It was just a walk on a random afternoon, to get some fresh air and a little exercise. But I quickly realized how much I needed that space to wrestle out some burdens that had my shoulders tensed up around my ears and lines deepening in my forehead, threatening to stay that way!
Despite reminding myself as often as possible to LOOK UP, I realized that my vision had been downcast for too long. I was chasing my own head and the walls were closing in. Too many circumstances outside of my control (aren’t they all? when will I learn this??), too many challenges with no light at the end of the tunnel. My heart was heavy and my body felt stiff and achy.
But just a few paces into this unplanned walk, I felt gratefulness rising. Thankful for the nudge to step away – from that head space and the literal space of “real life” – to air it all out for a while!
My iphone streamed downloaded songs while I walked along. Various lyrics caught my ear, especially Johnny Diaz’s song, Breathe :
breathe, just breathe
come and rest at My feet
and be, just be
chaos calls but all you really need
is to take it in, fill your lungs
the peace of God that overcomes
let your weary spirit rest
lay down what’s good and find what’s best
I began to look UP and around… and notice the beauty of God’s creation. I had walked the same path so many times and looked at the same flowers and trees, but there were new discoveries. On that October day, with my northern-girl-self still expecting falling leaves, bare branches, and the arrival of dormancy, I was stunned and delighted to find the opposite!
The plumbago hedges were bursting with clusters of periwinkle flowers. The pine trees were covered with the bright green needles of new growth. Another delicate shrub was loaded with beautiful yellow buds and petals. The fuchsia bougainvillea seemed more vibrant than ever before. But the sweetest sight of all was the red bud tree in full leaf, in that same tender, bright green!
Just a few weeks before, those red bud trees looked exactly as I expected during autumn – bare branches with open seed pods, some still dangling from the tree, but most strewn about the ground. I was so captivated by those pods! I eagerly collected them to add to our fall décor. A closer look at them, as I cleaned off the dust and dirt from the ground, only heightened my wonder!
Before the pods opened, they were thin, flat, dark brown slivers, with an outer shell that looked charred. Nondescript. Unattractive. Almost ugly – in shape and in color. But as the pods opened to sew their seeds, the two long strips of each pod curled in opposite directions, revealing a beautiful inside shell in varying shades and swirls of caramel and brown, like the richest, most interesting wood tone one could imagine. And their shape was permanently altered, standing firm in their perfectly turned curls!
Those seed pods touched my heart. It was in the breaking open, in the giving away of their insides, on the way to being discarded, that their true beauty was revealed! The process sewed seeds for new growth and changed those pods forever.
It was in His breaking open, giving His own life, disregarded and discarded by the very ones He created and came to save, that our Savior’s truest depth of love and beauty was revealed. He is forever now the God-Man, the Lamb freshly slain, bearing the marks of that sacrifice – for us. He is forever changed. And so are we. Because of His death, we now have new life! A life that will never die! We are being transformed into His image – with a love and a beauty that we will never fully comprehend.
Although my son got his greatest pleasure from crunching those seed pod curls under his feet on our walks, I was grateful to have discovered them and preserved them! As I catch sight of them around the house, they remind me to be grateful for my Savior… and not to fear the breaking, the spilling out, or the process of being transformed. True beauty in His eyes will be the result!
Just a few weeks later, I stood beneath the same red bud tree and looked up into the sea of brand new, bright green leaves. New life. A new growing season had already begun! Even after seven years in south FL, it still takes me by surprise that this is a blooming season here! A time of thriving! It is so unexpected. It brings a deep, widening smile to my heart.
Months of deep soul wrestling, those burdens that have my shoulders tensed up and lines trenching into my forehead, have taken me through a season that has felt a bit like autumn or even winter. Bare, falling away, dormancy – a sense of grieving without fully being able to identify the loss. What an encouragement to realize that this season could surprise me with new growth! Seeds sown in brokenness can turn barely surviving into thriving!
When my heart breaks, my cries spill out in desperate prayer, even then… especially then, what new life, new growth might He be birthing? I don’t know. But I trust Him. And it thrills my heart to know that it is the One and only Master Craftsman at work behind the scenes! I really can’t wait to see what He has been working on all along. For I know with confidence I will be awe-struck to see it all unfold.
It was just a walk on a random day to get some fresh air and a little exercise. But my Savior met me there, touched my heart, and shifted my focus. I came home with a spring in my step, a lighter (and bigger!) heart, and a sweet smile… the JOY of the grateful and blessed!
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Psalm 84:5-7 ~ What JOY for those whose strength comes from the LORD… when they walk through the valley of weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs… the autumn rains will clothe it with blessings… they will continue to grow stronger.
James 1:2-4 ~ Consider it pure JOY, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance… let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
2 Corinthians 4:16 ~ For this reason we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
James 1:12 ~ Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of LIFE that the LORD has promised to those who love Him.
Proverbs 12:25 ~ Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.