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The United States has been gifted with some pretty amazing things over the years. Ever seen the Statue of Liberty? That was a gift from France. Ever seen giant Pandas Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing at Zoo Atlanta? They were a gift from China. (Ever seen that adorable YouTube video of the baby Panda sneezing?! I digress…)

In 1912, the Nation’s capital received a gift from Tokyo, Japan—3,000 cherry blossom trees. And these trees have since become one of the hottest attractions in Washington, D.C., so much so that we host the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Visitors come from far and wide to witness the beauty of the trees in full bloom, posing for photos and shaking trees around the city to “make it rain” blossoms. (So mean!)

This year is special for two reasons. 1) It’s the 100th anniversary of this fabulous gift from Tokyo; and 2) The bloom may come early (and throw an entire city out of whack in the process).

You see, after a mild winter, the weather in this area has been unseasonably warm. I saw daffodils and crabapple trees in full bloom in February! I saw a lady on the Metro wearing a full-length fur coat in 65-degree weather! Things are not normal around here right now. And when it comes to cherry blossoms, we need normal. Scientists predict the short bloom period years in advance, carefully adjusting their predictions as weather patterns change. The average peak bloom date is April 4, but folks around town have been seeing blooms since February.

Eeek! But what about the National Cherry Blossom Festival? What about the hundreds of thousands of tourists that already made travel arrangements to come see the beautiful blooms in late March? What about… my plans?!

Change is not easy. And as I walked around last week taking iPhone photos of daffodils, I realized that I am often not prepared for change—even when it could be a good thing.

Let’s put it this way: I’m a planner. I’m organized. My favorite store is Staples, for goodness’ sake! So, when something on my calendar is “moved” or “crossed out,” it can really throw a wrench into my systematic plans. Unexpected change comes in all shapes and sizes, like missing the morning train, getting a flat tire, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Then there are the things we’ve planned that simply don’t happen, like getting married or having children “by a certain age.”

Do ya hear me, ladies?

Women do it all the time! If I had a dollar for every time I heard “I want to be married by 25,” or “I want three kids by age 35,” I could afford to just go out and buy myself a husband and kids. Don’t get me wrong—I understand the longing. (Trust me! Check out the blog!) But, I don’t understand the pressure to stay on a timeline.

Who says we have to get married in the first place? Who says we have to get married by a certain age? Who says we need to have a certain number of children?

  • Culprit #1: Society. But, really, why listen to a society that is so messed up—a culture that worships celebrities famous for multiple divorces, drug addictions, and crazy antics? Perhaps it’s time we set our standards elsewhere. The Bible is a great place to start.
  • Culprit #2: Our families. Oh, the pressure! If your parents or siblings are pressuring you to get married, I am sorry. It shouldn’t be that way. Take a deep breath, ask them to respect your privacy and your timing, and do your best. (If you’re a pressuring family member, back off already! There are genocides, human trafficking, and war atrocities happening as I type. If your loved one isn’t married yet, it’s okay. Some perspective, please!)
  • Culprit #3: Our biological clocks. Ugh, I hate that term! But, guess what? It ain’t the 20th Century anymore. Women are having babies well into their 40s and 50s, through many means including the beautiful gift of adoption. Open your mind and don’t worry about things that you don’t have to worry about yet.

I say—and this isn’t easy for this self-proclaimed planner—throw away your life schedules! Yes, having goals and setting milestones is healthy. But when it comes to love and marriage, life can’t be penned into a calendar. Love may come early in life and take you by surprise, like this year’s cherry blossoms, or my lovely sister’s marriage at the ripe old age of 19. Or it may come later in life, like I’m hoping for—which will still be a delightful surprise, I’m sure!

You know what? These cherry blossoms remind me of God’s mercy. They keep coming. They are faithful. They are beautiful. As life changes around you—or as you wait for it to change—remember God’s mercy. Remember his provision. Remember his grace. Remember his promise that he “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

~Ruth