Emerging from the depths of soil Of what was but days ago Frozen, Cold, Still. Now life bursts forth in glee Proof that somehow life Finds a way, Continues on, Has a will. Beneath us one and all In a cycle of continuing Miracles happen, Time marks passage, Birth occurs. From depths of human hearts Acknowledgement as Spring arrives Despite COVID, Shutdowns Separation. Resolutions, determinations unfurl The hibernating hope in us To reawaken, Feel the Sonshine, Unfurl our wings. Seeds opening in prepared soil Buds bursting beneath nests Babies soar, On newly found wings, Free souls. ----dfav 4/8/2021
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2 NIV
It is a lovely spring morning in Alabama. Out in the rural area I live in, in a small “town” there are still the sounds of multiple birds chirping, bees buzzing, roosters crowing, hens clucking, the occasional swish of tires on the street outside my front door. But here, on our back porch, even within easy sight of houses and sheds it feels as if I am alone in the screened in womb of which I’ve become quite attached too recently. Having my quiet time with God out here with a good cup of coffee has been a “want to” of mine since I started my flowers, vegetables and herbs growing.
Being out here, regardless of the time of day, renews my heart. Being out here, reading God’s word, renews my mind. Being out here, praying and seeking God’s will renews my spirit. Because those parts of me are renewed then I am renewed also in the roles of my life. As a Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. As a student of the Scriptures. As a wife. As a mother. As a sister. As an aunt. As a church member. As a friend. As a writer. The list is shorter these days since my disability retirement, but I’m learning that this too is a renewing.
It is extra special this year that the seasons of my life are in alignment with the seasons of nature. Winter, with its cold winds and icy rains, dark skies and short days seemed endless but it too matched my season of life. My depression deepened. My hope diminished. My spirit sought shelter from the harshness of winter. Because I found that shelter in Christ then just as the earth warmed and the season changed so did I.
And of course Easter arrives with spring and the resurrection reminders can’t help but put one’s mind toward renewed life, renewed faith.
As a female, I willingly confess to you, that I often wondered if I was losing touch with my “female” side when I was in the work force. Even during the time I was in ministry. For many years, all but ten months of my time in the ministry, I was without husband or child. It was easier to work long hours, nurture other’s children and youth and work seven days a week to meet the demands of the congregation. Yet it was during this time I found myself losing my “female” side.
It wasn’t welcomed as easily in a Southern Baptist church as it would have been in another denomination. There were times other ministers, who were male, would “put me in my place” quite clearly and sometimes not with an attempt of kindness. I never desired to a senior pastor position or one that would require my preaching. It was only towards the end of my time in ministry when I had at last been able to enjoy some formal seminary training and was asked to teach what I had learned to small groups in our church that I lead a group that had adult men in it that was focused mainly on Scripture. But I learned you had to have a thick skin to be a female in ministry if you wanted that “title”. It was important to me to be able to say I was the youth minister for my church. It was easier for others if I used the title youth director. I knew other male counterparts in the same line of work I was with the same credentials and no one had a problem with them being a “minister” yet allowing a female to use that title was a touchy issue most of the time. So I learned to “think like a man” more than “like a woman” in ministry. I wasn’t always successful, but I was far more than I believe people realized and in doing so I lost touch with my “female” side.
Once I made the transition into the non-profit work field my ability to cater more to my male attributes was something that allowed me success. I remember the day we received word that one of our counselors had passed away unexpectedly in New Orleans where he grew up and had taken a brief and unplanned trip that weekend. When my supervisor told me, even though by then due to circumstances and some unusual phone calls I already suspected the truth, when she told me Keith had passed away it brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart. Just at that time I was reeling with the shock and news a delivery of office supplies arrived. My supervisor stood there in amazement as my “professional” side immediately took over and the delivery man left never knowing anything was wrong. “How did you do that?” she asked. “One second you’re nearly crying and clearly upset and the next you can’t tell a thing is wrong with you!”
For me the trick to being a female in a male dominated field is to learn how to separate what you’re doing with your emotions. I called it “boxing up your emotions”.
