Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seasons of Suffering, or Why I Don't Buy Strawberries in March

I just looked down at my calendar and realized it's been over two weeks since I last posted here. Hope I didn't frighten anyone into thinking I'd gone into early labor! Still happily, roundly pregnant. With less than eight weeks to go until my due date, it's been nesting season around here. Appropriate for spring, I think.

Certain purchases have been made. Clothes have been pulled out of storage, washed, and folded away in the nursery drawer reserved for our coming arrival. I've been doing a general purging of excess stuff around the house, and Brian and I have been laying plans and getting ready for a freezer meal marathon! (I'm so blessed that my husband actually enjoys chopping onions--what would I do without him?)

So many things have been gathered and prepared... It's only that I've had trouble gathering my thoughts lately.

Have I ever mentioned how much I adore spring in my adopted home? If not, let me just take a moment to say: I love spring!! A season I never fully appreciated until moving to Seattle. Well, with spring blossoming all around me now in earnest, I've found my thoughts inclined toward the shifting of seasons.

So often in our modern, technological, light-speed age, we forget that there is a rhythm to the year and to our days. We hurry it, light it, slow it, force it or do whatever needs to be done to fit our days, weeks, months, and years into our own schedules rather than the other way around.  But for most of human history, this was impossible, and I often find that there is great wisdom in honoring the natural rhythms God ordained rather than trying to squeeze the earth into my personal calendar of priorities.

Some things we cannot truly escape. Inclement weather, for example. The early fall of night, or a sun that refuses to set on the Fourth of July until the kids have gone nearly wild waiting for the fireworks to begin. Tomatoes do not ripen naturally in January, and even if we shell out the big bucks to buy the expensive hot house versions from the store, they fail to successfully mimic the taste of the "real deal" in July.

So, there are things we do not do in winter. I, for one, don't buy tomatoes. And, oh, how delicious they are when they finally come into season! Right now, I'm nearly ravenous for the strawberries that I know will begin to ripen in only a few short weeks more. I start to see the California shipments popping up in stores, but I'm being good and waiting...waiting for those locally grown juicy, red gems that only appear right before my son's birthday.

Lent is a season of patience. Of fasting before the feast so that the feast can be appreciated in its fullness and the fasting can do its work of soul-cleansing, of rest and renewal.

I think it is no coincidence that the Latin cognate of patience--"pati"--means "to suffer." We have to suffer a little if we want to enjoy the celebration. Like a seed bursting out of its shell, we need time in the dark and dank to do some hard work before we are ready for the sun. Only then can we truly grow.

I am in a particular season of life. In a few weeks, I will find myself the busy mother of four children ages six and under. Sometimes, I look around at the other women in my life, and it is hard. I see them with clean hands, purses that don't resemble circus tents, eyes that aren't puffy from lack of sleep. I see their free hours, the time they have for hobbies or friendships or careers, and I wonder if there is something wrong with me.

Am I weak because my son's poorly timed accident, resulting in yet another load of laundry, has the ability to completely throw off a day? Am I "less" because instead of sitting down to write this week, I spent my hours singing nursery rhymes, wiping sticky faces, and toddling after my little one in Wellies?

I have to tell myself, "No. No, there is nothing wrong with you." I have to say it continually, firmly, gently, over and over until I believe it.

These women I see: Most are in a different season. Their little ones are not so little anymore. They once spent their days like me, and they have earned this season in the sun. Some are rushing a little--they don't mind pushing the season and fitting it into their priorities, molding and sculpting it until it makes sense and space for their particular sphere of life. And that's all well.

But I'm still the seed in the ground. Often inside, sometimes in the dark, wondering if I will ever be more than a buried seed, which no one seems to see. 

There is, you know, a value in wondering. There is value to be found in the insular living of a mother with young ones. There is value for them, and there is value for me, and when the season shifts, we will be stronger for having embraced this time and lived it to its fullest.

Someday, I may miss these hidden, harried, tiring, trying, beautiful baby days. I pray that now I find the patience to cherish what is good in them and the wisdom to endure the little sufferings such patience brings. When I find myself in another season, I don't want to feel that I rushed things--that I sold my life short for the price of an off-season strawberry.

I hope that when the seasons roll on, as they inevitably will, I will know that this one with all its challenges and joys was well spent.


  1. Lovely. And I so agree.

    While we do buy strawberries earlier in the season (pretty much only when they are on sale and only because they really help me out with balancing out meals and snacks around here) my thing is I never buy tulips until Easter. Tulips are my favorite flowers and I wait and wait until it's time to assemble our family Easter basket. It is a tradition in the Byzantine rite to put together family baskets of all the goods you gave up during Lent and to bring them to liturgy to be blessed. So even though I would so enjoy a vase of tulips on my table right now (they are even on sale in lots of stores!) I do wait for Easter so my first tulips of the year are blessed. :)

    I love Spring in the PNW, too! Though I could do without the seasonal allergies, ugh. And they are always worse when I'm pregnant :(

  2. I live in California across from a large strawberry field- and I am waiting until Easter to buy- even here- the light is is (relatively) cold....the berries taste like almost nothing (I suspect that they are raised to be jam strawberries where there will be sugar, color and flavoring...)

  3. Hi Bethany! I'm Heather and I was hoping you would be willing to answer a question about your blog! Please email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

  4. Bethany, thanks for your beautiful, encouraging thoughts.

  5. Beautifully said. Love the parts: "So many things have been gathered and prepared... It's only that I've had trouble gathering my thoughts lately" and "But I'm still the seed in the ground. Often inside, sometimes in the dark, wondering if I will ever be more than a buried seed, which no one seems to see."

  6. This article makes me think of something I heard in an evening preaching service a few weeks ago at my church. The overall point/idea of the sermon was that God in His sovereignty works out our circumstances to bring us into the image of His Son in the way each of us need to. But for each person, this is different. Accomplished through different means, and in many ways for different ends(like appreciating the color blue AS blue, not trying to appreciate it as red...which it can never become without losing the blue). After the service I approached the speaker and asked him to flesh the idea out a little bit more, because many of the illustrations he used sorta played to the flesh--the idea of unclaimed money, wealth that is waiting around to be claimed etc. So I presented him with the hardest example I could think of--Corrie ten Boom and her sister in Ravensbruck death camp during WWII. How can we view even circumstances like those as part of God's refining process to make us ever more like His Son? Circumstances that make us squirm and want to change the subject, circumstances that can be hard to see God's hand working in and through? Ultimately, however, the speaker was right, and agreed that say, for Betsie, who died in that prison, weak, emaciated, abused, and suffering, she through the power of Christ, had learned and grown, and been changed and had become more like her Savior, and God's sovereign hand, while he didn't shield her from those horrors, showed her that even a pit that deep wasn't deeper than His love and not beyond the reach of His redemption. As I try to gain perspective in my own life, and deal with the frustration of financial limitations, several children with needs suited to ages, homeschooling, one car, eating gluten free, etc. (and I am about to deliver #5 any day), it helps me to remember that God is using this exact time in my life to mold and shape me for His purpose and His glory. It is so easy in our humanness to try to make our lives/circumstances all about ourselves, and too often the temptation to do just that is worse when fleshly indulgences and ego boosts are removed from our lives... and we want to run back to them... instead of to God for our comfort, our purpose, our worth. --Laura


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