Romans 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
We went to Cades Cove this last weekend, a favorite activity for my family. We load up the car with snacks and drinks and all the kids and drive a little over an hour to get there. The rule is as soon as we get to the park’s entrance all cell phones, radio, and tablets are turned off and left off the entire time we are there, which is usually several hours if not a whole day. Inside Cades Cove, we drive the 11-mile loop slowly looking at the scenery and hoping to see wildlife. Most trips we see turkey and deer, along with the park’s horses, squirrels, rabbits, and different types of birds. Some lucky trips we see coyote and black bear. On those trips, we wear it as a badge of honor to have seen a bear and brag about it for at least a week afterward. Two bears or more gets longer bragging rights, of course.
We had not been since last October and were all excited to go. I noticed on the drive in that many things had changed about the landscape. Not major changes, but subtle ones I have come to recognize because we have been there so many times (and never tire of going either). There were several places where the freezing winter had broken free small rock slides, leaving behind barer ground than before. There were lots of trees that had been blown over and needfully chopped up by hardworking park rangers. These events hadn’t stopped life here. In fact, I couldn’t help but noticing that in the barer spots baby, spring-green plants were popping up and flourishing. The fallen trees had opened up canopy space where sunlight filtered in for saplings to suck up. Mushrooms and moss were growing on the dead logs. Life hadn’t disappeared in the rock slides or the dying trees; it had simply changed.
I have been through 33 springs in East Tennessee so far, and I am always without fail surprised each spring by its brilliance. I don’t know how it is possible, but somehow over the gray winter months I forget just how green and bright springtime is inevitably going to be. But it happens every year; one day I step onto the porch and notice that everything looks new and beautiful. I, too, feel new. I take a deep breath of the clear, warmer air and feel the dreary winter scales shaking loose from my eyes. I feel energized and renewed, ready to grow again in the sunny spot that has made for me.
This is not to say I don’t love winter here, because I do, but I really feel that I kind of go into a hibernation of sorts. I have often joked that if I were an animal, I would be a bear: eat until I get fat, hibernate and sleep all winter, and fiercely protect my babies. God understands me as the woman I am, though, and is patient with me in the times when I feel listless and dreary. He reminds me that even in the months when there is less sunlight and we are inside more than out, I can have a feeling of renewal by spending time in meditation with Him. I can push aside fleshly thoughts and enter into a place where God can refresh springtime in my mind, even on the hardest days. I can step into the light He is shining for me, take a deep inhale of His comforting breath, and feel energized and renewed. For that, I am thankful because it means no matter the weather or circumstances I can breathe new life into my day by spending time with Him. The barer spots inside me can be replanted with His energy and begin to flourish again.
(The picture above was taken by me on our October 2015 trip to Cades Cove in the picnic area. Moss, mushrooms, and lichen on a rotting log: “Renewed”)