One Word 2015: Cultivate

I know, you’re supposed to pick your word for the year during the first week of January. That week I was on vacation and taking naps.

Well, then you’re supposed to pick your word for the year the second week of January. Sorry. I was unpacking and putting away clothes and organizing all the stuff we brought back to San Francisco from our (finally sold!) home in the Philly area. I’m talking, organizing water damaged college pictures, y’all! And you expected me to blog?

Well, then, there’s always the third and fourth weeks of January. Yeah, except I was pregnant those weeks.

(I know. I was pregnant all the weeks. Best excuse ever.)

My point is that it’s February and I’m proud to say that I picked a word for 2015.

In December I wrote a post about receiving.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot for the past two months. Can receiving be an active work? We think of receiving as passive, but when we receive with gratitude, when we accept life’s dangerous and painful gifts with joy, isn’t that the active work of the Spirit?

I thought about this all through our Christmas trip out east. I thought it about it the first week of January while I was napping. I thought about it the second week of January while I was organizing water-damaged college photos. And then, at sunset a couple of weeks ago, I went out into the chilly Sunday afternoon, set my pregnant self down on the cold concrete, and started pulling weeds that had accumulated in the rains that fell on San Francisco in the weeks leading up Christmas.

I sat in the gathering dusk and pulled out the clovers that want to take over every spot of ground in the Bay Area this time of year. And while I pulled them, I wondered. How do we receive in a way that isn’t passive?

I thought about my pregnant self and all the aches and pains that have come this time around. (My body seems to be highly aware that it has done this more times than it wants to.) And I thought about the sweet work of participating in God’s creation.

I don’t control my baby’s development; I only host it. But I do suffer for the sake of it. And what does that mean? Isn’t carrying a child about more than simply “receiving”? Pregnancy is the process of supporting and nurturing something good and beautiful that cannot be controlled. And, yet, that work I can’t control is anything but passive. I am working hard for the good of the gift I carry within me.

Maybe receiving God’s good gifts has more to do with cultivating—making space for growth, nurturing, pruning, assisting, harvesting.

Cultivate is a word that feels capable of holding many words at once: When we cultivate, we prepare, but we also make room, plant, weed, water, care. Cultivating is not passive, and still we don’t control the ultimate creation. Still, we receive the nurtured plant knowing that while we gave it the best possible place of growth, we did not breathe life into it. That work is God’s. Life and breath are the mysteries we cannot claim to own.

For the next eleven months, I’ll be writing and meditating on what it means to cultivate in our daily lives, because to live as the wholehearted creatures we are intended to be, we must be people who make room for life, who nurture life, who embrace the daily work of making our small spaces of the world beautiful.

I'm hoping you'll join me. We'll cultivate something lovely this year, okay?