When we were five, we were five until our next birthday when we magically became six, and this journey continued until we hit puberty. We didn’t understand Life’s Seasons, for us the seasons of life were Summer and Christmas. That was the way of youth, we simply existed in our current phase unaware that we’d eventually grow and change.
For myself, even as a teenager, I missed signs of forthcoming life changes because I was preoccupied with other pressing matters, such as “How long will Luke and Laura be able to evade Robert Scorpion?” (For those of you under 50, google it) or “Who is this chick singing about a taking a Holiday, and where can I get my own lace, fingerless gloves?” (you know this one, right?) As I aged and started “adulting” I began to have a minor understanding to the ever-changing nature of the seasons of life. I came to understand that whatever I was going through was simply a season, and eventually that season would pass. Productivity, inactivity—both were going to sway in and out of my adult life. Extreme happiness, overwhelming grief—both were seasons that would not last. When consulting friends or mentors for advice, I was consistently reminded of the sage wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 3:1.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
As a young mother, I had a love/hate relationship with the idea of life’s constant changes. I wanted the next season, and I didn’t. For me, it was all about the beautiful flowers blooming in my garden—or more aptly, falling out of my womb: I gave birth to four babies in five years. (My husband would sneeze and I would get pregnant. Two of our babies were born 10 and ½ months apart. I mean, come on…) The truth is, the most chaotic things happening in my life were also the most spectacular. This season was incredibly hard, but even in the midst of it I was fully aware that these little blossoms were going to one day float away with the wind. So, while I longed for the season to be less intense, and prayed for my eldest to stay in bed through the night, I also knew that when this season ended I would long for one more day in it.
Eventually the season shifted. Spring gave way to Summer, so to speak. Now, kids may love Summer, but I could write a book, give lectures, and do a stand-up comedy act about the myriad of ways I attempted to avoid dealing with the harsh heat of this season. Not only was I no longer the smartest person in my home, I didn’t even come in third place! My wardrobe was suddenly all wrong, my advice rarely landed on willing ears, and someone had replaced my face with my Mother’s. I was losing sight of who I was.
But I could write. For reasons I still don’t understand, I could express myself and make an ordinary event sound adventurous. The first essay I ever wrote was about my daughter who had died suddenly in 1995. I printed it out and shared it with a couple of close friends, and while I knew it was therapeutic for me, I never saw it as more than that. If it was a gift, it was a gift from God to me: a way for me to work out my emotions and think like Him.
Over time, writing became more and more important to me. Several years ago, when my life went topsy-turvy, writing became my truest confidant, loyally helping me express what I didn’t even fully understand and in turn, helping me understand. God used it in ways I never dreamed or imagined. But through it all, it never occurred to me that writing might be a season.
Over the last year, it has become remarkably difficult for me to find my voice, and it has become nearly impossible to find the hours to explore. Perhaps it comes from being a full-time student with a part-time job. Or, maybe it’s having a husband who likes to spend time with me. Possibly, it’s living with my daughter, whose Love Language is Quality Time. Or maybe it’s the result of sharing a home with my two small grandchildren—the blossoms of the blossom. At first, I tried to make it work, but everything sounded stale and redundant. Eventually, I gave up trying. Every so often someone will ask, “Are you writing?” and I feel my head slink forward and down, ashamed.
And with that slinking feeling, for the first time in my life, I became curious about trees.
15 months ago, we bought a house with 12 trees, 7 of which are fruit trees. Last March we were stunned by the blossoms. Each tree was flawless, making it quite possibly the prettiest backyard we’d ever had. And the fruit! Last year we had apples, apricots, peaches, plums, pomegranates, and 10 cherries. (Yeah, I know, the cherry tree didn’t really pull her weight). It was inspiring to watch these trees, barren at the close of escrow, bursting with beauty and life. And, I felt like I was doing such a great job as an orchard farmer! Other than the ongoing battle with the birds about fruit ownership—it was a great harvest.
But then it ended. The last apple fell and the unpicked pomegranates split open and spilled their seeds. The leaves withered and died. The birds moved on. And I wondered about my trees. Did they try to hold onto their Autumn leaves? Were they concerned about their appearance without them? Did they question this Winter season and their usefulness within it? Did they feel less significant during the holiday season? Did they spy the Douglas Fir we brought into our home during December? Were they jealous of her lavish treatment, envious of her rich, colorful adornment—and then shocked at the way she was tossed to the curb come January 1st?
I guess, what I wondered most of all was this: when a tree loses her fruit, when her leaves change color and blow away in the wind, does she know it isn’t forever? Does she understand that this is just a season, or does she pine for the fruitfulness she once had?
I stare out my window at her thin outstretched limbs, willing her to come to life and answer a thousand questions—or maybe two—but I realize, it’s impossible to win the attention of a tree in Winter, because even though she doesn’t appear to be doing anything in this season, she’s engrossed. From dawn till dusk she’s absorbing the sunlight, drinking it in like warm English tea. Without the distraction of pesky birds, without the burden of leaves, she’s enjoying the feel of the afternoon breeze on her bark. While the rest of the world celebrates the turning of a calendar, she is winding her roots deeper, and deeper still, into dark places. DIRT, it equals nutrients and stability…what we avoid is what makes her strong. And on the coldest, cloudless night, she’s gazing up at the full moon. She doesn’t know the value of these things; she’s a tree and her understanding of the ways of God are limited to only what she senses on this day—in this moment. But, even without knowing if God will ever use the things He is doing in her, she stands, she waits, and she trusts that this season will eventually pass.