2020 Resolutions: Lemon trees, the present moment, and change

By all accounts, the world kept turning for one more year.

The dark clouds at dawn grow slowly illuminated as the secondhand tick along our analog clock. The cars race down the road, the noise of their engines cut through by the sound of water as they pass through puddles on our soggy corner.

The world outside seems bleaker than it did a year ago.

In the slow movement and growth of my third trimester, I oscillate between reading the news daily, commenting in abundance on social media, and realizing how happier I am when I withdraw from both.

We send money and pray for victims of natural disasters, but our efficacy in the world of Washington, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Nigeria, seems small. What can I do as those around me continue to receive dismal diagnoses? Is any change possible as I observe the tents moving from place to place across the bigger cities that surround us?

My generation was raised to believe we could be anything, do anything, we could change the world.

In the dawn of new millennia, John Paul II preached from Denver, Paris, and Rome telling the youth of the world to put out into the deep and be not afraid.

Our sights turned across the world and  Mother Teresa said it starts at home, in our own living room, and to change the world drop by drop.

The goals still matter. Have in mind a vision of what you would like to achieve. Consider the short-term goals necessary to get there.

Allow these plans to hover over the thing that matters most now: the present moment.

Adjusting to, accepting, embracing and utilizing the present moment in its unpredictability, chaos and otherness take primacy over the other things. It is in the present moment that what we can do to make a change takes effect.

Virtue is the habit of practicing the good, the things that makes more human, less-animal like. It is the moment I choose not to snap at those around me when my work is interrupted.

The moments add up

but like the tasks of gardening, it takes a long time before we can see the fruit. Little shoots sprout up, but it is the photograph after multiple springs that show us how things have changed with all this practice.

At home, we hold a winter and spring recital. The children showcase their accomplishments for the year to the delight of family and friends.

In my heart, I consider what reflection to make this New Year.

Should I bother setting a resolution when the only thing I know for sure is that things will change? When so much uncertainly lies around the corner, the best resolution may be the smallest one. We shall plant a fruit tree, one that was gifted to me and grows surprisingly well in its little pot. We will transplant it to the garden bed outside my window. Perhaps in its next bloom, we will smell the delicate, sweet scent of lemon blossoms wafting through the window. Maybe we will add two more that could use a dose more TLC than they receive in their present location.

For my children, I resolve to seek more slow moments, moments of being, moments of conversation. Those conversations are rarely spontaneous. I must be engaged and willing to ask a question and listen for the answer.

My youngest reached our greatest goal and hope for the year, one we especially had no control over. All of 2019 passed without hospital admission. We once thought things would never change. Yet they do. They always change.

The sun is up but we cannot see it through these rainy days of winter.

It lingers there, quietly illuminating the world around us, faithful enough for those who choose to remember, offering from time to time a rainbow. The rainy season is a great time to pull weeds from the garden, my mother taught me. And when the days look bleak, we can still sew seeds of hope and change in the world around us bit by bit, moment by moment.

Photo of light coming thrugh clouds by Clay Banks on Unsplash
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Happy New Year!

I do not want to look back. I do not want to count my blessings from the past year because it means 2017 is even further away, that the time in my life when Celeste was alive is even further away.

One year ago, my husband and I looked back in 2017 and thought, “O God, we hope next year is better.” We sat in silence when it was time to recollect the good things from the year. Our daughter died. Our son was very, very ill and moved to the PICU that July. Everything was survival. Everything was gray. Everything was the crawling out a hole, a foxhole, perhaps. We were alive, but what else did we have?

I spent the second half of the year living at home instead of the hospital as our son turned the corner in his condition. I spent the second half of the year writing up a storm, published here and there, building wonderful connections about town and feeling moved to tears by the stories I heard during interviews. I searched for my place at home, in my children’s lives, and in ministry. Everything we developed shifted during 2018. It did not diminish; it grew.

The writing continues but shifted in focus to a book to be published this year: a dream come true. Ministry continues and is changing in surprising ways beginning with cantering mass for the first time with my organ-grinding husband: his dream come true. We have an offer and accepted contingent on the sale of our current house for a property with 1.2 acres of land and lots of building space for our office and studio and who knows, a jazz club, in the future; two dreams in one.

How can all this happen?

Marriage strong. Older children emotionally stable. Peter strong. Friendships strong and in those friendships with less strength, at least there is greater clarity than in the past.

How can this be?

“There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied…”

I read those words, copied in Mother Teresa’s writings, collected and published in Come by my Light. Those words were my light, although I never knew how it could be possible.

But here we are.

We do not deserve it. At that expression, one of my dearest friends said, “don’t apologize for God’s blessings!”

And it is true.

God answers prayers. Peter’s condition was worse than expected when he was diagnosed in utero. Celeste was not born alive. Peter was not healed physically following the Beatification mass we took him to in 2017 to pray for a miracle. But a miracle occurred before we even could have been aware of it, bringing into his life our personal hero, a woman, a friend who dedicated her whole heart to his care.

I live in the awareness that tomorrow everything could change. And yet, even then, God provides.

Two years of trial. It feels like we are back to living in the world of roses, but I grasp that it is only that way because of perspective. We still have a dresser full of medical supplies and appointments in San Francisco this week. In a week I will struggle to meet deadlines (I am struggling right now with something due tomorrow!). I will return back to a state of exasperation when Kyle returns to work and our homeschooling vacation ends.

But it is good. It is full. It is greater than anything we ever could have hoped for.

God fulfilled his promise.

And now, I’m wishing you all a very happy New Year.