Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter Trees and Dandelions

(Warning! If you knowingly or unknowingly have an ongoing love-affair with the need to look young, be young, act like your younger than you are ---- this post isn't for you. :)
But if you're willing to embrace the aging process as God allows it to unfold ---- this post will hopefully bless your socks off. It has mine. Years ago I began asking God to allow me to “grow old gracefully” – this post is a partial sharing of His response to my prayer.)

Growing old is suppose to be a beautiful thing. It's the result of having lived many years and still having something to give, to do, to share.

But good grief how this world has twisted our view of growing old.
I'm slowly approaching almost 6 decades of living. I'm getting “older”. Period.
But IF i've chosen to live well and love much – older won't be the focus - outflow will be.

Here's to sharing with you, what Abba has whispered to me about growing better (older).

It's not about getting older. It's about increased OUTFLOW.

Sitting on our mountain porch in December under wintry, grey, stick-like trees, it came so clear.
Those tall oak trees stood brave and bear around me. The picture of winter.
As a child I always thought they looked naked and cold.
Not now.
As a grown woman joyfully living in the autumn of my life, I see them with better eyes.
You see, those tall trees have lived long enough to reach high above every man-made thing around them.

They remember what it was to be a tree in the spring, with sap rising, leaves budding, bark stretching, and birds nesting.

They remember what the heat of summer felt like on their wide green leaves. The rains washed them clean and the sun dried them well. They remember the sounds of children under their shady branches and treehouses built on their strong limbs.

Then came the shocking beauty of their autumn. When the leaves they had grown began to sparkle with colors most extraordinary. No longer were they like every other tree in a coat of green. Now they were unique in their own personal coat of color. And they found their color looked even better beside the other colors around them. Red is pretty alone, yes. But put it beside a bit of yellow and a splash of orange and all together they become astounding! Exactly how it should be with us people.

Fall leaves speak so loudly, if we'll listen.
They say to us, “I've lived well, I've grown. I have memories. And now, I get to bless everyone who walks near me. I'm not longing for spring, i'm celebrating the colors of autumn. I've had lots of sunshine days and soaking rains and i've stored it up so I can give this blast of color. My leaves can not hold it all in, they burst with the joy of living. The richness of the colors only speaks out of all i've seen and learned.” The autumn tree says to the autumn soul, “You have so much to give. Do it with color and joy and life. Bust out of the confines of youth. Share boldly of the richness that life has brought you.”

Next will be the winter. And in the winter of our lives, our leaves will fade in color, and fly. For the first and only time ----- our leaves will do something they've never ever been able to do before. They FLY.

It should be true for us as well. In our winter ---- we should be able to do a new thing, something we've never done before. We should ever be learning and growing and producing. When we stop --- we are no longer actually l-i-v-i-n-g.

The wind will pluck leaves from our limbs and they will fly. It's beautiful really. The Windmaker takes what we can offer and carries it to wherever He wishes. And we, like that winter tree, are not left naked and cold --- instead we are unashamed and eager as we hide nothing and hold everything high. Look at that winter tree. Nothing conceals its long, strong branches as they bravely hold every limb as high as possible, reaching upward always. They are the picture of bare-bold-worship! They are not focused on trying to look pretty. They care nothing about hiding themselves in the folds of many leaves. They know fully what they're made of and they are singularly focused on what is above them. Amazing inspiration drips from their grey branches.

When we enter our winter years, what will “fly” from us? What will the Windmaker be able to carry from us to the world around us? There is a final flight scheduled for us. Will the Windmaker find us having given all, hiding nothing, and boldly showing our reach for Him?

The worldly way will twist this beautiful imagery and distract us from seeing it. The worldly way says we must try and stay young, look young; it says if we're not young then we're not valuable. It says use this cream to remove dark spots, and this cream to minimize aging, have this treatment to plump up tired lines, and this procedure to take 10 years off your face.
But oh that's not the Father's plan.
Take care of ourselves? Yes! Do the best we can with what we have? Yes! But oh, could we please be real about what's real, and not waste time or money on trying to be something we are not (were never suppose to be).

The leafy tree reminds us to embrace the season we are in. Enjoy the new life of spring. Love the warmth of summer. Indulge in the copious colors of autumn. And then be brave in the bare-bold-worship of winter.

