When It Comes To Loss

He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.”

Deuteronomy 32:10 ESV

I have a bonsai that I treasure. I started it from a seed, and although that was probably a year ago, it is still not very big. This bonsai is called a desert rose, and someday will have beautiful blooms when it is in season. Thus far, it has only grown leaves, but they are shiny and smooth, and very pleasant to the eye. Over the course of the last several months, it has dropped its leaves many times. At times I was fearful that I would lose this plant that is so special to me, but with the right care, I was able to bring it back to full health each time. After this happened many times, I found out that desert rose bonsais hibernate when the weather is bad – dropping their leaves in order to survive what would otherwise destroy them. But as soon as conditions became conducive again, it would put out more leaves.

Over the course of the last several months, I have experienced a lot of loss myself. At first it was devastating, reaching a point where a broken fan made me weep. It was when we were moving out of the shelter into our own apartment. We had very few belongings while living in the shelter, but I had purchased the fan for the room we shared because we lived above the kitchen, and it got very hot in our room once winter began and the building’s heaters were on full force. The night we left the shelter for the last time, I had the fan and a few other belongings stacked on a small cart and was pushing it out to my car. The fan was not balanced well enough and tumbled to the ground. When I realized that it was well and truly broken, I felt all of the loss of the three months before slam into me like a wave in a turbulent ocean. I put the few belongings from the cart in to the back of my car and then I sat down in the front seat and wept. To be honest, it was a full blown panic attack. Because it wasn’t really the fan I was weeping over. It was the loss of the life that I knew, the loss of the innocence I had maintained in my naivety of how the world works, the loss of nearly sixteen years of my life. It was a reminder that no matter how positive I tried to keep my attitude, no matter how determined I was to overcome every obstacle, no matter how hard I worked to make life as normal as possible, I was not in control of any of it. But being broken like that made so many things easier from that point on. Once I finally realized it was all out of my control, I was able to surrender and truly begin to trust in God and what He was making out of my life. I began to see my life as the beginnings of a stained glass window – in order to become a beautiful piece of art for His light to shine through, my life first had to be broken.

The process of breaking hurts. It is a stabbing, stinging, shattering thing that you are surprised to discover you’ve survived when you look back on it. And many times we try to find a way to patch ourselves up – to get ourselves back to “normal”. But God is not calling us to be normal. Normal doesn’t change the world.

The Scripture at the beginning of the post is beautiful to me. It was a promise God made to the Israelites – His chosen people – after they had left Egypt, but before they made it to the Promised Land. He promised His people that He would love them and take care of them, even though He knew they would behave like spoiled, demanding children. There were consequences for their bad decisions, and many even died as the result of their sins, but God was always faithful to them. He was always ready and waiting to bless them once they returned to Him. He was there for them when their enemies threatened and attacked, and He fed them when there was no food to be found. He guided their every step and protected them from enemies and elements.

“He found him…in the howling waste of the wilderness….”

I feel this phrase in the depths of my soul. I have been in the midst of the howling waste. I have been buffeted by winds and waves and lashed by flying debris. And every time, I felt God’s strong hands surrounding me, lifting me up. Not out. Up. He didn’t rescue me from every situation, but He held me steady as I made my way through.

Almost everything I have lost, He has replaced. And the things He has not yet replaced, I believe that He eventually will. I don’t have it all together, but I know He does, and I choose to trust in Him.

I visited a friend’s church this morning, and they sang a song that resonated within me. I had heard it before, but today, it was an anthem declared from every fiber of my being.

If you are facing loss, are in the midst of it, or are close with someone in either situation, please know that this is not the end. And even if it feels like God is far away, know that I have been in your shoes, and I can promise you from experience that God is right with you, He loves you, and He will continue to meet your needs. It may not look like what you expect, but it will be what is best for you in the long run. Like a great artist, God can see the finished product and knows what needs to happen in order for you to reach completion. If you don’t have enough faith right now, rest on mine until you can find yours again.

Planting Reality

Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.

Earl Nightingale

Many of us have heard the popular catchphrase “what you think about, you bring about.” It seems so trite to me – like a bossy older sibling talking down to you from their place of supposed superiority. Not that I know what that feels like from experience; I am the older sibling.

Regardless of my thoughts about the tone of the phrase, I find it to be valid in my life. If I believe it’s going to be a bad day, my brain will be constantly scanning for the negative. That said, I do not believe that it is true one hundred percent of the time. I can believe it’s going to be a good day and be proven wrong. This would be where a few radical people would step in and say that I could choose for it to be a good day anyway. I disagree.

I remember sitting in youth group one Wednesday night, listening to a guest speaker. She was beautiful, which made her message even more believable to an impressionable teenager like myself. She was sharing how after a certain point in her life (in which she had had some sort of Divine experience), she no longer had bad days. That she was able to continually choose that each day was a good day because Jesus was her best friend.

Whoa, wait a minute. I am about to say something that some of you might find controversial. But I politely request you continue reading with an open mind before you make a judgment. You might find that we do agree afterall.

Having Jesus as your best friend/Savior/Lord/Master, etc., does not make every day a good day.

Say what? It’s true. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt have a good day, everyday.” Nowhere does it proclaim that your glass must be half full (or half empty if it’s full of something nasty).

We are not called to be eternal optimists.

For some of you, this is probably hard to agree with. For others, the chains are loosening, and long-buried hope is struggling against the dark soil of your struggle.

But what about salvation? The promise of heaven? The end to our present suffering? Joy unspeakable?

I think the What Would Jesus Do? movement of the 90’s can help us figure this one out.

In John 11, Jesus received word that one of His dear friends (Lazarus) was dying. Scripture made it clear that Jesus loved Lazarus, along with his sisters Mary and Martha, very much. Despite this love, He chose to stay where He was for two more days, saying, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” After a few days, He told the disciples that it was time to go, that Lazarus was dead.

When they arrived, Jesus talked with Martha. Even though Lazarus had been dead four days, He told her that Lazarus would rise again. He then met with Mary, and was “deeply moved” at her weeping.

Let’s pause for just a second. Jesus knew from the beginning that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Okay, back to the story.

Jesus allowed his friends to lead Him to the tomb where Lazarus lay, and knowing He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead just moments later, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Read that again. “Jesus wept.”

He did not plaster a big smile on His face and act all cheery. There are two lessons in this: 1) Real friends grieve with their friends. They don’t pretend everything is peachy and tell their friends to “look on the bright side.” 2) It’s okay to weep, to be sad, to be angry. I won’t belabor this point because I wrote another post about this a while back.

As friends, we can usually see the bright side to someone else’s problem. As the person with the problem, sometimes we can see it too. Jesus didn’t just see the bright side, He was the bright side. But still He cried over the loss of His friend and the pain Lazarus’ friends and family members were experiencing.

So now that the pressure to be Positive Patty (no offense, Patty) all the time is invalid and unnecessary, what do we do with the whole thoughts become reality thing?

What are your dreams? What are you passionate about? What do you want to do that you are not sure you can do? (Realistically – even if we had the ability to fly, mythology makes it clear it’s probably a bad idea.)

We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. It’s been twenty years since you graduated from high school and you want to go back to school to pursue a degree in a field you are passionate about? You can do it. As Mr. Nightingale said above, “nourish with repetition and emotion.” Do things that promote that dream. Even if they are tiny things, like researching the differences between online and physical college classes. Find blogs, videos on YouTube, Pins on Pinterest that motivate you to step out of your comfort zone. And then keep building.

One other aspect I want to touch on quickly is when we do need to look on the bright side. That’s when we start to wallow. You know, the woe is me, my life is over, things will never get better pit that we all seem to get stuck in at least once or twice in our lives.

Feelings are healthy. Feelings are not choices. Our choices come in when we choose how we will respond to our feelings. And as I have written in the past, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and feeling our feelings. But we can’t just sit there forever.

