Posted in Life Lessons, waiting, Word, Writing

The Gentle Gardener

One morning shortly after my divorce, as I woke up, I had this vision. I clearly saw a pair of rugged male hands reaching down, digging in, and clasping together underneath a wilted plant. Actually, the plant was beyond wilted—it was dried by the sun, and what had once been some kind of small growth was now beginning to fly off in the wind. It was that dry. It was almost entirely dead. Its roots, however, were entirely alive. As the hands came down and clasped together, they carefully pulled the plant out of the soil – carefully keeping its roots intact. The “Gentle Gardener” as I have sometimes described the owner of the hands, removed the plant from the ground with the roots sticking out between his loosly clasped fingers. The process of extracting the plant took some time, as the dry ground was caked around the roots. Some digging, pulling, and scraping went on for what seemed like an hour. As the hands lifted together and transported the plant, I noticed the hands, up to the wrists, were now caked with soil and there was dirt caked under his fingernails. Some blood began to pool and dry around a scrape. The gardener was fully invested in this process.

Then the scene in my vision widened out – as in a movie. I noticed that the whole field that the plant had been pulled out of was a dry, cracked land. I would call it parched. Thirsty. What once may have been a field of beautiful wild flowers was now barren.
At this point, I surveyed the entirety of the landscape. I began to have a new realization: I could no longer see the plant, nor the hands, nor the roots – because I was the plant, and I was being intentionally moved. But to where? Suddenly panic set in. What if I fell from this height? Was I destined for the fire pit, the compost pile, or – hold on, what’s this? As the hands came down and I descended, I (now as the plant) peeked over the edge of the hands that carried me. I saw the greenest grass, flowers were budding, new trees danced and swayed, and a bubbling, flowing mane of water caressed the soft curves of the land.
Water! My parched soul rejoiced! But the water did not come to quench me for a long time. Replanting was painful – physically agonizing. As my roots settled into the earth, something strange happened at the surface.
Nothing.
Nothing happened. Not for a long while.
While my roots underneath the surface reestablished a bond with the earth, I remained dry and cracked and thirsty above.

While all around me everything was glorious and full of life, I kept my head down and tried to hide my ugliness.

And then something else happened.

I began to cry.

I began to ugly cry. The kind of tears that run hot and wild. The kind of tears that arrive as a whimper, then become a sob, then a wail. I cried for a season – and then another – and suddenly, I was no longer seeing from the perspective of the flower, but from the viewpoint of the Gentle Gardener. Or was
I? Had I grown to this height?
Yes! I had. He had planted me in the center of his beautiful garden. I had not started as a
seed, but as an acorn. He saw that I had fallen on the side of the fence that did not have the proper environment for growth. Furthermore, I was not watered by the river, but by my own tears. My eyes were so swollen from crying that I did not notice my growth until I had become a glorious Oak. Tall and mighty.
Beautiful and sturdy. Arms outstretched toward the sun. Birds nested in my branches. Squirrels gathered and scattered my acorns. Bunnies frolicked in my shadow. I provided oxygen—I gave life where once I was almost dead.
The last I saw of the hands they were clean and glowing and applauding me.

Perhaps you’re in a dry season. Perhaps you’ve been in this season for a long time. But perhaps it is a season not of dying and thirsting, but of crying and learning and growing. That is where I have been lately: in a crying, learning, growing season. Let me encourage you to trust the Gentle Gardener.
Cry. Let your eyes swell shut if you must – but when the season ends, you’ll find you’re just what you ought to be – glorious, life-giving, quenched. And best of all, your arms will be outstretched toward the sun once more.

Posted in Life Lessons

Ever been THIS tired?

Have you ever been so tired, not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually that you can’t move?

That’s me right now. And if you came here because you saw the title, I’m so sorry you’re that tired. But I’m here to tell you there’s hope for us. Let’s walk through this together.

Yesterday was a beautiful Spring day in North Texas. I took the kids to the Dallas Zoo. I had been waiting all day for a call from a company I’d been interviewing with for exactly 2 months. I’d been through four phone interviews, a writing assessment that required hours of technical research, set up, testing, and writing, and a 5-hour, six person (1 at a time) in-person interview. I’d passed all of that, and as the day went on, my excitement grew. Three and a half long months of waiting and praying was about to be over. I finally got the call and heard the words, “unfortunately, we will not be extending you an offer…blah blah blah…”.

What the heck, dude!

Seriously?

Sigh.

It’s in these moments that it begins. It starts in my gut somewhere and radiates numbness through my core. It feels like stepping into a weighted jumpsuit and trying to walk around.

