Gladiolas in the Fall

I have a terrible habit.  I buy plants out of season.  I do this because I’m cheap and I love flowers.  Frankly, it’s a little ridiculous because if I thoughtfully purchased bulbs and flowers at the right time, I would save money and have a beautiful garden.  I know this.

But if you drive by my house right now, you’ll see some mums my in-laws bought me (right flowers for the right season) and behind them, the swords of gladiolus flowers spiking out of my brick planter.  I bought them at Dollar General (another foolish way to waste money is to buy bulbs at the Dollar General) when they were 50% off and planted them several weeks ago when the summer was holding on to September.

As I planted them, I told myself they wouldn’t grow.

Then to my surprise, the sword lilies starting growing.  They kept growing.  They reached respectable heights and then did what plants in the wrong season do: they refused to bloom.

Today I was looking at them and pondering a prayer that my whole parish prays each week.  After Eucharist, we thank God for the Body and Blood of Christ and then say, “Now, send us out into the world to do the work you have given us to do….”  The first Sunday I visited this church four years ago, I wept when we prayed that.  It took me months to be able to say it out loud because I am a woman passionate and completely clear about the work God has given me to do in this world.  The tears would stop the words in my throat as I wrestled with God for two years about how Kentucky figured in to the work He has given me to do.

(The wrestling is done.  The work is still clear.  I remain passionate and walk with a bit of a limp from that wrestling match.)

Back to the gladiolas.  These flowers that are growing but won’t bloom remind me of that prayer because I did not plant them in the soil to do the work they are given to do.  If I had been thinking of the work they have been given, I would have planted them in early spring.  They are meant to bloom but I planted them at the wrong time to do their work.  They essentially can’t do their work through no fault of their own.  (Mea cupla.)

Lately some opportunities have been given to me to do things I love.  But they fail the “work I’ve been given” test.  I actually ask myself most mornings what my work is because I am easily distracted by things I like to do that are not my work.  Loving, caring for and discipling my children is my work during this season.  When I act like they are an impediment to my work, I’m just plain wrong and need an attitude adjustment.  Focusing on building a support team so we can return overseas is my work during this season.  When I delay building important relationships, I fail to do my work.

My husband and I got to share about intentional self-care in marriage at his seminary alma mater this past Monday night.  We shared with a packed house of couples.  We didn’t do it perfectly but it was fun.  Still I question whether it was my work.  Several more opportunities have floated into my inbox and I pray that, although I love what they represent, I will actually choose the work I’ve been given to do.  I can choose to do the work or I can say yes to many things that are lovely but not my work.  I can plant my life in the wrong things at the wrong time, and not blossom as I’m meant to.



4 thoughts on “Gladiolas in the Fall

  1. I love this! I don’t have a lot of regrets during my children’s younger years but I do regret being distracted by the lovely things that looked more like ministry which distracted me from time better spent with my children! Stay strong! You are doing this right!

    • Oh Laura, it’s hard! And so easy to do things that look more like ministry–that’s exactly the right way to put it. I have to continually ask myself if it’s really the work I’ve been given to do or if I’m feeding an ego need. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Such a powerful word, Elizabeth. I feel the intentionality of them in my bones and wonder if there’s a quote that goes in the beginning of our bullet journals as a constant reminder for sifting.

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