Seasons (of trees and life)

One day last week, while driving my son to school in the morning, we (somehow) started talking about the seasons of the year. Bubba mentioned how green the leaves still were on the trees even though we are technically in the autumn season. Very few our of trees are bursting with colorful leaves and we only recently have switched from air conditioning to heat in the house, although we tend to use neither most of the time.

Bubba asked why we even had the season of Autumn instead of going straight to winter. I explained how it’s a wonderful process that God designed and coordinates so well. He makes the days shorter which means less sunshine and time for photosynthesis. The air gets cooler and there tends to be less rain. All of these things make the sap lower in the tree which causes their leaves to turn brilliant colors before they shrivel up completely and fall to the ground. And that’s when our work (his fun) begins of raking them into piles, putting them on the tarp, and dragging them down to the road for the city crews to come pick up. The leaves need to fall off of the tree so that the branches can bear the weight of the snow in the winter without breaking the branches or uprooting the tree.

Of course, then Bubba wants to why the trees die each winter. I explained that the tress are NOT dead during the drab winter months. They are actually GROWING but we can’t see their growth. Their roots are getting deeper, wider, and stronger so that they can flourish in the springtime with leaves that will shade us in the summer.

Being the (ahem) smart child that he is (he certainly doesn’t get that from ME…believe me!!), he asked why the leaves haven’t fallen yet, even though it’s so late in the Fall. “Shouldn’t the leaves fall in the Fall?” I tried to reexplain the process of leaves coming off of trees and how even though the calendar says it’s a certain season, we never truly know the exact date of when the seasons will truly change. Sometimes we have a late fall (like this one) or an early spring (hopefully) but how in “The Long Winter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, their winter was 7 months long (hopefully NEVER for us)!!  Some summers are hot while other winters are bitterly cold. Only God controls the temperatures and the seasons although we can observe patterns from year to year.

After relinquishing this inquisitive boy to his second grade teacher (bless her heart), I got to thinking while driving home. Each season is necessary to a tree’s growth. Every season is my life is necessary for my growth.

So how are these seasons the same?

Well, let’s start with where we are now…autumn. I love where we live because the Smoky Mountains are gorgeous this time of the year. They are bursting with vivid colors that only come during the Autumn season. They are their prettiest, in my humble opinion,at this time. But the beauty only lasts for a few short weeks and then the leaves tumble to the ground where they are either raked away or become compost. The tree is then bare.

Often in my spiritual life, I, too, have a period of brilliance before a season of despair. Life seems to be humming along, the sunshine seems never-ending, then WHAM!  All of the sudden (or so it seems), I feel completely exposed before the world. Every bump and bruise is visible for all to see.

But it’s during those hard winter months, those times of trial and loneliness, that I grow in my faith. Those times that seem so bleak and dismal force me to dig deep down and strengthen my roots in Jesus. Most people can’t see this growth. It is sometimes painful as I try to break through rocks and spread out my roots. But it’s during these times that I’ve learned to cherish my Savior and let Him carry me through it.

Then spring comes. You see, after I’ve hit rock bottom, I have no choice but to grow UP!  I blossom and people can see the difference. Sometimes the winter is short and the spring is dramatic. Other times, the snow continues to fall as we inch toward summer. But during the spring time, I’m able to feel the warmth and the sunshine. I’m able to SEE the growth that has occurred. People start to notice a difference.

And SUMMER!!!

Now, SUMMER is my FAVORITE time of the year. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved being in the sunshine, feeling the warm breeze on my face, and running around barefoot through the grass. Traditional picnics under the shade of the oak tree bring back so many memories. Picking fresh fruit from the trees and bushes has become a regular occurrence in my family’s summer plans. You see, the tree is now offering something to others. When I get to the “summer” time in my spiritual life, I can help to nourish others. I can offer shelter from storms, a refuge from the heat of the day, and a place to play or hide. I can share what I have learned during those winter months and help others either prepare for the winter or look forward to the spring.

Each tree is different. The length of different season varies between varieties and species of trees, much like people. The type of fruit each tree produces as well as the amount of fruit depends on the type of tree. The color of the spring blossoms and autumn leaves depends on the tree. But when all of the trees are together, it’s a sight to behold.

Each year is different. Some years give us a short, warm winter and a pleasant summer, while other summers are raging hot and winters are bitterly cold. Spring may come early, autumn may come late. But it’s a cycle nonetheless. Each season comes and each season goes.

Do you go through seasons in your life? I’m sure you do. We all do. Some years the spring and summer are long and refreshing. Other years, the winter seems never-ending and the fall is too short. Early or late frosts catch us off guard but the “Indian summers” are a welcomed reprieve.

What season are you in right now? How are you preparing for the next one? How are you helping others to be prepared?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

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