Last time I felt this was in 2017 when my daughter’s depression and anxiety got the best of her and she spent 10 long nights in a Children’s hospital in a locked ward. Every day I drove the 32 miles from my home to the hospital in downtown Dallas and then back again at night. Crying. Learning about how to help her. Praying she’d be okay. Wondering where I’d gone wrong. Being angry at circumstances that led to her depression. Then 3 more months back and forth 4x a week for therapy. Somewhere in the middle of the second month I found myself ugly crying in front of strangers in a room full of other parents in my situation on the 14th floor of a rehab facility down the hall from her therapy. I was the only single mom there.

Moments like these are just plain hard, and I’d love to tuck myself into bed and wake up to new circumstances on a new day. I imagine you may have felt this way too at some point.

But I have made the choice before a hard season ever comes that I am going to face reality squarely, put on my armor, put on my brave face like I put on makeup, and keep moving forward.

I have found the following things usually help me. If they help you too, that’s great. I say “usually”, because sometimes they don’t help. Or sometimes just one or two of these help.

But I always try.

  • Let my friends and family know I’m stuggling (pick safe people to tell).
  • Find a support group (I choose Celebrate Recovery because it adds group worship, which helps me so much).
  • Pray.
  • Spend time in the Bible (I do this in all seasons. If you don’t have a desire for the Word, ask God to give you a desire for it. This prayer changed my life: “God, help me long for your Word. Amen.”)
  • Take a long drive. Drive time is think-time.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Go for a walk/exercise.
  • Change your environment.
  • Keep things as normal as possible (especially if you have kids).

I’ll find a job soon enough and it will be the right one. My kiddo who I talked about earlier is doing great. She’s better now than before and going great places in her life.

One of my favorite quotes from a Beth Moore Bible study is relevant here:

“We’ll never make it to our milestones if we can’t make it through our moments.”

This, my friend, is just a moment. Keep walking forward. You’re almost there.

Love you,

Melissa

Posted in waiting, Word, Writing

Wait Lifting #3 – Finding Hope to See in the Dark

For the past few weeks I have been immersed in a hands-on education in waiting. I’ve written more on this subject here (Life Lessons – Patience),  here (Waiting Room), here (Learning to Wait), and here (Minding Your Ps [Pauses] and Qs [Quizzes]).

Today I want to write about my latest discovery – how to find hope when you’re waiting in the darkest places.

“Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
My Savior and my God.”
Psalm 42:5

Have you ever been in a really dark place in life? What was it? Write it down, type it out, or just hold it for a moment in your mind.

Got it?

Right now my dark place is a job search.

Do you have your list? Now what? If you’re anything like me, walking through dark places makes me feel a bit lost, lonely, irritated, angry, disappointed.

How do you trust God with disappointment? How do you trust God in the dark? Just how?

As I mentioned, my latest “moment” has been walking through trying to find a job. I have a really great lead right now, but it’s March 10th and this has been ongoing since January 1st. Just how do I avoid depression and hopelessness when the bills continue to go unpaid?

For me, hope is a candle in the dark. When I place my situation and my hope in God’s hands, I can be in the darkest of places and still walk straight ahead as if I could see, because in the darkest times, he leads me.

My grandmother was legally blind. She could only see a couple of inches in front of her. We would go to the grocery store and she would hold products up close to her glasses and read the labels from inches away. But wherever she walked, I would lead her. She never slowed down. We went all over the place – the mall, restaurants, parks, concerts, ballet recitals, the grocery store. I would take her arm gently and she learned to follow me. That meant she had to trust that I was watching for curbs and obstacles in her path. I would say – “Step up, now” or “Curb” or “Steep incline.” When we watched movies or my daughters’ ballet recitals I would tell her what was happening in vivid detail. She never missed a thing (this is partly why you can read my words and feel like you can see what I’m describing – I learned to describe so that even a blind person could see).

And this is what God does with us. When we learn to trust his voice or his direction even when we cannot see the way ahead, we can keep moving forward.

My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.
John 10:27

So trust. Let him lead you by the arm in the dark places. Let him describe in detail what your heart cannot see.

I don’t know what next week’s job interview will bring.

What I DO know is that I’ve followed his voice. I’m letting him lead. I’m trusting that he knows where he’s leading me. I trust that he’s led me to this particular job and through this particular job interview process. I know his voice. I have followed.

I never said it was easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing to trust in what you cannot see. This is faith. THIS is where the Light meets the dark.

Just try this week. Stop. Look. Listen.

Are you waiting because it seems dark, or are you going to trust God to lead you out?

Let me know how it goes.

I’m praying for you.

Love, Melissa

Posted in Love, Poetry, waiting, Writing

I’m not the only one thinking this…

Not all words are meant for publication.

Words like these that come at the urging of melatonin and a cup of chamomile tea usually find their way into my journal, but not onto my blog screen.

