I was seated in the doctor's office, waiting to get some lab work done. It was early morning, and they had just turned on the TV in the far corner of the room. A very popular local weatherman was giving his version of the day ahead.

"The growing season has ended," the weatherman said. The woman seated next to me remarked, "I stopped growing a long time ago. In fact, I seem to be dying slowly."

Oh, perhaps she was just joking. Many of us seem to do that. You know, we make sarcastic, negative comments about ourselves in the course of a conversation with a friend or coworker. It all seems harmless. For the most part it is. I believe it is even a bit healthy to be able to poke fun at ourselves. But that all depends on how we truly see ourselves.

Much like the person who thinks too highly of himself and comes off as self-centered and egotistical, people who are constantly putting themselves down not only have poor mental health but are scorning the wonderful work God has begun in them.

After hearing this gentle woman express her lack of surprise that the "growing season had ended," I thought I'd better probe her a bit more to see if I could leave behind a speck of hope and a ounce of potential.

"That's just weatherman talk to tell us that the first frost of the season has occurred. Usually that means delicate plants and flowers left outside have been frozen last night. He's wrong," I said.

She smiled and said, "Oh, come on. The weatherman is never wrong." We both laughed at that thought.

"As for the flowers, I found many around my deck this morning that just didn't get the news.”

"They survived the frost?" she asked.

"Well, let's just say that no one told them to fall over dead yet. Not only did that include the hearty plants, but many of the delicate ones slumped their heads, but the sunshine reminded them that life goes on," I told her.

Then I opened the door of this conversation to hear a little more about her own attitude. "So has the frost killed your spirit a bit?"

"Not fully. But my life has been filled with so many challenges lately that I believe God was saying ‘Stay right there. You can't grow any more,’" she said, slumping into her chair. "My friends have been telling me this for a while now. ‘You are just not meant to be that successful!’" they tell me."

"Well, you know how to correct that, don't you?" I asked.

"No, I wish I did."

"Get new friends!" I told her.

We laughed a bit more, and I added, "The flowers around my deck were absolutely beautiful this year. My wife and I created a spot in our yard where we could get away from the ugly things that sometimes drag us down. If you surround yourself with negativity and ugliness, you become a part of that environment. You begin to accept what that environment is reflecting on you and what you are hearing.

“I think people are a lot like flowers,” I continued, “except for one thing. We, too, were created to fully blossom, to add beauty to the world. But flowers have a limited growing season. On the other hand, people sometimes choose to stop before their time. They buy into the mid-life thing, the old-age image that the world hands them, and they begin to die slowly.  

“In the right environment, flowers would continue to grow. As humans we have the choice to change the environment that is smothering our growth. We can put ourselves in a positive place and surround ourselves with things that build us up. We can add to our lives rather than accept a slow death."

"So the answer is to move south?" she asked sarcastically.

"No, mum's the word," I said, laughing. "The mums in my garden will live long into the fall. They begin to grow late in the season but outlive many other plants. That's how I see my own life now. Live more like a mum or a crocus, which pops its head up through the frozen landscape, declaring an end to the dark, wintry days."

"I guess I need to be more like the mum," she said, smiling. "I'm no spring flower!"

"I can certainly relate to that," I said.

"I'll tell my friends they’re wrong," she said.

"You could just show them. Begin to bloom late in life. Become all you were created to be. You won't have to say a thing. Remember...mum’s the word!"

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