The upside of this is that I learned to look at situations and issues from many different viewpoints before making a decision and to be concise about it. The downside was that when I needed my ability to be female, to center on my intuition as a female I often had to struggle to identify it, it was no longer an automatic part of me.
God’s word more than the warmer air around me or the sounds and sights of nature awakening after their dormant season has created a renewing in me. My world, in many ways, has gotten smaller. And I find that subjects I thought God and I were finished with, such as the role of women in ministry and especially pastoring are rearing their heads from dormancy. I’ve had a very good friend who is a pastor and a male challenge my belief of what scripture says regarding this topic. Suddenly I have a deeper longing to “know God’s word” than ever before in my life. Not to know it intellectually as much as to know it in my heart. There is a difference in having the knowledge of a subject and a knowledge of it that creates a passion in you to have it be a living, breathing part of you.
And too I must make my life a living sacrifice for Christ daily, minute by minute. Nothing in living the Believer’s life is ever a “single” aspect, all things are as connected as the body parts Paul uses to describe the Body of Believers known as the church in I Corinthians 12:12-26.
Spring gives us many opportunities to think about renewal in our own lives. I hope this spring finds you renewing your spiritual self as well as any other part that may be in need of a fresh breath of springtime air.
In Christ’s Love,
One thing we say here in Alabama is that if you’re unhappy with the weather hang around for five minutes and it will change. Our blizzard of 1993 happened towards the end of March when we’re accustomed to the signs of spring coming alive, not 2-3 feet of snow. (Yes, 2-3 feet of snow in the Deep South qualifies as a blizzard.) This spring has been a bit more cold than usual. Freeze warnings and cold, damp days were the norm here a lot longer than normal. Yet, finally it seems we are warming up!
Yesterday I was able to “plant my garden”, which for me is going to be a container garden so it is reachable for me from my wheelchair. Oh how lovely it was to get those young plants into new homes! The smell of the sweet basil, peppermint and lavender was intoxicating! The sturdiness of the bell pepper and tomato plants was encouraging! The sharpness of the leeks as I broke up the root ball was a reminder of wild onions being mown over by someone’s lawn mower. This year I added Snapdragons, Petunias and a Boston Fern to the mix. I’m already thinking of a few more plants I want to add. Perhaps parsley, garlic, rosemary and dill. Maybe a couple more tomato and bell pepper plants too.
Our deck looks full of life, new life. Perfect for spring.
I was amazed at the difference my four hour gardening made in my thought processes. Just being out in the fresh air and seeing signs of spring arriving a little more closely enveloped me in hope. Hope in spring seems absolutely perfect. Especially for a Christian.
Jesus went to Calvary and was crucified on the cross just after the Jewish celebration of Passover. This comes in spring. The hope that was born those three days arrived when Jesus defeated death and when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome took spices so that they might anoint Jesus’ body. The women discussed how they could possibly roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb so they could get inside as they went to Jesus’ borrowed tomb. Yet the Lord had already taken care of this need for them for the stone had been rolled away by the power of God. When the women reached the tomb male angels greeted them and in Luke 24:5 one of them asks Mary, Mary and Salome “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”*
The sweltering heat of summer gives light and warmth to the earth. The crispness of fall air is a reminder of the bounty of harvest. The chill and dormant activity of winter makes quiet the energy and bustle of growth. It is the spring that fulfills the promise of the other seasons, the beginning of new life, the birth of hope.
Often times I find my heart in winter regardless of the season outside my window. Then days occur like yesterday when I had my hands in soil, breaking up root balls of plants some for harvest and some for joy that I look for signs of life. I look to see what has been dormant, what has been waiting for the earth to warm so life can begin anew, what is now beginning to show fulfillment of that promise of new life. Oh to never forget the hope of spring!
My heart would be much lighter if I remembered the warmth of the spring sun, gentle and soothing. My mind would be more productive if I focused on new beginnings instead of endings. If I planted hope instead of grief. My spirit would soar instead of hibernating any longer.
Jesus offered us the perfect gift in springtime. His sacrifice gives us hope for this earth and a promise of eternity in His presence. Spring has sprung at last in Alabama and this Southern Steel Magnolia is mighty happy about this arrival, mighty happy indeed.
*For the Biblical accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection read Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24 and John 18-24.