As much as any people on the planet, Panhandle residents long for spring and all its trimmings: sunshine, hope, green and life. The day I pen this piece, winter is still master of the moment, striking the Panhandle with a snow storm, with yet another just days away – the cycle of misery and mess becomes monotonous. Ponder for a moment all the challenges that mount during the winter months: obituaries dominate the newspaper, days are shortened by darkness, hospitals brim with patients, our lawns lose their luster, and our emotions slip into sadness.
Life, of course, is all about the cycle of seasons – a time for everything, as Solomon once said. We have every reason, nonetheless, to lean into spring like an emerging daffodil refusing to remain dormant a day longer. We are ready to attend weddings instead of funerals and to linger on the lawn until nine o’clock as the sun seems to lengthen its course just for us. I keep checking my trees, gazing for the first haze of green on a bald cypress. Like weary miners emerging from a cavern of coal, we are ready to celebrate the arrival of spring.
As the seasons change and spring is sure to show up, how do we make the most of our favorite months?
Replant. While there are many advantages to living in the Panhandle, one problem we share is that many of our plants don’t survive our winter wonderland. Your cousins in California, or daughter in Dallas, may have only to “watch and wait” for last year’s caladiums to cover the flower bed. Amarillo gardeners, on the other hand, have to “start from scratch” with most of our flowers and foliage. Digging in the dirt, nonetheless, is a healthy exercise which connects you to both soil and sun. Innately, we are programmed to plant and reap. There is a little bit of farmer Abel (Cain’s brother) on every family tree. Whether it’s a vast vegetable garden or a patio pot of tomatoes, we all need a bit of dirt dabbling.
Reduce. If you don’t call it “spring cleaning,” it doesn’t sound so ominous. Pick one. A closet or a cupboard. A basement or a storage unit. The garage or the guest room. Make a calculated effort to clean out, reducing the clutter that clouds your life. If you haven’t worn it in two winters, give it away. If it’s still two sizes too small, after consecutive New Year’s resolutions, take it to the thrift store. While we may all be hoarders at heart, you’ll be surprised at the spring lift a dose of simplification will supply.
Rekindle. Pick up the phone and call an old college roommate that has been “out of sight, out of mind” for double decades. Like driftwood at sea, life pushes friends apart with the inevitable passing of time. Sadly, today’s friendship can be relegated to yesterday’s memory if we are not intentional about refreshing our relationships. Is there a phone call you need to make? A letter that needs to be written? Forgiveness that needs to be shared? Or an old joy that needs to be re-celebrated? Spring is the natural season for the rekindling of relationships.
Release. During the holiday season, many of us suddenly become generous, demonstrating the Christmas spirit of gift giving. We do not, however, often associate spring as a season of charity. Yet, we need to realize that generosity is best demonstrated as a year-long discipline. Amarillo residents – I am proud to proclaim – have a national reputation for open hearts and open hands as we undergird so many worthy causes in our community. Remember, therefore, that springtime is also a good time to release, forming a year-long spirit of humility and generosity. Don’t wait until December to do today’s good deeds, as needs are a year-long reality.
Revere. With the Holy Seasons of various religious traditions arriving with spring, we need to remind ourselves of the need to worship. Deep within us is a need to revere that which is holy, majestic, and worthy of our worship. If you and your family have drifted away from worship, spring is the season to return to your house of worship. Only when we put God in a place of priority do we truly understand ourselves. Worshiping God allows us to reorient our lives away from self-centeredness toward God-centeredness and, finally, other-centeredness. Take advantage of all the special worship occasions that arrive with the Holy Season.
Renew. Renew a healthy habit. Brisk walking, resistance training, aerobics classes, and a myriad of other get-fit methods await our participation. If you missed – or have already broken – the New Year’s resolve, spring seems even better suited as a season of renewing healthful habits. I’ll let you in on a little secret that I’ve discovered on my own pilgrimage to physical well-being – there is no secret solution. We have to participate in regular habits in order to reap the health benefits. I’ve tried everything else: reading about it, thinking about it, and, my specialty, talking about it. To my great disappointment, however, none of these marvelous methods have yielded any results. Renew a habit that will heal your mind and body.
Remember. Finally, use spring as a time to remember. Our children and grandchildren grow so quickly. From grade school to graduation, the time passes in one big blur of busyness. Recently, as I escorted my oldest daughter to medical school orientation, I realized my very adult child still has no sense of direction. She could not find the classroom. That evening, I penned in my journal, as I shed a tear: “Nothing has changed, just like the first day of kindergarten; Ryan still can’t find her room.” The memory was sweet for savoring. Steal a moment this spring to take out some old photos or journals to both remember and reflect.
Replant. Reduce. Rekindle. Release. Revere. Renew. And Remember. Planning ahead for the new season will allow us to be ready to seize spring. Use every lingering, long day and enjoy the new season as we emerge from the muck of winter monotony. This may be your most important Sp-R-R-R-R-R-R-Ring ever.
by Dr. Howie Batson
Howie is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Amarillo.