walking in grace

When I Grow Up…

Spring has finally sprung.

Well, that’s what my calendar tells me.

And yes, I can see a hundred shades of green inching their way through winter’s barren branches. Bulbs showing off their perseverance by unfolding into bold blooms of red and yellow. Faithful azaleas giving us their best in show in shades of pink. So, it must be true. Spring has sprung.

So why does my heart still feel the bitter of winter?

Because I allow it.

A few weeks ago, while driving through the neighborhood, I saw something for the first time. Well, it wasn’t technically the first time.

When I was a kid, my grandmother had a tulip tree. A purple tulip tree. That’s what I called it because that’s what it looked like to me. (I would later learn its real name.) I loved that tree. But I didn’t appreciate its trademark. Not until a few weeks ago while driving down my street. Before Spring was brave enough to whisper. While Winter still rightfully lingered.

The tulip trees — Japanese Magnolias — were in full bloom.

I stopped my car and stared at the lesson before me.

I want to be a Japanese Magnolia when I grow up.

Tears welled up and rolled out of their banks. My heart struggling to accept what my mind was gently telling me. Bloom, even in winter. Especially in winter. Everything blooms in spring. Nothing special about that. Bloom in winter. Be fruitful in winter.

In my struggle to resist, I began making a mental list of other trees or flowers that bloom in winter. Camellias. Pansies. Snap dragons.

See. Japanese Magnolias are not so special.

But the difference stared back at me. And wouldn’t let me off so easy.

Here’s what I had never noticed before. The rich purple blooms of my tulip tree break through on bare branches. Juxtaposed against the gray limbs and gray sky.

No foliage.

No filler.

No fluff.

Its blooms are the fruit of its laboring through winter. It doesn’t find green foliage until Spring springs.

I want to be a Japanese Magnolia when I grow up.

The truth is I am grown up.

I should be bearing fruit in winter.

I should be flowering in difficult circumstances.

I should stand strong against the elements.

And yes, sometimes I am. I do.

But not always.

When bitter words are thrown my way…

When an old friend feels icy…

When circles get drawn and I’m on the outside…

When my actions are misunderstood…

I do not bloom.

Rejection – even perceived rejection – is a trigger for me. (I know. I know.) And it’s in those moments I crawl right out of the arms of the One who loves me and have myself a tantrum with a pity party not far behind. I let my feelings inform my actions. And those actions are most always the same:

Avoid those who hurt me. Avoid those who could encourage me. Avoid those who will lovingly challenge me. (Yep. That covers just about everyone.)

But I want to be a Japanese Magnolia when I grow up!

If you are like me, it’s easier to abide in Christ when it’s spring. When the temps are mild and everything else is in bloom. When the sun is warm and the rains fall gently.

But, Jesus said that no matter the season, I am to abide in Him! He goes as far too say that apart from Him I can do nothing. [John 15]

Oh, apart from Him I can do plenty! It’s just that the plenty I do is anything but pretty. Not a bloom in sight.

So, sitting in the car with tears falling down my face, winter lingering, I decided. I decided to grow up. To be different. To act differently. To resist the temptation to endure the wintry season alone, just a gray barren branch with no blooms.

On the cold and bitter days, I will abide in the One who loves me best. I will choose to crawl back in His arms and let go of the things that choke out the fruit in my life. Allow Him to do what only He can do. Jesus is the only Way and the only One who can produce fruit in me and through me.

Here’s the fruit He says others will notice when I abide in Him.

Gentleness. With myself and others.

Patience. With people and the process.

Kindness. In a world that is unkind.

Goodness. When things dont feel good.

Self-control. When I really want my own way.

Joy. A choice made many times a day.

Love. Measured by the way I treat others. Those who love me and those who don’t.

Peace. In my heart and in my mind. Between God and me. And as far as it depends on me, between others and me.

(Galatians 5: 22-23)

I don’t want to settle for wanting to be a Japanese Magnolia.

I don’t want to keep trying to become one in my own hustle. Frustrated. Barren.

Jesus promised me that I can abide way my to blooming in the bitter of winter, just like my beloved Japanese Magnolia.

1 thought on “When I Grow Up…”

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