Season

On Friday morning I stepped outside to put some things into the recycling bin. This is something I do nearly every morning and regardless of the weather I usually go out in about the same attire – its just a few steps across the deck and it isn’t usually worth more than a flip flop’s worth of preparation.

I braced myself for a blast of chilly air and opened the door – as it turned out, it was about 65 degrees outside. It felt like I stepped out of my winter expectations right into the reality of spring. It was hard to go back inside, even with the promise of coffee!

A few minutes later, as I was texting with my friend, I said that didn’t think I could ever live some place that didn’t experience all 4 seasons; I just love the promise of a new thing always just around the corner. Every season has its wonders; miracles and metaphors. In the Spring we see rebirth, and in the Fall we see the beauty in letting go. The Summer is full of color and light, while Winter is full of mystery and potential.

Every season has its responsibilities; every season has its rest.

I took the above picture in November of 2019 after spending an afternoon cleaning up the wilted remains of summer and planting some bulbs to winter over for the spring. As I looked down with pride at what looked on the surface to be containers of dirt, a thought came to mind and I posted the image with this caption:

“It is amazing to me how different a successful day of gardening looks in the spring verses how it looks in the fall. A solid reminder, really, that success isn’t always in bloom.”

Just as the seasons we experience here on Earth come with different expectations for climate and growth; the seasons we pass through in our lives are no different. You would not expect a flower to bloom in the winter; you wouldn’t think that if it was just a little more committed – if it worked just a little bit harder – it could grow up through the frozen ground.

And yet, in the winter seasons of our lives, we expect so much more of ourselves than we do of the flower. We never allow ourselves rest; we refuse to accept a season of growth if it looks like relative dormancy on the surface.

But the thing is – we aren’t created to live in perpetual harvest. Your time spent planted in the rich soil of last season’s lessons is not failure. You need that darkness to see the spark of a new thing.

Back in November of 2019 there was more moving under the soil than would meet the eye. I was working in my yard that day because I was trying to get my head right after a particularly difficult weekend…and yet that season was actually the calm before the storm. The following winter was one of heartbreak and exhaustion, and I don’t think I need to tell you how the spring shaped up.

I think I do need to tell you that right before Easter, when it was time to produce and film music for Holy Week in my living room, those fall bulbs yielded spring tulips and hyacinths, right on time.

Peace

It hasn’t been a season of tranquility in my house. For a year that demanded we do, go, and plan less we certainly felt very busy. Pretty much all the time.

Some of that is that we have remained very involved in the planning and execution of our weekly worship services for church; more of it is that the kids have been home distance learning, turning the house into full time school and part time everything else.

But most of it is that every single thing takes about 5x more thought and planning than it used to. Things that we barely had to give a second thought to a year ago are suddenly herculean efforts. Even when they aren’t, worrying that they might be fills in any extra time we might have saved.

One of the challenges I faced this year was figuring out how to take breaks in a season that, on paper, is one of the slowest periods we have had in decades. I find that I am berating myself; confused. “Why are you so tired? Why are you so stressed? You are doing half of what you would normally be doing?”

But physical action is only one way we exhaust ourselves. If 2020 taught us anything, it is that it is easily possible to bankrupt our peace from inside the walls of our own homes.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”

He doesn’t say “Sit still and know that I am God”

It isn’t about what we are doing. It is about quieting the war in our heads; it is about letting go of feeling like we can control things that we truly can’t. About being still so that God can move our lives around us.

So as the world opens back up and torrents of change and expectations rain down on us, take a breath. Don’t sprint to make up for lost time; you aren’t late.

His peace is one that surpasses all understanding. You know it and I know it; we just need to practice a stillness that allows us to feel it.

Perspective

noun

  1. the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.
  2. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

When I took today’s picture, I was staging images for use last Easter – Virtual Holy Week 1.0, if you will. I was thinking at the time that these things would be good reminders of that crazy, singular time that we were in. It was all new and scary; in the first weeks of the pandemic we were saying things like “well, if we are still doing this by Easter…”

And here we are, about to do it again.

The last two weeks have been difficult; for me and, I’m learning, for quite a few others. I’m chalking it up to emotional exhaustion; hitting that one year wall. I read an article the other day about how the 3/4 mark has proven to be the worst for people living through extreme situations, and that felt about right too.

Willis and I were talking this week about how things are going in his classroom; as a high school choir teacher he is now in the classroom 4 days a week, teaching concurrently to the handful of hybrid students in the room with him and the frequently faceless avatars in the google meet.

It’s awful, is how its going.

He was lamenting the very valid, career altering and emotionally devastating things that he and a lot of the fine arts teachers (all teachers, honestly) are facing right now. And as he was talking, he said something that really stuck with me: “I haven’t lost anyone to the virus, I know I shouldn’t complain, it isn’t that bad.”

I know that perspective is important, crucial even. But my (potentially unpopular) opinion is that over the last year we have nearly weaponized that concept. There have been very real consequences in the last year – very real traumas. There has been an absolutely horrific loss of life, yes, but there are many living in worlds they wouldn’t have chosen for their worst enemy a year ago.

Maybe rather than dismissing our sorrow as not being valid because our loss isn’t significant enough, the perspective we need is that maybe, in some ways, it is that bad. It is ok to look at ourselves in the (hopefully) last quarter of this trial and wish everything was entirely different.

Should we dwell in that? Of course not. But knowing that you have been wounded by circumstances far out of your control is the first part of being able to accept it, and eventually heal.

Looking back on this picture today, I am struck by the brightness of the image in the viewfinder compared to the rest of the room. It was very dark that evening, and with the right perspective the camera was able to use the window and the candles in a really beautiful way.

But it really was dark in the room, and if we hadn’t acknowledged that, we wouldn’t have known what to adjust to find the light.

New

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

After the last year, I am not sure I need to hear the phrase “new normal” ever again. In fact, I might start finding it a little triggering.

I know how the phrase is offered – it is meant to mean “settle into the now”; don’t put everything on hold while you wait for yesterday’s settings to return. It is a reasonable and often necessary sentiment. I didn’t hear the phrase for the first time in the Spring of 2020 – businesses and schools are always evolving to a “new normal” – but it was the first time so much of my world had ended up in the discard pile. The first time that “new” was an instrument of survival, and not improvement.

The other day I noticed that a small green leaf had poked through the dirt in a pot that I didn’t realize contained anything that would have survived the winter. I think it might be a new tulip, but I’m not sure yet.

This past week as we collected images for the Sunday morning videos, we had images of new little buds and flowers for the first time in months.

And as I reflect on these wonderful, expected, predictable demonstrations of rebirth, I can’t help but think of how amazingly normal God’s “new” really is. How extraordinary it is, in a world of change, to count on His miracles; His mercies made new every morning.