Clearing Snow, A Flock of Birds and Planting Seeds
I woke today—Saturday morning—to the visions of Narnia.
We’ve been waiting all winter for a snowstorm like this.
The snow kept falling, and the wind was blowing. We love snow here in this house.
But today didn’t seem like the right day for me to add all of the snow tasks to the already long honey-do list. On Saturdays, the honey-do list used to be for both my husband and me—these days I AM THE ONLY Honey.
I’d rather stay in bed all day because Saturdays and snow days are for hunkering down.
But alas, I have a slightly overdue appointment—plans to do something for me. I had to jump through hoops, maybe more like snow moguls, to make this happen. I am told self-care should be at the top of my list. But there are no shoulds, right?
I’m pretty good at taking care to eat well, sleep well, exercise as often as possible, maintain a good prayer and spiritual life. If I could only tell you though how many times our medical dream team asked this week: “How are you doing?”
Yep, that is a loaded question at this moment in time for sure. I think one that needs to be asked with great care. Maybe I will come back to this topic of self-care and how to offer care when loved ones are in crisis. I’ve written quite a bit about it this week, just deciding what is necessary or helpful to share.
Staying in bed seems like excellent self-care until, of course, I realize how hard it will be to reschedule that appointment I made for today.
So I drag myself out of bed and snap out of the excuse-making mode that snow is not my friend today.
Then got a text from Jesus. Read Jesus as “Hey-zeus,” not “Jee-zhus.” I’ll be honest, though; just seeing that name (no matter how it is pronounced) come up on my phone seems like an answer to prayers.
The ping comes just at the right moment to let me know He—Jesus, “Jee-zhus,”—knows my heart.
Help was on the way.
We have been lost a bit in juggling all of the things. Like gardening, snow, car appointments, an unfinished house project, and managing appointments not just for Jon, but for the kids and me and, of course, the dogs too. This is not a pity party—it’s anything but that. I do not need rescuing. It’s a celebration to tell you Jesus always fills the lack.
Adding snow removal tasks to my list seemed daunting. I was trying to justify the benefit of going out versus canceling the appointment.
Let me back up a bit to help you see the big picture at this moment.
Jesus, the one who texted me today, is my lawn care guy I met him this past fall. His name was given to me by a friend who knew desperate times call for desperate measures. Jon and Ian were my landscapers for the past 8-10 years. The new lawn care guy was an answer to a prayer in the fall when our lawn and weeds were both overgrown.
With my son away at college and Jon healing from surgery and all the things, I knew I needed reliable help—self-care 101. My friend knew as soon as she gave me his name and contact into, he’d be my guy.
It’s always J E S U S for me. I am sure You get what I mean.
The text I got this morning from Jesus, “He zeus,” was an offer of services to help if I needed snow piles removed from my driveway.
When I was thinking, how can I do all of these things just to get to this appointment? I was happy about the snow to some degree, but the street was not even plowed yet. I was grateful I had him if I needed.
It was 19 degrees outside.
I have to bundle up, start the car, clear the driveway, prepare breakfast, let out the dogs, and, and, and…You get the point.
All of this just for a bit of time to myself.
Let me add someone was coming to hang with my crowd while I ventured out. I’m sure that friend thought all of these things too. So I even tried to let them off the hook and say that you do not have to come if it’s too dangerous to be out.
If you have been around here long enough, you know that my history is I am an accident waiting to happen. Remember the sprained ankle and walking boot from Ash Wednesday last year? I am a bit fearful of slipping outside and hurting myself. Ankle injuries and a bad back mixed with slippery conditions is not ideal. I really cannot afford to hurt myself right now.
A little bit later, my friend texted, “I will be there. If I can get up my driveway, I assure you anyone can.”
While Jesus, the lawn guy, couldn’t help me today. He turned out to be a tremendous gift in many ways in the last months of fall. He helped take the weight off and removed weeds from many things.
When I was preparing things at home before Jon was discharged from inpatient rehab, not only did he need to be safe. But I wanted him to go home to a manicured yard the way he would care for things. I wanted him to see a well-groomed yard —not for vanity or pride, but for his peace of mind that he didn’t have to worry about the things he always enjoyed doing as he healed and rested.
