Spring is finally giving way to summer here. Since it’s our first year in Southern Oregon, every seasons change has been an adventure; not knowing what we would find when we looked out our window. We have loved the rain, and the grayness. Truly. We’ve learned about different types of rain: sprinkling, showers, downpours, storms, dense fog, freezing rain, freezing fog. I fully comprehend what Emily Bronte meant when she talked about Wuthering Heights rising above a silvery vapor. I also know what she means when she describes smaller dwellings becoming invisible.
It has been a long time without the sun.
I am told by people who have lived here awhile, it was a long spring; and a longer winter. I love how the local people here talk about it. Everyone collectively hopes for the sun, and when it comes out, the community is so alive. Smiles beam from every corner and every block. Everyone is outside. Then it rains again, and it’s like the very city itself shrugs and slumps its shoulders, dismayed as late spring storm after late spring storm has wandered in.
“It’s been a terrible winter.”
Thats what they say, here.
The deadness of winter has persisted well into spring. I’ve been in the desert so long, I thought I knew what dead looked like. But the desert thrives really. It only looks dead and brown on the surface. Sure the cactus have their little hats that bloom in March, and bougainvillea, given enough water grow its pink bracts, and reaches and climbs the cinderblock fences, but not much changes. It stays shades of brown and palo verde green.
But here, in the winter. It seems dead. And it feels dead. A deep, deep sleep surrounds everything. And for so long. Empty branches line the roads and the river, and the leaf litter crumbles into dark brown paste in storm drains. You forget even, what grows. Green is a memory lost in Emily’s silver vapor.
And isn’t that how life is. There are times in our lives or places in our heart that seem so dead. I can feel dead in my motherhood, or dead as a wife. Spiritually, I can feel such a deep and heavy deadness. Its as if parts of us go to sleep sometimes. And we want them back, but it isn’t the right season. Relationships, and the dying off of them. But maybe they are just sleeping.
Maybe God is saying not yet. This isn’t the time. Let that part rest.
A tulip needs to be allowed it’s foliage to whither in the sun, because secretly, beneath the dirt, the bulb is collecting sunshine and recharging so that next year it can bloom again.
A deep sleep for our own sake.
That relationship that hurts, that’s so broken.
Maybe it’s not yet the season for restoration. Maybe something is happening beneath the surface instead.
Solomon writes that there is a season for everything. God has appointed a time to every purpose under heaven. Doesn’t this include the seasons of deep sleep? Of perceived deadness? Of pain, or grief? A time to cast away stones?
And it hurts. And it lingers. And as the brokenness lingers, we can begin to lose hope. The rain continues, the brown continues. Things don’t change. There are no blooms, only woody sticks and twigs that look broken and tangled.
And its hard.
It has been a hard winter here. A hard first winter. I have mourned friendships and distance, and what had become familiar for me. Even if what was familiar wasn’t healthy. I have had to let got of broken things, and people, and that left me feeling broken. Pruning away the dead things. Setting boundaries that hurt, but had to be set.
And nowhere, could I see a sign of spring.
But my hope is in Jesus. And He is the life giver to dead things. The flesh giver to stone things, and the hope when winter seemingly will not end, and the rain continues.
But the rain has a purpose. And so too, does the dying back and pruning.
It makes way for the new and feeds the new growth that’s yet to come.
Jesus’ death, made way for the resurrection and the redemption of all mankind. Without the great loss of leaves, the trees would buckle under the weight of rain and snow. Without pruning back, roses become twisted, and woody and spindly and don’t produce the most coveted of flowers. Even the dead litter on the ground provides nesting areas for insects who will awaken in spring to pollinate flowers, and fruits and vegetables.
If God has shown me anything, it’s that what often appears dead to me, is merely sleeping, awaiting God’s transformation. Transforming stone into flesh, and winter into spring.
And I am learning, that my hope needs no timeline. Or plan. All I need to know, is that God will awaken and redeem what needs to be, when it is the appointed time. Without my input or planning. My fallible planning.
So when my heart yearns for another baby, and mourns over the loss of my fertility and the frailty of my body, I know my God is big enough to hold it. I can come up with a million “good” plans about adoptions and foster care and accidental pregnancies after tubal ligations. I can easily get lost in the seemingly insurmountable financial barriers and bureaucracy of each. I can lose myself in the google rabbit hole of actual statistics of non ectopic pregnancy in women with tubal ligations, and then I can present each “plan” to God and ask for His blessing. All the while I continue to worry over my dead and hurting pieces. The dead leaf litter I hold in my hands, wet and brown and pasty, not from rain, but from tears. My fallible plans.
I can hold up my broken relationships. My mother. The hurt and the pain and the confusion. I can dream up a thousand ways to fix her, or fix me, or fix us. I can rewrite history, and dream up a fanciful future where everyone is whole if only X, Y and Z happen. I can imagine a breakthrough with my in-laws, where there isn’t tension and past hurt. I can replay arguments and hurts in my head and play the “should have” and “if only game.” I can clutch these dead pieces too, and give my cracked plans to God, demanding fruition on my terms, on my time.
