Kind words are like honey. They are sweet to the spirit and healing to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
Last Saturday night, as I was playing cards with Rachel and Allen’s mom during a girls’ weekend in Pittsburgh, suddenly I blurted out, “WOW! We are halfway done with 2018.” Someone half-heartedly responded with, “Yeah. Life goes so quickly.” HALFWAY. Really?!? HALFWAY? It seems such a short time ago that I was toiling away on the cusp of the New Year, working through the process to find my Word of the Year for 2018. And here it is, July something and suddenly, on an ordinary Saturday night, I was jolted back to my Word of the Year (WOTY).
I am just like the rest of you, having huge aspirations at the beginning of January for so many things: getting more exercise, spending more time with God, eating healthier, and the lists go on and on. There is something invigorating about a fresh start filled with hope for something new, better. Yet life keeps happening at break-neck speed, the mundane and extraordinary of our journeys keep permeating each day and suddenly, we stop (like I am right now) and the balloon filled with dreams and desires is suddenly sitting in the corner, crumpled and limp.
What normally permeates my thoughts during the first week of July are things like vacations and fireworks and freedom and family. But having been thrust back into the reminder of my word, “TEND,” I spent a fair amount of time wondering where it had taken me so far, what I am learning about and what the rest of 2018 might look like with this “gentle friend,” this “kind companion,” as I like to refer to it. Those phrases keep me away from disappointment with myself for “not doing a better job” with it or fear that I haven’t “done enough” to make the word worthy of the work I put into finding it. Basically, they keep the guilt and shame monsters tucked neatly away in a very locked closet where they should stay.
As this gentle friend nudged me once again this week, I spent my shower time, my time weeding and dead-heading my deck plants, and the “awake-in-the-middle-of the-night-for-no-reason” (UGH!) time pondering what she had to say to me. Two huge revelations came to me that I am thankful to carry into the rest of 2018, one a tender prod and one a kind reminder. I like this traveling partner.
The tender prod came to me as I was dead-heading my barely-alive deck plants, hoping to draw them back to life before our big party next weekend. I was obviously “tending” to my home and especially these dying petunias. I had been away for nearly a week and despite my children’s best efforts, they were wilting under the heat of the July sun. It took me an hour and a half, so I had plenty of pondering moments. My WOTY spoke ever so quietly: So many things in your life need “tending,” Esther. If you don’t “tend” them, they will die. What are you choosing to “tend?” Are they your “deeper yesses” (as my friend Roey likes to call them)?”
I was suddenly brought back to the thought of what happens many times when Allen and I are in an argument. Invariably, one or both of us, right in the middle of the heated debate, starts organizing a kitchen drawer or pruning our plants. It amazes me every time. I believe psychologists would agree with me that because the other person or the situation seems, in the moment, out of our control, we quickly move to fixing what we have power over. It’s much harder to do the work of relationship which has no easy formula or guarantee, than cut off some shoots to restore life to the greenery or get the rubber bands back into a neat ball.
So much of life is tending to the things we can control and they are all necessary. No guilt there. I just don’t want that to be my whole life. I don’t want to miss the “forest for the trees” as they say, the beauty of the hard work of my relationships with God and others for the easier “to-do list” items that get easily checked off (or not so easily if you are calling your insurance company). I don’t want to neglect the former for the latter. I want to tend to my own heart, mind, and spirit along with those of others. These are my deeper “yesses.”
The kind reminder came to me from my beautiful friend, Annie. She speaks to me of my WOTY every so often. She is a careful “tender” of my heart. We spoke of the huge garden of our lives and how it’s not all and only up to me to keep my personal nursery alive and flourishing. You see, I tend (haha, no pun inTENDed. Continued haha!) to be a “get-it-all-done,” super-hero, “I’ve got this” kind of person. I like the feeling of accomplishment all by myself. In fact, I pride myself on not getting help. After all, I am capable and strong and yada yada yada. But that gets me in quite the bind where I am depleted and exhausted and have no room for joy, peace, and all those other good fruits of the Spirit (look them up HERE). I get kind of grouchy and resentful.
Needless to say, I found myself there once again (big surprise) at the end of June. So the word from Annie was just what I needed to hear once again (I am a slow learner). I am not alone in the process. First of all, God tends to me, lovingly caring for me especially when I am not able. He is the ultimate gardener! Secondly, I am surrounded by others. I tend their gardens and they tend mine. We cultivate the ground, fertilize the soil, water the tender shoots, pull out the weeds, and ultimately enjoy the beauty created and the fruit produced in the hearts and souls of each other. BIG SIGH! WHEW! If I try to go it alone, it just “ain’t going to work.” I need God. I also need you and you need me. One small step again toward freedom.
I know many of you have your own Words of the Year. It might just be a good time to spend some much-needed time with this gentle friend, this kind companion. What does yours want to say to you? Take an hour in the next few days and ask him or her!
If you don’t have a word for the year, it doesn’t matter. It’s never too late. You can have a WOTSHOTY (Word of the Second Half of the Year). If you don’t know how to choose one, check out my original blog post HERE and my first quarter update HERE.
WE ALL NEED THIS LOVING TRAVELING COMPANION!