Life is not easy. It’s time to stop pretending it is.

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

Wesley, The Princess Bride (written by William Goldman)

Because I Can

Unless you are new to this blog, you have already learned that I love plants. Both of my thumbs (and probably my big toes) are green, and I have living, green things throughout my apartment. I often find clearanced out plants at Lowe’s – and occasionally Walmart – that are nearly dead, buy them super cheap, clean them up, and then love them back to life. I have done this so many times that my mom has taken to calling me the “Plant Doctor.” I laugh when she does, but she’s not really wrong. Between research and experimenting, I have successfully brought back many plants over the years.

This passion of mine is a lot of fun, but it holds deeper meaning for me as well. My life has been full of ups and downs, and sometimes I feel I can relate to some of these plants.

I can’t tell you how many times my life has taken an unexpected turn. I can’t tell you how many times I have found my hope nearly destroyed by events and experiences I’ve lived through. But every single time, God has picked me up, cleaned me off, and transplanted me so I have room to grow. It’s a painful experience, but each time it’s been worth the tears and struggle.

And so yes, I can relate. But even that is not the primary focus of what I want to write about today.

Before I left an extremely unhealthy situation, I struggled with ridiculous anxiety. I don’t mean that I felt nervous or a little stressed. I mean I had increasingly regular panic attacks, the unknown terrified me, I struggled with trusting anyone, and functioning like a “normal” adult was a challenge. Many days it was a challenge I couldn’t rise to. Thankfully, God brought me out of a bad situation, and within six months, I went from almost crippling anxiety to almost none at all.

This is what I want to talk about. Not the anxiety itself – it’s all over the news and social media these days, you don’t need me to tell you what it looks like – but one basic step to help yourself deal with it until it passes. I’m not going to tell you to pray about it, because hopefully you already are. I am going to give you this one thing you can do to keep fighting for your mind – maybe even your life.

So what is this one thing? That’s up to you.

Oh geez, Misty, that’s helpful.

No, it really is. You find one thing that you can do. I don’t care if it’s as simple as turning on a light, opening the blinds or a window, or reading five words on a page. Find that one thing that you can commit to yourself that you will do each day. When you are ready, feel free to add another, but for now, be content with one.

Even if you don’t struggle with severe anxiety, this can be applied to your life as well. Currently, I find myself with too many goals and too little time. I was alone this weekend and apart from working out with some new friends first thing in the morning, I had all day to myself yesterday. I had so many projects I wanted to get done, but I knew that I couldn’t do them all. I could have allowed my feelings of being overwhelmed convince me to take a nap and not do any of it, but instead, I chose one thing I could do. I transplanted, pruned, and watered all of my plants. I threw away what was dead (the dead stuff can drain the life out of what’s living), and rearranged what was left so that each plant was getting the light it needs. Some of my plants were new – I found a few plants on clearance at Lowe’s the night before (a couple of them were as low as fifty cents!) – and they needed the most work.

When I was done, I had a big mess in my kitchen. There were dead leaves and dirt all over my floor! I needed a break, so I took one. And then I felt exhausted because I hadn’t slept much at all the night before, got up early to do an intense workout, and then worked for a few hours on my plants. So I took a nap. Yes, I left the dirt on my floor. I was the only one home, and I needed to rest.

But don’t worry, I swept my floor and mopped it a few hours later.

It’s about finding what you can do, doing it, and taking breaks when you need to.

In the past, I have pushed through and completed a lot of things all at once. But then I felt so exhausted the next few days that it killed my motivation to do anything else. Finding that balance is what is important.

And so sometimes, I work on plants because I can.

Sow Light

When my oldest daughter was six, she referred to Good Friday as “Black Friday”. And even though I know why we call it Good, her name for it often seems far more accurate.

