On Sunday afternoon when I arrived home from the church, I noticed our backyard looked different. I couldn't put my finger on it, but the difference was instantly noticeable. I chalked it up to my increasing age and a morning of expending quite a bit of energy during worship, and went back inside.
Once inside, I kept asking myself questions, "Was the difference because we have started to clean off the garden? Is it because the elderberry has grown larger and woolier? WHAT. IS. MISSING? " Like a flash it hit me. I took off to our native perennial bed and stood there, staring. Dumfounded. Our bright, seaside teal patio umbrella was missing from its place beside my hammock!
Immediately I went back into the house to ask my spouse if they had done something with the umbrella. They said they had not. I thought maybe someone had stolen it, but who steals a patio umbrella in early autumn, in broad daylight, while people are home? Turns out, no one.
At that moment, I felt a sturdy breeze blow through my hair, and I remembered that I had left the umbrella up over night. Quickly I made my way to the otherside of the house and backyard fence, and found the umbrella upside down, broken beyond repair. It had been plucked up by Mother Nature and set down by the laws of gravity. My heart was heavy, recalling all of the warm summer afternoons I had been shaded by that umbrella. Summer was really over...as over as this broken patio umbrella.
While I don't believe that my patio umbrella had to be plucked up due to some Divine predestination, I do believe that seasons of plucking up are necessary in our lives in order for growth to occur. The writer of Ecclesiastes 3 seems to understand life and the world similarly, as in the first few lines of this chapter they write, "For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up;"
Might it be time to examine what in your life needs to be plucked up? What has been planted in you that is no longer bearing fruit or serving your wellness or your wholeness? Maybe it's the belief that your worth is dependent on how much you hustle for it. Maybe it's the practice of being your own biggest bully in the mirror every morning. Maybe it's your anger or your need for control. Maybe it's your apathy or your resignation that "just getting by" is all you will ever do.
I don't know what it is for you, but what I know for sure is that now, as our natural seasons change, seems like as good a time as any to look at the landscape of our hearts and our lives to see what needs plucking up, and then get to plucking. There will be a time for planting another day. But this is the time to pluck up, to pull up, and make room for whatever's next. This is holy work, and work that can, at times hurt. But I promise you, if we're willing, this work has something to teach us, not just in some next season, but in this season, here and now.
Walking through this season with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.