I wanted his welcome home to be peaceful, trimmed and pruned, and not messy with overgrown weeds and knee-high grass. It was a gift to take this burden from Jon.
Jesus helped me with all of that.
Truth be told, the last two summers have been much like we have been standing in knee high weeds in many ways. I am sure you can imagine why. We have been doing our best to keep up and sometimes just get by with the absolute minimum.
Today may have felt a bit like that, but it was mounting snow rather than weeds. Jon would have been out already plowing that driveway long before the sun even woke up.
As much as I love snow, I was hardly excited to brave the cold blowing snow. But it had to get done.
So it’s just like Jesus (the real deal) to show up when I needed him.
Unfortunately, Jesus, my landscaper, couldn’t get here until after I needed to leave my driveway for my appointment.
So my energetic teenage girls bundled up and bounced outside to start the process of clearing the driveway. I stepped out of the garage to start my car and assess the situation. It was blustery cold, and I tried to muster the notion to head out rather than cancel the appointment.
As I stood in the garage trying to get warm, I noticed the trees across the driveway were full of red-breasted birds. Dozens of birds were flying between our crabapples and evergreens in our backyard. They stopped to consume whatever feast they could gather as they fought the wind and snow.
They seemed lost—a feeling with which I was familiar. It’s winter in the Northeast. I thought birds fly south or migrate somewhere in the winter. But I am guessing their world is a bit upside, too.
Like us, they are doing the best they can. I am glad our trees gave a place for food and rest.
Fighting wind and snowdrifts, the girls started to shovel the driveway as I remotely started the cars.
A daunting task for all of us. The girls told me later they didn’t even know where to begin. These are the moments I am reminded of the voids a brain cancer diagnosis leaves. Jon is still hardworking, but he has just shifted his efforts to fighting brain cancer and healing and restoring after a stroke.
But then Jesus, the ever-faithful one, shows up in one of His providential ways just as he always does, especially in the last 18 months.
He does not text, give us a warning, or ask if we need his service.
He JUST SHOWS up in the form of our neighbors.
He sent a neighbor and a snowblower to clear the driveway exactly as I was trying to figure out how we would get it all done.
I snuck outside to chat with my girls about clearing off the car. I was mesmerized again by the number of birds hanging in the tree as the snowblower moved snow loudly off our driveway.
I was brought to tears by all of it.
I thought these birds were not here because they were lost. They know just where they needed to be.
Just like me, even in these challenging times.
I realized those birds were there because this place, our home, was a place to rest and refuel. They came to feast as they found a soft place to land even while stormy conditions were swirling around them.
It occurred to me God might be doing far more work than just showing me the beauty of a neighbor/people showing up for us.
Isn’t there are always more to the story than meets the eye. We just have to listen and trust.
The grey and stormy season we find ourselves feels far from a season of blooming growth and new life.
But winter is where new life begins to seed below the surface, snowdrifts, and frozen soil, and even as the sparrows scatter the smallest seeds while in flight.
I contemplated how God was weaving all of the threads from the fall to this snowy moment.
Back in the fall, just as I was preparing to have the new landscaper come to help clean up our overgrown outdoor spaces, I stopped to talk to the same neighbor who helped me today. We chatted briefly about Jon and the state of affairs. This neighbor and his family have always been special to us as we watched each other’s family grow up.
I told my neighbor about the landscaper I was excited I found help to prune and weed all the overgrown spaces from the last two years.
He chuckled and said, you and Jon just keep on planting. He lovingly offered sentiments about making things easier given our state in life-like stop planting! No doubt, what my friend said is true.
No doubt he knows I will likely still keep planting and growing new life.
Since that day, I have often pondered the truth in his words, “but you and Jon keep planting.” I never took it as a judgment.
I just took it to heart. There is a lot of heart in that. I wonder if he knows that.
We are sowers, growers, and planters. It is something that brings us life. And in many ways tending our gardens has helped tend the garden in both my heart and Jon’s as we have chosen to embrace this journey.
But there was always more to it than just planting and growing on the outside. What happens on the outside affects how we grow and who we become on the inside.
Planting and cultivating growth is hard and holy work.
It is a labor of love.
Yes, there are seasons where tending is more important than planting.
We are in a season of tending what has been planted, but there will still be growth and new life. It only takes a tiny seed—a mustard seed to start the process of growing our garden of vegetables, rose bushes, or berry trees for birds to be fed on a cold January day.
