Spring has begun to show itself here in Texas and, although it hasn’t been a harsh winter, it’s a welcome friend. I love Spring with every part of my being. I love the fragrance of fresh-cut grass, newly budding flowers and spring rains. I love the vibrant colors of our Texas sunsets and the various shades of this beautiful green earth placed against the bright blue sky. I love the sound of birds in the morning, children laughing in a park and lawn mowers humming. And I love the feel of the sun on my skin and the certainty that Spring will always come.
No matter how long the winter.
This affinity for Spring is in my blood. My Nanny was a gardener with a green thumb that I can only dream of having. Her yard is still one of my favorite childhood memories that has become something of fairy tale proportions in my mind. A place of beauty and wonder that seemed larger than life. Much larger than I’m sure it was. My Papaw would always take me to the little town of Many, Louisiana to buy me a new Easter dress at the “5 and Dime” store each year so that we could join him and my Mamaw for an Easter sunrise service at Hodges Gardens. I was so small that I barely remember more than putting on my new dress and paten leather shoes, falling asleep in the car and waking to the sound of hymns and the sunrise coming up over the most beautiful field of azaleas that you can imagine. The memories could go on and on…sitting on the back of my daddy’s bike and riding through Audubon Park…pulling up sprigs of grass and little white flowers off our shrubs to make my mom a homemade corsage for Easter…hunting for eggs after church…crawfish boils…family picnics with chips, cokes and bologna sandwiches at roadside parks on spring break road trips.
Spring is full of life to me. Feeling it, smelling it, seeing it, hearing it, tasting it, living it but, most importantly, remembering that it always comes. Life that is.
As I sit on my porch for the first time this year and watch the birds at my feeders, I’m so grateful for the fact that winter can never stop spring from coming. It’s not that I hate winter. It’s a needed part of life and, to be brutally honest, winter makes spring so much more beautiful, and not just because we appreciate it more after long months of darkness. A hard winter actually does something deep in the earth to make plants more vibrant and to kill certain pests. Winter can seem hopeless at the time but there’s a rhyme and reason to it. There’s a purpose for each season even if it’s difficult to see sometimes.
The concept that each season has a purpose and actually prepares us for the next is not an earth shattering one. I’m sure it isn’t new to you either. But, I feel compelled to acknowledge how this last year has chiseled this truth down deep into my soul. My faith has been strengthened to see how faithful my God is in bringing about each season at just the right time and for his perfect purposes. It’s also grown a passion in me to be actively involved in each season of life and to have as much of an effect on them as humanly possible.
You might wonder what I mean or think, “God is in control of the seasons, what do we have to do with it?” What I mean is that I want to be a gardener. I want to work the soil of my life in such a way that God is glorified when Spring comes. We aren’t called to a passive life of “kind of” obeying and pursuing God while we wait to see what happens. Granted, we don’t know what’s coming in our lives but we can know that something is coming. Winter always does. It’s a necessity of life. It can take many forms but we can’t avoid it. It may be that life simply gets dark, cold or dull. Or it may mean that we experience hopelessness, death, sorrow or pain. Whatever it may be, we will always encounter winter at some point. BUT, we also encounter spring, summer and fall. God is so gracious in that way. The question is, will we make the most of the time in each?
Proverbs 6:6-8 says “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.” And Proverbs 20:4 says it like this, “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.”
The truth of the statement “God prepares and provides for our future trials today” has been revealed to me in living color as I’ve realized how often he provides through my desire to know him and through my obedience. Yes, he is a gracious and merciful God who often gives us what we need even when we haven’t listened to his voice; but, preparation and provision often comes through what I have done during the summertime of my life. Summer is a time of hard work! If you’ve ever had a garden that you’ve started from seed or planted by hand you know how difficult it can be. Tilling up hard ground, pulling up all sorts of stuff you don’t want to grow, adding fertilizer to prepare the soil…it’s backbreaking and exhausting. On top of that, it’s SLOW! As you wait to see the first sign of growth peeking up through the dirt, you can start to wonder if anything is actually happening. Then, once things start to grow, it’s still a long process of weeding, fertilizing and waiting to see the fruit of your labor. That’s our part in the process. God is in charge of the growth and the timing of it all but we have the responsibility and privilege to get our hands dirty in the endeavor and to feel the joy that comes in the harvest.
Speaking of harvest…I love that season too. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with picking, eating and canning the fruit of the summer. Of shorter days and cooler nights spent with family around the table eating fresh vegetables and having long talks. We don’t seem to anticipate the winter in the fall. I mean, we know it’s coming at some point but I never really know when or have a clue at how bad it will be. So, my focus is usually on the moment and on enjoying what God has provided. I seldom think of what I’ll be facing in a few months unlike my grandparents who had a keen awareness of their need to be prepared for the winter. My ability to run to Wal-Mart for food in December has stripped the power from the meaning behind this concept of preparation. Or, at least, it’s lessoned the urgency of it to me. However, spiritually speaking, the urgency is there and the importance of preparing our hearts during the summer and autumn of life in order to face the winter can’t be stressed enough. It will keep us going when life seems overwhelming. It will keep hope in our hearts, breath in our lungs and warmth in our souls when all around us is death, fear and darkness.
The things that we didn’t realize God was planting in us during those long, hot days of summer as we obediently spent time in His word, cultivated community, sought to know him in prayer and ruthlessly dealt with the selfishness and sin that so easily snuck into our lives will prove to be exactly what we need. The fruit that we finally see God produce in our lives when we desire his will above our own and as he lavishly pours out grace and blessing over us will become the very thing we offer as a blessing to others in our darkest days. All the time spent growing to know and love our Father will sustain that love when all we have are questions. During my own personal winter that was full of fear, uncertainty, sorrow and shame, God spoke these verses deep into my soul as an encouragement and a prayer to make the most of that season.
“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”
That time reminded me that I want to live my life during the spring and summer seasons of my life in such a way that allows me to bear fruit of some sort even in the winter. (Even if it’s just to continue wanting to continue when all I really feel like doing is giving up). I hope that my faith in His goodness and kindness is never eclipsed by my own suffering and heartache. And, my desire is to so thoroughly kill fear during the coming summers that nothing but love, faith and trust survives and thrives to carry me through whatever winters are still to come.
Because I know this to be true…. Spring will always come.
One way or another…life will break through the darkness in Technicolor beauty that touches every one of my senses. I will be grateful for the chance to partner with Christ, in some small way, as an apprentice gardener to this world around me that He has planted and tended so lovingly. And God will remind me of His limitless creativity and passion to bless me in countless ways as I sit in awe of His ability to revive, restore and resurrect.
All for His glory.