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I apologize again for not writing much lately.  I may be silent, but I am not idle.  I’ve hit a rather dry, rough patch in my spiritual life.  These are never easy, nor much fun.  But they always turn out to be worthwhile.

Whenever I have times like this, I’m reminded of this verse from the Book of Hosea where God says of Israel:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.”
(Hosea 2:14)

The desolation I feel is only an illusion. I know that God is near, Maple seedling growthspeaking to me in depths of my soul, so deeply that I simply cannot sense it. But who knows what seeds he may be planting there?  Just like plant seeds, they take time and nurturing to grow and come to fruition.

It’s tempting for us to get impatient, to harden ourselves about those seeds and crush them.  It is tempting to grow cross toward God, who would lovingly, patiently, mysterious bring about their unfolding.  This is what can easily happen if we let the seeming desolation get to us and turn us cold.

Our spiritual lives have seasons just as the material world does.  There is a time for planting and a time for harvesting.  There is a time for dryness and a time for lushness.  These spiritual seasons may not always be as measured and predictable as the physical seasons.  But they are written in God’s mind and He provides for them as need be.

There can be no harvest, no fruits, without the planting of seeds.  Dryness can be good also, for too much dampness can bring about not lushness, but rot.

At times like these, we have to do our best to just lay ourselves open and allow God to plant the seeds and make them grow.  To trust in God’s wisdom and goodness, and look forward with joy and eagerness to what He will bring forth in us.

(picture source)

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I wrote yesterday about my motherliness.  Believe it or not, I’ve been known to be rather motherly even with plants.  Alas, I lack any ability to care for plants.  My relationships with plants always end very painfully and tearfully.  Here’s something I wrote in February 2007:

I just spent considerable time weeping, sobbing, and agonizing over a plant. Not a big, beautiful plant. A tiny, wilted little thing. It’s been on my mantle for a long time now. It was one of the plants my coworkers gave me when Patrick died. Then, it was large and flourishing, with clusters of flowers. It died off pretty quickly, and has never been the same. But it has hung in there for about 21 months now!

This afternoon, I decided it was probably about time to give up on it. My heart already breaking to pieces, I took it down from the mantle. I stood with it over my garbage can. I apologized profusely, angry at the ignoble burial it was to receive. Then I gently laid it on top. I immediately began to cry as I looked down at the tiny green stems and even tinier leaves. I felt so guilty! I had often neglected it. But never intentionally! Just because I’m completely absentminded and completely inept when it comes to plants! I love and adore them… I just don’t have the gift of caring for them.

Nonetheless, I’ve had this little plant for so long. I found out pretty quickly that if broken or cut, the stems could be replanted and regrow their roots and regenerate themselves. It was just a pure instinct on my part. And I learned that this particular plant is incredibly forgiving of little water and no direct light. In short… I feel like I know this plant! I have no idea what genus and species it is, but that doesn’t matter! I have always admired its perseverance.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I had the plant away from the garbage and was intensely trying to repair it! I lost a few stems and a small handful of leaves, but I was able to get the others re-situated. I carefully made sure that they were all securely planted. I told them that they would be in shock for a little while, but that they would be good as new before long. I promised not to give up on them! I can’t give up on them.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I am like this with all plants! I’ve lost quite a few… too many. I almost cringe whenever I end up with a plant in my custody (I never buy them for myself), because I fear it will end badly. But then, an instant later, I’m totally in love with the plant, and can’t think of rejecting it! Even if I know it might have a better life in some other circumstance, with someone else, it’s usually not an option. So, I just try to do the best I can for it. I mourn and grieve for them if/when they die. Truly, I suffer for them! I like to think that what I lack in practicality, I more than make up for with love. And I think it’s much better to be loved than anything else in the whole world!

I know—plants probably can’t feel love or anything else, as far as we can tell. But they still deserve love!

Oh my gosh… reading over this again has brought tears to my eyes!  You have no idea how badly I wanted that little plant to live, to make it, to beat the enormous odds!

It didn’t.  But I will never, ever forget it.  And I will never forget how it helped my heart to grow in love.

And just in case any of my family or friends are reading this… please remember this story should you find yourself considering giving me a plant as a gift!  It’s a sweet, beautiful thought, it truly is, and I love you for it, but please–think of the plant!  On behalf of all plantkind: Thank you.  :)

Blog Pictures | acobox.com I always think it’s such a shame that after preparing for Christmas for weeks and even months in advance (some folks scarcely wait for Halloween to pass!), people seem eager to dispense with it as soon as the presents are open and the dinner is digested.  As if 25 December were the 12th day of Christmas and not the 1st.  I just don’t get it.

I still have my Christmas tree and creche proudly displayed, and am cheerfully embracing Christmas at least until the Epiphany.  Last year, I think I left everything up until the Presentation of the Lord on 2 February.  I think I will do the same again. 

That may sound a bit like going overboard, but I just love the Christ Child so much… I guess that, by my maternal instinct, I just want to “hold on” to His childhood for as long as I can.  I mean, by the time February is over, Lent will have begun, and Christmas will seem quite far away.  I always find that a bit jarring, but it does effectively hammer home the point that Christ came to us as a little babe solely for the purpose of eventually suffering and dying for us. 

The red poinsettia, while vibrant and festive in its hue also reminds me of this truth: the tiny little cluster at the center of the poinsettia, surrounded by the huge bright red leaves, reminds me of the little baby in the manger, Whose birth is just the beginning of a life that will end blood-red… at least for a time.  I do love poinsettias, and maybe I’m just odd, but I never see a red poinsettia without feeling a little twinge of sorrow.  Just as I can’t see the Christ Child without also seeing Christ Crucified. 

Also, in late January–sort of going along with this theme–we observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  This January will mark the 36th anniversary.  I think it is appropriate to hold the Christ Child in our hearts at that time, along with His mother’s great “Yes” to His life.

In any case, I see no need to put this beautiful and wondrous season to rest so quickly, or to turn the infant Jesus out of mind and heart as if He were anything but the tremendous joy and wonder that He is.

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(Image from a painting at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Metairie, Louisiana)

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