“For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance.” Song 2:11-13 (NASB)
This is the time of year I love to garden. Spring is in the air! The birds are chirping, the geese are laying eggs, the buds are popping out on the trees and bushes, the grass is green, and–be it ever so slightly–the temperatures are beginning to rise everyday. It is nice to be outdoors and experience the newness of life. Soon it will be time to plant some new waterwise plants in my yard and watch them flourish in this season of life and renewal.
It seems impossible after a dull, bleak, cold and wet winter that life could re-emerge. My yarrow, catmint, speedwell, thyme, stonecrop, barberry bushes, and many other plants looked like winter had taken the life right out of them. Last November, we even had a “fast freeze.” It was as though winter forced itself upon nature. The trees didn’t lose their abscission layers, so we still have trees this spring with dead leaves that never fell off! There these trees and bushes and plants sat, all winter long, looking lifeless and barren. Their dead blooms sat there as a reminder of how beautiful they once were. (When Mark and I first moved moved to Boise three years ago, I remarked that we moved to “Stickville.”)
This week, I went outside to my little waterwise garden along the fence in my backyard. I gently pruned back the dead growth with hope my plants somehow survived a winter of cold and drench. The air was chilly, the sun disappeared, a wind kicked up and there were signs more rain was on its way. No matter, I was determined. My yarrow plant was overgrown last summer and had become quite the monster, as was my Goliath-size Russian sage. They both needed a lot of pruning to see any new growth. Much to my surprise, there were tiny green leaves curled underneath and little buds! I moved on to the next plant and the next plant, and guess what! They all made it through winter!
Two years ago this part of my yard was a patch of lumpy, hard dirt. It was an eyesore and my cats began to eyeball it as an outdoor bathroom spot. I didn’t know anything at all about gardening when we moved into this house. All I knew is that when I looked out the kitchen window, I wanted to see something beautiful. When my in-laws came to visit us that first summer in our home, they helped me till the ground and plant my first plant. (I am sorry to say that the hydrangeas didn’t survive in the heat of August.) From there, I began to add fertilizer, worms, and rich soil to the ground on a regular basis. I bought more plants once the temperatures cooled down in early fall and added a thick blanket of mulch around them. To top it off, I insisted on putting a little black wrought iron fence around the entire garden to make it look “official.”
Sometimes our stubborn hearts need tilling and pruning like my little garden! This is called “people pruning.” Jesus reminds us: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5. Nothing, it says! We need Jesus to be our Spiritual Gardener! He even says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” I was reading Numbers 22 about Balaam’s stubbornness this week. He even talked back to his talking donkey! God had to help him see danger up ahead upon the road with spiritual eyes because he was blinded by his stubborn heart. Later on, he ended up losing his life because he tried to help the enemies of God’s people destroy the Israelites, despite the fact God used him three times to warn those enemies of their pending demise. You would think someone who had a prophetic warning, a talking donkey and saw an angel would not be so obstinate anymore! Sheesh, some people never change! The Bible warns that “land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned” Hebrews 6:7-8. Balaam was a perfect example of this passage. He was a weak man and poor example of a spiritual leader. I hope that any lumpy hard patches of your heart will be softened by the Holy Spirit, so that God can prune you and make you even more fruitful in your spiritual walk!
Being from Southern California where they have mostly balmy temperatures all year, I was so worried my plants would die. I knew what frost could do, but snow was different. Alas, my hearty plants managed to hang in there! Sometimes we can experience winters in our lives too. Everything that once brought us pleasure and happiness vanishes. Everything suddenly seems dead or dull. We feel like we are simply surviving. Sure, we rise up, get ready, go to work, run errands, come home, eat, do chores, relax, go to bed, and then do it all over again and again. However, we really don’t feel like we are living. Somehow, somewhere something happened that robbed us of life as we once knew it. Maybe a loved one passed away and the pain is still raw. Maybe you just found out you or someone you know has terminal cancer or a debilitating disease. Perhaps a messy or complicated divorce has left you with a broken heart. Possibly you lost a job you really needed to make ends meet. Maybe you feel alone, as though no one cares about you. Perhaps a good friend lashed out with their tongue and has deeply hurt your feelings. The list could go on, but the point I want to make is that we all experience “winters in life.”
I’m a military spouse who doesn’t see my family but once or twice a year. This has been my “winter” while my husband and I are stationed here in Boise. Holidays–even if spent with our close friends–are the most painful times of the year. They remind me that I’m apart from the ones I love. Easter is coming, so I’m sure my buried emotions from Christmas will resurface. No matter what your winter looks like, rest assured that the sun will come out once again. Life will re-emerge. We know we will always have seasons in nature and seasons in life. God orchestrates their timing just perfectly us. Has He shown you signs of spring in your own life? I’d love for you to share them on this blog! I’m excited my parents are visiting in May for nine days, and Mark and I are taking a two-week road trip to San Diego this August to see the rest of my family after more than a year of being apart!
I’ll leave you with a few scriptures upon which to meditate:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame” Isaiah 58:11.
“…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” Colossians 3:10.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” Genesis 8:22.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” Genesis 1:14.
“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” Genesis 1:11.
“For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations” Isaiah 61:11.
“Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything” Genesis 9:3.
“Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone” Zechariah 10:1.
“As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” Psalm 103:15-16.2
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” Matthew 6:25-34.
““All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” Isaiah 40:6-8.
“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2
“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” 1 Corinthians 3:7.
“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches’” Luke 13:18-19.
Prayer of the Day: “Thank you Lord that even in the dead of winter, you are able to renew people’s minds, hearts and strength. I am grateful that I have the hope of a beautiful and glorious spring. Please show me signs in my life that spring is on its way. Till the stubborn soil in my heart, prune back the dead, lifeless unrighteous parts of me. Cause me to grow spiritually strong and help me to produce much fruit on behalf of your eternal kingdom this season. Amen.”