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Good News in the Dead of Winter

I was devastated.

The beautiful purple flowers fell off; one by one. A friend had given me her prized orchid a few weeks earlier as she cleared her house for a move. I had never dared buy one of these big beauties knowing what I was now experiencing, a few bare sticks and a couple rubbery leaves were all that was left.

It seemed like a waste. Or at least a lot of work.

But then another friend stopped by the other day – of course I hadn’t seen her in more than six months, since the beginning of COVID 19 – and she cheered me up with these words:

“I know the secret to reblooming.”

As we talked about her watering technique – 6 ice cubes every other week (depending on the size of the plant)– and the joy of this new-found hobby, I realized again how nature teaches us more than we teach it. ‘For who among you can make a flower from a seed?’

My friend got out her phone to show me all the wonderful orchids she has interspersed throughout her home and then she showed me one that she is particularly proud of: after a year of dormancy, it is starting to rebloom.

I was amazed! Maybe there was hope for my now bare stalks. I grabbed my pen and pad to take notes and she stated simply; I water then with ice cubes.

I jotted down the info quickly, then waited for more.

“That’s it.”

Me: “So do you feed them or trim them or… anything else?”

She admitted that she has good light in her townhouse and that some are hibernating while others are blooming, but generally: “That’s it.”

I left scratching my head and wondering about the simplicity of “green joy.” I have had plants that thrived with little intervention and other things that refused to grow despite my herculean attempts. There is some combination of soil and moisture and sunlight that defies logic. I’m not saying that one can’t or shouldn’t try to learn and set out to provide the right growing condition if one is trying to garden – I’m just saying that part of the equation is “beyond” us.

But that’s also where the ‘joy’ comes in. If it was just a matter of working hard enough or somehow earning the results it would be more of a transaction and less of a wonder. I truly believe when we were created and literally placed in a garden to tend – as the book of Genesis details – the lessons of life and death, of joy and sorrow, of ‘listen’ or ‘ignore’ the signs, is one that God teaches us through nature.

But, you may say, that ‘paradise’ was lost. That those first inhabits broke God’s command to not eat from the fruit of the tree in the center of the garden – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You could argue that sin entered the otherwise “good” creation and that there’s no going back. And you would be right. But the story didn’t end there.

Because it’s not up to us to work it ALL out. While Adam and Eve went hiding from God, expecting death – as they had been warned – God came near to them, reconciling what was lost. He has, or rather is, a bigger part of the equation then most of us would like to admit. When we see a problem, we want to fix it. When God sees a problem, He wants to “reconcile” or mend it.

And he did just that.

He doesn’t just prop up the old, he causes new growth!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

That’s it!

I know it sounds too simple. But that’s the good, good news. God gave his one and only son as payment for the wrong choices we make and as a way to draw us back to himself for a new start – a chance to rebloom.

Are you ready for a new year? Has the past year made it feel like things will never be good again? Would you like a little green joy here in the middle of winter?

You know I looked out my window in New York this morning and saw it. While most everything is gray and soggy and lifeless, I saw that my spinach plants perked up with just the smallest hint of sunshine. If you are reading this, I pray you know there’s always hope. Don’t give up on God. He never gives up on us!

And let’s take away this lesson – we need each other. We all have those low points when things look and feel bleak. I think at this point our nation is collectively feeling it. The separation, the loss of purpose, the bad news that pervades the airwaves, can make the future seem pretty dark. But one thing I noticed about her orchids, she had them grouped together. While one was in full bloom, the other just beginning and yet another, dormant. It was an effective technique, don’t just focus on the here and now.

I have often wondered why I appreciate someone else’s garden, but when I go in my own, I only see the weeds. Do they have weeds – surely they do – but I can see the beauty and appreciate the hard work when I have the vantage point of appreciating, not causing growth.

Can we give ourselves the same grace we give a flower?

Can we give it to our spouse, our friends, even our country? We are in tough times – with much uncertainty. But let’s take a hint from nature – we will bloom again, so long as we don’t throw out the plant, or cut off the unsightly stalks. So long as we let light and hope persist.

How about you, how can you plan some green joy into this upcoming year? I’d love to hear your heart on this issue. Leave me a comment or a whole story – we need each other. Especially now.


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