The lovely fall leaves have reminded me that beauty can be found even in the death of things.
At winter’s end, many of us take a deep breath in as we see the beginnings of tiny green leaves unfurling on mostly bare branches. These heralds of spring promise an end to the bitter cold and the colorless emptiness that blankets the world – or at least parts of it – for just longer than we feel we can stand.
Flower buds soon join the dance of green in the breeze and all at once, we find ourselves dreaming. For some, our dreams are of spending more time outside. For others, our dreams are of vacations to be taken during the summer months. And for others, our dreams are of what those leaves and buds represent – a fresh start, a new day. A symbol that life does, indeed go on.
Spring quickly gives way to the heat of summer, which is simultaneously glorious and miserable at the same time. The heat makes it possible to participate in fun activities such as swimming, boating, and biking, but it also often prevents us from being comfortable away from water and wind.
And then comes fall, with the cooler, delightful temps, and the leaves that turn into a dazzling array of colors.
This beauty would not exist without the death of those leaves. Those leaves that, just months before, sparked our imaginations and fueled our dreams.
And as the autumn clouds claim much of the sky, we feel melancholy. Fall is beautiful, but it’s also slow and sad. This slowness is not so much the opposite of fastness as it is just a feeling that the darkening clouds bestow upon our souls.
Again we stand at the threshold of winter, knowing that the cold and the snow (for those of so blessed and so cursed) will bring a pure beauty and a quietness that will calm our souls until it maddens is again with its longevity.
These seasons in life can mean so many things to us. They mean so many things to me.
Just weeks ago a lifelong dream died for me completely, and although I had anticipated and welcomed that death for good reason, still I wept when it arrived. I mourned the death of that dream, and every so often still do, when life is quiet and loneliness springs up faster than rational thought.
It was during one of those brief moments of mourning that I felt God speak to me through the brilliantly changing leaves. There is beauty in the death of this dream like there is beauty in the death of these leaves.
For it wasn’t until that dream had fully passed that I could start to dream again.
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
of David, Psalm 27:13
Psalm 27 is a grateful outpouring of King David’s heart – one that proclaims the protection and provision of the Lord over him. If you are familiar with the life of David, you know that it was fraught with many complications. Several of these were direct results of the king’s sin against the Lord and against His people, but David always repented. While God did not remove the consequences of David’s sin, He did not give up on him either. He continued to take care of David until the end of his life.
This verse has been resonating within my heart and mind the last couple of days – and especially today. The last few weeks have been some of the hardest I’ve faced since striking out on my own with my beautiful girls, and yet each step of the way I have found a reminder of God’s goodness. He has continued to provide for us over and over, and each time, it happened in a way that reminded me that I am seen by God and by His people. We have been blessed so much lately, and I am so grateful.
A couple weeks ago I needed to get us moved into a bigger apartment, and I was having difficulty finding one. God provided an apartment for us. But then my dad tried to transfer the last amount I needed into my bank account through PopMoney, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t going to be deposited in time for me to get my keys. God used a local church to help make moving possible. He also helped us find a church to try!
My oldest daughter needed a white top and black pants for a band competition last week, and I had bought them for her from Walmart. We couldn’t find them anywhere the next day, and so I thought maybe we accidentally left them at the store. I checked at the customer service desk and they weren’t there, nor was there a record of anyone having turned in a bag with those two items in there. The customer service worker told me to go get the same pants and the same shirt off the sales floor and bring them to her. She ended up sending them home with me for free even though I didn’t have a receipt! She didn’t know my situation either. She had no clue I was a single mom, that I have three growing girls, etc.
About a month ago, I had lost $100 and could not find it anywhere. I felt God tell me to let go and not worry about it. I chose to obey, and guess what? Saturday morning it turned up. And I needed it more on Saturday than I had a month ago. God’s timing may not seem perfect to us at the moment, but it truly is in the long run. I am so grateful He can see the big picture.
This life may be a roller coaster – day by day and moment by moment – but my God is always there. He is always with me, and He always provides. He knows exactly what I need and when I need it.
