God’s Arranging of the Seasons: Flowers and Natural Beauty Highlight Gift of the Present Moment

COMMENTARY: A glimpse behind the fourth installment of the ‘Theology of Home’ book series

‘Theology of Home IV: Arranging the Seasons’ showcases seasonal beauty at home.
‘Theology of Home IV: Arranging the Seasons’ showcases seasonal beauty at home. (photo: Emily Malloy photos)

I could hardly believe my eyes as I strolled through the gardens. Though the hot August sun beat mercilessly against my brow, my eyes were not deceiving me: the roses that were completely crushed by fallen trees several months ago were miraculously blooming! I sprinted back to the house to grab pruning shears to harvest these flowers and get to work arranging and photographing.

Oh, the stories books could tell! Well, I suppose that it is obvious that books tell stories, as that is their sole purpose. However, it is so often that the stories we treasure possess unwritten stories about their making.

We often are compelled by behind-the-scenes glimpses of our favorite films or television shows. Blooper reels and actors’ “insider” interviews are greatly sought-out features. But what about the books we read? What stories could they tell? Movies like Becoming Jane draw us in (and in that case, a story that blends supposition with fact) because of our curiosity of the process. While equally intriguing as filmmaking, the book-writing journey, however, remains untold.

Think of this, therefore, as the epilogue of the epilogue; the postscript that did not make the book Theology of Home IV: Arranging the Seasons.

As many readers have found in the Theology of Home book series, it is in the four walls of home that we spend our days preparing ourselves for eternity, and, as such, today and eternity touch. It is a unique period, the present. Contained within each installment is an overarching theme within which this reality is lived out. The latest volume of Theology of Home, bearing the subtitle Arranging the Seasons, bridges the two wondrous aspects of home: house and garden. Within the pages of this book is a chronicling of the small stories told by nature each month that come together to tell a magnificent tale over the course of a year. This collection of stories has its own stories to tell, of moments containing agony or ecstasy, often stemming from the same points of origin. But, at the heart, it tells of the simple beauty of the garden that can only be found in the moment.

Many ask how I feel as my first book is hot off the press. Comments of hard work and senses of accomplishment are made. They are not wrong. Growing, arranging, shooting and writing took a great amount of work, and I would be remiss to not mention my feeling of satisfaction at the project’s completion. However, the joy I feel in this moment is a result of the awe I have for God in his wisdom and all that he revealed throughout the year.

I embarked upon the journey of writing Arranging the Seasons during the Christmas Octave. It was Carrie Gress who had the idea of writing a book chronicling flowers throughout the year through a Theology of Home lens. But it was God who revealed the realities of his ordaining the progression of the months and seasons and all that they bring. The greatest lesson provided by nature is the gift of the present moment in daily life. Various regions have differing seasons, notwithstanding. And some regions have seasons with very little variance from one month to the next. However, no matter where you live, each season has its hallmarks that differentiate it from the last and prepare you for the next. The rhythm of the seasons instructs us on the progression of time in the human story. Yet in all this movement of time, whether it be progressive or repetitive in nature, we are reminded that God is constant.

We can abstractly think of God the Father and his designs in creation with his hands upon the world within the biblical context: at creation or the Flood. As a result of his gentlemanly nature, God quietly works to ensure that all on earth works according to his purpose. In the calm, normal progression of life, it is easy to overlook God’s gentle hand in the garden. But as with all things in life, his consoling presence is most apparent amid hardship when we are startled out of complacency.

I anxiously watched the real-time reporting of the weather as tornadoes were touching down on the other side of the river, only a few miles away. The sky took on an ominous shade of purple I didn’t know was possible. I closed the closet doors in haste with my kids insulated on the other side of them, while the wind moaned and recklessly tore through the property, taking with it seven huge trees. I write about this storm in the book, but some of the reality of the storm remained unwritten, until now. One of the large oak trees crushed a garden bed that I had planted for the book and had just begun to show signs of growth. Roses I had carefully chosen and planted as bareroots lay in ruin under the weight of the massive tree. Though I could now access previously unreachable wisteria with the crashing of the tree, my heart was broken as my roses were destroyed. As the fragments of tree were carried away, some growth of these rose bushes returned, though small.

Yet when I needed them, my roses miraculously bloomed in time.

There was constant temptation to move beyond the present to complete the next season or task that often seemed to loom as deadlines drew nigh. I came to realize through my own anxieties of wanting to accelerate beyond the present to tackle tomorrow, I was missing the unrepeatable mercy to be found in the moment.

The truth of the matter is that God was there endlessly in the process, quietly whispering and reminding me that all things, in the natural world and in life, work according to his purpose. Taking nearly the course of a year to write the book was exceedingly helpful in shaping the soul of the text. It would have been simpler (in many ways) to place an order with a wholesaler for the various flowers found in each season to complete all the arrangements. But, no, it was only right that this book be lived in real time as it was written.

At the crux of the Theology of Home IV: Arranging the Seasons lies the reminder of the simple beauty existing in the everyday that can be recognized through a posture of recollection. As beauty penetrates the heart that is otherwise preoccupied, the presence of God, the source of all that is beautiful, becomes apparent. As we are reminded that all our circumstances work according to his purpose, we grow in endurance and faith. I experienced in a new way the fruitfulness of the patience I tried to convey to others. I deeply recognized, in real time, the fragility of life in the garden, making it even more beautiful.

The gifts of today are for the present moment. The roses that once lied in ruin miraculously bloomed as a consoling reminder that God is the master gardener. In the end, I was able to create an arrangement of the various white roses, but all in God’s perfect timing. Amidst the self-imposed pressure for the garden to grow and thrive, I was given the opportunity to do the same.

As I write in Arranging the Seasons,

“The world is a garden created for you to bask in and be loved. It is a place of cooperation and wonder. It is where you find the love note written to you from the Creator of the universe who formed you in His likeness and viewed your splendor as the pinnacle of creation.”