A New Year Unfolding

It was a rough summer and fall.

July and August disappeared quickly as we dealt with a hip replacement for Steve, followed by COVID for him, then a second surgery to clear infection from his incision. Thank goodness, it was only infection in the incision, not in the new hip.

The fall was filled with conversations about the future of The United Methodist Church, the work of electing and assigning bishops, and leadership transitions.

My energy was depleted. My heart was aching. The waiting of Advent, the promise of Emmanuel, the opportunity to begin again in a new year had to become much more intentional than ever before. So…

  • I tried to be much more disciplined in getting up a little earlier to give time in the morning for Advent mindfulness and tea calendars. I was okay until I got to the Indian superfood teas that included black pepper and licorice. I cannot be mindful when my tea tastes like peppered black jelly beans!
  • After reading about a Jesse Tree, I ordered watercolor ornaments and turned one of our tabletop trees into my own version of a Jesse Tree. This new Advent tradition called me to reading scripture and reflecting on the full story of the birth of Christ in a new way.
  • I took two weeks off. That had always been the case for the 16 years I worked in the public school system, but that ended 22 years ago. This time it just seemed strange, but was so needed.
  • In October, I began a journey of greater intentionality about my health. On December 12th, I got to celebrate the initial benefits with my doctor. This journey is to continue for nine more months; I have lots more time to be intentional.

Leading up to the end of 2022, I thought I had settled on my word of intention for the new year. I was ready to write with greater intentionality in 2023, beginning with a post on my word. But this morning, this first day of 2023, that word was far from my thoughts. As I woke and took a long walk with the dogs under the warmth of today’s blue skies, the word that was filling my thoughts was “regret.” Why was this the word emerging today?

Returning from the walk, I came upon these words from John O’Donohue:

We continue in our days to wander between the shadowing and the brightening, while all the time a more subtle brightness sustains us. If we could but realize the sureness around us, we would be much more courageous in our lives. The frames of anxiety that keep us caged would dissolve. We would live the life we love and in that way, day by day, free our future from the weight of regret.

John O’Donohue, Excerpt from BEAUTY

It’s funny how John O’Donohue has made his way into my life over and over again in the last few days: a blessing I sent to a friend yesterday, a text message from another dear friend this morning, this quote. It is another quote from O’Donohue that offered my word for this year. I spent several weeks this summer and fall re-reading To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. I went back several times to read this section over and over as life unfolded.

Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bug opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges.

The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it.

UNFOLDING…and so it begins on this first day of 2023.

One thought on “A New Year Unfolding

  1. Thank you Martha. Such a great reflection to begin this new year with.

    Joyfully, J. Denise Honeycutt retired / “reWILDIng” United Methodist Clergy 804-241-8443

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