I love working in my garden while watching a beautiful October sunset change the sky from a burnt orange that reflects gold on fading grass to a brilliant scarlet and finally departs the horizon, leaving it lingering in a violet drape. It is the perfect backdrop for tidying up dying foliage, turning the soil and preparing beds for winter. This time of year a clean garden is almost as satisfying to me as a clean house. I love the beauty of the garden in late summer and early fall when it is ripe with harvest, but after we have filled our pantry with summer’s bounty and a freeze kills most of the plants, then I am ready to clean up and prepare for winter.

There have been several evenings lately when I have had the pleasure of working in my garden while the day draws to a close. In-between pauses to admire the sunset and the transforming colors of autumn, I clean and clear garden beds; then I pile on rich compost – a combination of hay and animal waste that has spent the summer decomposing. Finally, I rake the piles level and leave the bed covered – snug and cozy and ready for winter. Hopefully winter moisture will continue to break down the compost and a final turning in the spring will create a rich foundation for young plants and unopened seeds.

Looking at barren and waste covered beds, I am reminded how often my life feels just as barren and waste covered and it is comforting to know that the God who controls the seasons also has charge over the seasons of my life. Even when I am caught off guard during what appears to be a fruitful season by the equivalent of an early freeze, I am reminded that the One who directs the wind and the waves is also in control of the frost in my life and He is not surprised or shocked when the seasons change and winter winds blow. Looking across a yard covered with falling yellow leaves brings to mind the tree planted by streams of living water which bears its fruit in season.

I am so thankful I serve a loving Heavenly Father who is merciful and remembers that I am dust. He doesn’t need to be reminded of my nature, but sometimes I am the one who needs to be humbled by waste and reminded that even my righteous deeds are as filthy rags. I am the one who needs to be reminded where my roots lie. Just as the picturesque autumn evening and the neatly covered beds fill my heart with delight and gratitude to see the colors of the sunset, to feel the warmth of the sitting sun, and to witness the passing season, sometimes the reminder of my lowly state and the remembrance that I am dust overflows my heart with gratitude for that which I’ve been gracefully given. To remember who I am and the natural nature of my own heart gives me just a glimpse of what I would/could be without Gods loving, merciful, and gracefully restraining hand. It reminds me that I’ve been granted mercy and saved by grace – even my faith is not my own, but has been bestowed that I might trust and rest secure.

I am thankful that seasons change and I am grateful that there is order to life – in each week there are days for work and there is a day for rest and in the same manner there are seasons of growth, seasons of harvest, and seasons of rest. Sometimes I wonder if our hearts also need a barren season; if we need a season of testing and humbling to break down our pride and soften the soil of our hearts so that seeds of compassion and grace can take root; if we need a season to rest and remember. It is so easy to judge the waste that covers piles in other places, on other beds, and in other gardens and forget that the Master Gardener uses waste. He cleans us, redeems us, and then reclaims what we may view as waste for His glory.

Looking back at my empty garden beds, my heart overflows with gratitude for springtime potential in the beautifully barren and waste covered.