsessed fashion I googled the official definition of “bigger” and it read: of considerable size, extent, intensity, importance or seriousness. Um, YES. It was exactly what I felt in my heart and yet couldn’t quite pinpoint why, I just knew there was a fire burning and it was saying – DO THIS, DUDE.

And so, BIGGER is my word for 2016. No, this doesn’t mean that I’ll expect every day from here on out to be exciting or amazing… surely there will be hard days in 2016, frustrating days in 2016, sad days in 2016 – I don’t doubt any of that because that’s just a part of life (and it can mean I’m growing, if I choose to see it that way). But when I do find myself having one of “those” days, I’m going to pray harder, run farther, rest deeper, trust greater… I’m going to live braver in His name. I am going to strive to second-guess less and trust the gifts He’s given to me more. I am going to believe and trust that Jesus has all of those things, my entire life, in His hands and that He does encourage me to dream bigger, pray harder, love greater, and act with more passion, so that I might live a full life – life that He gifts to me with every breath.

There are seasons of rest and times to be still, and there are times to move and act and DO and I feel God is nudging me to say yes to the latter this next year 🙂 I’m excited and totally terrified (but mostly excited) and am going to push myself to share more of those things with you all in this space. So you heard me say it here, ok? Let’s do this, dude. Here’s to BIGGER!


Happy New Year!!

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Psst! Check back here on Monday for the all new Twelve Months of Bliss challenge for January, along with the Grateful Heart linkup!


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  • I love your NYE tradition! And I love the rock idea! When I read your blog, I feel like I’m having coffee with a friend 🙂 Can’t wait to read about your journey this year!

    • That means so much to me, Ashley! That’s like the greatest compliment a blogger could ever get, I think 🙂 Thank you! Here’s to more coffee dates in 2016! 😉 Happy New Year!

  • Christian Matthew Cullen

    I love this so much! I’m your BIGGEST fan and will continue to be. I am so proud of you and so grateful to know you. You’re my favorite!

  • First of all, that tradition….I love it! I think that is beautiful. You get daily reminders at your desk and then you get to reflect in past years’ words as well. Love that! Bigger is a great word bc it covers so much and can be used in so many areas. No matter what you do you do it well and with such a BIG heart. Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings you and your family!

    • Thank you, Anne!! It’s pretty awesome to look back at where you and I started in blogland and the ways we continue to march forward. So glad to know you! Happy New Year! 🙂

  • Yes!! This is awesome. I loove that tradition – it must be so cool to see all those rocks and think of the ways God brought those words to fruition over the years!! 2015 was quite the adventure for you all ;). So excited to see what BIGGER things he brings you this year!!

    • The rock bowl has also become an awesome conversation starter when we have people over 🙂 Happy New Year, Lauren!

  • Happy New Year Emily! I smiled, I mean smiled through this whole post. Love the word – Bigger. Fits you for sure in the way you described your past year and now this coming year. I sense great things happening this year. Bigger fits. I haven’t come up with my word yet. Last year it was energy. Starting a blog was the kicker. I have a few words in the back of my head, trying to see which one fits me. Waiting to see….let’s kick this new year.

  • I absolutely love you & your word! What a great concept of being more in the word & more with Jesus. I absolutely LOVE IT!

  • LOVE IT! I think my power word this year is Today. I’ve noticed that my phone always underlines the word today and this morning when reading my bible app it stuck out to me that I needed to focus on the today and not plan for what isn’t here in the present moment.
    Happy new year Emily and all!

    • Oooh. I like your word too. Cool that it has been underlined for you all along! 😉

  • I love this! Your post has actually inspired a word of the year for me this year and I’m posting about it later this week so thankyou for pushing me to get on goal set.
    Bigger is such a great choice of word, I am excited to see what god has in store for you in this next year.
    So many amazing adventures last year, and I am sure that those are going to bare even more fruit for both of you this year.
    Happy new year and here’s to a year of so much Bigger!

  • I love your word for 2016! And I love to see God’s faithfulness through adventure in 2015 and your faithfulness right back! xo. I’m posting my word on Monday 🙂

    • Can’t wait for your word reveal tomorrow!! (You had quite the adventure in 2015 too!)

  • Such a great word! I have been thinking about my word for a few weeks now and the more I think about it I know its the perfect one for 2016. Can’t wait to share it with the world soon! I hope you have an amazing BIG year!

  • Happy new year Emily! I’ve loved following along on your adventures in 2015 and I’m excited to see what 2016 holds for you!

  • Emily that is a great word! I thought about you as I selected my word this year because you totally encouraged me to do this exercise last year!!! May 2016 be a blessed year my friend!

  • Love it..sounds like the perfect word for you guys! I just love this tradition of yours. Best of wishes for 2016..can’t wait to see what BIG plans God has for you!!

  • I love the word and the idea of being bigger and bolder in 2016! It sounds like you had a fantastic 2015 and I just know this year is going to be a wonderful one for you! — Lisa | Two Martinis

    • Thanks for reading & for this sweet note, Lisa! Wishing you a happy 2016!

  • First, I love the rock tradition! That is such a good idea. Second, I love your word for this year, because it doesn’t just apply to one area of life, but all of them. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings your way!

    • After I wrote this post and continued to reflect on my word I thought, “Wow. There is a lot of work to do” 😉 Happy New Year!

  • Oh girl I love this. God is so good how He reveals things to us. I was so weird about my word but I’m owning it and I can’t wait to see what God does in and through me because of it. I love hearing people’s words and how they’re weaved through their stories for that year. He is amazing.

    • I’m dying to know what your word is!!! (I thought about you and your word a lot in 2015!)

  • An adventure-filled year, for sure! So many wonderful things happened for you Em. I love your word and especially all of the feelings and aims behind it – so excited for what will come! (The rock idea is fantastic, I really want to do something like that with M!)

    • I have loved doing the rock thing with X, and I’m looking forward to doing it with kids too. I think it makes for a great convo starter at the dinner table… kinda like a monthly check in 🙂

  • adventures is the perfect way to describe your year. and WOW from me. i hope 2016 makes all of your wishes come true.

  • I was reading another blogger discuss the trend of minimalism and how that has also made our actions small. I love the idea of going BIGGER!

  • Dude. How cute are you and Christian? So many of these traditions you share are total #couplegoals. Best of luck in your quest to go BIGGER this year! I looks forward to following along 😀

  • I am absolutely stealing that tradition!! Hope you don’t mind 🙂 but it’s just too adorable to pass up.

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