When my youngest daughter even thinks we might leave for a long outing, she gathers essentials just in case.
She compiles all her jewels just in case a spontaneous fancy party invite comes her way. She folds several sets of pajamas just in case an extended pajama party occurs. As I try to put things away, she simply gathers more things just in case she meets new friends and needs to share stuffed animals or toys.
I love the hopes and dreams of a child awaiting adventure. She anticipates joy and prepares herself for it.
I want to prepare for joy.
Let’s gather some essentials just in case.
I’ll brew extra coffee. I’ll clear the afternoon schedule. What does it take to prepare for joy? My Bible, my journal, my new pen? Your sweet face across the table from me?
How do you prepare for joy?
Do you remember my huge gardening mistake?
This morning, I look out the window and remember how difficult it was for me to remove all the blossoms and young fruit from my blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries that first season. I didn’t understand it! I didn’t want to wait! But I learned this:
This counter-intuitive and destructive move would make my plants thrive. If I take away the fruit, the plant directs the energy and nutrients to the most important part of the plant: the root system. A new berry plant needs a few years to make an indestructible foundation of roots.
I walk out to the garden and notice the morning dew on the strawberries.
The berry patch has tripled–maybe quadrupled– in size. My deliberate attempts to diminish these plants by removing the fruit worked.
Even the raspberries come back larger and more abundant. This bush was one shoot last summer.
I’ll never forget this. What looks like a fruitless season–cut short, wasteful, damaged, stolen–is preparation for abundance. We are being made ready and suitable in advance. My roots are being nourished and strengthened to support what’s coming next. It may take a year or two (even three), but it’s God’s preparation for the fruit to come.
Journal: Do you feel like you are in a season of preparation?
This time of year in Pennsylvania, I can see woodpiles in the side yards of homes. Folks use wood burning stoves or fireplaces to heat their homes in the cold winter.
Every time I pass by these wood piles, I experience a particular nostalgia for warm, cozy rooms. I can hear the crackle of the fire; I dream up the glow in the room. I let the imagined heat embrace my face and hands.
Mostly, I think about how secure that family must feel; they’ve stored up fuel for warmth. They’ve planned ahead. They’ve prepared for the cold winds. A wood pile symbolizes a security against that inevitable change of season.
I’ve passed that wood pile for several weeks now, and even this morning, I can’t help but smile at the warmth it will bring to that family. The winter will come, and they will not just endure, but they will also have delight over these snowy days inside.
I think about the change of season in my own heart: winter. When will it come? When will I experience the next bitter thing, the next cold front that puts me inside? I can’t know, but I can prepare for it. I can store up all the truth I can; I can build up a pile of beautiful, good things to warm me through the next season of suffering.
I gather each log–each moment of wonder and worship–and I stack it up for later. When I need it, that truth can burn bright and warm and help me delight in what I must endure.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, / Kallerna)