Like many of you, I begin each new year by looking back to see where I’ve been, and forward to where I’m headed. I make resolutions and lean into the year with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Why the trepidation?
Because I almost always find myself mired in mud by the middle of February, otherwise known as the armpit of the year.
As the mom of a young adult son with autism (Joel), I’ve lived with an overflowing plate for many, many years—28 and 11/12 years to be exact—and it seems like three-quarters of that plate has been filled with caring for Joel’s intensive needs. In order to make sure I accomplish the other goals I’ve set for myself over the years, I’ve often set the bar too high. So when the diets fail (mine and Joel’s), the exercise program slumps (again, mine and Joel’s), Facebook takes over writing time, the book doesn’t get finished, the webinar doesn’t get produced, etc. etc. etc., I’m not particularly kind to myself. Truth be told, I’m downright hard on myself!
You would think I judge a person’s worth on physical attributes, performance, and productivity. As a mom of a kid with autism, just the thought of that kind of judgment raises my hackles! And yet, here I am, year after year, judging myself on exactly those criteria.
This year, on January 1st, instead of asking myself what I wanted to accomplish in the coming year, I asked myself a new question. What would this coming year look like if I delved deeper into what it means to abide? You know—the kind of abiding that Jesus talks about in John 15:5: I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.
The kind of abiding that a fat, juicy bunch of grapes does on a grapevine.
Is that the secret to a joyful, fruitful year? A year with less resolutions and goals and more time abiding in the Lord’s presence?
I love Jesus’ words in the book of Matthew:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
Savor those words: Get away with me and you’ll recover your life… Watch how I do it… Learn the unforced rhythms of grace… Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly…
This is my heart’s longing for this new year. To learn to live in the unforced rhythms of grace in the work that I do as Joel’s mom, and the work I do here at Cloudland, our retreat in the country—writing on disability and spirituality; marketing my new book, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities; offering spiritual direction; leading groups in Lectio Divina (sacred reading of Scripture); teaching Christian meditation; enjoying time with my husband, my sons, my daughters-in-law; and sharing meals with family and friends, with plenty of time left over for laughter, play and fun.
As I sat with these thoughts, a poem took shape.
New Year’s Resolutions
Did you have a productive day?
Is that what you’d ask the grapevine?
The grapevine simply grows where
vinedresser planted her –
soaks in sun and rain,
shimmers in summer breeze,
shivers in autumn fog,
reflects moon at midnight.
She welcomes living water,
sends roots down deep,
submits to vinedresser’s pruning shears –
new shoots sprouting, healthy,
where dead wood is removed.
So, next time you ask that crazy
productivity question, I will not wince.
I will answer –
Today I practiced abiding in the vine.
Will you sit with me and savor
a cup of cabernet?
Reflection Question: What word is the Lord speaking into your heart this year? What is God asking you to lean into in the midst of your busy life as a caregiver of a child (or adult) with a disability?