A new year. A new phrase. And this phrase is going to be a hard one.
Each year, instead of creating a list of resolutions, I listen for “the phrase.”
The phrase for 2016 was “Eternity is Now.” All year long my mind drew back to this idea, this picture, this concept, and in turn I made far more conscious decisions based on my knowledge that eternity is not some far away place, but it is right here, right now.
I loved my 2016 phrase, just as I loved my 2015 phrase of “Purify Your Motives.” I never want to move on from my phrases. So I don’t. I keep them in the front of my mind and they are embedded in the movements of my heart. With a full year of pondering, these phrases have no choice but to continually guide me.
I don’t toil and study to come up with these phrases, but rather, they come to me. Last month, as I felt the close of 2016 press upon all the world, I began to give tiny moments of pause and pondering that could lend space to hear the phrase for 2017.
In mid-December, shortly after mid-night, I was woken by the phrase amidst sound slumber. It was as clear as any thought I would have thought at mid-day. It was so simple:
Water the Flowers
The next morning I awoke with excitement that I could now cognitively and consciously ponder this new phrase and consider why it needed to be my guiding preface for the new year.
And I knew exactly where the phrase had come from. Back in April 2016, at General Conference, I was struck by a talk titled “In Praise of Those Who Save” by President Dieter F Uchtdorf. The context of his talk was to lend strength to marriages and remind us that we must work to save these marriages every day of our lives. I listened to the talk with the ears of a wife, and also with the ears of a mother. All relationships require intentional work if we wish them to be eternal. President Uchtdorf said: “Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers.” I quickly scribbled in my notebook:
Pull the weeds AND water the flowers
An immediate recognition pierced my heart: In our home, I “pull the weeds” ALL the time. But I simply do not water the flowers enough. I knew then, as I know now, that these two metaphorical actions are sorely out of balance in our home.
Flashback: When I was a teenager, I was on the telephone with one of my friends, having a lively and happy conversation. When I got off the phone, I remember my mother saying: “I sure wish you would treat your family as nicely as you treat your friends.” I am quite certain that I am not the only teenager who heard that thought from a parent. And though I did not engage my willpower to change at that time, I did indeed comprehend exactly what my mother meant and how indelibly correct she was in her assessment of my relationships. My family was constantly met with scowls and an annoyed attitude from the teenage me. Whereas my friends were greeted with bright smiles, warm hugs and enthusiastic conversation.
As a mature woman, I would like to think that I have overcome those childish (or teenager-ish) ways of handling my relationships. But when I heard “Pull the weeds AND water the flowers” I was deeply ashamed that I hadn’t evolved from the teenage version of myself. I let President Uchtdorf’s words fester in my head for a few weeks and then locked them away in a quiet corner of my brain.
Apparently that quiet corner of my brain became talkative in mid-December shortly after mid-night.
And so this is what the phrase and focus for the year 2017 will be.
In truth, God has given me an undeniable gift and ability to “water the flowers” in our community garden. I am a lover of people. I love meeting new people. I love making others feel good about themselves. I want everyone to know how amazing they are. I pour goodness and smiles and kind words onto friends and strangers with freedom, because those words of love are nothing but free and free-ing. I am grateful for this talent that God has gifted me.
But the ease with which I water the flowers in the community garden does not transcend to the garden of my own home. Somehow I feel entitled to be my worst within the walls of our home. Nagging. Complaining. Whining. Belittling. Yelling. Pouting. Dictating. These are MY weeds that need to be pulled out so I can focus on freely watering the flowers of our family. I do indeed praise and love my husband and children, but I honestly recognize that the watering of flowers is grossly disproportionate to the amount of weed pulling I feel entitled to in our home.
Weed pulling is important. I will guide and tug and remove the weeds as I see them in our home. This means pulling out hurtful words, dishonesty, laziness, entitlement, ingratitude, selfishness – all things that hurt our family individually and collectively.
Watering the flowers will become the forefront of growing our family garden. I will intentionally pour happiness into the hearts of our home. This means watering with love, laughter, service, kindness, gentleness, esteem, music, creativity, patience, positivity, pleasantness – all things that allow my husband and children to grow stronger roots and blossoms.
It seems so simple.
But this is really hard for me.
I am quite certain that one year will not be long enough for me to make this change. But just as a garden is not fully grown in a day, neither shall I be.
This land that was desolate is become like the GARDEN of Eden
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered GARDEN, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the GARDEN causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth…