Growing things

When we moved south, we were happy to leave the snow -- and the snow thrower -- behind. We knew the summers would be hot, but no one ever told us just how fast everything grows down here. Back in Wakefield, mowing the lawn was a weekly job. But if it rained or things came up, it wasn't the end of the world if it went two weeks.

Here, the summer grass needs to be cut every five days. If you let it go past a week, your yard is likely to bear a striking resemblance to Jurassic Park. In fact, I think it might actually be possible to watch the grass grow. That's why, in a subdivision community of 900 houses, the sound of mowers and weed-whackers is almost as constant as the cicadas at night or the F-18s from the nearby Naval Air Station during the day. And yes, while our friends in Boston are shoveling their driveways, we'll still be mowing our lawn. It does wind down to only a few times a month in December and January. The upside is that something is always blooming. On the downside, pulling weeds is a year-round activity.

Things grow whether we want them to or not, and many of them grow faster than we ever imagined they could. We accumulate more stuff than we ever intended. We fall out of touch with people we care about. Time accrues for happy anniversaries and grudges alike. Nothing stays the way it is. We grow, both closer and further apart, from one another and from God.

In the climate of the human heart, everything flourishes. Flowers blossom, trees stretch tall and deep, grass grows. But weeds also spread. That is why our God prunes us. It's never a pleasant experience, but always a necessary one. We need to be pruned when we go our own way on our own power for too long. That's usually how we end up precisely where we never thought we'd be. We wander far from the one who made us, grow in the wrong direction, and lose our way.

Seasons are as much a part of our internal spiritual lives as they are the external world in which we live. Our hearts have winters and springs; times of darkness, rest, and solitude, and times of awakening and new life. They also have summers of growth and fruitfulness -- when the days are longer.

We bloom only in the warmth of God's love. We fully blossom when our lives are rooted in him, when we take our identity from the God who made us. As hard as we may try, we cannot make ourselves into what we were created to be. We can pull a few weeds here and there, water and fertilize the seed of divine life in our souls. But the growth we most desire depends on the Lord of the harvest.

Here in the sub-tropics, everything is lush and green. Oleander and myrtle, hibiscus and roses bloom for much of the year. New fronds open on the palms almost every week. The grass is thick and growing higher. Mornings are steamy, afternoons bright, evenings breezy. The summer downpours water it all. Everything needed for growth is there.

The same is true in our hearts. All that we need to be the saints God created us to be is there within us. The love of God warms us. The Eucharist feeds us. The graces of God rain down and water us. And the loving hand of God pulls the weeds and prunes what he has planted in us. Faith, hope, love -- everything grows.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.