I’m staring out my bedroom window at the barren, snow covered ground outside. It’s hard to imagine that in just a handful of weeks, this winter death will be bursting with life again. Having lived in an apartment the last three winters, I’m feeling extremely grateful to be anticipating a new kind of spring this year.
In the fall, my sweet husband got down on his hands and knees and planted dozens of my favorite bulbs here in our new yard. He knew this winter I would need something to look forward to – something to hope for. So as I sit at my desk today and stare into this landscape of barren death, anticipating the arrival of spring and the birth of those beautiful bulbs he planted, I am reminded of my own story of survival through winter and the breaking open and the birthing of beauty and life.
I’m also reminded of the visual God gave to me some years ago, a promise that has stayed with me through these years of this coming life. We had just moved to a new state and found the perfect house. It was just barely two years old and the owners had put all kinds of love into their first home. In particular, the yard was just stunning. Someone had a landscape company in the family and the yard was filled to the brim with every kind of plant and flower imaginable. Flower beds lined the entire perimeter of the spacious back yard and in October, there was still beauty bursting in every corner. The owners told us to wait until spring as the yard would be full of such beauty.
So when we moved in in January and I was promptly put on bed rest with my pregnancy, I anxiously anticipated spring’s arrival. By May our yard would be bursting with beauty and our home would be be bursting with new life as well. I held onto this as I struggled to get through those long months of bedrest.
Spring was coming.
And indeed, spring came, as it always finally does after a sometimes unbearably long winter. In March, I watched as beautiful bulbs sprang up from the barren earth. And as the April showers watered the earth, I watched from my window as more and more beauty sprang up from those flower beds.
But I also watched as weeds sprang up along with them. I couldn’t go pull the weeds and my husband, who was working 90 hours a week at the time could not do it either. So the weeds grew unchecked right along with all the beautiful flowers.
By May when our son was born, we brought him home to a house with a jungle outside. There were weeds that were taller than me. All summer long those weeds grew and grew as I tended my growing family without much thought for tending the yard.
We never got that yard back. In fact, it was so out of control that one fall a few years down the road, we made the difficult decision to kill it all – to give ourselves a blank slate. So we did the unthinkable and we killed every plant – good and bad – in that yard. We mowed them all down and then sprayed it all with chemicals so toxic we knew none of it would survive. After that we laid down weed paper and put mulch on top. A blank slate.
As I waited for spring to come that year, I wondered what would happen – if our efforts to kill everything would succeed. As we progressed into spring, it seemed our plan had worked. Nothing sprang up.
Nothing except for one lone iris right outside my breakfast room window. There she was, against all odds, springing up in strength and determined beauty. She was the one lone survivor and she grew tall and majestic despite her intended destruction. And she was simply lovely there, among all that barren ground.
As I stared at her beauty one morning the Lord spoke to me. “I cause beauty to rise from the ashes. I bring strength out of death. Intended destruction can be overcome.”
Later as I shared my marvel over this one lone iris with a friend, she said, “Oh yes – you can’t kill an iris. They live – no matter what.”
Her words, and His, have stayed with me through these last few years of intense darkness. There was a promise in that beautiful display with the iris all those years ago. Beauty and strength indeed rise from ashes and certain destruction.
As I sit this morning staring out at the barren snow covered ground, I remember the iris. And I am looking to the spring, when the hope in me that is even now breaking open unseen beneath the frozen ground and pushing against all odds to rise to the surface and breathe is waiting just beneath that frozen ground to burst forth into beauty.
I’m here waiting. And I have hope. Hope that the season of darkness and death ends and that new life does spring up – beauty and strength out of the destruction and ashes.