Think about it from the perspective of the disciples. Jesus had told them that He would rise again, but so many things He had taught while on earth were in the form of parables – which had deeper meaning than what they seemed to at face value. It would be easy to believe that perhaps Jesus had meant something else other than literal resurrection – especially as one day stretched to two, and two to three.

Even had they known for certain that Jesus was being literal when He spoke of his return to life, it’s easy to wonder if we are remembering correctly when things don’t come to pass as quickly as we expect.

I was just sharing with a friend that there were things prophesied over me before I was even expecting my oldest daughter – who will be fourteen in August – that have yet to come to pass. Over the years, and especially over the last three, I have often wondered if it was simply emotion ruling both the people prophesying over me as well as myself. Other dreams that God placed directly in my heart seemed absolutely impossible from day one. But as things have changed over the last seven months, I am now seeing ways that God is opening up for these dreams and prophecies. God can open any door, even if it appears locked and barred to me.

For many people, Good Friday is easy to celebrate. Jesus died and rose again over two thousand years ago. We know the end of that part of the story. We don’t have to experience the agony of waiting and wondering what will happen next.

For others, it’s still a challenge. Yes, we know that Jesus died and rose again, but many are still waiting for their three days to be over. And those three days could be three months or fifteen years. I don’t know about you, but I am not good at waiting. Add in stress, pain, and the unknown, and the waiting becomes even more difficult.

But the truth is that although Jesus died and the three days that followed were excruciating for most – if not all – of his followers (including his own mother), but the story didn’t end there. Jesus did rise again. He kept His word. Which means we can trust that He will keep His word in our personal situations as well.

As I was doing my devotions today, I came across a verse that I’ve read a dozen times before. It isn’t one of the more well-known verses, but it impacted me today. Here it is:

“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy name.” Psalm 97:11-12

How dark and terrifying Jesus’ death must have been! How dark and terrifying our lives can be now. But God’s Word promises us light and joy when we live for Him. We will not always feel light and joy, but it’s there waiting for us if we choose it. You will often hear me talk about choices, because I am a firm believer that our choices directly affect us, as well as the people around us.

When my day does not go as planned, I can still choose light. If I wake up in a lot of pain, I can still choose joy. When my finances are tight and I don’t know how I will pay for bills, food, or rent, I can still choose light. If someone chooses to try to destroy me with their words, I can still choose joy. And as you may have heard before, happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is temporary and dependent on things outside of us. Joy comes from within – from knowing that our present troubles are far outweighed by what God will bring in and through us on down the road. From knowing that we have a place in heaven once this life is over. From knowing that God doesn’t waste pain.

Many will ask why God causes us to go through hard times, why “bad things happen to good people”. The truth is that He doesn’t cause us to go through bad things anymore than He causes us to burn our hands when we touch something that is really hot. He allows it – because that is how we learn not to touch things that will burn us – but He does not cause it. As we are healing (and after we are healed) from the burn, He enables us to use our experience of pain to help someone else. We can warn them away, or if we find them after they have been burned, we can empathize and help them to heal.

As you go through today – whether you see it as Black or Good – know that light and joy are not far away. Once you find them for yourself, I hope you will then sow them into the lives of others, so they may find them too.

It’s Okay To Feel Discouraged

Yesterday was not a bad day. It was my day off and I was able to get some things done before snagging a nap. I even got to talk to my mom for a little while (Hi, Mom!)

Around 3 in the afternoon, I started to feel really discouraged. God has been providing for us, but lately my financial situation has been overwhelming at times. Being a single mom can be really hard in a “normal” situation, and dealing with all we are going through makes it even more challenging for me.

At first I was irritated with myself. I shouldn’t be discouraged. God has brought immense healing to me and my girls, and He does keep providing. I immediately started thinking of ways to pull myself out of my funk, but then I felt a stillness that reminded me that it’s okay to feel discouraged.

