As is my custom, I began searching for a theme last October around the time Halloween decorations took flight all over the house. This is my fifth year to choose a theme, and the way I do it is to pick a word or phrase that applies to all aspects of my life. The words– Intention (2015), Reinvention (2016), Discipline (2017), and Ambition (2018)–have caused no small amount of trouble. Yes, I blame the words.
But the words have also been a balm in times of uncertainty and a growth mechanism. If nothing else, they help me focus my efforts. They force me to acknowledge where I’ve been and where I want to be.
I considered a bunch of words for 2019: abundance, forward, optimism, openness, new, support, begin, enlarge, reach, stretch. None of these told the whole story of who I wanted to become in 2019, and I finally settled on the phrase Planting & Watering. It comes from a new testament Bible verse: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” 1 Corinthians 3: 6.
I am a Christian, and I believe these words. I also know they apply in context to the conversion work that Paul and Apollos performed–their preaching and teaching and service.
However, most of life revolves around the principles of planting and watering and someone else granting the growth. Hamilton in the eponymous musical said the same of democracy. I’m saying it of most of my life. As a Christian, I do believe God gives the increase when the planting and watering concern what concerns my God. Most of that comes down to love. I don’t believe my God will give me more money because I work harder. I do believe my God will increase something for somebody when I work toward love.
The older I get, the more I realize how little I control in this world. Having a teenager will do that. In relationships, the most I can do is plant and water, tend my side of the relationship. The increase comes, if at all, out of so many variables, most of which I cannot affect. For example, I want my kids to carry a lot of life skills into their adulthood. But I cannot force them to learn anything. I cannot force them to practice or to remember or to care. I can only plant and water. I can only show what the skill is, why it’s important, how to do it, and then practice it myself. Planting and watering.
I want my kids to understand the world and to love people and to care about humans and the planet. But I don’t control any of those actions–my children’s understanding, love, or care. If I focus my mothering energies on planting and watering what I hope will grow, then maybe…Maybe it will grow. And if it doesn’t, I won’t regret the effort.
This is true of my marriage, my friendships, and so much more. It’s also true of my own physical and mental health. There are factors I don’t control, like heredity, past choices and failures, aging, accidental injury, or future illness, among others. I don’t wholly control the increase or the growth in health areas. I can plant and I can water. Then a host of variables–environmental, hereditary, etc–will conspire to increase or decrease my health. I don’t believe I’ll regret having done the work, though. Whether it’s getting enough steps or sleep, or seeing my therapist, or eating cholesterol-lowering foods, I likely won’t regret having done it regardless of the outcome.
I felt this weight lift off me after I chose the phrase. The weight of expectation and disappointment. The weight of regret and failures and shouldas and couldas. Another weight lifted from my working shoulders. I no longer feel burdened with making an agent or publisher choose me. Lean in closely. I never controlled that anyway. Now I am free to plant and water by writing more, editing better, drawing anything, and sending it out into the world. The increase will come, or it won’t. But I’ll never regret the work. I’ll just have more fun doing it.
This topic will simmer here on the blog all year. I’ll tell you what I planned and how it’s panning out. If you gain anything from it, excellent! If not, I don’t regret a thing.