I read the book Humble Roots twice last year––once in its entirety; once in slower, more intentional meditations. What rang true again and again was the title of the first chapter, “Withering on the Vine.” I could not think of a more fitting title for my own life last year. I left 2017 feeling like the crispy pine needles littering the floors. I was not unaware either, which may have made it worse. I had spent much of the Autumn doing what felt like twirling the puzzle pieces of our life to fit them better together, to be more efficient with time and energy. I took time to retreat, to pray, to write even. I shuffled the kids through amazing experiences, read books, hired an assistant, checked my children’s progress. I served in our community, connected with friends, made time for wine nights and date nights and morning coffees and travel. I listened to podcasts, to music, to books. I posted to social media, emailed with clients and brand partners, tried to write blog posts (handfuls in drafts) and slowly progressed through a project I’ve envisioned for this space the last two years. Our home life and homeschool was a mess, literally and figuratively. And in the process, I learned it is possible to have all the right puzzle pieces and totally miss their connection. It is possible in all the hustle, to lose purpose, to blur vision. I was withering under it all. I knew I needed to say no but I couldn’t even discern to what any longer. Hadn’t I taught classes and written blog posts and encouraged others on the importance of slower, more intentional living; of family mission; of disciplined, focused living, of less is more, of saying no? The answer is, of course, yes. And perhaps that shame was the most withering of all.
I am not writing these words to pass on a burden or to laden you with heaviness at the onset of a new year. I know, dear reader, you carry enough of your own. What I want to share is this: it’s okay. It’s okay if the world is running vigorous laps around you while you suck wind. It’s ok to be quiet, even when you’re expected to speak. It’s okay to pull back while others move forward, that is, in fact, how our legs move so we can walk. It’s okay to fail, to smack into disappointment, to miss planned goals––but remember, that is not the end of the story. Courage is found in sweeping the pine needles from the floor, in using their crispy bits as kindling. Withering is not an ending, it is a beginning.
In a culture that rewards charisma, productivity, showmanship, and results––professional or personal withering can feel like failure. And why not? A garden is always more inviting in the Summer than the Winter; no one prefers a picnic beneath bare limbs and crispy leaves. But the work and purpose of the winter garden isn’t to blossom or to be an inviting space. The work of Winter is to kill off pests and disease, to cut back unhealthy limbs, to form a wet blanket for the earth. The work of Winter is to heal and nourish. Withering is not the end; it is the preparation for something new.