I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19).
This January, I took my daughter to school on a cold, gray-and-white wintry day in Minneapolis. As we went down the same street past the same houses we drive by every day, two plastic pink flamingos suddenly caught my eye. There they stood, proudly, even if a little out of place in a snow-covered yard among houses with lingering Christmas decorations.
Perhaps this tropical duo had been there for a while. Or maybe someone had placed this pair of birds in their yard during the coldest days of winter because they wanted a visible symbol of spring. I know just the sight of those festive flamingos brought me joy. I smiled for several minutes, connecting their presence to God’s faithful promise of earth’s renewal.
I started to think about what it means to intentionally “practice spring” and how I could begin doing so that day. Since thoughts of spring make me think of warm sunshine and pretty pastel colors, I discerned, after careful reflection, that one faithful (and fun) decision would be to get a manicure with springtime colors. Before I walked into the nail salon, I’d made up my mind to choose a color that was as out of season as pink flamingos in a Minnesota winter.
As Tina, my nail technician, began to work, I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me who was treating herself to a manicure for a trip to Disney World. Struggling to choose a color, she asked my opinion. I encouraged her: “Choose a color you would never wear!”
We had a lovely chat about family, relationships and careers. Whenever I mention I’m a pastor to someone I’ve just met, the conversation usually takes a brief detour through religion. It turned out that my new “mani-mate,” Sulia, was Jewish. We talked about faith. We talked about justice. We lamented over COVID-19, its variants and ways they have impacted Sulia’s work with the elderly.
Like many of us, Sulia was feeling drained, overwhelmed, weary. She clarified the urgency of her Disney World trip: “Sometimes I just need to see a princess.”
Sulia loves her career and finds it rewarding but, like many of us, was feeling drained, overwhelmed, weary. She clarified the urgency of her Disney World trip: “Sometimes I just need to see a princess.”
A laugh-fest quickly broke out within our conversation and realizations. Between the heart-to-heart, giggles and glam, we realized we had inadvertently chosen the same color for our nails—a brilliant shade of bubblegum pink. I decided to add the same silver sparkle that Sulia had chosen so we could be fingernail twins.
We were two strangers helping each other find joy and hope while reminding each other that practicing spring can be as close as one’s fingertips. God’s promise of new life comes to us in vibrant overtures, quiet whispers and flowering bouquets in between flamingos, fingernails and princesses.
How could you practice spring, Beloved? Looking ahead to God’s promise of renewal helps us today and every day. Your practice can begin while being fully present in the here and now.
March 20 is the first day of spring, and as the days grow warmer and longer, we are reminded, through the prophet Isaiah, of God’s age-old promise “to do a new thing.” When we find ourselves weighed down by whatever our “winter” may be—trauma from COVID-19, depression, divorce, financial distress, illness, isolation or a host of other challenges—please trust in our God who blesses us with springtime.
May you be encouraged with the words from the hymn “As the Winter Days Grow Longer” from All Creation Sings (924):
As we journey through this season,
pilgrims through a thirsty land,
quench us with your living presence;
guide us with your loving hand.
Wandering people, here we gather,
called to rest along our way.
God who blesses earth with springtime,
grant us sabbath joy this day!
Note: I share this story with Sulia’s permission.