Monday, October 24, 2016

Standing Firm through Shifting Seasons

Skies are grey today. The cold seems to edge in a little closer with each passing week. I look outside my windows and if I didn't have the testimony of green trees this past summer I'd be convinced that the majority of stark skeleton maples look to be dead. The yellowed underbrush and and perennial beds are giving into the browning and limping effects of frosty nights. The evergreens stand tall and proud, determined to hold their own through the oncoming winds of winter. Two rows of poplars tower like soldiers at attention in yellow uniform. I'll leave the silver dusty miller in until spring as it keeps it's own along the walk while all else dries off or flops to the baring ground. There are still purples and cranberry colors flashing about in defiance and one hardy white petunia against the backdrop of the red garden shed that appeared this summer out of it's own will. Funny thing is, it'll be the last flower standing and I didn't even plant it. For several weeks I've been enjoying the sight of the slow growing Mountain Ash. This past summer it seemed like it was going to meet it's demise to the ravages of a relentless sapsucker however I got the better of him with grocery bags flapping in the branches. The wounded trunk with weeping gashes looked sparse and the whole thing has leaned at a pitiful angle for a few years. Next its branches were nearly stripped bare thanks to the ravenous caterpillars that wormed their way into all things green and growing. To my wonder though, and the help of water, fertilizer, a few sprays of malathion; the leaves grew back, beautiful clumps of red berries hung all around. A few weeks ago I decided I was quite capable of figuring out how to stake this tree and give it the platform it deserves. I look out the kitchen window now and 'see the little tree that can', as I've dubbed it. It has sacrificed it's berries to the robins and blue jays that fly about the yard now in pursuit of winter stores. I'd say this little tree has been the best work in progress in the yard this summer.

There's one though that calls all attention, it boasts with leaves all ablaze. Hanna exclaimed yesterday " I just can't take my eyes off it." Oh I know. Each time I open the door my gaze is drawn to the captivating color that glows in the center of our yard. We planted it the same year as the 'little tree that can' but this one is a good fifteen feet taller; a good four feet of growth this summer. It's orange turning to red is brilliant and brazen against the dimming surroundings and holds out the longest of all. Though that color will fade too, the Canadiana leaves letting go, it's beauty lingers in thought. A rest for a season, a busy time of green and growth and then when all else is slowing it gears up for the final show. I look forward to it every year and invokes a feeling of thankfulness. The yard work can make one feel a little defeated by nature when the Autumn color can't hold on much longer, the leaves and berries falling to a carpet on the ground; and it certainly does not motivate me as the Spring start did; but that flash of fall red keeps breathing life into the sighing surroundings.

It's obvious by now that I love trees, I notice them wherever I go. Trees teach. Nature has a way of proclaiming the creation and the wonder of its Creator.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.   
Psalm 96:11-12 

I've had times this last year where I feel as though I'm in a season of Fall in my life. My spirit sags after frosty days of frustration and limps along when I give into debilitating disappointments. When I allow winds of change to toss my feelings to and fro. Who can rely on feelings anyway? Leaning a little too heavy to one side when mom guilt or failures weigh in. Sapsuckers and caterpillars? They happen too when we inflict ourselves with the comparison and control of social media, leaving wounds weeping with 'not enough' ? Its easy to allow resentment to cause a hardening off effect. And then there is fear. It strips the leaves of joy and character right off the limb, leaving the soul stark , running for cover from the oncoming winter, and it can so easily seem like all else around is standing tall and strong, ready for whatever comes.  Coming out of a postpartum phase this last year I can mark the seasons: a Spring and a hope with the beginning of a new baby, adjusting to newness of family dynamics. A Summer of tending and growing; wiping, changing, feeding, washing, cleaning, little sleep, long days and short nights. Fall follows, kids in school, the third a preschooler, baby not so baby anymore and sleeping through the night. Baby duties turn to busy tot running around. Husband has had a full plate this year and all around life has felt demanding. This season hasn't really slowed but maybe it's my heart that has and awareness to who I am or have been in the past years. I have felt the pressures of needing to be productive yet feeling empty, like my surroundings are grey and weather beaten around me. It seems as though the days of the last years I've done the what I had to do, but bigger projects too daunting, the want-to-do's falling by the wayside. Not feeling the liveliness that makes me tick, wondering where that streak of brazen flitted to and knowing I need to be rejuvenated. Like a depleted tree needs water and nutrients so need we the same. 

"He is like a tree planted by water,that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."
Jeremiah 17:8  

Sometimes it's care we can do for ourselves like a tree that conserves energy for the changing seasons and sends strength into it's roots as it prepares to rest. I've been reminded in the last while that it's important to take time for the things that make us feel alive. For me that was being purposeful outside this summer and enjoy the yard, either through gardening or some fun things with the kids or having
a coffee in the morning sun. A surplus yield of apples inspired me to make some extra pies and offer them for sale. It seems minor but it took some mustered up confidence to venture out with that. Sitting down to write today was a choosing to help myself; sorting out my thoughts and connecting them to what's happening around me. Learning to say no is ok too, or maybe stepping away from social media for a bit. The best thing I've done for myself is to choose to be more consistent in reading God's word. It's not always a continuous stream, some days just a trickle, but there have been many penetrating moments of reminding me of who I am in Christ, how to remedy where I've falling short and how to keep growing.

Trees are added to a yard to create contrast and and to compliment what else is growing beside. They lend shade to that which needs protection from the hot sun, a wind break for shelter and a refuge for wildlife to live. Sometimes our care and rejuvenation comes from the relationships around us, those that God sends in to lend a hand or maybe encourage through words. My week started off somewhat grey and went to bed one night feeling quite discouraged. Help came in the morning through a friends prayer and text of this verse: 

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

How timely that was for me and it changed the entirety of my week. That same day I was loading kids and bags into my car in the store parking lot, and a man came by in passing and simply said "you're doing a really good job!" He doesn't know that those words have stuck with me all week, reminding me that despite where I think my limbs look a little gnarly God sees the work in a whole different light. To the broken places he adds beauty. 

Any tree grower knows that a good pruning is done in one season so that in the following seasons it will be stronger and give a better yield. A young tree is pruned so that it's roots are firmly established, able to support it for years to come. Early sacrifice for later bounty. In raising children we can especially relate to that as much time is sacrificed to train and teach our children to become productive and grace filled adults. We are driven to do this because of hope, for what we have in the present and what we hope for it to become. That's what keeps us growing, reaching upward to greater heights with thankfulness in the sway and bend in life and a prayer in the wind. So do what makes you your unique you, your blooms are different than the other flowers in the garden. Find moments to be ablaze with color, shining so vivid. Your Creator cannot take his eyes off you. He looks out of Heavens door and smiles. Lend that color to the ones growing and striving around you. Shine and hang on to that which remains the longest; the steadfast love of God. That which no one can uproot, that no season can destroy; so that those who behold it may be filled with hope. That when winter rushes in after the fall, the love of God lingers and remains, and that whatever fury the winter may bring there remains a covering of grace, giving rest for the roots of our being and a renewed trust.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose hope is the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:7

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