Spring in the Desert Southwest is a time for gusty winds and surprising green patience. The land lays expectant and so do we.
After enduring months of winter’s dormancy and the same trials and hardships in each gray-infused day, we’re eager for kinder, warmer, more colorful days and another chance (this is the year! we say) to get it right, whatever it may be.
The wind is spring’s clarion call, a wind song turned up to blasting we can’t ignore. But spring can’t make up its mind which station to play, tuned in to the shrill voice of winter one day and spring’s steady hum the next, a benevolent sound that carries with it the promise of hope undeferred and a pledge for a better year.
New Year’s Day falls smack dab in the middle of a bleak and dreary span on the Roman calendar. But in reality, spring is the new year! Replete with fertile hopes and the busyness of purposeful bees. The persistent curious buzz of hover flies at your back door. The rallying cry of Gamble’s quail with their single regal plumes. Spring spills swathes of yellow-orange poppies that make you stop what you are doing and stare.
The sun warms the landscape of my heart and brings to life well-worn desires for home improvements—interior walls and exterior paint, the long-delayed pantry addition, and baseboards that declare completion. I want these to spring up true and not wither, but I can say after years of immaturity behind me, I want soul improvements more. Old sins that grip you in winter’s gloom won’t lift come spring unless you deny the pleasure of pride and self-importance you didn’t know you carried. Spring in your spirit blooms true when you admit winter’s discontent was your cozy spot, your crutch, your comfort after all.
And then the rain comes
Spring rains are rare in the Desert Southwest, but when they come the rain sings a capella on the tin roof softer than my heart can bear. Shy at first, then spraying the roof with giggles of the purest joy. The rain comes down to lift the spirit, to wash the soul, to moisten the hearts gone dry. The rain gives the desert hope.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
Amid the sallow grays and browns of the winter-stripped brush, bright green flecks their stems, and over here a flash of happy pink sits atop forbidding leaves. The cactus flowers no no shame. They tell the truth: that time heals, that love has a strength that hate does not, that hope is no facade meant to fool you. The ball-gown pink, and peach, and butter-yellow blossoms unabashedly tell you, you will be just fine. We are held to the earth tethered by physical constraints and terrestrial tears, but the cactus flowers are an unexpected beauty in a prickly world, in a life of pain.
Life pricks us repeatedly, irritations surface felt or embedded deep. Drought of water and the Word stays the land from yielding beauty, comfort, and long-sought-after peace. But the flowers are always there hidden inside the undesirable reality of now. We must seek the beauty buried in our lives; be the beauty that we seek. The obsession over a physically beautiful life loses its grip as being beautiful in the Spirit takes over.
The green bud on a lifeless stick says “Ha-ha, I wasn’t done yet.” When we turn from death to life, repentance is like that, isn’t it? It’s renewal. We’re willing to get dirty and dig up the ugliness, the filth we cling to. We’re willing to embrace the Giver of life, to refuse our deadwood self. Repentance is new life. Ha-ha to stagnancy, ha-ha to the spirit of stubbornness that keeps us stiff and dry and fruitless. We bear fruit only when we cast off what we thought we needed to survive.
From empty soil to nurtured sprouts to ever-so-carefully transplanted harbingers of hope, at the end of the season I delight in picking the ripe and ready fruits of my labor. But it has always been a struggle in a nutrient-void, rock-infested garden without natural shade and water. Reminiscent of my life as a whole, my expectations of betterment belie the reality that how I want to live might not be God’s will.
I know I’ve been wrong to believe that my meager life-crop is proof that God does not love me as thoroughly as the next girl. That I’m a weed in a field of more worthy flowers. I’ve been wrong to compare my yields with someone else’s. Oh, but I’ve wished to bloom like my sister flower, live in her soil, be wrapped in her captivating petals—I’ve had petal envy.
