Wednesday, January 4, 2012

the not-so favorite

My son goes down in the orchard to incinerate
Burning the day's trash, the accumulation
Of old letters, empty toilet-paper rolls, a paper plate,
Marketing lists, discarded manuscript, on occasion
Used cartons of bird seek, dog biscuit.  The fire
Rises and sinks; he stirs the ashes till the flames expire.

Burn, too, old sins, bedraggled virtues, tarnished
Dreams, remembered unrealities, the gross
Should-haves, would-haves, the unvarnished
Errors of the day, burn, burn the loss
Of intentions, recurring failures, turn
Them all to ash.  Incinerate the dross.  Burn.  Burn.

-Madeleine L'Engle

I posted this same poem by Madeleine L'Engle last year- it seems very appropriate for the new year.

Last year I gave myself until Plough Monday, the traditional start of the agricultural year, to choose my word of the year and I will this year again (Jan.9 this year).  I already wrote about some of my favorites of 2011, now I am thinking about my regrets.

My word for 2011 was Plow, and I found it to be a very strong metaphor for my year.  It stuck with me throughout the year; when life was hard, or dull, or just daily, it was good to remember the simple instruction for this year: plow.  Do the next thing.  Keep moving forward.  And to believe, that through simple, small, deliberate action there is hope, holiness, vision, miracles . . . even risk.

It is tempting to feel defeated about the past year for myself personally. Our greatest struggle this year was sleep, which though not catastrophic was a trial in its own way, and this combined with next to zero personal time and a cranky teether meant that I made no real progress on any personal goals.  I must have expected this intuitively when I set my goals last January, because the word plow kept me grounded and content, with smaller expectations.  Perhaps my greatest accomplishment this year was in learning to accept that life in this season is not about me, and to let things go.

I am wondering this year what is the balance between letting go and fighting to push forward?  Jim has for years encouraged me to hire a sitter so I can write, but I haven't wanted to spend the money.  This year I finally accepted that if I am going to make any progress at all, something needs to change. I am hoping to hire a sitter for a few hours every week.

These are some other regrets that I hope to change in the coming year:

I plowed myself into a negativity rut.  I was hurt and my vision became clouded, I allowed myself to think in critical, negative patterns.

Sometimes my plow was full of rocks and I failed to take Christ's yoke.

I have never looked back in doubt after taking up my plow to follow Christ, but I am plagued by self-doubt and I have too often begun to plow only to become blocked by fear or discouragement.

I can't make decisions.  I happen, however, to like this "perceiving" function of my personality, so rather than being discouraged because I prefer to keep decisions open, I realize that I need more readily trust the voice of the Spirit within me gently saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

I spent too much time this year looking down at the dirt rather than up at the light.

I need to change.


Ruth said...

What a great post. You inspire me with your reflectiveness. You are absolutely right about the season of your life. It won't always be that way.

tonia said...

mmm...some really good stuff here. do you see it? even your word: plow...such awareness of where you are in your life, the work that needs to be done. thanks so much for sharing.

Tisa said...

Always encouraging for me to come and read your heart...thank you.