Today, I want to ponder WITH you. I have sat with this for days, and I simply cannot quite untangle it. So, I decided to try something different. I am going to write a blog with alternate endings. I will let you pick which take away is the one for you. I would love your feedback on this.
When we first bought our house, it had been a rental for several years. It was so cute, but so basic. Nobody had done much to make it unique. All I saw was a blank canvas and that's my favorite place to start. One of the first things you saw when you drove up was a massive gardenia bush, overhanging the sidewalk to the front door, it was extra obvious because there were basically no other plants in the pitiful flower beds. We bought our house in November. As we did the walk-through with the inspector, he broke a lone gardenia bloom off the bush and gave it to me. He told me it was special to still see a flower that late in the year. It must be the house welcoming us.
In the spring, we grabbed some shovels and set out to make our house a Southern Living home. The first thing we decided to do was try and move the gardenia bush to the back yard. I should clarify that we had no idea what we were doing, although that will soon become REAL obvious....It was huge and we were poor. Our logic was we could move it, and it would offer a little shade on our blazing hot concrete slab patio. Easy, peasy. So we dug...and dug...and dug... When that didn't work, we grabbed a rope and hooked it to Brad's truck. I drove, he shoveled. It took a hot minute, but we finally uprooted her. Then we did the only logical redneck thing. We drug/drove her to the backyard. Until we got stuck in the mud. Like stuck, stuck....on the edge of a sharp drop off in our back yard. At this point, we had managed to tear up our entire yard, win the opportunity to share a car for a few days, and made zero actual things better. There was only one way to celebrate our not so Southern Living weekend....go eat Mexican and plan to try again after it dried out some next weekend...Bless our hearts.
The next weekend, everything had dried out enough that we were finally able to drag the bush to the hole Tica (our Siberian Husky) had helped us dig. When the gardenia bush not only lived, but bloomed that year we high-fived ourselves and decided we were clearly horticulturalists.
Fast forward 15 years. We have done a lot of work in our backyard over the years. It has evolved from a single concrete pad to our absolute favorite space. When Brad gave me a swing for my birthday, we couldn't quite figure out where to put it.
(here is the link to that blog)
One day we were sitting on our patio when Brad said "I have a crazy idea....The most level part of our yard is right here, where the gardenia is. What if we moved it again and built a place for the swing here." This idea launched a 6 month project that completely changed our back yard into our oasis. It was genius, but it was SO MUCH WORK. Of course it would be DIY, because we are nothing if not cheap. Plus we really do love a project.
The first job was to dig up the gardenia....again. We did it knowing that the chances of it surviving a second transfer were not huge, so we planned to just let it go. It is ok to let good things go to make room for great things. Brad realized we would need help, so he called some friends. I could regale you with stories of what happened....It was ridiculous and disgusting and yet somehow tons of fun. Let's just sum it up by saying when we planted things, we literally did not even take into account that they would actually grow, so we planted them right where they looked cute at their current size. In the gardenia's case that apparently was 2 steps from making us a treehouse. We also planted it right beside this unseemly white PVC pipe, and never considered what it's purpose was. It took 2 electric wenches, four men, and lots of engineering to finally rip her from her home. We spent the next several days repairing the damage it did to our sewage plumbing (that pesky PVC pipe), the foundation of our house, and for a solid 4 hours we got to process what we would do if the plumber had to go through our bathroom floor to fix the damage...
Once those mighty roots finally released from the ground, the guys drug her to the side of the yard, fell down in exhaustion, and just looked at her. She was massive and so heavy. Jon finally said "I don't know about you guys (he's not southern...), but I say we dig a hole right here, and hope for the best". So they did.
When the first sign of leaves started to unfurl on the gardenia bush, twice relocated, very negligibly tended to, I sent everyone a text. "You aren't going to believe it, but the gardenia bush has a leaf".
Here is Pondering Option #1:
This week, I looked at the gardenia and bless its heart. It has a few blooms. It is clearly still not fully healthy. It has been in it's new home less than a year and yet, in the proper season, it blooms. As a world, we have all gone through a shock similar to my gardenia. We have been traumatized to our very roots. Everything is new, everything is different, everything has changed, yet something deep within us pulls us to return to normal. It came out of nowhere and shocked every part of our system. Yet our natural instinct ensures that we will still blossom, even when we've been through such a traumatic thing. It's in our nature. We get to trust that we will bloom again, that our kids will bloom again.
Pondering Option #2:
Why is it that when we have been through a traumatic experience and are clearly still unhealthy that we feel the pressure to still produce blooms? Why do we use precious resources and energy to produce flowers when we really need to take some time to tend to our roots? Why can we not just give ourselves the freedom to take some time off from being external producers and tend to our deep, inner need for healing?
I think this blog has alternate endings because they are both ok. For some of us, producing a flower gives us the tangible hope that we will be ok. It puts gas in our tanks to fight discouragement or hopelessness. For some of us, the pressure to produce externally right now drains us. It takes all of our precious energy and it is in our best interest to just not. What if we were honest with ourselves and stopped comparing? What if we were honest with ourselves about the motivation. Is it healthier for me to be productive right now or to be still? Is it wise for me to work and create, or is it wise for me to process my heart?
I have experienced both during the pandemic. I left for a mission trip to Africa and the world literally changed mid flight. We went through a lot to get home, and when I finally had a 'new normal' day, all I saw was other moms doing super fun crafts, elaborate sidewalk chalk projects, and I just couldn't. It was all I could do to figure out quarantine school and make sure we had toilet paper. I felt like such a failure. But I knew I had to be still or I wouldn't make it. I had to let my mind process all the things and if I didn't allow myself the space to become healthy, there wasn't enough pinterest ideas in the world to fake it. I also didn't want to fake it. I wanted to be ok--really ok. So I laid in the hammock. I let my house get messy. I prayed a lot. I read a lot. I journaled a lot. Until I was ready to produce flowers again. Isn't it beautiful that when I was ready to paint, the first thing God inspired me to paint was a flowers series? That just hit me. After I slowed down for the Lord to heal my roots, I was ready to clean out, to organize, to laugh. I think it is ok to not expect yourself to produce flowers for a hot minute. It's ok to tend to your roots. (Make sure you are actually tending to them and not just being sad). There will hopefully never be an experience like this again in our lifetime. It's ok to need to be still and process things.
So where are you in your transplant process? Are you forcing blooms when you need to let yourself off the hook for a season? Are you producing flowers because it's helpful for you to see external results? Does it give you hope that things will be normal and pretty again? I am so ready for the goodness of normal to return again. Like you, I hope we are able to open back up soon and this will all be behind us. However, don't miss this chance to be still with Jesus and work on some things in your heart. When this pandemic is in our history, how will we have used the time to be healthy in all the ways?