We planted a vegetable garden earlier this fall, and this past week we harvested it. What a wonderful feeling! My daughters were giddy as they weeded through the green leafy veggies, separating the keepers from the ones that had holes nibbled through them by tiny caterpillars. We filled up a crate, our fingers numb from the cold that would be bringing the first frost our way in another day or two.
As my husband and I soaked and rinsed the veggies later that night (and picked those tiny caterpillars off of leaves), we found ourselves talking about the cycle of the seasons. We were chatting about how it seems that there is a rhythm both in the day-to-day as well as the yearly cycle. There is a time for work and a time for rest. A time to plant and a time to harvest. Whoops! Pretty sure our thoughts are nothing new. Our conversation was really more of a cognitive realization as we considered what our life has been this year. It has been a year of establishing routine and structure both in our home life and our work life. Last year was a year of big changes that included planting a church and moving to a new home to accommodate our family which grew by two more adults.
The work has been good, requiring us to wait as God planted dreams and callings in our hearts, and then labor to care for what He’s entrusted to us. However, something neither of us is good at is celebrating. We tend to be the all work and no play kind of people. We are both begrudgingly aware of this, and have been working - as only workaholics can - to try to make time for more fun.
God has been very gracious to show us clearly His kindness in providing for this seasonal rhythm. Usually, the approaching holiday season has me cringing as I know it is going to add more work on top of my already heavy load. But, after our conversation, I realized that maybe it’s not the work that wears me out as much as my attitude toward the work. This harvest and celebration season is a good gift from God that provides much needed rest from laboring.
What I have been considering lately, is that harvesting is still work. It takes time, planning, patience, and it does take lots of effort - but it is a different kind of work. It is work that is laced with the joy of reaping what you have been sowing, watering and waiting for. I can’t help but be reminded of those weeks right after a baby is born. There has been the work of carrying and growing that little one in your belly. The literal labor followed by delivery. Then comes the harvest. This beautiful season you have been waiting for when that tiny life is laying in your arms, with her head on your chest. The work has not stopped - if anything it has kicked into high gear! But it is a new kind of work, the kind that is undergirded with joy and celebration.
In the past, the holiday season has been…annoying. I know! What kind of grinch-like monster am I, right? It always feels like I kind of have to endure everyone else’s holiday crazy until January and then we can all calm down and get back to real life. But what if instead of enduring the holidays, we could really see it as joy-filled work? Our job for the next six weeks is to celebrate! That doesn’t sound so bad.
How might a better understanding of this work change our attitude? I think it would change it a lot. The burden of the work might be lighter if it’s done with joy instead of begrudging sighs and eye-rolls.
And we Mommas are the one’s to lead the way. We are leading our families in celebration as we make the plans, set the table, wrap the gifts and put our hands to work in order to finish about a thousand other tasks. Our attitude about the holidays will set the tone for those gathering with us during the next six weeks. If we are whiny about the obligations, the kids will be, too. If we are angry about the work, the husbands will be, too. If we focus on the wrong things, our loved ones will, too. So, it’s up to you and me, Dear Momma, to decide how we will live out this season of celebration, and in turn lead others to do the same.
As believers in Christ, wouldn’t it be fitting to celebrate well? If we’re honest, Christians don’t always throw the best parties. It’s easy to take ourselves a little too seriously, and indeed the message of Jesus is the weightiest and most important. But, it also carries with it the light-hearted task of rejoicing in all God has done in us and through us.
So, what does your harvest look like this year? Maybe it is the arrival of a baby - congratulations! You’ve spent nine months this year planning and waiting for this harvest. What a wonderful gift to celebrate! Maybe it is the provision of work and much needed income for your family. Thank God for his faithfulness in providing! Maybe it is healing from a sickness, or a marriage or friendship that has been restored. Praise God for his healing, forgiveness and redemption!
Maybe you are looking at this holiday season and there is no harvest this year. Maybe the enemy has eaten holes in your life, and nothing survived. The next six weeks will be difficult as the people around you celebrate while you mourn the barren field that produced grief instead of joy. The temptation will be to hide your sorrow in things like drinking, eating, shopping and so many other temporary fixes that are available in excess this time of year. My dear Friend, please don’t hide your sorrow. No, the office Christmas party is not the time and place to spill your grief, but there is a time and place to do so, even in this season of celebrating. I would ask you, who are your people to whom you can go? Are you connected to a body of believers where there are pastors and counselors who can share your burden? If you think there is no one, I beg you, please don’t believe that lie! There are those who would gladly share in your suffering. Find a place, find a tribe and you may find that there is a harvest of hope to celebrate after all. Jesus sees you. He knows your sorrow. He has relief from pain to offer you that no drinking, eating or shopping can give.
My prayer for you and me at the beginning of this holiday season is that we would start from a place of joy and gratitude and allow our work to flow from there. I pray that we will not begrudgingly give, share, and participate in the season, but that our hearts would be sincere, overflowing with gratitude for all that God has done. I pray that our worship of Jesus would compel us to include others - even the ones we don’t like so well - at our holiday tables. I pray for peace and joy to be real inside of us and not just words scrolled across our holiday decor. And above all, I pray the love of God would soothe our sorrow and connect our hearts to each other and to himself.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; …What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man. Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9.