By: Caryn Tennant It is Spring in Madrid. The vibrant greenery is a stark contrast to the wintry days of January when I arrived. I have been anticipating the heat, longing for the sun to set late so I can run after work and drink vermouth on a summery night. The wait has been worth it! I have never experienced the explosion of flowers and colours in the same way as I have here. My favourite escape is to a nearby park where this growth is particularly imminent. The arid land I remember is now a fertile metropolis encircled every evening by a passing flock of swallows. There is a look-out point in Durban where I saw the swallows leave South Africa in January, days before I went to Spain. Now they are like book-ends as my Spanish chapter draws to a close next month, heading South just before I do. These little winged dodgers and divers are signals to me that all of nature runs its course – in due timing. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” The other thing this park has made me reflect on is the Springtime in my heart, reminding me to be thankful because I know what the converse feels like. Ephesians 3:1 talks about there being a season for everything under the sun. If we don’t like the season we are in, it can be very painful, and no matter how much we wish or pray for it to pass, the reality is that sometimes these things are beyond our control and we have to wait it out. When I was in probably the most challenging season of my life, it helped when I gave it a name. I called it the season of refinement. When I chose to look at it this way, I was able to see the purpose in it. It didn’t take away the pain or the difficulty, but it helped me to persevere. When I didn’t see it like that, I was easily triggered by the fact that this season was not what I wanted it or expected it to be. It felt like I was holding the pieces of a broken picture, my dreams and fears like shards of glass, constantly aware of the sharpness of their presence, yet without the certainty of knowing how they would come together. Now that it’s passed, am I grateful to have been there? Yes. It was a refining time indeed. It showed me what my dreams and fears were made of, but also what I was made of. In the slow discernment process, I could have felt the invitation to forsake the picture and find a new one which is sometimes what we have to do, but when I leaned into prayer, the voice that was quieter and more gentle than any of my anxieties would tell me to stay. It was in constant consultation with God that I knew the waiting and hoping would be worth it. It was also through the trials that I sensed not only my character and convictions grow stronger, but so too the quality of my relationship with God. I had to stop praying for the outcome that I wanted, and I had to start praying for graces to allow me to undergo the process of waiting. It was there that I discovered what St. Ignatius calls ‘indifference’. This term does not mean that we become void of desire and emotionless. It simply means that if we do not get what we hope for, will we still be okay? This helped me to let go of the outcome dictating my day-to-day happiness or my sense of failure if it didn’t work out. It also helped me not to get triggered so much when the picture to which I was clutching started to look different. I grew in trust that no matter what, God was the Commissioner of this project. Although I knew not what it would look like, I held onto the example of Jesus’ promise that in every cross we carry, there will be a resurrection; in every fire, the grass will grow back with new vitality. The Springtime I am grateful for now would never have come if I had not faced those challenges. It was there in the brokenness that I discovered what was truly important and worth fighting for. And it is now, in this period of consolation when I can see the fruit. The clarity I prayed for is sufficient in allowing me to go forward with great joy; and my conviction that was shaped in the heat of the fire. I have a theory that at the end of the day, God’s plan for each of us is not something ‘out there’ to be found. It’s hidden within us and will slowly reveal itself in good time. We are filled with gifts and talents He wants us to share with the world; and living is a process of discovering and developing them. But the most important thing to remember is the purpose for which they are there. I have been filled with deep freedom that none of my gifts are here to simply glorify or satisfy myself. It is something I am learning more with time, but it is a great relief that I don’t have to fight to get to the top or fear that I’m not becoming some great prodigy. The freedom lies in knowing that I must use what God has blessed me with to give to bless the world, and in knowing this, I often end up enjoying and really taking part in the creative process too because my ego doesn’t get in the way as much. What I am called to, what you are called to, however, is to become fully yourself, and that is your path to sainthood. But this isn’t ‘an end of your life’ goal, it’s an invitation in whichever season you are in now, even if it doesn’t look pretty or how you had imagined it. So my question is, what season are you in? Instead of focusing on the outcome alone, can you identify the ways in which God is calling you to a deeper level of trust? What graces can you ask for this season and for today? In the pain of whatever you might be facing, Springtime might feel like a fantasy. Though the peace and joy you long for might feel far away, hold on to the hope that by actively engaging in this season, Spring will come. And when it does, you will be thankful for new life. About the Author Caryn Tennant My inspirations are the smell of croissants, Pope Francis and café interiors. I have had too many hometowns, but I am currently living in Madrid for 6 months before going back to Cape Town. My bucket list includes studying theology, speaking Spanish in Spain (check), marrying my best amigo (soon) and running a half marathon.