You may not understand why you are going through what you are going through. It may seem as if your prayers are not getting through to God. Trust. Easier said than done, I know. Someday, you will look back and see why He did things the way He did, and your heart will overflow with gratitude.
We are moved but not completely unpacked. Hoping to have everything done by the end of the week.
My internet access will not be hooked up until later tomorrow afternoon/evening, so I will probably not do a real post until then. (Or even Thursday.) It’s easy to do quick updates from the app on my phone, but I prefer to do a full fledged post on my laptop.
For those of you who do not follow my Facebook page, I have not disappeared. This week has been beyond chaotic. Not necessarily bad, just insanely busy. I have posts brewing in my brain and a few notes jotted here and there, but I don’t have the time to put my full effort into these post ideas just yet. I will be back to regular posting very soon! ❤️
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.
“Some of these other labels we feel justified in using because they are diagnoses we – or others we know – have received. But let me make this very clear. When a doctor diagnoses someone with an illness or a disease, it is a diagnosis of what they have, not who they are.” – From Not What The Label Says
It has always irritated me when people quote themselves and actually put their name on it, so I decided to just put the name of the post it’s from! Ha. 🙂 However, it was a point I wanted to bring back up, so there you have it. 🙂
As you can see in the picture above, I have a seed packet of Oktoberfest Calendula seeds. (Fun Fact: Calendula are closely related to Marigolds.) I know what kind of seeds are in the packet because of its label. The packet is still sealed, and so I have not planted those seeds. If I did, Oktoberfest Calendula plants would grow – assuming I had them in the right conditions. But if they just sit in the packet, what happens? They won’t grow.
I will tell you right now that this is an imperfect analogy. But stick with me, I’m making an important point.
When we have a label placed on us, it is so easy to make it a part of our identity. But what if we didn’t plant those seeds? What if we refused to accept the label as part of who we are?
Let’s look at it another way. If your doctor tells you that you have a cold and you should go home, get plenty of fluids and rest, would you accept that having a cold is part of your identity? “Hi, I’m Misty and I have a cold. I will probably always have this cold. If you don’t like it, tough cookies, because this is who I am now.” If this is what you would do, we might need to take you to a different kind of doctor!
For years I struggled with severe anxiety and depression. I was so sick that I did accept it as part of my identity. I hated that part of me. I even asked God to either heal me or kill me. He did neither, and I was so angry. I thought I would be miserable my whole life – either in the middle of an episode, or constantly in fear that another episode would begin. It wasn’t until seven months ago that I discovered the cause of my anxiety and depression (more on this on down the road). I changed what was causing these things, and I haven’t had an episode since. That said, it doesn’t work that way for everyone. Some people deal with it their entire lives – just like some people deal with physical illnesses (diabetes, for example) their entire lives. And it’s not their fault. It’s the way their brains are hard-wired.
In my case, it was the situation I was in that was causing my illness. When I asked God to heal me or kill me, it was grace that stayed His hand. Had He healed me then and there, it would have been temporary because my circumstances hadn’t changed. And had He taken my life, my girls would be motherless, my sister sisterless, my parents would have only one daughter, and I would no longer be here. I will come back to this story eventually, but for now, let’s get back to labels.
I am a firm believer that even if if your struggle is lifelong, it does not have to be a part of who you are. I will not say that keeping your identity separate is easy, because that is simply not true. But as the Bible says in Philippians – we can do all things through Christ’s strength.
A quick note – in the same way as we can choose not to plant certain seeds in our lives, there are seeds that we can – and should – plant and nurture. Seeds like love, hope, faith, kindness, integrity, and many others. And there is no better way to do this than to spend time in God’s Word and His Presence every day. It doesn’t have to be for a certain length of time. You don’t have to read a certain number of chapters or verses. Start where you can and be faithful. You’ll find that it grows on its own.
And for any readers who may not be followers of Christ, I invite you to meet Him today. If that’s not something you’re interested in, I will tell you what I tell my daughters. I can’t make you believe in God. I can’t make you choose to follow my convictions. I can share them with you, but ultimately you must make your own choice. Do your own research – and I am not referring to a Facebook or Instagram poll, haha – and figure out for yourself what you do believe. I would hope that you would choose Christ because the Bible makes it clear that He is the only way, but that is between you and God.
