I was raised in a west Texas desert, where most everything is colored brown and covered in a layer of dust. Dust is just a nice word for dirt. Dirt was everywhere. Girls wore dresses to school when I was a kid, and recess could be torture, as blowing dirt can pack quite a sting to bare legs.
I live in a greener place now, and by “now” I mean most of the year it’s a greener place—with trees and water and grass. I don’t mean now “now” though—not August. In August, I’m in a desert again—and this year we’re in a full-blown drought. Water wells are going dry right and left. The river barely has the energy to run at all. Tap water is never cooler than lukewarm. Our water is rationed.
When I walked out on my porch this morning, I wasn’t thinking about the things a drought could teach me. My only thought was to get out early—at the very moment the sun offered the tiniest bit of light—before I could talk myself out of it. Oh I knew there would be no escaping sweat, because in Texas in the month of August, to breathe is to sweat.
Oh I despise sweating. On the other hand, I do like breathing, so I put up with it.
On my porch—fully exposed to long, sunny days—there are twenty-one pots of various sizes. This morning, eleven of those pots held dead things. I have to say, I did all I could to will them to live, but in the end they just didn’t want to live another day on that hot porch. Not the tomatoes. Not the rosemary. Not the lavender. I tried to convince the tomatoes if they’d hold on a few more months, they’d thrive again in the fall. They refused. I told the rosemary how much I depended on her to season my foods. Clearly, it was a one-sided relationship.
So this morning my job was the removal of the dead things.
It took me less than thirty minutes to pull them, bag them, and sweep up the residual mess
As I watered the few things that still had some desire to live, I fixed my attention on a lone Zinnia that somehow found its way into a large pot holding an Italian Cypress tree. Zinnias are my favorites, and I easily grow a crop of them every year. This year, however, they failed.
Except this one.
I noticed her as soon as she sprung up green through the soil in a pot where she didn’t belong. I didn’t let her know I was watching. Weeks ago, I pulled her uncooperative relatives from their pots when they failed me, thinking she would likely soon follow their lead.
Instead, she thrived. Amidst pots of dead things and prickly cactus, she produced the most beautiful orange blooms. On my porch now, she’s the clear winner—the bell of the ball—encouraging the other growing things to hang on.
I never intended to learn anything from this ugly old drought, but I did.
And I thought of my friend.
Not very long ago, she had a really bad year. One hard thing would have just resolved itself when another hard thing would happen. Relief was little more than a breath between gasps.
Each time, I would say to God, “Oh come on! That’s enough!”
While I was being impatient with God on her behalf, she was simply asking him to make all of it count for something.
Droughts can do us in or droughts can strengthen our resolve to hold on.
Droughts do not last forever.
Droughts always end with abundant rainfall—rehydrating everything gone dry.
My friend is the brave Zinnia that didn’t give up. She’s the bell of the ball. And when I think of her, she is the most beautiful, vibrant orange—her bold color screaming of God’s faithfulness and goodness—of how the very worst drought can count for something.
The morning turned hot, as I knew it would. I poured myself a big glass of water and admired my lone Zinnia. I heard there was rain in the forecast.
Either way. Rain or no rain. It will somehow work out okay.