If I could be permitted to generalise about Winter, I’d say it’s barren. Nothing compared to Spring for sure. Trees bare of leaves, gardens bereft of colour. Or so I thought. Venturing out to my garden between rain showers I discovered in a little corner a burst of colour. Some fiesty toadstools had taken occupation. Bright red and orange defiant of the surrounding bleakness. Winter may be a season when much of the growth is hidden underground, but there’s still colour and beauty to be found.
It’s the same when we face a hard season in life. There’s still colour – blessings to be found. Sometimes we just need to look a little closer, a little harder and we will see them. We can take comfort, rest too, in the knowledge that no matter the season, God is there with us.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
The calendar decrees 1 March is the first day of Autumn. It’s a definitive, set time. The appearance of Autumn however has been much more gradual and subtle signs evident before the official start of Autumn.. Leaves on trees slowly starting to change colour and fall. Acorns falling from the tree and losing their lush vibrant green colour. Temperatures cooling.
An increase in age is officially celebrated on the date of birth but the signs of aging much more gradual and discreet. When did my 4 year old start looking like a school boy and lose the preschool chubbiness? And those grey hairs on me just keep on sneaking in!
Our faith too can have milestones – definitive days of celebration – day of baptism, confirmation or other notable occasions – the day healing received perhaps. But most of the time our faith is marked in the daily, less momentous exchanges of our spirit with God. Prayers, time spent in the Bible, times in worship. The key question is are we growing in faith, in intimacy with God? Is there evidence of a strengthening in our faith, a growth in our knowledge and relationship with God?
May this time of Lent be used to journey forward, to journey deeper with God.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
My garden never ceases to amaze me. There was some definite and intentional planning that went into what was planted. In each season a different plant or flower seems to take centre stage. In Summer there is a blanket of pink roses, winter it is the white camellias that add freshness to a quiet garden. It is certainly something that I can’t claim any credit for it as it was done before we moved here. Certainly since living here I have done nothing in the garden other than reap the benefits of someone else’s hard work and planning!
Being intentional about life is rather like tending a garden. It takes work, effort and planning! To enjoy the daffodils in spring you need to plant the bulbs in the fall. To be a teacher or lawyer tomorrow you need to study today. Decisions we make today determine our tomorrows. They determine our destiny. It means sometimes making choices based on a future hope instead of a present desire. The culmination of many small little decisions and choices will impact our future.
Being intentional in life goes further than our decisions too. It means being careful about our thoughts and words. It says in Proverbs that death and life in the power of the tongue. It means that what we speak about ourselves and our circumstances have an impact on our lives. Patricia King once wrote “the original purpose of words was not communication but creation.” We walk out in life what we declare. Make decrees of the Word and create your world!
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
“Look closely at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you are dreaming.” (Alice Walker)
At 3am the storm hit – hail and thunder, pounding rain. And with it came the cold. Shortly after, my 4 year old clambered into our bed, feet and hands like ice blocks. Winter had announced its arrival. We knew it was coming of course. But the glorious long summer that we had been enjoying disappeared in an instant. You see apart from the mountainous pile of leaves that my oak tree had shed one could easily be forgiven for thinking that Autumn had not yet come, let alone winter.
Just last week, in the heat and mugginess of the day, shop windows with their winter knit displays seemed absurd. Today they looked delicious and compelling. This year the start of winter has been abrupt (and dispruptive!). We weren’t seduced into its arms by cooler evenings and fresh breezes, it just brashly arrived. And so flannelette sheets have urgently made their way onto the boys’ beds.
Our lives also have seasons. Seasons of growth and opportunities, seasons of rest, seasons of change. It is so important to embrace the season that we are in. Seasons of change are fluid and temperamental with uncertainty and restlessness. Seasons of rest are quiet but filled with the grace of God. But whatever the season, each season prepares for the next. The season of rest prepares for the season of change and gives you the strength and reserves for it. The season of change often precedes the one of growth. Just has nature has a pattern in the seasons so do our lives.
The change in season may be gentle as spring makes its gracious entrance with new growth pushing through the soil or may be as abrupt as the Winter that has appeared today. As my oak tree sheds its last leaf its energy will be going into its roots, growing strong so that in the Summer it can take the weight of its new leaves and acorns. I don’t know what season of life you are in but remember it is important. Do not be discouraged or compare yourself with anyone else; simply be obedient to what God has called you to in this moment on this day in this particular season. What goes on in someone else’s field is for them to tend and nurture. Our responsibility is for our field.
Don’t fight the season! Understand that there is gold in every single stage of life. I’m embracing winter now – the duvets, the hot drinks, the scarves and my red polka dot umbrella will be much enjoyed!
You have to love Summer. Beautiful balmy days, sunshine and beaches, lazy days and time to relax. And then there’s the food – barbeques, Frappuccino and gelato, not to mention the beautiful summer fruits. Succulent nectarines and apricots, juicy peaches and berries – strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries! And grapes. I can’t forget the grapes. Absolutely love them! At this time of year, the vines are laden with them.
There’s one grapevine in particular that I keep a close eye on. At my parents house my Father has lovingly planted and nurtured one. Gorgeous, mouth-watering, deep velvet coloured grapes. So over this time of year my visits to my parents tend to increase in frequency as I scout out how the grapes are ripening. And then inevitably I can wait no longer and I succumb and reach for a grape, not yet ripe, but almost….!
I should have learnt my lesson by now. A still partly green grape is sour and hard, and not juicy and definitely not as delicious as the perfectly ready and ripe ones are! Sure enough too in time the grapes ripen perfectly and I get to enjoy them.
Fruit out of season does not taste good! Even if its’ potential is good it is still unpleasant. It’s worth waiting just a little longer for that perfectly ripe fruit. Same with life – whatever you’re waiting for, God’s timing is perfect and worth hanging out for. Whether it’s a spouse, a new job, ministry, a new opportunity, know that God has it all under control!
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” (Psalm 37:7)
I don’t wear a watch. I use the clock on my phone but that seems to be losing time. I know the clock in my car is fast, but I keep forgetting by how much. And I’m not sure what time the one in the kitchen is keeping to. So when it came to collect the boys from school today I had no idea whether I was early / late / right on time. Looking back I realise this has been going on for sometime. It’s why I think I’m running late to work but arrive at work and realise I am actually early. With appointments to make, a schedule to keep, it’s not wonder I’ve been getting a little flustered. And yes I need to wear a watch that tells accurate time! Hmm note to self – get that replacement battery for it!
Time. We only have a limited amount each day. Certainly not enough to fritter away worrying about what time it actually is! Seconds turn into minutes. Minutes turn into hours, and hours into days. And there we have it – “like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” That sounds rather melodramatic, even a little soap operish…! But time is precious and passes whether we are watching the clock or not.
It may be obvious to quote Ecclesiastes 3:1 but it does say it in a nutshell – “There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the Heavens.” To make the most of our days, to make the most of our times is to be aware of the season that we are in. It can be a season of pouring out and stepping up, a season of going wide, but just as easily it can be a season of sabbatical, of going deep. Our life will be a beautiful compilation of both. In following the Shepherd, we will find that He takes us on such a journey. We go through the valleys and the right paths, but He also takes us alongside quiet waters and green pastures. By being in tune with Him, by having Jesus to set the rhythm of our lives, we will find ourselves in the right season.
By the way, I should have known better. I was early to the school pickup. No matter, there’s a café right where I park the car. I’m taking that as a God ordained time out!