We have an acorn problem. That is a total understatement. We are currently being held hostage by a number of acorns I previously did not believe was possible to be shed from one oak tree. The sky is literally falling. After a few months of scratching our heads and wondering if our beautiful oak trees were actually in their final death throes, my husband sought the advice of Google and found the answer: our trees are in a mast year. This is both bad and good news. The bad news is there is no end in sight for a while. Our lives will continue to be a cacophony of pops and bangs on our roof and bumps and thumps on our heads for the better part of this year. The good news is the trees are not dying and will most likely come back bigger and healthier next year.
As my husband read aloud to me all that entails a mast year, I realized he might as well have been reading whole chunks of my journal. It seems during a mast year, a tree will shed an exponentially larger volume of seeds, fruit, or whatever it typically bursts out of its branches. In the case of our oak trees it’s an exorbitant amount of acorns. In my life lately, it’s an exorbitant amount of, what I’m affectionately calling, a beautiful disaster.
This year I made a promise to myself to pursue some new goals: I’m attempting to go back to work again after spending five years at home with my son. I’m diving headfirst into a pool of emotional demons and with the help of a counselor I’m laying them to rest one by one. I’ve been more vulnerable and honest in my relationship with God than I have been in my 30 years of calling myself a follower of Jesus. And every single one of my attempts to scale these new heights has been met with some version of perceived failure. All have been harder than I thought. All have led me to times of great grieving and sorrow. And all have led me to times of great celebration and joy. In short, I am shedding acorns left and right and it hurts. The mast year has elements of loss even if it is in hopes of healthier years to follow. The acorns laying on the ground seem, at first glance, to be evidence of death and sickness, and in my life, as my own acorns shed out of me, it has felt like failure and has felt disastrous. But there is beauty in the disaster. The failure is not actually failure. The mast year does not bring death or even sickness to the tree. Rather it brings an abundance of health, and its purpose is farther reaching than for the one oak tree.
As the acorns have been falling, I’ve been watching the birds and squirrels in our yard pack on the pounds! This mast year is a jackpot for them! As the oak tree experiences loss, the animals around it experience great gain. The earth also gains from the mast year. The heavy layer of acorns now covering it will ultimately decompose into fertilizer for the soil, enriching it and bringing new life to it.
I am seeing the same to be true of my life. When I began this year and set these new goals, I invited in the people I trusted the most. And when new jobs didn’t come flying in my direction, when counseling became painful, and when my relationship with God seemed to hit an unyielding and unmovable wall, those people were witnesses to my disaster. I found myself embarrassed, humiliated, and fighting back shame left and right. But my people didn’t laugh at me and mock me. They didn’t even feel sorry for me. Instead my failures were beautiful to them. My failures allowed them to share their own heartaches and their own disasters with me. My mast year fed them and nourished them. It brought them life, and it’s bringing me back to life as well.
My mast year has forced me to view success differently. I’ve had to redefine the wins, view failures as small setbacks and not life-altering cataclysmic events. I’ve needed to lean on my community harder than I have before, and I’ve learned that the God I serve does not care one iota about my successes or my failures. His mercies are new every day and his grace is infinite in the face of my shortcomings. Even though I thought my mast year might bankrupt me and leave me sick and dying, it has given back to me more than it took. My acorns- those beautiful disasters- were a small sacrifice to pay for the wealth of healing and growth the mast year brought.