I love tulips. When the stems break free from the dirt in the early spring, I know that winter is (mostly) behind us. The beautiful yellows, reds, pinks and purples that fill my flowerbeds each spring make me so happy. I love the colors and the blooms. I love the signs new life they offer after a season of cold and darkness. I appreciate that they make me wait – that I can’t rush their arrival, that I have no choice but to wait patiently for those little signs of life bursting from my gardens. Since moving to our new house, I haven’t had any spring flowers. The first fall I was dealing with a massive bout of poison ivy – I felt betrayed by nature and my body, so I opted to stay inside a lot. The second fall, last year, I was emotionally beat – I felt betrayed by my work and my emotions, so I had no room for hope and no time to hear what creation had to tell me. This year, however, I’m open, available and ready to dig and get dirty – to discover the lessons that are all around.
Even though it’s officially fall here in Indiana, a time when we plants bulbs and start wearing sweatshirts in the evening and light fires to stay warm, today felt like anything but fall! It was close to 90º and the mosquitos wouldn’t quit. Despite the summer feel, I got into the fall groove and decided to plant bulbs. Some of the trees are alerting me to the changes coming, so I decided to take their lead and spend the afternoon digging in the dirt.
For my birthday this year I asked for flower bulbs. Of course, they aren’t available at that time (early August) so my dad and husband ordered some for me and they arrived in the last few weeks. As a child I would never have thought to ask for something that I wouldn’t get to see for 6 months, something that would require a lot of work, but would only last a few weeks. To a child that would probably be the worst gift ever – to me, now as an adult, I was thrilled because I knew what these bulbs would mean to me as the snow begins to melt and the sun begins to hang around a little longer each day.
Bulbs are a sign of hope. Planting bulbs means I trust in tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. How is it that this seed with no sign of beauty can become something we admire and ooh and ahh over in the spring?
So, today I lived in a hope for the future. When news reports are grim, when my friends still struggle with fertility, when people continue to hurt each other with words and actions – these bulbs give me hope. When I’m unsure of my own future, when I’m feeling unsettled and scattered – these bulbs teach me how to slow down and rest. When I want to rush decisions or force a new plan – these bulbs show me that rushing and forcing are not always possible, and most often, not helpful. When I face the death of a loved one or an idea or an expectation – these bulbs remind me that new life often comes from something that appears dead.
85 tulip bulbs went in the ground today. I also planted 7 hyacinth bulbs that were leftover from a Valentine’s day basket from Brad earlier this year – the gift that keeps giving! I’ve got 10 more gladiolas and 20 more tulips to plant. Hope everywhere. When all is said and done, there will be at least 132 signs of life waiting to appear this spring. When I see them appear, I will be reminded of today, of this place I’m in right now, and I will see how far I’ve come, what I’ve learned – I will experience the past, present, and future all in that one little sign of life pushing it’s way out of the ground.
I feel like a lot of what I do in my profession is about planting seeds. And then, I wait. I plant and water and pray, but flowers don’t bloom overnight. Fruit doesn’t grow right after the seed has been planted. Like lilac bushes, it may take years after it’s planted before it blooms. I may never get to smell the sweet odor of love and faithfulness that I so tenderly planted. I may never soak in the blossoms of kindness and joy that I watered oh so many days and weeks and months (and years!). But, I have hope. I know that one day it will happen – one day that seed will have just enough water and the right amount of heat and sunlight and eventually find it’s way out of the earth. That seed will produce new life that I knew was possible if I tended to it in just the right way.
After being on my knees for hours, digging up the earth and bending over to plant all those bulbs, well, I’m tired. My body feels heavy and worn out. I know this feeling well – similar to the way I feel after 13 years in ministry. However, the seeds are now planted. I may need to water them a few more times and add some mulch to their winter blanket, but everything else they need is within them – in that bulb. There’s not much else I can do for them. I just have to wait. As they rest this fall and winter, I can follow their lead. I, too, can rest knowing that when the time is right I will blossom with the new life that is already inside of me, deep within, lying wait in the darkness – new life that has just been waiting for the perfect moment to be known and seen.