Every year I write a birthday post reflecting on something I’ve learned in the past year about myself (and thoughts about getting older). It’s a great way to see where I’ve been, who I am today, and hopefully reflects the person I am working on becoming.
Celebrating a birthday is hard this year.
In general, I’ve never been one to make a big fuss about birthdays, but recently I’ve seen them as a great way to reflect and give thanks for all the experiences I’ve had and thanks for all the people I’ve met that brought me to where I am today.
As you know, 2020 isn’t the year we all thought it would be and these days, it doesn’t feel appropriate to celebrate. But I still have hope that things will get better and that there are many reasons to “be thankful” (as my Dad would often say) amidst the uncertainty and challenges we all face.
Over the past year there has been a lot of important life lessons I’ve been learning, but none have been so clear and relevant than thinking about how I will live and respond in times like this.
I believe we are in a life season similar to that of Winter. Though on the surface the situation is challenging, this is a time to holdfast and establish strong, healthy roots ready to face whatever comes after afterward.
I’ve been spending a lot of time with plants this past year going from a person that couldn’t grow and keep alive anything to someone that can now say they’ve successfully grown and eaten their own tomato. In plant terms, I just germinated. I’m just getting started.
I have become obsessed with almost all things plants. It’s fascinating to watch something go from a seed to a full-blown food-producing machine or become a beautiful flower.
You learn so much caring for your plants and seeing how so many different variables affect its ability to grow. But one of the most amazing things to witness is when someone prunes a plant like an Artichoke or Hydrangea to the point where it almost looks like it has no chance to survive through the winter, only to return even stronger and healthier the following year.
Through the winter, these seemingly lifeless plants are very much still alive and growing in harsh and non-optimal growing conditions. More experienced gardeners will tell you that it’s actually healthier for these kinds of plants to be pruned. To an amateur gardener like myself, I thought these people were crazy. I had no idea how resilient plants can be.
We’re called to be this kind of resilient during challenging times. One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote a book (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years) about storytelling. He shares that good stories often require the main character(s) to go through challenges. How the character reacts and comes out at the end of these challenges is what makes the story compelling —their transformation. How will we be transformed and who will we become because of this current situation?
Winter is Here
From the very first episode of Game of Thrones in 2011, there is a warning that “winter is coming”. The whole premise of this fantasy story is that a great evil/death represented by Winter, ice, and all of its monsters are heading south.
Only a massive wall prevents them from entering the land of the living, those that live south of the wall. The living world is divided into ruling areas that must come together to fight against the coming winter. The show goes on for 8 years and 8 seasons of people warning and trying to unite to fight this evil. They continue to use the phrase “winter is coming”. In the final season winter finally arrives and the characters must face this truth.
Winter is back in our world today. We were given warnings that it would return and like the show, though some listened and took the warnings seriously, many did not and were ill-prepared to face it. Though Covid-19 is new, our world has faced these winter-like challenges before whether it was sickness, the great depression, and world wars.
What gives me hope is a reminder that we’ve come out of those challenging times, transformed and often times better. There were loss and hardship, but I also see how the world recovered and some things have gotten better that wouldn’t have had we not gone through these major events. I’m not saying that I like or hope we go through these kinds of difficult times. I’m saying it’s inevitable.
Krka National Park, Croatia
Establishing Strong Roots
Last October we visited a national park in Croatia called Krka. The best way to describe it is that it’s a beautiful river where the people of Croatia have built long walkways over the river at different sections. It feels like you’re walking on water. What makes it even more magical are the trees that come out of nowhere in the middle of this river as rushing, powerful water flows past them (see above). How is it possible that they can remain tall and anchored amidst the rushing water? The answer is their roots.
As I try to grapple and make sense with all the things currently going on and the uncertainty of our future, I can’t help but to think that this is a time when it’s important to grow strong, deep roots.
For me, this is reinvesting in the most important things to me like family, friends, and my faith.
It’s learning how to let go of well-laid plans and learning how to go with the flow.
It’s learning how to grieve losses of things we hoped for.
It’s learning how to fight for, support, and love on others (neighbors, strangers, those in need).
It’s doubling down on the precious time we have to be with loved ones that we wouldn’t normally have.
It’s trying to learn new life skills like cooking and gardening that are useful at any given point in life.
It’s reanalyzing, pivoting, and creating new dreams and goals.
When plants come back from a winter season they are never the same and neither will we be when this time, this season of life passes. My hope is that we’ll all be transformed for the better, ready and more resilient for the next time winter returns (because it will).
Take care everyone and hang in there. This too shall pass….