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A New Year

As many of us do, when the old year draws to a close and the new year begins to draw near, I enter into a time of reflection. For me, it's most often a dreaded time of acknowledging my failures, pointing out my inclination toward procrastination and my lack of commitment toward exercising and eating well. It's meant to be a time to evaluate, organize, plan and ponder, but I tend to barge ahead trying to find a new way to unravel the tangled rope of expectations I put upon myself. 

A few months ago, I was with a friend, riding to an out of town event in the late afternoon. It was one of those cool, crisp, late autumn days, when the season is winding slowly down, but not quite ready to succumb to the talons of winter. A few grey and white clouds dappled the western sky, then quietly spread into thin, horizontal ropes circling the setting sun like a finely braided lasso. In the places where the rays of sun peered through the clouds, they formed into concentrated beams, emitting rays as a great spot light, intensely shining on its  target. A grand, weathered, bare, tree stood alone in the midst of a meadow-like grassland. Its twisted trunk adorned the lower half like giant bracelet stacked haphazardly one atop the other. It's gnarled, but naked branches raised high above itself in obvious worship to the King. A few of the immense branches had been broken off in jags, I suppose from ancient storms gone by, but most were smooth and etched; crackled with the deep lines that age often brings. The beams of light shone exactly and only on this tree, illuminating its entirety with brilliance. By contrast, the meadow-lands which weren't hit by the light remained dark, almost black, fading as inconspicuously into the background as a shadow on a stormy day. I was awestruck by the beauty of this bare, tall, almost dead tree in the middle of nowhere. I wondered why. I pondered this all week, then all month and all season. It's more typical for me to be drawn toward life, toward color, toward the splendor and adornment that each tree and flower wears. However, this tree was naked and old, but its beauty took my breath away and I couldn't get it off of my mind. Finally, one evening as I sat sipping my cup of tea, I slowly realized that it wasn't what I was drawn to about this tall timber, but what I wasn't drawn to that captured my heart. This beautiful tree was no longer cluttered by leaves, blossoms, or fruit. Stripped away of its facade, at its core, you simply saw its strengths, its weaknesses, its beauty. there was nothing to distract you from its grandeur. In its simplicity you recognize its character.

As I think back on the last year; sprinkled with joy, submerged in heartache, weighted by uncertainty and enveloped in love, I'm reminded of this lovely tree. Unadorned yet beautiful, marvelous yet gentle, broken yet mighty. I'm reminded that as I evaluate my life, sometimes I don't need an organized plan as much as I need to just stop and take a breath. I'm reminded that at my very core, my character should be transparent and the things I adorn myself with shouldn't be things that I try to prove my worth by but things that add value to my life.
"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." Col. 3:12


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