This year I’m keeping it simple. As an experienced project manager my temptation is to follow the typical pattern — create the quintessential list of resolutions with tangible metrics that I will accomplish for sure — this year. But every new year it’s the same. I’m strong out of the gate in January but then slowly trickle off as the cold months carry on. By the snow’s melting, my resolutions somehow have disappeared as well. So no list this year. Instead, it will be a single word.
One word? Now that’s a lot of pressure! What word can accurately capture my goals for the entire year, covering the various projects, people, and responsibilities crammed into my busy life? For the past few weeks, I have been ruminating, praying, and even checking the thesaurus for guidance and clarity with potential words. Surprisingly, help came from an unlikely source — a lemon tree.
It was 15 months ago that I received this special gift from my brother Mike and sister-in-law Beth from Florida. They are the wonderful, yet annoying relatives, who text me about their 70-degree weather during the coldest winter days — in fact, I received their sunny weather report just today as the Midwest continues to set below-zero freezing records. Of course, lemon trees thrive in tropical climates with lots of sunshine. Indiana would never qualify as an optimal growing location, but despite the odds our lemon tree has survived the seasonal changes. It enjoyed a warm summer on the back patio, a cool fall in the garage by a window, and now with temperatures falling to zero outside and 30 degrees in the garage, it has been relocated to the sunniest room in the house — my son Nate’s bedroom.
From the beginning of its life in Indiana, the lemon tree has endured some challenges, ranging from insect infestation to nearly every leaf dropping from the cold.
But this tenacious tropical rallied in the summer months and had several buds, including one that transformed into something that surprisingly resembled a lemon. Actually it looked more like a lime, and by October I was convinced that the tree label was wrong. The lemon tree had produced a lime — one lime to be exact.
Instead of picking it, we decided to wait as we moved the potted tree yet again, back into the house. Slowly, the green fruit began to transform to yellow — it was indeed a lemon tree! And on Christmas Day our one piece of fruit was ready for harvest.
As I held the ginormous lemon in my palm, my word became clear. Patience. At that moment, I realized that I need to be patient with more than a potted citrus tree in my son’s room. Through 15 months of watering, shuffling to warmer locations, and nursing it back to health after no fruit in its first season, the lemon tree reminded me of this life-giving virtue.
I need patience with my relationships, starting with my children — to continue to love them unconditionally and provide a constant, solid foundation and a welcoming door when they need a safe place to land.
I need patience with my career — to move steadily with discipline and determination toward that book I’ve talked about writing for years, yet not force any doors to open but continue to walk through the ones opening before me.
And, mostly, I need patience with myself — to allow life to unfold as it should and to not put unnecessary pressure, expectations, or agendas on myself or others. To have a plan and goals but to hold them loosely knowing that God’s plans are always better than my own.
While taking care of the lemon tree, I was also reminded that patience does not mean idleness. Anyone who knows me knows that if it did, this would never be my word. Patience is a process that sometimes involves waiting but also can mean taking things slowly and moving consistently in an intentional direction, one step at a time.
So what did we do with the one ginormous lemon, you ask? Nate sliced it and then squeezed some of it for juice. The remaining pieces he cut up and served — on the rims of three glasses. We toasted to a wonderful Christmas together over lemon drop martinis as we shared past memories and looked forward to the years to come.
What’s your word for 2018?
“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)