A few years' back, a friend shared with me the idea to choose a word in January to be your word of the year. It can be a kind of touchstone, something to reflect on for the year, something to strive for, a quality to emulate, and so on. I thought it was a great idea but haven't done it until this year. For some reason, in prayer the word "receive" keeps coming to mind. So I'll just go ahead and claim that word!
Three thoughts come to mind with this word: receiving a child, receiving life moment by moment, and offering back to God all I have received from him.
Receive...not gonna lie, the first thought I had about "receive" was receiving a child. That this would be the year that we at last, at last receive a child into our arms, our home, our hearts. As we know so painfully well, a child isn't something that can be grasped or grabbed or demanded or forced - a child must be received. When I picture "receiving a child," I picture us with arms open and extended, palms up, a soft and welcoming landing pad for a little one who has already been through a lot - saying goodbye to his or her first mom, dealing with all the new scents and sounds and unfamiliarity not only of being born but being away from the person who was his whole environment for the last nine months. A little one in great need of care and warmth and closeness. We will receive our child with tenderness and with our breath held in awe of the amazing gift of new life present in a never-before-seen treasure, a treasure that will grow to call us mom and dad...(this is one of those daydreams so close to the heart that it's almost impossible to look at directly.) We will receive our son or daughter with tears of joy and with a poignant sense of what has led up to this point in our baby's life and that of his first parents. We wait and pray with open arms and open hearts, to receive a little one in God's perfect timing.
Receive...this also brought to mind a quote that has meant a lot to me, from a book that has meant a lot to me: "Interior Freedom" by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. I am overdue to read it again! It has been such a wealth of wisdom, guidance, comfort, and challenge. Anyway - the quote comes a section called "The Present Moment" and here he says:
We have very little hold on the future. Despite all our foresight, plans, and promises, it takes very little to change everything completely. We can't program life in advance, but can only receive it moment by moment.
We can only receive life moment by moment. (One of those "duh" statements that nonetheless is so hard to truly remember!!) We cannot program the future, cannot smooth out all the rough edges of our lives and create the life we want by our own sheer determination. We can only receive life as it comes, the good and the bad together. This is both a challenging and a comforting word for me. Challenging because throughout this 5-year-plus struggle with infertility, I have wanted nothing more than to "program life in advance" and at least have the assurance, somehow, that yes I will be mother. Or - better - just become one already! It is a hard truth that no, actually I do not have control over the future.
But I also find this comforting because it lets me relax, and with the help of God loosen my grip on all of my plans for life and worries about the future. Receiving life moment by moment is more active, I think, then just letting it all wash over you without a thought. I can make a conscious effort - this is at the heart of Fr. Phillipe's book - to say "yes" to what is given me in life, right now, even if it's not exactly what I want, and in doing so I know (from experience) that my teeth get a little less clenched and my hands relax out of their combative fists...and to get back to the business of loving those around me and finding ways to be fruitful.
Finally, receive brings to mind words from the Mass, specifically during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This hit me fresh just the other day. Lifting up the host, the priest says:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the bread we offer you...
I've been taught that during Mass when the bread and wine are brought to the altar, we should unite our own offering - ourselves, our prayers, our sufferings - with the bread and wine, to be given to God. I love love love this practice and find it a powerful way to unite my little life and the sufferings the Lord has asked me to bear with Jesus's ultimate sacrifice of love. The words of this prayer remind me that everything is received from the Lord - and everything can be offered back to him. He gives us the very bread that we offer, the wine too is his gift... I'm still thinking through what exactly this means, but I think it is something profound! Something to do with redemptive suffering, and receiving-in-order-to-offer, and receiving life as a gift and other thoughts it is getting too late to put together!
So that's my word. I hope I remember it throughout the year! I'm starting to see/hear it everywhere. If anyone else has chosen a word for the year, I'd love to hear it!