Not all of my posts will be strictly about God and my relationship with Him, but I won’t keep Him out of them, because He is a part of my identity. The biggest part. And I won’t apologize for that.
If you are struggling with labels that have been become part of your identity, or if you are attempting to prevent this from happening, feel free to drop me a line. I will pray for you.
Don’t give up and don’t give in. You are worth more than you can ever realize.
This post has been brewing in the back of my mind for the last few days, but today it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in my head. It’s a subject that has been near and dear to my heart for many years – one that I have shared in other settings before, but never in blog form. So here we are, talking about labels.
At first I thought this post would have nothing to do with plants. And while not every post has to be connected to my favorite greenery, this one will be.
Labels are everywhere. Most of the time, they are very helpful. For example, they are convenient when we are grocery shopping, trying to be more mindful of our sugar intake, or when we’re looking for a specific aisle at Lowe’s.
These are just a few of the detrimental labels that are out there. Some we might feel justified in using. Home Wrecker or Baby Killer, for example. Don’t get me wrong – we need to stand up for what’s right. But which is more right? Is it better to verbally (and sometimes physically) attack someone for making a choice we don’t agree with? Or to love them through it? Did you know that many times “Home Wreckers” are not aware that the man/woman they are dating is married? Often they are hurt nearly as much as the rejected spouse.
And what about “Baby Killers”? Yes, there are a lot of women out there that use it as a form of birth control, but many of them don’t. I would venture to say that a lot of women who seek out abortions feel that they have no other option. And what do many Christians do? They stand there in judgment and condemnation instead of finding a way to help.
But it’s sin! Yes, adultery and abortion are sin. But so is gossip, having a judgmental attitude, and the pride that causes us to think that we are better than them. We must stand up for what we believe in, but in the right way. Ultimately, it’s still their decision.
Shaming them and calling them names is not the way Jesus would do it. He died for them too. God is the Righteous Judge, but He is also Love. It was His love that sent Jesus to the cross, not His judgment.
I wasn’t intending on going there, but I believe God led me to it. It needed to be said.
Some of these other labels we feel justified in using because they are diagnoses we – or others we know – have received. But let me make this very clear. When a doctor diagnoses someone with an illness or a disease, it is a diagnosis of what they have, not who they are.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to look past the labels and find the hurting person underneath. Even if at first they seem to reject us, we need to continue loving them – while simultaneously respecting their space. If they don’t want a hug, don’t get offended. You don’t know what a hug means to them. It could be a form of abuse to them – they could have been held or “hugged” until they gave in to whatever their abuser wanted.
Love them the way they need, not the way you need. If you know they don’t like to talk on the phone, text them. Or if it’s too much for a text, send a text saying, “I want to leave you a voicemail, so when I call in a minute, you don’t need to answer.” And then be okay with just leaving a voicemail.
I have a friend who rarely answers the phone, and even more rarely listens to her messages. So if I call and get her voicemail, I don’t leave a message about what I want to talk to her about. I leave a message expressing how much I love her and her family. How I hope she’s having a wonderful day. That she’s on my mind. That no matter what she’s facing, she’s not alone. It’s not because I think I’m a special somebody that I tell you this. It’s because this world is full of hurting people, and sometimes we need ideas on how to love others when they are different from us.
This post is starting to get far away from what I intended, so let’s call this Part One. Sometime in the next day or so I will write Part Two. (And that’s the part that will include plants, haha.)
A final note before I sign off for the night. It is so tempting to pretend our Christian lives are peachy. But the world needs us to be real. Not pathetic, woe is me nonsense. But real. We are not all called to share their suffering with others – at least not in detail. But we are all called to love the hurting. And the pain we have survived can give others hope. God doesn’t waste pain.
There are times for secrets. But secrets can keep people locked up in chains – both those who hold the secrets, and those waiting to hear them. Not our dirty laundry, but our hope.
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.
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