There are many ways nature whispers the secret joys of age to us. Can you think of others?
Look at the mountains. Formed from upheavals of volcanic earth activity, their “spring” is steep with sharp ridges. Millions of years pass until the “winter” of their development finds them softened in steepness and covered in green. The beautiful Appalachian mountains are the picture of this. The soil has finally tempered and has become a fertile place for new life to grow. The mountain's “winter” is its most life-giving season.

One more? How about the dainty dandelion flower. It's a fascinating little circle of sunshine yellow. Since i've just written a book entitled “Dandelion: A Warrior Beside Him”, i've taken much time to ponder this little jewel. It teaches so much in its silent presence. It too has a four season life span; it all occurs in less than a month.
Its spring season bursts with a bloom of yellow joy. In this season its stem is usually shorter, holding it closer to the ground.

Then summer finds it closing itself up looking almost as if it has not bloomed at all.

In the autumn of its living the stem grows long, sometimes increasing by several inches. Imagine the work that is taking place in that little flower during its summer and autumn stages.

But then finally comes its winter, when the closed up bloom opens itself wide forming a full round ball of seeds prepared to fly. It fascinates me that the round puff-ball even looks a bit grey, like the grey hair of us in our winter.

Compare the grey puff ball to its much younger version, the yellow flower. While the flower is a beautiful blast of color, it does not yet have the ability to produce the hundreds of seeds the grey-haired puff ball is able to give. The grey puff ball would be woefully amiss if it struggled over its loss of youthful color; what a waste of focus that would be. For indeed, the yellow flower was destined to close itself up so that in the end the ultimate purpose of its existence could be fully known. It must die to its youth in order to produce what is needed. New-life coming from new seeds.
It's a breathtaking reminder, that the grey puff ball sits perfectly still until the wind touches it, grabbing hold of its ready seeds and carrying them at will to the places of its choice. If not the wind, then a bird will indulge in the meal it provides and even still then, it will be carried on wings to many other places. And sweet is the picture when a child eagerly plucks the round seed head and “helps” the wind do its job. However it comes about, the end result is the same.
The seeds are carried.
The dandelion in its winter is able to doing something new, something it's never done before. It releases all it has left to give and life is multiplied.

One dandelion flower obediently living out its seasons of life will produce well over 100 seeds. More than one hundred new blooms will come because the one lived as it should have.
Can we people say as much?
Does the tiny dandelion do its work of living-and-giving better than we soul carriers?

If you're young, may this sharing encourage you to live each season exactly as it should be.
Don't strain ahead trying to grow into another season before it's time to be there. And someday when you're old, don't pine away over the loss of your youth. Each season has a wonderfully important purpose. Perhaps the winter season is the one of most intense value; it is the one where multiplication should be exponential if you've lived your other seasons well. If we can know this in our youth, we can set ourselves up for a most beautiful winter.

If your older, may this sharing encourage you to embrace the wintry gift of multiplication. When there should be nothing hindering our exposed worship with a life raised high and nothing limiting the wind from carrying us. If we've lived well, loved much, and grown in good ways, we now have the chance to fly as the Windmaker carries us wherever He chooses. Perhaps you'll multiply goodness in the generations after you as they live out what you showed them. Or maybe you'll multiply your love of God and Savior as you're legacy travels far. Maybe your life-work will extend to places and people you never knew and in ways you never imagined possible.
It's the very essence of the words, “........to Him who is able to do far more ----- abundantly beyond ------- all that we hope for or imagine, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory.......... to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (from Ephesians 3:20-21)

There is more to give. More to do. More to share. More...........................

Notice how we can see further in the forest when the winter trees stand brave and bare. If we will be brave, bare winter trees, perhaps those younger than us can grow stronger beside us. Isn't it the way of the great forests.

J. C. Penney said,

“I may be losing my ability to see in my old age, but my vision is better than ever before.”

(Being on the other side of the world from them, i miss my mom and dad so much. Writing helps. And in writing this, i'm so very thankful for the way they are living their winter. They inspire. If you don't know them -- i wish you could. If you do, when you see them next -- give them an extra hug from their autumn-tree-daughter.)