A tiny seed planted within our hearts can start the process of growing our faith, hope, and love. Today hope was born again as the snowblower moved snow off my driveway.
It may have made a grown man (and his wife) weep.
When I texted my neighbor to say thank you, he reminded me Jon would do the exact same thing. He was right. They are both good men who do good things.
Watching the flock of huge robin birds gather across my driveway as they were feasting and flying about all while the snowplow was blowing the snow, I was mesmerized, once again.
I was reminded that every season has its story. The life we breathe into those stories can start with the tiniest seed.
The timing of the way God weaves these stories is never a coincidence. The Parable of the Mustard Seed was the Gospel Reading just the other day.
My kind neighbor is absolutely right, you know, we do “keep planting things” and with that brings new life.
I won’t apologize for choosing/wanting to plant seeds to reap good fruit or blooms whether the kind you eat, hold in your hands or the kind you hold in your heart.
After Jon came home from rehab this past fall, I wanted to plant a very important seed of hope for him. So on a lovely day, I walked him ever so cautiously out to the vegetable garden. It was the one area the landscaper did not touch when he was weeding and pruning.
It is not a big space, but it was a sacred place where we breathed life into of our hopes, dreams, and future for each other and our kids.
I left that sacred space for Jon and me to get our hands dirty and pull many weeds and sort out all the things that have happened to us in that scary time.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” -Audrey Hepburn.
On that beautiful November day, I set out a chair to keep Jon safe and allow him to be part of the planting process once again. I believed it would feel good to him that I was not afraid to adapt our lives to this ever changing stories. I believed he could still do anything, even if it would be limited.
I was never going to let him believe he could not do the things he used to do. We would just have to modify things.
We removed the old tomato vines and cucumber plants, dug up and amended the soil, and removed the old vegetable beds. We decided it was time to change things up a bit. My neighbors voice echoing in my ears, we would not plant our vegetable garden this year.
Instead, together, we planted a flower garden where tulips and daffodils will grow as the spring begins to come alive and they would require much less work.
I dug the holes, Jon tossed in the bulbs. Together, we pulled all of the weeds.
We will miss the gorgeous vegetable garden we built, planned, plotted over the years. But it will be far less work for the season we find ourselves.
But we can take to heart the message our beloved neighbor offered. We can dial it down and keep things simple for this season of life.
Those brilliant yellow daffodils and happy pink tulips will force themselves from beneath the frozen fertile soil as the earth begins to warm and wake up with a promise of new life.
Each bulb we planted will remind us how far we have come and that life is still good and rewarding despite the frustrating, dark, stormy grey days.
Living with hard stuff does not mean the true, beautiful and good stuff cannot still grow around us.
We just choose to embrace the moments and things we love and that bring us much joy all the more.
We will continue to tend our gardens and enjoy the flowers, trees, and rose bushes we have already planted in our yard.
And inside this house, we continue to cultivate faith, hope, love, and joy even as we fight hard against many things.
Because the truth is no matter how stormy and gloomy things can be, winter season is when life is resting and reviving, and growth may not yet be seen, but it IS still happening.
It is happening below the surface and deep within.
I am grateful to Jesus (He zeus) the landscaper, for grooming my lawn and weeding my garden beds while Jon was down this past autumn.
I am thankful Jesus (Jee zuhs) sent a neighbor our way to help us clear the driveway because little does he know. Today he also had his hand in planting things.
Planting is still happening when the snowblower and the birds scatter the seeds across the thick blanket of snow. The snow will eventually melt, and some of those seeds will become rooted in the fertile soil.
This is why we love to sow seeds because the truth is we reap what we sow. Today seeds of kindness were planted here.
I thought the birds were lost or a bit off track. Maybe they were. Maybe they were not.
For sure my tree with abundant berries gave them a place to rest and feast.
The truth is, I am not really lost or off track either. I am just in a season where rest, and being still comes first. Likely we won’t do a ton of planting this season.
But I will always be tending whether tulip bulbs, berry bushes for January birds to land and take feast, or better yet, seeds of faith, hope, and love. Because that kind of planting is everything to me.
Jesus will take care of everything else.
And I will leave you with an image of my favorite vegetable garden.