April 13, 2017

New Life

Original photo by Francesco Gallarotti via Unplash

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It came out of no where.  

A little piece of green poking through the dead leaves and grass, trying to reach the surface.  It was the end of February, but there, on that bleak Kansas day was a little sign of new life.  

Weeks later, that little green stem burst upwards out of the Earth, and in what seemed like an overnight project there were daffodil blooms strung throughout our front and backyard.  

Let me back up and say, I am not the gardening type.  

And when I say I’m not the gardening type I mean I have never really enjoyed working outside.  

My parents can tell you many a story of how I whined and whimpered on yard work weekends, and I know there were more than a few plants that met their death when I was left home alone and tasked with watering.  

I’m not exactly what you’d call “outdoors-y”.  

But when we were house hunting in fall of 2015, one of the things that drew me to this house were the front and back yards.  I’m certain that the retired couple who lived here before us spent most of their time outside.  Flowers everywhere.  We moved in at the end of the year, and I told myself that come spring/summer I would be ready to become master gardener extraordinaire.  

Well, spring came… and flowers started growing… and I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing.  I was also pregnant, and the thought of being outside in the heat, bent over, pulling up weeds and laying down mulch just wasn’t high on the priority list.  

My husband did a great job of taking care of our lawn, but when it came to the flower beds… we just sort of left everything alone.  So the flowers came… and I watched as daffodils, tulips, and irises came and went.  We discovered we have two peony bushes in the front yard, which were beautiful until the tornado/hail storm in late May… and stuff just kept growing.  And growing… and before we knew it there was a jungle of flowers and weeds lining our back fence.  

By the end of the summer I was 8 months pregnant and any energy that I might have had for cleaning up the yard was long gone.  

Now spring has sprung again, but this time we (and by “we” I mostly mean my incredible husband) are trying to be more intentional with the yard.  Michael cleared out a lot of the dead leaves and weeds, he put down mulch in the flower beds, planted grass seeds in our patchy yard, and eventually we’ll (yes we’ll) finish some much needed clean up.  

I think what I’m most surprised by is how excited I am to see things starting to grow again… and how much easier it is to differentiate between flowers and weeds before things get out of control.  When there’s no purposeful intention to care for the yard, stuff just grows.  Sure, there were some beautiful flowers that bloomed, but there were also a lot of weeds… some of which choked out the plants that were supposed to be there.  

The more time I spend in the yard, the more I see gardening as analogous to the spiritual life, especially as we approach Easter.  

During the Lenten season we strive to weed out the bad things in our lives.  Those 6 weeks are a time of not only removing things that hurt us, but it is also a time of trying to cultivate the good.  

The thing is, spiritual growth doesn’t just happen.  Sure, we can sit back, do the bare minimum (i.e. get to Mass once a week), and while that’s an important part, there has to be more intentional work that’s done on our souls if we really want to grow in virtue.  Daily prayer, frequenting the sacraments, acts of service, those are the kind of things that take us from “Well at least I’m not spiritually dead!” to really allowing God to work in and through us to create something beautiful.  

As Easter approaches, let’s take some time to think about what are the signs of New Life that God is revealing in us?  The bad habits we tried to let go of during Lent… what virtues are growing there instead? How are we going to continue to nurture our spiritual lives into the Easter season and beyond?  

Seeing new growth is exciting.  Whether it’s flowers, or seeing signs of spiritual maturity, those little buds of something new can inspire us to take the next step on the journey.  

What signs of New Life are you seeing as Lent comes to an end?

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