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.
This was so beautiful, Bethany. I feel such a kindred spirit in you – thank you for your kind encouragement and your faithfulness to this space. Sending you love from the Midwest!
Such a good reminder—thank you!
Yes. That whole it’s okay paragraph. As an enneagram 5, I constantly feel like I don’t have the capacity for doing that everyone else seems to have. And realistically, I don’t. But it’s okay. I’ve always had a special affinity for winter,particularly for bare branches and you are so right, it’s not the end. They say that when a vine is pruned, it causes the life energy of the plant back into the source of the vine for a season. What better place to be?!
What a beautiful metaphor, Erin. Thank you. And isn’t the Enneagram so powerful for understanding our own limits? I am so grateful for the lessons I am learning about myself, to receive who I am and who others are. Thank you for sharing.
I’ve been thinking so much about this very thing – about how we have to have seasons in which we feel the withering (but how not to doubt their connection to the next season’s fruitfulness/spring.) There are no “wrong” seasons, that I know;) I love you so. Thank you for your commitment to opening your heart here, my friend.
I miss you. Also I love how we are often learning parallel lessons. xx
I’ve always loved coming to your blog periodically and finding whatever new, encouraging treasure you’ve written. This one, however, has to be my favorite. So simply put and honest, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I’m new to Homeshooling and tried to start our first year of my daughter’s kindergarten at the same time as I was about to have our third. We were also transitioning to a new city, house, life, etc. and so I felt so frustrated this winter when I had to completely back off and take care of my body and our little family and not focus as much on school. I love this post because it reminds me that my slow season that seemed to show no signs of progress, really was just preparation for my “something new”.
Thanks for sharing.
Well said, Natausha, and thank you for your support and perspective. These have been such sweet, life-giving lessons for me, even when they are difficult.
What a beautiful, honest piece of writing. Thank you for sharing your heart with your readers and giving them permission to be quiet, pull back, fail. May you continue to heal and nourish throughout this season … and know, when you are ready, we will celebrate with you when spring arrives.
What a beautiful thought – the purpose of winter. I’ve had Humble Roots on my to-read list for a while, & I especially want to read it now. Such a timely word for me as I’ve felt that tug within myself to pull back though others move forward. So thank you for being that voice assuring that winter has its purpose as well.
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Beautiful friend. Every heartfelt word. Love you dearly, first for who you are and second because you so freely share yourself with the rest of us.
So needed this today!
I love this. So beautifully said. I used to hate winter and cold dreary weather. Now I look forward to it as a season of healing, focus and organization. And rest, reading, nurturing my soul. Tea and soup. All the good things!! I wish you and your family all the very best in this wonderful season. 😊
I am so grateful for your honestly. This has been a withering time for me and it feels like a blessing to have you say that it is “ok”… thank you.
This is so beautiful. I needed to hear these words. So encouraging to my heart, thank you!
Beautiful words and honesty Bethany. Thank you for sharing. It’s so difficult when we are the ones sharing how life should be and how it should look especially In this world of social media. And yet find ourselves lacking. Thank you for your courage to be honest. We are all in it together! Thank you!
Ah, this hit my hearts core, thank you for these lovely and heartfelt words.
thank you so much for this