Annual Theme Planting & Watering Uncategorized

2019 Theme Announced

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.

Annual Theme discipline Uncategorized

Discipline: Create Space

Discipline is creating space and then guarding that space.

This whole thing started more than a year ago, though it took me months to find my footing. I knew I wanted to practice discipline in 2017, but I thought it meant a lot of counting all the things I would accomplish and tracking my progress. A preacher happened to give a well-timed message in which he said that discipline is creating space in which God can work in your life. That changed the course of my year. And my perspective.

When I stopped looking at discipline as a matter of will and started seeing it as actively enlarging a space, life got…well, it got difficult for a while. I hated it. The whole first quarter of 2017, I resisted everything. I saw my theme as a sort of curse I’d called down on my own head. Had inviting myself to create space actually made my world bigger?

It had sounded so grand; reality was less appealing. If you’ve read this blog this year, you know the story: moved across the country, hurricane, moved back, depression and anxiety and general me-ness. First quarter resistance (plus depression resurgence). Second quarter tolerance. Third quarter acceptance. In the fourth quarter, I finally found myself embracing the space.

Whether you practice a discipline that is spiritual, mental, or physical, whether social, political, or personal, whether vocational or avocational – know that you are both creating space and guarding the space until it becomes usable.

You can dream of the space to work or to live or to be, but first you need the space. Discipline ensures you create the space. When the work begins, you may not be prepared to inhabit the space, and the space may not be prepared for you. I believe in a God I worship and serve; a God who is not arbitrary and who works with my life when I allow. I don’t know what you believe in – God, the universe, human effort. We may disagree. No matter how we believe or how disparately, the equation is the same: discipline = space for work to happen.

Guard the space until you can fill it, until you can live through it and truly make it your habitation. Treat it as the sometimes-frustrating, sometimes-exhilarating, always-in-progress sanctuary that it is. That it can be. While the work happens, look for other spaces to open.

May your new year be filled to overflowing with the very things you need – first to survive, then to thrive!

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