Once again, I’m joining the internet’s practice of seasonal reflection. Sometimes we forget the lessons in the mundane, and photos on our phone or Bible verses and quotes in our journals reveal what we paid attention to. You can find more What I Learned reflections from others here at Emily P. Freeman’s blog, where she leads the way each season.
“Sometimes life hides gifts in the darkest of places.”
This quote from the Netflix series “Anne with an E” held so much truth I had to take a photo of the screen. (Yes, I’m one of those weird people who watches TV with the subtitles on because I don’t want to miss any dialogue.) Though I am not currently in a particularly difficult season, I’m still drawing on the truths learned in those dark times. I’m cultivating the fruit from the seasons of waiting and sorrow. From Emily P. Freeman’s book The Next Right Thing*, I wrote this down from chapter 24: “Am I allowing the darkness to do what darkness does best – cover, protect, and grow?” Naming the gifts in the darkness – and not rushing the slow work – is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life. I’m thankful for it.
Worship is a way of life.
I wrote recently about choosing worship as my word of the year. I’m learning that I’m not a very disciplined person and turning my attention from the here-and-now-attention-suckers requires a lot of it (discipline, that is). Worship isn’t just what I do at church or during my personal time with God. It’s an every moment intention of turning my gaze and my heart toward what is most important and worthy. In her book Beholding and Becoming*, Ruth Chou Simons puts it this way: “To our all-seeing God, everyday faithfulness is an act of worship and not just an act of survival.” Everyday faithfulness – from my morning coffee to unloading the dishwasher to turning my anxious heart over to Him again and again. Worship: fixing my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12).
Come and sit.
I saw an interview with singer Michael Bublé talking about his then-three-year-old son’s cancer diagnosis. Recounting his family’s support and how his they uprooted their lives for them, he said this: “They just came and sat with us.” It stuck with me. There’s something about those who just come and sit. Not fix. Not correct. Not rush grief. I have a friend who went through the tragic loss of her husband, and their church in turn had multiple deep losses within a short period of time. Her church family dubbed themselves “table sitters.” Bringing food. Praying. Listening to memories. Crying together. Holding hands. My family, too, has received such grace from those willing to come and sit. Let’s not forget this gift of time without expectations, open ears, and patient hearts.
Pruning precedes the greatest growth.
I heard this on a podcast recently, and as I’m facing some uncomfortable moments with no short-term solutions, this helps me take the long view. Now, I’m not a plant gal – read about the time I thought a real succulent was fake over on Instagram. It’s an actual miracle that my indoor plants are still alive (I just remove the dead leaves – is this pruning?), and my outdoor plants survive under God’s care, not mine. But in the midst of life’s painful cutting away, I’m learning to wait expectantly.
A gardening website says this (yes, I Googled): In pruning “a gardener is controlling the plant’s growth and development into specific patterns….For the most part, pruning always stimulates growth, but how severe your pruning is on a plant depends on exactly what you want to happen. Severe pruning (or cutting way back) will result in vigorous growth for a plant, but light pruning will allow slower growth.”
In John 15, we’re reminded: “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ” Oh, Lord, let it be so in me! I’m waiting and watching for those beautiful spring blooms.
Celine Dion is always a good idea.
Listening to her powerful voice in the 1990s at the height of my angsty teen years was a good idea – and it’s good idea today. One of my high school besties flew across the country for us to experience this epic concert together, and I have to say I don’t regret one second of it (except I would’ve paid triple for better seats!). Seeing Celine live was a definite bucket-list dream of mine. We dressed up. We sang out loud. We cried. We swayed. I wore a pleather gold jacket. Celine’s new song Courage? Well, grab a tissue and give it a listen (warning: especially if you’ve lost a loved one). During her visit, Machele and I also got pedicures, made vision boards, went thrift-store shopping, and ate out. I also learned that I’m not 25 anymore – and doing these things along with my regular duties made me happy-tired (and took three days to recover from).
BONUS “WHAT I LEARNED”
Dormant seasons often bring greater visibility.
As I was driving out to the country to visit my septuagenarian friend, I could see the hidden treasures along the narrow roadside. Little creeks. Fallen branches. Sky peaking through the forest. Emily P. Freeman posed this question that very day on social media: What are you learning through nature? It’s a great question to point us back to the Creator and to observe what valuable lessons come with the open sky. (Also, I know I mention EPF a lot in this post, but she pointed me to this practice, amiright?)
Stepping out of the norm is good for the soul.
We’re trying to intentionally take “field trips” as a family every month. Last month, it was the Chinese Lantern Festival and this month it was the art museum, plus a beach trip over the weekend.
I really like birthday freebies.
I basically spend February eating my way around Raleigh. I keep a list in my purse and I’m diligent to get my sub sandwiches, coffee, burgers, free cake, and more.
*Affiliate links. If you purchase a book from one of these links, I will receive a small stipend at no additional cost to you.
Megan Hall says
I am learning we must embrace darkness and it is not always a bad thing. I would recommend Learning to walk in the dark by barbra brown taylor
I also watch TV with captioning and Jared teases me. I blame it on my love of all things words. I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. 😉
Erica Baldwin says
Haha! I’m glad I’m not the only one! Yes, maybe it’s my love for words (and I hate competing sounds – dishwasher, child, etc vs TV). LOL.
Allison Sidhu | Managing Editor, Gardenerspath.com says
Thanks for quoting our article! Yes, removing dead leaves is pruning! (Removing dead flowers is as well- a process known as “deadheading.”)
Erica Baldwin says
Thanks for comment – and the information! Great, clear article on pruning, much appreciated!