I knew I didn’t want to stay discouraged, but letting myself feel this hard emotion is healthy. We live in a drive thru world – everything must be now. I’m hungry and tired and I don’t want to cook? Let’s go through the drive thru. My kids are whiny and fighting and I know screens will keep them occupied? Let’s go through the drive thru. I don’t like how I’m feeling and it’s obviously a lack of faith? Let’s go through the drive thru. There are a lot of drive thru options here. Alcohol, binge-watching tv, taking a long nap, and even some that sound like good options, like reading the Bible, praying, or listening to worship music.

Please hear me out. There is nothing wrong with going through a drive thru (especially if you are buying God’s chicken at CfA) when you are hungry and tired and don’t want to cook. There is nothing wrong with letting your kids have screen time sometimes when you are about to pull your hair out and/or turn into The Hulk. And napping is good when you need the rest and recharge. And yes, reading the Bible, praying, and listening to worship music are very good things.

My point is this – those things may help short term, but they don’t take care of the underlying problem. We can only do this by allowing ourselves to feel. When we don’t, it’s like slapping a bandaid over a surgical incision. We need to take time to discover why we feel like we do before we try to pull ourselves out of it.

My fellow moms will be able to relate to this story. When my youngest, who is nine, has feelings she doesn’t understand or doesn’t know where they are coming from, automatically assumes it’s because a little girl in her class has been “so sassy” to her. Now, this little girl has hurt my daughter’s feelings before, but nine times out of ten, that is not the real issue. The real issue is much deeper. Maybe she is feeling insecure, or lonely, or feels inadequate in some way. Maybe the trauma she has experienced in her life is raising its ugly head and claiming territory in her heart. But the easy answer is that this girl is being sassy, because that is what she can see on the surface. And even now, our nine year old inner child is doing the same thing.

A friend of mine recently got on a low dose of medication for anxiety. I asked them if I could make a suggestion, and they gave me permission. I suggested they not get off the meds (with their doctor’s help) until they resolve the underlying issues causing their anxiety. Not their growing to do list, not the financial crunch, not the loneliness they currently live with from day to day. I mentioned that perhaps it was a subconscious feeling of inadequacy because they had not reached certain important life goals, even though they were successful in many other areas. I’m not a therapist, but I’m a pretty good listener, and even if I was off with the subconscious sense of inadequacy, I knew there was something deeper.

We need to stop going through the drive thru with our emotions. Let yourself feel. Discover what hides behind the emotion du jour. Only then can you truly deal with what lies underneath. Only then can you find a permanent solution.

So please, read your Bible, pray, listen to worship music. But let it be out of a heart of gratitude to God – not as a temporary fix. God will use these things to bring healing to our lives, but if we are unable – or unwilling – to deal with the deeper issues, it’s only going to grow our guilt.

Faith is not being perfect. It’s trusting in the One who is perfect.

It’s Not Always Me

Several years ago, I took my daughters to the park. Throughout the park were lovely oak trees. I harvested a few green acorns from the branches of one such oak, and took them home with me when the girls were done playing. I had researched how to grow an oak tree from an acorn, and picking healthy, green acorns fresh from the tree was the first step.

When I got home, I soaked the acorns in warm water, allowing them to soak overnight. The next day, I took some sawdust leftover from a project, dampened it, and placed it in ziploc bags. I then placed a couple acorns in each bag, and cleared a spot for them in my refrigerator. Four months I waited, checking every so often to see if any roots had begun to show. Their hibernation ended once each acorn had a tiny root. Each acorn was placed in a planter with good soil.

Still, it took a few days for anything green to poke up through the dirt. And when those tiny plants finally emerged, they were fragile little things – so different from the towering oaks that they came from.

I babied them along until they were about six to seven inches tall. I gave one to my dad, but the rest I transplanted into larger planters. My dad let the tree grow some more, but after a little while, he planted it in the ground, in his backyard.

He started by digging a deep hole (compared to the tiny tree). When he placed the tree in the hole, only the top half could be seen. He filled in the dirt and watered it.

It soon became apparent that his oak was growing considerably faster than mine were. I had given a few more away during this time, so I only had three left. We planted them in our yard, and even though they continued to grow, it was nothing like the growth we saw in my dad’s tree.

