I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Excerpt from “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver.
New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.
Well, Christmas Day 2013 is now a memory. As I write this, we are technically still in the season of Christmas, but outward signs of Christmas are starting to disappear. Neighbors have started taking down their lights. My Advent wreath is headed out with the recycling. And yet, as I enjoyed a long, reflective walk around my neighborhood lake today, I still felt something that has been building for me throughout Advent: excitement! The arrival of Christmas day and the dawn of a new year both tend to usher in a sense of new possibilities. I love the feeling of having a whole new set of 365 days to play with. I find myself admiring them, turning them this way and that in my mind, like a little girl who just received her first fully accessorized American Girl doll. Oh, the plans I have for you!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that this feeling of excitement sometimes turns rather quickly into a self-focused list of resolutions, a bucket list or a “to do” list. We bring the season of “watchful waiting” to a screeching halt and immediately start mapping out how to spend the upcoming year. Planning begins for the year’s big vacation, or maybe a new home or a job change. Gym memberships are purchased. We tell ourselves, “This will be the year that I finally ____!”
Here’s my question for you: what will you fill in that blank this year, and what will drive your decisions? Will you be driven by your “to do” list or by a sense of what God has in mind for you? We all only get one precious 2014. How will you spend yours?
If you’re anything like me you may wonder from time to time if that new idea you had was yours or His. How can you tell? One thing that helps me a lot is the practice of carving out time to be in nature and do more listening and noticing than I do on an average day. During my walk today, for example, I almost lost track of how many types of birds I saw at the lake. They were all gorgeous! I also counted at least six nests of various shapes and sizes in trees along the path. My “to do” list went right out of my head as I did this. Time suddenly felt almost infinite. My feeling of excitement didn’t go away; it just changed to a feeling of giddy anticipation about whatever’s ahead this year. Toward the end of my walk, my intention for the year came into my head fully written (along with this blog post) and as clear as a bell:
I live each day grounded in the faith that God has big plans for me and for my life. I am committed to living in God’s plan for me, and to making a positive difference in the world around me.
I’m definitely still a planner at heart. That serves me in many ways and is unlikely to change. However, living in God’s plan requires us all to preserve space to “be” as well as to “do.” Here’s to a year filled with space to listen and discover whatever God-sized possibilities may be ahead. Happy New Year!