Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Season(s) of a year or life (01/13/11)
TITLE: Ripe Fruit
By Beth Muehlhausen
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On a balmy August day, two women sauntered through the manicured, sun-kissed flower gardens at Pearson’s Nursing Home.
“You have a reputation,” the young university student, Vicki, said to her elderly companion, Kate. “My friends at the campus ministry think you’re a natural-born mentor.”
Kate stopped momentarily and tapped her rubber-tipped cane on the exposed aggregate walkway. “Are you saying I’m popular?” She chuckled and gazed with watery blue eyes into Vicki’s deep brown ones.
“Popular? You’re our grandma! You listen with your heart, don’t jump to conclusions, and counsel without preaching or lecturing.”
“That’s quite a compliment,” Kate replied. “I never had children of my own, you know. You girls mean the world to me.”
Vicki steadied Kate as she gestured with her cane toward thick bunches of daisies and spoke with a hoarse whisper that echoed truths of bygone years. “Daisies have always been my favorite,” she said wistfully. “But as far as being a mentor, well, that hasn’t always been the case.”
“What do you mean?” Vicki questioned.
“Vicki, various seasons of life have brought me to this current one. Lots of people might say I’m in the winter of life, but I’d rather think I’m living in late summer.” She patted Vicki’s arm. “I’m finally bearing fruit. It’s taken a long time, but God has been faithful to me.”
A pair of robins swooped playfully over the garden as Vicki became thoughtful. “You mean the rest of your life - the other seasons - prepared you for this one?”
“Exactly. Too many older people simply exist while waiting to die, but I believe my last years should be the very best – the years that prove I’ve learned some things that just might be worth passing along.”
They walked on and soon were settled on a comfortable wooden bench under a canopied trellis where a friendly statue of St. Francis stood nearby. Kate sighed, positioned her cane so it wouldn’t fall, and took Vicki’s hand in her own.
“Let me tell you a little about my past, honey. My childhood was an autumn time.” Kate crossed her ankles and stared at her feet. “It was bone-chilling. Emotional winds howled like wolves in my heart and soul. Ours was a very dysfunctional family defined by fear, and I spent a lot of time alone. Those years taught me not to trust. Ever.”
“That sounds awful,” Vicki said empathically.
“Actually the harshest time came in my young adult years when all that rotting from childhood produced numbness and dormancy in me: psychological winter. I made poor choices that led to more poor choices during this time. And yet, in the midst of those frigid years I had my first encounters with Jesus.”
Vicki felt herself gasp inwardly, if not obviously. “Really? What was that like?”
“It was … transformational. He patiently, gradually drew me to Himself. I’d been living a sterile, counterfeit life unable to grow and mature, but... “ She paused.
“Yes?” Vicki questioned.
Kate turned to Vicki and squeezed her hand tighter. “Faith changed me, honey. Faith that Jesus was who He said He was, and I was who He said I was. Knowing the truth made all the difference. That was the spring of my life, a spring that lasted for a long time. It took many years for my heart to completely thaw and shed all that frozen stiffness.”
The two sat quietly for a few minutes before Vicki asked, “What about summer?”
Kate smiled. “You know how things grow and mature in the summer? Like these flowers?”
“That’s what happened to me, too. The Lord grew my faith. Sometimes when I found myself wandering in a personal desert, He restored me with greater measures of His mercy and compassion. I learned to accept pain – it is inevitable, you know – and even identify with Him in it. And I was changed.”
“Summer is where you are now?” Vicki pressed.
Kate’s face glowed. “Summer can be a long season, a time when God’s love ripens in the human heart. If there’s one thing I have to share with you and your friends at the university, it is this maturing conviction: hope in Christ is not a wish or yearning, but a promise.”
Vicki sighed, wishing she could reach out and harvest Kate’s ripe fruit for herself. Surely at the right time she would also experience a spiritual summer when she would bear, and share, the same fruit.
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