There are so many life lessons I could pull from this story. First, whatever seeds we plant must come from the source. We can trust that whoever it is that God wants us to show His love to, He will bring our way. I don’t mean that we don’t need to go out – the Bible makes it clear that we are to go. But we don’t always have to go far away. And it’s not like an Easter egg hunt, where you go out and your entire focus is on finding people to tell about Jesus. And I am talking about an extreme here. Have you ever heard the saying “they are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good”? I simply mean that when we obey and we go out, God will bring people across our paths.

When we surrender our lives to Christ, we also surrender to potential suffering. Jesus was tortured, spat upon, and killed. So many people believe that if they surrender their lives to God and obeying His word, life will be easy and chill from that point on. That’s not how Christian life works. It’s not miserable all the time either, but acknowledging that we will have challenges makes them at least a little easier to deal with. Jesus promised that in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because He has overcome the world.

Sometimes God places us in what may feel a little like hibernation. We are called to a certain job, or church, or mission field, but then it doesn’t happen. We start to wonder if maybe we heard wrong. Or perhaps we said or did something that messed it all up. Reality is that God sees the big picture, and He knows that either we’re not ready, or someone else isn’t ready for us. His timing is perfect, even if it seems completely off to us. Sometimes it’s enough to tempt us to doubt God. I have given in to that temptation, and my life was so much more miserable without Him than it is with Him. But that is a story for another day.

If you are anything like me, you probably pray that God would help you with areas in your life that you struggle with. Maybe it’s jealousy, or a critical spirit. It could be an addiction – to food, drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Whatever it may be, you know it needs to change, and you do your best to change it – but you know that you need God’s help. It’s easy to get yourself motivated and tell yourself it will be different this time. You expect that things will change quickly, that your wrong desires will just disappear. Sometimes God moves quickly, but more often than not, He allows time and experiences to help us to grow. We want to be that towering oak, but we are still just a fragile green thing that is just starting out.

In order to grow, sometimes we may feel buried. We may be working in the background while others are in the spotlight, or we could be in a period of rest and recuperation. These phases are important too. Jesus told the parable about the rich master who went on a journey, leaving a few of his servants with some of his money. The point was that those that can be trusted with little things can be trusted with much. Don’t despise the little stuff. Don’t be jealous of those in the spotlight. Enjoy the time you have in the quietness of the dirt. It gives you stability.

Finally, once we finally reach the place where God can use us to influence other people’s lives for the better, don’t lose courage. We may plant a million seeds and never see growth from a one of them. But that doesn’t mean that we failed, that we haven’t somehow influenced their lives. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” I planted that acorn, but my dad watered the tree. It took us both to grow the thing. I am fortunate that my parents still live in the same house, so I get to see how that tree is growing from time to time. The others I have no clue about. But my dad’s tree still offers shade and safe place for birds to nest.

Do not lose faith. Hold on to hope. Whatever season God has you in, you can trust that it is for your good.

My dad’s tree today, April 11, 2019.

The Pain of Pruning

I currently have two bonsais growing – one that I started from seed and one that I started from a cutting that was sent to me. The growth in the picture above are from the cutting.

Both bonsais are very important to me.

My desert rose, which I grew from seed, is a little particular sometimes. To be honest, I am very fortunate that I even have her, because most of the desert rose seeds I have purchased ended up not actually being desert rose seeds! Thankfully they were ridiculously cheap, so the only real loss was the disappointment at growing grass instead of the bonsai I thought I had planted.

My willow, grown from a cutting, will one day be a beautiful miniature tree. I was nervous when I received it. It looked like someone had cut a thumb-thick branch off of a tree, wrapped a damp paper towel around the base, and sent it to me. However, I read and followed the instructions (to place the base in two inches of water), and within a day or two, roots began to grow. A few days later, leaves appeared. I was so excited. My little branch was really going to turn into a tree!

