Tulips and Rest

As I was preparing to write for this month, I left the window open on my computer with the May writing themes the only words on the page. I like to sit and ponder while I write, but my pondering was interrupted by one of my children. The next morning, I sat down at my desk to these words: “Hehehehe…this is your son hacking this open window.” Oh dear.

Matthew was home for just seven days between finishing his sophomore year at college and leaving to begin his summer job in Alaska. The days passed quickly in a blur as we procured gear, gathered recipes, sorted and packed, and just enjoyed precious time together. His last night home he couldn’t sleep (no surprise) and wrote me a note about what he has heard from me this year that I might consider passing along in my writing, ending with this:

“I hope you aren’t offended by my typing this, I just wanted to send you this little paragraph because I love you so much and think you have the kindest most compassionate heart, and such an amazing gift of extending out from a vulnerable place to share that love with other people via red tent living.”

So Matthew, this one’s for you.

A few years ago, I heard Dan Allender put words to the idea of rest unlike any I have ever heard; words that have settled deep in my soul like they were spoken just for me. At its most simple, he said rest is believing that somewhere in the world there is goodness for me, and I don’t have to make it happen. When I hear or read or speak those words, I feel as if a weight lifts off my chest, finally allowing a deep breath. I am learning how often throughout my days I need to be reminded of the importance of rest…my anxious heart and constantly running mind move in an entirely different direction, ever spinning with all that I need to do and be in order to keep my worst fears from happening.

May is a month of transition: from a relatively quiet house to one that is full with the return of all our kids and their stuff, and their friends, and their late-night philosophical discussions. It is a transition from the rhythm of productivity and schedules to a time of intentional rest and recovery during the summer. Time to simply breathe, to enjoy each other’s company without as many extraneous stressors.

May is also a transition from the gray-brown deadness of late winter to the lushness of spring with green grass, blossoming trees and spring tulips in full bloom. I remember the fall I decided to plant hundreds of tulip bulbs around our yard. They have long been my favorite flower, and I wanted more of their vibrant color than just the few we had lining our front walk. So I loaded up at the greenhouse, and enlisted Chris’ help with digging and tucking them carefully around the borders of our landscaped beds. Once they were planted and watered in, all I had to do was wait. That’s my kind of gardening – low maintenance. The first couple of years I watched, delighted, as the bright blooms burst from the ground after long months of winter. Such beauty and goodness, simply there to enjoy: one of nature’s illustrations of rest and goodness that I didn’t make happen.

UntitledOver the past couple of years however, I’ve noticed larger gaps between flower clusters, whole sections where the tulips have simply disappeared. Perfectly burrowed tunnels running through the beds provided an answer of sorts…some kind of burrowing creature must enjoy feasting on tulip bulbs. I look at the gaps in my flower beds and bemoan the missing plants, spend time and anxious energy worrying about things being out of symmetry, and wonder what plants the pesky rodents will go for next. My mind spins frenetically, moving on from the mutilated flower beds to the areas of my house that are not as organized and put together as they should be to the state of relationships with my friends, realizing their silence means I’ve likely disappointed them to the tension that is present in our family as we all struggle to get used to living together again to…STOP! Literally, I often have to stop the stream of thoughts in my head that seems to take on a life of its own…bearing a striking resemblance to those burrowing, flower-killing rodents.

Rest. Breathe. Goodness. I don’t have to make it happen. I quiet my mind, open my eyes and take in the beauty of the tulips and daffodils and irises and crabapple and cherry blossoms that did manage to bloom, all on their own. I am keeping my eyes open, I want to look each day for something that prompts my heart to still its’ frenzy, to rest and soak in goodness.


Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity.  Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 26 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.