A blog is an autobiography written as you're reading it.

On Quiet Times and Growing Things

I’ve noticed the vibrant color of the growing leaves in a way I’ve never noticed it before. Have you ever driven over the crest of a hill and had your breath taken away by the simple, fantastic glory of a chartreuse oak tree, lit up with a heavenly light? Or the impossibly brilliant purple hues of lavender, waving delicately on the side of the road, as if a painter had sneezed and thrown his paintbrush across the world’s lawn?

Maybe it’s now that I have plants and trees that I take care of every day, or maybe the colors are especially blazing and bright this spring. Either way, I’ve never been overcome with emotion at seeing budding apples on a tree, or the tiny thumbed leaves of the tulip poplar grow into palm-sized sheets of green. I almost jumped up and down and clapped for joy when I realized that my lilies had made it through the cold winter, that they were alive under there. It was the tiny sprigs of green that gave them away.

I feel like a winter lily right now. Things have been quiet since the tempestuous start to the year. Work has been mostly quiet. Life has been pretty quiet. I feel in many ways as though I’ve spent the last six months paralyzed: even though the earth has changed around me, the green has carpeted the ground once more, and the world around me has warmed into golden life, I exist unchanged. I sit, eerily silent amidst the life. Not peaceful, but still, like a dead bulb stuck in the ground for the wind to blow dirt over.

The wind blows where it wishes, after all, and I’ve never been able to change that. God works in our lives in ways that we don’t usually understand for years afterward. I’m still not sure what the end result of our last foster placement was. What was it all for? Who came out of that story better? I sure can’t see many positives from it. In many ways I cut myself off from people around me, shutting down, closing up, as Lewis brilliantly put it, trying desperately to ‘wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries.’

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S Lewis

We’re getting ready to jump back into the fray of foster care, and I’m terrified. My thoughts wander toward everything I’ve planted, in hope for the future. The flora around our house is enriched every year that goes by. The 115-year-old pin Oak is of course the king (and he far predates my own life). But underneath his benevolent crown, the tulip poplar and the apple stretch up in youthful exuberance. The raspberry replicates like tribbles, the blueberries are fruiting this year, and the lilies came up — like magic — in spring, twice as thick and full as they’d been the year before. The house plants fill their counters. Growth is a beautiful thing.

When I look at all this green around me, I’m reminded of the one who came up with it all — wrote the genomes, worked out the science, planned the leaf shapes and growth — created it all with the word of his mouth. He keeps it all running as if it were a delicate sonata or a soulful ballet. There is such beauty here, and such tenderness in the gardener.

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”

John 20:14-16

We are growing in the same soil, you and me. We are planted in this thick, black, earthy loam by our Rabboni, and all we are called to do is paint a picture of Him in a world that’s more wreckage than beauty. Sometimes this work will look beautiful, and sometimes it’ll look like a foster care placement that leaves you broken, gasping for breath and silenced for months.

What will the next journey be? I don’t know.

But, as I look at the plants, I can’t help but consider the God who created them; who created me; who created you. This journey is not aimless. He pierced the walls I put up around my own heart. There is a tapestry here, and we can live like it’s true even when we’re stuck below the surface, like a seed waiting to die, and grow into something far bigger than it could ever become on its own. Maranatha.