I woke up this morning to gray skies and lingering raindrops on my pots of chrysanthemums on the porch. The giant maple tree across the street is getting that golden glow again and soon its leaves will pile up in the street. Fall has arrived and it makes me happy down to my bones. Coziness abounds.
As we played outside this morning in our hoodies, though, and I dumped out some dead plants from their pots, I realized that I’m thankful for the seasons changing this year because I’m ready to leave the past few months behind. Last summer I struggled with my health and didn’t even consider gardening. This summer, being stronger, I ached to make something grow and start to design garden spaces in our city yard.
A neighbor gave me a basket full of flower seeds and I dug out some old kitchen drawers in need of being reused for something. I filled those up with soil and hopefully planted marigolds and zinnias. I hoped to create a cute, rustic garden space. Well, the drawers got stuck onto a table near the garage and stayed there all summer. The plants grew but rather poorly. Spindly little stems with tiny flowers. Not at all what I envisioned. All summer I meant to do something more with them but never did. And there they sat, a discouraging lump of sad little flower boxes, half-dead for most of 4 months. Can someone say “guilt trip” every time I stepped outside? So believe me it felt good to dump out the dead plants.
We like to dream about the coziness of beauty of fall, but how often do we think about the endings that come with the season? My 4-year-old cried when we took the dying stem of his sunflower out of its pot. “It’s all my fault! I didn’t water it!” No, buddy, it’s how God designed sunflowers. They grow, they bloom, and they die. It’s all the season of life.
Some seasons are full to overflowing with goodness. We think nothing of them as they come and go. Some seasons ache with hardship and we breathe deeply in relief as they pass. Some seasons leave us feeling satisfied with all we got done. And other seasons we shake off with all the regrets they leave behind.
Solomon, the wisest man on earth, wrote in Ecclesiastes these words that may be some of my favorites from God’s Word:
What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3:9-13
“People cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” I’m not going to lie, I sure like the productive, happy seasons of wholeness better than the ones that prompt me to ask why, or what went wrong. But maybe that’s because I can’t see what God is doing in those long ones.
Mothering three children has brought more challenges than I ever expected. So much goes else undone as I do the good work of training them and caring for their needs. Trimming back dead flowers that didn’t live up to their full potential feels so good because with them go the unnecessary feelings of guilt over my [lack of] gardening this year. It’s okay that my vintage flower garden didn’t exist this summer. It’s okay that my herbs grew voraciously and I never got around to preserving them this year. It’s okay that I only have mums planted in pots and not in the ground, where I wish they were. I’ve been planting other seeds. Seeds of love that are growing roots down deep in the hearts of my children so that they grow fruit when those seasons come.
This isn’t a post about mothering. I could be writing this about my writing. I could be writing it about ministry. Or sickness. Or anything. Seasons are out of our control, really. They are part of the ebb and flow of life. In each one I get to release my will and say, “Whatever you want, God. I’m here to follow you. Show me the way.”
“God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”
Today, whatever our season, let’s plant seeds to grow roots.