The tree stands on a slight rise in the landscape. I see it from my window and watch as its leaves change ever so slowly. One day, I look and realize the green has completely given way to amber, russet, sienna. I’ve been meaning to take a walk anyway and the sudden awareness of fall’s presence lends urgency to my desire. If I wait much longer, the leaves might be gone altogether.
Pulling on a light jacket, I head out the door. My enthusiasm fades a bit as I side step debris, discarded wrappers and trampled plastic along the way. As I reach the tree, my heart sags slightly. It was more beautiful from my window. Up close, I can see young branches being crowded out, no one having cared enough to foster their growth. If someone doesn’t step in soon, the tree will be a tangle of limbs and branches, unattractive and dying a slow death.
As I head back home, I ponder the tree. What do I look like from a distance? Do I seem to have it all together if no one comes too close? Are my clothes, my family, my job flashy leaves that hide the tangle of my soul? At least I am blessed with a gardener whose shears carefully trim only what needs to go. Only he can shape me to be more like him, to be who he made me to be.
As I sit in my favorite chair with a blanket over my lap and a cup of steaming tea beside me, I flip through the TV channels. Looking for something to hold my interest, I stop on a news segment. A bear hibernates onscreen. I put down the remote and settle down to listen. This black bear will be able to go 100 days without eating, drinking or exercising. He prepares for his hibernation months in advance – loading up on carbs, getting his den ready and hidden. When this fascinating story is over, I click the TV off. The weather is cold outside and I think about hibernating myself. I pull the blanket higher up on my arms and sip my tea.
How would I prepare for hibernation? What would I need to sustain me from participating in the everyday activities of life? How would God use a time of rest and quiet to feed my soul? Thinking about the bear that can go 100 days without performing regular daily activities, I ponder whether I can go 100 minutes before busying my mind, my hands and my heart with cooking, cleaning and working.
Closing my eyes, I try to picture curling up in a den, alone with God. What would he teach me? What could I learn from a time of rest to prepare me for the burst of energy and fruitfulness brought on with spring and summer?SPRING
I look out the window and see a late birthday present peeking out of the ground. Tulips planted last fall in honor of my birthday are making their way above ground, waiting to unfurl their bold red petals for all to see. Smiling to myself, I finish washing the dishes and think about how difficult last fall was for me. I wasn’t even able to plant those tulip bulbs myself. While I had purchased them with every intention of putting them in just that spot in the garden, life’s events, my grief and my pain crowded out all thought of beauty or planning for beauty in months to come.
Luckily, I am blessed with a loving and kind neighbor who took it upon herself to do what I couldn’t. I wonder if age has given her a wisdom and insight that told her even though I was stuck in the depths of autumn, spring would come eventually. And these tulips would be there to remind me. To remind me both that spring comes and that some seeds take longer to germinate than others. Five months ago, I would never have believed I would be able to take joy from the simple pleasure of seeing a green stalk force its way to light, bringing a foretaste of the brilliant color to follow. But what, other than spring’s fruitfulness, could make washing the dishes a pleasure?SUMMER
Even in the early morning, the heat is like a physical presence. Hoping to miss the worst of it, I drink just one cup of coffee and head out to water the garden. It’s surprisingly relaxing to stand here listening to the neighborhood wake up and watching the water make patterns in the soil. Who would have thought I would ever have a vegetable garden? I had to give up house plants after getting a cat because I couldn’t keep both alive at the same time. I would remember to feed one, but not the other and ultimately decided the cat’s needs were more pressing. Somehow a vegetable garden feels different than a house plant or flowers: more purposeful, more productive and with tangible, edible results.
Lost in my anticipation of just what those edible results will taste like, I suddenly see something that wasn’t there when I watered yesterday: the season’s first red tomato. I think back to yesterday, certain my spray of water landed on a backdrop of green, unbroken by this bright red splash. Yet there it is. I pause in watering to peer closer and confirm that a plant in my garden has yielded results. I gently pluck this gift from the vine and head inside, more excited than a reasonable person would be.
Perhaps I’m just feeling introspective today, but this tomato feels like more than just a vegetable to adorn my dinner plate tonight. It feels like a gift. Not a gift I’ve worked for, to be sure, but a gift nonetheless. All of my nurturing, weeding and oversight would have produced nothing without the sunlight and rain necessary to take a tiny seed and turn it into food. So I’m thankful for the gift. But while I didn’t create this tomato, it wouldn’t have appeared in my yard without me and that reminds me that God can use me. If he can bless my gardening efforts, inept though I may be, he can surely use me for other purposes he designs.
So... what season are you in?