And then I wonder why nothing is changing. What about my plans God? They seemed good. They made sense. These are the only ways forward I see!
And winter continues. And my plans whither. And there is no way forward. That I can see anyway.
But then Spring.
And the world begins to awaken.
And we have forgotten how green it all was. And the scent; of the earth, of the flowers. It lingers in the air and breezes through windows. The smell of heaven. Every tree blossoms with a flower of a different color, in a way we couldn’t have dreamed up if we tried. Flowers grow everywhere. Roses grow wild here in literal ditches. Ivy and moss dance their way up tree branches and lichen hangs like wreathes from old growth trees. Bulbs yawn their way up from the ground and unfurl their thick leaves in curls, in places we didn’t know they were planted. Recharged. The trees sprout leaves together in a chorus, and the grass greens, and grows and grows and grows. At such a rate we seem to need to mow it every single day.
And then the gardens. If you just look at the ground here it seems one grows. Every finger and toe is green. This ground that just weeks ago looked barren and dead, is now bursting with life. Seeds simply scattered in dirt come up as zucchini and strawberries and lettuce and tomatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers. Rhododendrons and peonies, irises, camellias, hydrangea, poppies and a thousand others whose names I don’t know, each one more vibrant than the next, appear all over where once there was only dead twigs and dirt. Cottonwood seeds float on the wind and the sun like fairies. And every shade of green. Green I can’t describe in shades I’ve either never seen before or have somehow forgotten about. I don’t even know where it comes from, but suddenly everything is alive and bursting. You need no gardening expertise here, life just grows wild. Almost untamed.
God, the Master Gardener who calls forth life from the ground, in shapes and colors and patterns and scents in ways we couldn’t plan if we tried. In just a few weeks everything is unrecognizably alive. Beautiful. Hanging baskets line the streets and bridges. Laughter is in the air until the sun sets, even after.
Life has returned. We could not predict it, we didn’t know when. At times it felt like forever. The fog, the rain, the grey sky, it persisted. But we knew, we were certain, spring would come. Summer would come. Even if it felt delayed. Even if it was delayed. We had hope because we were certain we could trust the calendar, and we knew as April gave way to May, and May slowly creeped onward towards June that the warms days were coming. It was only a matter of time.
And how much more can we trust our Savior? The very Author of the seasons?
When my life feels like a crumpled mess of dead leaves on barren ground, I am certain, that spring is around the corner. New life will spring up in beautiful ways I cannot imagine, like wildflowers. And so I hold on. And I hope.
I hope for restoration, and freedom for my mother.
I hope that one day I will hold a baby in my arms again, and call him mine.
I hope that my children will grow up loving each other, and that I will send them out into the world with wholeness as their legacy, and love, and laughter and connectedness.
I hope for the dead things, the stone things, because my God has promised to make them alive and flesh again. Because God has promised that He will work all things for good and glory. Because He has good plans for me.
But I don’t need to know the plans. I need to be okay if my plans are not His plans. I need to trust that Spring will come, even if it looks different. Even if it seems delayed. I need to hand Him my crumbled dead leaves, so one day, he can give me a bouquet of fresh flowers.
I need to allow him to turn over the rocky compact soil in my heart so things can grow.
I need to invite him in, to the dead places of my heart, the places I hold close out of fear. If a tree feared losing it’s leaves every fall, would it survive the winter? It must let go. And wait. If it blooms too soon, likewise the frost will kill the blossoms and prevent a harvest of fruit that year. It patiently waits for spring, even if the waiting is long.
My savior has appointed a time to all things in his infinite wisdom and I am safe to trust in it.
And the waiting may hurt. And the brokenness and barrenness can feel so overwhelming. But hope is here already and spring is coming.
Even if my plans fail. Even if I never hold another baby I call my own. Even if there is never reconciliation and freedom this side of heaven. Even if.
I will not trust God if only.
I will trust him even if.
Because I cannot imagine the myriad of ways He can work good and meaning into my life if I let him. If I give up the painful planning with my limited sight, things beyond my imagination can bloom when I allow him to tend my heart; if I let the Master Gardner weed and prune and water my life.
Of course I can mourn last year’s spent blooms, there is a time for that too, because life this side of heaven can hurt, but I also need to be sure that I wait with expectant hope, for this years new growth. Because He has promised that it is coming.
And this Spring. Jesus, I will let you in to those woody thickets I’ve fenced off.
Those painful places I cannot figure out.
The barren soil that I feel ashamed of. The rocks and clumps and frozen ground.
I invite my savior in, even if spring is delayed. Even if my favorite flowers don’t come back this year. Even if it doesn’t look like what I thought it should have looked like.
Take my dead leaves, and give me Jesus.
My hope, my spring, the one who makes me alive again.
For behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:11-12