Enjoying the Season

Here in Kentucky, we're getting ready for the bumper crop of tomatoes that summer inevitably brings. Over in Arizona, Erin is reflecting on tomatoes, parenting, and spiritual growth. You can read more of Erin's unique blend of sassiness and faith on her blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

It’s fixin' to be June in Phoenix. Lord help us…

Some of you know that I’m kind of a snob about tomatoes. I mean, I LOVE tomatoes…But by "tomato," I do not mean those things that come out of a California hot house in January. That is NOT a tomato. A tomato comes from Mamaw’s garden. You go get it right before dinner, you rinse off the dirt, and you slice it up to top the burgers.

I can rhapsodize about a real tomato all day long—and the perfect BLT that I make when, on the rarest of occasions, I can lay hands on an actual tomato in the desert. My 4-year-old daughter loves tomatoes, too. In fact, she frequently asks for them at the grocery store. I usually say, "no, it’s not time for tomatoes." Which, 9/10ths of the time, is the dang truth.

So when she spied some on the kitchen counter recently, she said excitedly, "Is it TIME for tomatoes??!" And when I said yes, she proceeded to eat one whole, on the spot. “I want to eat tomatoes with things for like, a WEEK," she said. (As everyone knows, a WEEK, in 4-year-old time, is an eternity…)

Was it a real, Kentucky-grown, July garden tomato? Nah. But it was not too shabby for Arizona. It made a decent BLT.

Thing is, for all my vigilance in the seasonal produce department, I often forget that other things have seasons --and off-seasons-- too. Every year, in this May-to-June window, I say, “This is it. This is going to be the year when our summer worship attendance doesn’t fall off, and we will maintain all this momentum, and we will build programs, and nothing will slow down at all…And come August, it will be time to start TWO SERVICES!”

And yeah, every year, I make a liar of myself.

Thing is—it’s not such a bad thing to have times of year when things move a little more slowly. I think the key is to focus intention in these off-seasons. For instance--if we are planning a slower pace, an easier schedule, and a simpler rhythm during the summer months…what will we do with that time? What is our goal in slowing down? Are we doing less, so that the Spirit can do more in us? Or are we just getting lazy? Might seem like a fine line, but there is a difference.

The cluster of stories in the 10th chapter of Luke’s gospel—I call it the "Hear-do-be" trifecta—illustrates the seasonal truth of spiritual growth. The connected narratives of the Parable of the Sower, the Good Samaritan, and the Mary/Martha Moment, remind us that there is a right time for everything: there’s a time to hear God’s word and grow in it; there’s a time for DOING, and living out our faith in tangible ways; and, there’s a time to simply be…enjoying life in the presence of God and community.

It’s summer in Phoenix. It is a THOUSAND degrees in the shade. You can’t go outside. Lots of folks (smart folks) skip town, so regular church-as-we-know-it has to stop until September. Meanwhile, I am getting ready to move my family across the country…in September. Which is to say that NOTHING about my life feels seems to be in the normal rhythm right now.  Mentally, I am everywhere (Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, and, somehow, the beach) while also being exactly nowhere.

So my goal, in this season of soul-crushing heat, and soul-challenging transition, is to enjoy that which is in season. To be fully present the life that is, right now. Because this season—even with its climate-related misery and life-related ambiguity—is a gift. The slower pace and the sacred space remind us that the Spirit’s timing is present, and right, in everything..

Even tomatoes.