Just look at lacy Phacelia’s graceful curve of her neck, the lavender stamen like lashes that frame her striking eyes, or Mariposa lily’s creamy white arms welcoming the world to gaze upon her greenish fringe and purple trim.
But I’m more like the desert Chia. An oddity among traditional-looking blooms. A seemingly petal-less spiky ball atop a square-sided stem. An oddball, that’s me. Never quite fitting in, not sought out for a single-stem vase or a group-hug bouquet. Overlooked and invisible. But between the dusky maroon spikes emerge miniature orchid-like flowers in surprising detail if only the passers-by would stoop to investigate.
Ah, you see, we all have something about us worth appreciating. No matter the shape and color of our petals or how rich or depleted the soil we’ve been planted in is, God made each flower different for a reason. Each unique to reflect His omniscient glory.
He gave each of us our pound (or five or ten) and requires us to do something with it (Luke 19:12–27). To say yes to what we can do, instead of burying it in anger, comparison, and self-sorry surrender. I no longer wish to scatter discontent, like weed seeds, upon the field He chose for me, a place He knows will yield the greatest spiritual growth. We are pleasing to God when we work with what we’ve got and live content in the confines of a difficult and unadorned life.
O God, grant us peace in the sweet confines of our planting. To accept where we are at—in physical pain, financial stress, or mourning faded dreams. Help us to grasp your unfathomable love more fully. To faithfully abide that we may yield ten-fold for your kingdom.
What do the birds see?
Spring in the Desert Southwest is a time for the jubilant nightly chorus of a thousand crickets that won’t stop talking, won’t stop praising their creator. Come daybreak, birds cheers us on with their song. But what are they so happy about? What do they see that fills their lungs to bursting? Maybe, it’s what they don’t see—the wars and rumors of wars, the unnamed grief that settles like stones upon our collective hearts, or the binding regrets of living a life we didn’t choose.
For them there is no fear, no doubt, no faithless grumbling, only trust that they are where they belong. They sing with abandon and so must we. Did you know we, who wait for God, are told to sing and be glad and rejoice with all our hearts (Zephaniah 3:14)? Why sing like a sprightly bird unfazed? Because the Lord our God has taken away our judgments. He has cast out our Enemy. All the sins of the past, all the things we wish we could reverse, He will. God promises to undo all that afflicts us. He will gather all our sorrows and remove them from existence.
So sing, dear Christian, like the lowly house sparrows that bandy for the best spots under my eaves and that wake to rejoicing and a lilt of trust they don’t consider but is there nonetheless. Sing, and prepare to hear the glorious sound of God’s song over you at Christ’s return. (What a sound that will be!)
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Zephaniah 3:17
The unmistakable call of the Say’s Phoebe declares “I’m here! I’m here! I’m here! Are you?” I am, indeed. I’m fully here arms spread wide like the trusting and tender cotyledon, those first leaves breaking the confines of hardness and doubt. I am absorbing hope and peace and righteousness through living springs and good soil.
It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine. Ezekiel 17:8
I’m here, I’m here, I’m here with almost the same enthusiasm as that heralding bird. Not because my life is going well and my soil-bound dreams have come true, but because I am abiding in the Vine. I can sing like that giddy bird because there’s no doubt I’m here by the lovingkindness of God and my future (and yours) is as bright as an eternal spring.
Abiding in the Vine,
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Poppy field image my own (Taken in 2019, but we’ve had no poppies or lupines or any other wildflowers since because of the current drought.)
Phacelia image courtesy of plantsam.com
Maiposa lily image courtesy of gjhikes.com
Chia image courtesy of basinandrangewatch.org
Such beautiful prose Gleniece, so much I found myself nodding my head too, our human condition is a common experience and much a revelation of the beauty and ruggedness your part of the world. Goodness just lovely to read.
What sweet words, Tracey. Thank you. I’m glad it resonated with you. Yes, no matter where we hail from, our lives are similar at the heart of it. Blessings to you.