It’s that time of year again.
January is upon us, bringing with it new year’s resolutions and fresh starts, so naturally I’ve started thinking about #OneWord365 and what word I’m going to lean into in 2020. Some years, I choose the word with intentionality, a specific goal in mind. Other years, the word chooses me. It comes to me unexpectedly: the first thought upon waking in the morning, while mindlessly washing breakfast dishes or, as it did this year, while driving through a rainstorm on the interstate after a weekend of visiting family.
My word for 2020 is rooted. root – ed. Meaning to establish or settle firmly.
2019 was a hell of a year. It was full of changes and transitions, circumstances out of my control. I switched jobs. I traveled back to Liberia for the first time since 2014. I was reunited with Jumah, and then I had to leave her behind in a foster home because the government didn’t approve the adoption. Atticus grew; we traveled; our family experienced loss and heartbreak. It was a year that so often felt messy, full of experiences and emotions that we couldn’t contain, and so they pulled at our frayed edges a bit, threatening to spill over like a full bathtub with a thrashing toddler.
Now that Jumah is home, and we continue to find bits and pieces of our new normal with each passing day, I’ve been praying, somewhat desperately, for some simplicity in the coming year. No big life changes. Homecooked meals and family game nights. Less stuff & more time spent. Kisses stolen on stairways, sitting with one another without having to say anything at all. The feeling of laying your head on the pillow at the end of a long day knowing that all the works of your hands have been good, and right, and true.
It was while pondering all these things that I began to see an image of a tree, a great, ancient thing, with gnarled roots buried deep in the earth. The tree stood by a stream, and nearby, a narrow path, and from its massive branches hung leaves and blossoms and fruit of varying kinds.
Simplicity, you see, can be fickle. But rooted-ness is eternal. Rooted is the tree planted by flowing streams, with evergreen branches and forever fruit (Ps 1:3). Rooted is the tree that flourishes continually (Ps 52:8). Rooted is a trodden dirt path that leads to goodness and wisdom and rest for our souls (Jer 6:16).
Rooted is my word because this is the year that I vow to establish firmly in every area of my life.
This year I will be rooted in my own skin, in my stretch marks and imperfections, in the laugh lines around my eyes, the frizzy curls of my hair, my knobby knees, my freckles and sun-spots. This year I will stop shrinking myself to fit spaces I have outgrown, both literally and figuratively. This year I will own up to my mistakes, be quick to say sorry, to keep learning and keep trying to better love God and my neighbor. This year I will choose my words carefully but also purposefully. I will speak the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. This is the year I will concern myself with peace-making rather than peace-keeping, because I have learned that shalom isn’t a fragile and delicate little thing that only requires of us our complacency; no, shalom has some girth to it, has some weight, and we need to work it out, like yeast in a bread dough, and that means sometimes, yes, I’m going to have to get my hands dirty.
This year I will be rooted in my marriage, in the never-ending dance of learning to say “you first”. This year I will tame my tongue more; I will silence my inner critic; I will practice fighting fair. This year I will be quick to ask what my husband needs instead of pouting over what I didn’t get. This is the year I will cuddle more, and be sure to tell him how proud I am of the man that he is. I will slow-dance with him in the kitchen. I will push him when he needs a boost and trust him with the rest.
This year I will be rooted in my mothering, in how my heart and soul and body and breath feel continually poured out for the two who need so much of me in this season. This year I will let them stay young for a little while longer. I will do more social and less media. This year I will show them I am their biggest champion, their protector, their nurturer, their guide. I will help them do the hard things. I will let them fall when they need to learn the lesson, and I will be there to help them back up when they do. This is the year I will continue to be their constant, even when I get hurt or pushed away. This is the year I will teach them that love shows up.
And oh! there’s so much more I could tell you. I could talk about how I will be rooted in my faith, in how I will learn to live in that holy tension of God’s kingdom both now & not yet. I could tell you about how I will be rooted in my relationships, in how I will choose to see the face of the divine in friends & enemies alike. I could tell of how I will be rooted in my career, in how I will give thanks for the rhythm of work, and how I will remember that my worth is not based on my productivity. There is so much settling-in to come this year; I can feel it in my bones. And friends, let me tell you: it feels like my soul letting out a long, grateful exhale.
I don’t know where you hope this year will take you. Maybe you have some lofty goals you are setting for yourself, and if that’s the case, I hope you feel the satisfaction of achieving what you set out to do. Maybe you’re feeling a little bit lost, or like you’re a bit of a wanderer, and I hope you hear me when I say that’s ok, too. Sometimes the best thing to do in situations like that is to sit down in the darkness for a little while and wait for the light to come. Maybe you’re taking stock of your life, such as I am, and maybe you don’t like what you’ve found. Maybe you want change; and truly, there is nothing wrong with that.
But maybe you could also take a moment to consider this: you can stop the chase any time you want to. You can quit looking ahead for what’s next, what’s new, and settle in to what simply is. Maybe, for a while, at least, there is nothing else just around the corner; maybe this moment, this season, these people, this is all we’ve got. Maybe we owe it to ourselves to be fully where our feet are, to look around at this life we’ve been building, and declare it fully, wholly, completely good.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season. (Jeremiah 17:8, The Message)
It’s that time of year again.