The instructions has also said that the leaves/branches should be left alone for several months unless I was pruning the ones too close to the base. Those instructions seemed like no big deal and I filed them away in my brain. But when leaves and branches began to grow too low on the cutting, I realized it was time to remove them. Again, no big deal right?

Right. With one problem. My plants are like my little green babies, and although I’m fairly certain they feel no pain, it pains me to remove bits of them that are so healthy!

I knew the cutting would grow better if I pruned these bottom leaves, but I hated (gently) pulling them off. Somehow it seemed wrong to remove these vibrant, green leaves.

As I held the excess leaves in the palm of my hand, I felt that knowing that I have experienced many times before. It’s nothing mystical. It’s more like a light bulb coming on in my head. A spark fanned into flame by the Hand that placed it there. The still, small Voice that reminds me that He really does know best.

Many times in my life, I have had things I really wanted to keep stripped away from me. They weren’t always bad or unhealthy things either. Sometimes, they were really great things – such as living close to my parents and being able to spend time with them on a regular basis. And other times, they were things that really were detrimental, but I couldn’t see that they were. Like staying in a marriage that I legitimately should have left years before.

And even though my plants aren’t likely to feel any pain when I prune their excess leaves, I felt significant pain in losing what I so desperately wanted to keep.

At the time it was excruciating, and I couldn’t understand why God had allowed certain things to be ripped away from me over the years. I trusted Him and I obeyed Him, but He tore away the leaves I had held on to so tightly. Sometimes this made me angry, and sometimes distrustful. I couldn’t see why He would take and take and take!

But the reality is that even though He knew it would cause me pain, He also knew that the pain would be so much worse if He left those things in place. He saw the bigger picture, and He knew exactly what He was doing.

Don’t get me wrong – God does not harm us in the hopes that we might grow as a result. The saying “everything happens for a reason” is bogus. God allows painful things to happen in our lives for a couple of reasons – one, because He gave us free will, and to remove all of the pain would be to remove our free will; two, because as I mentioned a moment ago, He can see the big picture. He knows that in order for us to reach our full potential, something has to go.

I can look back now and see that the removal that I so hated at the time was exactly what I needed. I can see that had those things not been removed, my life would be miserable – and that is if I were still amongst the living.

It’s been probably a week or two since I removed those bottom leaves and stems. It’s amazing the healthy growth I have seen in my willow since her pruning. See for yourself:

In time, more leaves will have to be removed. Several months from now, I will have to start training the branches. But in the long run, I can see that she will be a beautiful bonsai, and it will all have been worth it.

Perhaps something is happening in your life and you have prayed – begged, even – for God to act in a certain way. Perhaps His decision not to answer the way you have requested has you wondering if He really does love you after all. I can tell you from my own experience – He knows exactly what He is doing (or not doing). You may feel dissatisfied and hurt right now, but someday you will look back and realize that He did things the way they needed to be done in order for you to become the person you needed to be.

Keep trusting. Even when it all feels wrong, trust.

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The Journey Begins

Had the last twenty years of my life been made into a movie, one might be tempted to view it as a tragedy. Pain, my constant companion, nearly destroyed me. Were it not for grace, I would no longer be counted among the living – even had I physically survived.

For a long time, shame closed my mouth. Fear helped keep it sealed. I didn’t want to be judged, to be found as lacking as I thought myself to be. My pain was already enough, and I didn’t need anyone adding to it. It wasn’t until my offspring began showing signs of struggling with pain similar to mine that I found the courage to start speaking out.

Even then, much of what I thought caused my pain was incorrect. I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me. It has not been until the last few months that my eyes have been opened to the truth. Pried open, in some respects, due to having preferred my blindness.

Now that the healing has begun, I have chosen to cease my silence. No longer will I hide the ugliness when transparency could potentially set others free.

Thus my invitation – grow with me.

We know we cannot plant seeds with closed fists. To sow, we must open our hands. – Adolfo Perez Esquivel

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