Maybe these will. Who knows.

Who knows how to navigate this long, strange corridor of a queen bed for one?

What’s the remedy for how to adequately express the words in my head, aloud, when no one will hear them and laugh or sigh or contribute some of their own?

My journal won’t do. It doesn’t speak or express or feel.

Neither the screen.

Nor the silence around me.

What do you do with a giving, unconditional love no one will receive?

How many years should I keep reaching out in the dark, hoping to find a hand to hold, but none is there?

Perhaps these sleep-aid induced ramblings should file themselves away like good soldiers – single-file – left, right, left – back into my mind.

But for all my questions and inquiries, I know for sure that prayers pass through tissue and brain matter, past heart muscle and wall spackle, and reach the ever ready ears and mind and heart of God.

And I know one day I’ll reach my hand out and find one to receive mine. And I know it won’t be long. And I know without a doubt it will have been worth the wait. And I know the waiting will have prepared me for one who is also praying and hoping and reaching out in the dark for the amazing love stored neatly in the storehouses of my heart.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who ever has these thoughts.

I just know I can’t be the only one…

Posted in waiting

Wait Lifting #2 – Minding Your Ps & Qs

My life lately, it seems, is a series of lessons on how to wait patiently. You can read the first blog in this series here. This week’s edition is about minding your Ps (Pauses) and Qs (Quizzes).

Pauses

Waiting isn’t intended to be a long-term state of being, rather, a pause between things. This being said, most of us tolerate the wait for a ride at the theme park with greater patience than, say, a traffic jam when we’re expected at a big meeting. Eventually the line will move, the traffic will disperse, and the pause will be over. It helps to have something meaningful to do while we pause. Talking to a friend or making friends with the people around us helps bide the time in line. Listening to the radio or a meaningful podcast helps bide the time in traffic.

What awaits us at the end of the pause usually affects how tolerant we are of the delay.

Practice this with your next pause: find something meaningful or productive to do.

Quizzes

I’m also finding that when I think I have mastered my ability to gracefully tolerate a pause, life will throw in a little pop-quiz. When I’ve learned to wait well in one area, something else will happen to cause me to test my waiting skills in another.

You know what these quizzes look like:

  • A layoff
  • A sick kiddo
  • A rescheduled appointment
  • A breakup
  • A class that doesn’t make
  • A job rejection letter
  • A manuscript rejection letter

You can make your own list.

Please notice I didn’t say that God gives these pop-quizzes. I’m sure He has done so at some point(s) in time. I’m just saying these are moments we can use to measure our growth in the art of waiting well.

No one likes to wait for anything. Especially in an online check-in world. But please remember: good things really do come to those who wait. I might as well learn to tolerate the wait well.

Posted in Life Lessons

Junk Drawer Treasures

“God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10

My Junk Drawer

I have a beautiful french-country highboy. It is cream with gold accents. On it sits my TV, two of my favorite hard cover classics, and decor that I change with the seasons. It is my favorite piece of bedroom furniture.

Anyone who walks into my bedroom wants to sit and stay awhile. Conversations intended to last a few minutes tend to stretch beyond an hour. It is peaceful by design. The walls are brushed with the perfect shade of calm. It feels like home.

But please, I’m begging you, please don’t open the highboy’s top drawer.

The top drawer is full of knick-knacks, clothes that don’t fit anymore, and junk.

Making Room

I read recently that the best way to organize a junk drawer is to take out everything you can’t live without, discard everything else, and place the useful things back in the drawer. This is a departure from my usual approach. Usually this cleaning process takes me longer because as I take out and examine what I should be throwing out, I find myself walking down memory lane. An old card from so & so reminds me of days gone by. A trinket from so & so sparks memories (good or bad). But the truth is, it’s really a waste of time to keep looking back or searching through and reading into every single thing. And I find that the more I touch something that I’ve held onto, the more apt I am to keep holding on to it. But when my objective is to clear the clutter and give myself some margin, I need to just let go.

De-cluttering My Heart

I had a conversation with someone recently where they basically said – Melissa, you have an old hurt that you need to move past.

What I realized is that my heart is like that top drawer. My old approach to cleaning out the junk in there hasn’t worked because as I touch each old hurt, I dwell there too long, remember how it hurt, give up, shut the drawer (my heart), and never move forward.

Instead, this time here’s how I approached the wound my friend told me about. I chose to keep what I treasure and throw out the old junk without touching it. It serves no purpose in my life. I need margin more than nostalgia.

And besides, how can I share my heart with someone if they have no room to settle in?

It is time for me to make room.

Something New

“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:18‭-‬19 CSB

It’s time to clear the junk to make room for new treasures.

I’m Spring cleaning my drawers and my heart.

God is doing a new thing.