You are going to move your precious child into a college dorm room soon and you’re going to feel ALL the emotions. You’re going to spend a lot of money at Walmart. You are going to face obstacles and unexpected challenges. You’re going to replay a montage of memories in your mind and heart and it’s gonna nearly destroy you one minute and make you beam with pride the next.
Don’t worry, everything you (and your child) needs to learn about college you will learn on move-in day.
1. Everything will be more expensive than you first believe.
I spent approximately $48 on Command Strips and handed over my life savings for the curtain panels, but hey, the offspring of my womb was going to be living on her own and I’ll be darned if her room doesn’t look cute.
2. Things rarely go as planned.
You will use those 48 dollars’ worth of Command Strips to hang everything that stands still onto the sterile white walls. Unfortunately, most things will crash to the floor within 20 minutes. Don’t worry, you can rehang them. And if they fall more than 3 times they were not meant to occupy that particular space.
3. Most of what your child will learn will be outside the classroom.
For example, an innocently purchased $17 shelf from the before mentioned Walmart. (If you haven’t yet realized, budget a mortgage payment for purchases. A bathmat here, an extension cord there, and an occasional must-have sign will eat up any disposable income you thought you might have this month.) Bye Felicia! Anyway back to our educational adventure:
We decided a bookshelf was needed next to the bed. For coffee mugs and the Keurig ( Obvious necessities: HELLO, caffeine saves lives.) We searched Hobby Lobby and the local antique stores to no avail. We again found ourselves at Walmart. Scene 5, take 5.
Sure enough, in the Home section we stumbled across the perfect shelf. We had measured the space, ya’ll. This thing was perfect. And it was gray which was our colorway. Done.
Until we tried to hoist the box into our blue cart.
We found ourselves mumbling things like “how could a $17 shelf weigh this much?” and “aren’t there materials that would be better suited and more lightweight, like what the wall shelf earlier purchased from Hobby Lobby is made of some sort of plastic wood-look-alike. But no matter, it was what it was. And it was heavy as a 100-year oak.
4. You will find beauty in unexpected places.
In the chaos of the day and the days to come, look around. Find a local flea market or antique shop. Meet someone new and share a conversation. You’re both going to need to widen your circle to get through all this transition.
5. You don’t always have to know what you are doing.
It’s ok to call your own mom, a friend, anyone. It takes a village.
At 4:13pm after I had attempted to hang those $#%^@! curtains and failed once again I declared them my nemesis and called my mother. “Mom do you have access to Pinterest?” She did in fact and recommended adding gorilla glue to my arsenal and to pay the $50 repainting fee at the end of the year. It looks like another trip to Walmart is in the near future.
6. Embrace the adventure. Improvise if you have to.
In life you may come across unforeseen obstacles and challenges. For example, on move-in day the parking lot adjacent to your student’s residence hall may be undergoing unwarranted repainting. There may be men in hardhats and barricades preventing you from gaining any proximity to your destination. You are tired. You have a trunk full of Walmart purchases.
As you stare in disbelief at your obstacle, your mind searches for plan B. The noxious smell of new pavement may temporarily impair your thought process, but simply carry your Dominos pizza across the asphalt wasteland, up the stairs for the 37th time and allow your thoughts to readjust as you consume said pizza on the floor, slurping caffeinated beverages and hatching a new plan.
On such floor, I began tapping my fingers together, and my daughter and I realize that we had packed a bike for commuting about campus. Perhaps we could utilize these extra wheels to move that 100 year old oak Walmart shelf. BINGO. We headed downstairs.
Of course it couldn’t be that simple. As soon as we had procured the bike the sky opened up and began to dump rain on us as if we had broken some cardinal rule of furniture moving. Rain pelted my face as I opened my trunk, hoisted out the shelf, bungeed it to her bike rack. My daughter shot across the newly dried pavement…her bike teetering under the girth of the shelf.
The plan worked.
We built that shelf together, Chinese and pictoral directions and all. (Always remember to pack a tool box.)
Indeed it matches the décor perfectly. We are not yet sure how this behemoth shelf will be moved out of the position it is currently in, but we are darn proud of our handiwork. And yes, I did make my daughter raise her right hand and solemnly swear that she would never sell said shelf. It could sit in the corner of her garage for all I care, but I want to see that $17 investment every time I visit her. For eternity.
7. Tears are part of the process.
There will be a moment during move-in day that will cause you to duck into the small, concrete dorm bathroom and sob. It will be ugly. You can do it quietly, I promise. The crying will come on suddenly and unexpectedly. Perhaps your child glances up and you and you see the same face that peered over her backpack at 7 years old in that elementary school hallway. Or maybe you’ll be eating pizza and watching an episode of Gilmore Girls because your limbs ache from all the lifting and hanging of things and you’ll feel older than you believe yourself to be. Or most probable, the tears will come for no apparent reason at all other than the fact that you once decorated the crib in her nursery and now you are pushing her Ikea couch across the tile floors.
8. Eventually you have to leave.
Get a hotel room for the first night and then maybe sleep on your student’s futon until you run out of underwear. Buy some more at Walmart if you have to…but eventually you still got to go, hon. This begins the cycle of leaving- she will leave home, you will leave her dorm/apartment/house. Rinse and repeat. You guys are in a hello/goodbye cycle which pretty much lasts the rest of your natural lives.
9. Trust the process
This new terrain is kinda like that mammoth wooden Walmart shelf balancing on the back of the bicycle in the rain. It’s awkward. Before you know it, your child will be riding away. She may wobble a little at first. Or a lot. You’ll get back in your car. A montage of all the years of her life will again play in your mind and heart. But onward to both of you. You survived move-in day and are now armed with just about everything you need to know. Just keep repeating the lessons.
A Neurotic Mom of a College Student
Creds: Shelby, Sophomore, Georgia College Class of 2019
PS: the information in this post is all true. There have been no name changes or embellishments. I have alibis, witnesses, and receipts to back up my claims. (Also, the check-out lady at Walmart can confirm my underwear purchase.)
My co-authored book with Tammy H. Meyer launches in just about a month! I wanted to share just a little of my heart behind this work with you, my friends who have followed this blog for several years.
So here’s my heart behind this book:
In my backyard in Augusta, Georgia, you will often find me crouching with a camera, taking photos of our pink Knockout Roses just outside my kitchen window. Or you might catch me rushing out the front door to capture the sun filtering through the southern pines. In the spring, I may be entranced, trimming fresh herbs from the planter box on my back deck, just like my grandmother used to do at her place all those years ago
I have always noticed the small beautiful things, and the way seasons ebb and flow and transition: the way the light changes, and how leaves sprout, grow, and eventually fall and are swept away in the winter wind.
As a little girl I was introverted and quiet, a deep feeler who noticed all the little things that others often overlooked. The seasons spoke to me: the blanketing white of the first snowfall, the burning reds and oranges of the Maples, and the way the sun paused at the Midwest horizon just before summer darkness came and the fireflies glittered.
I’m still that little girl at heart.
Now, when I travel to the Midwest, the places of my youth and heart land, Iowa fields beckon me with their endless acres of corn standing like golden flags fluttering in a summer breeze, clouds stretching as far as I can see. I attempt to take a mental photo, a snapshot filed inside my thoughts. I want to remember.
I have learned that there is much that nature and the seasons teach me about surrenders, new life, bleak winters, and the fresh hope found on our sunniest of days. I have learned that the literal seasons reflect the deeper seasons of the SOUL.
From one such period, a dark winter-of-the-soul season, I bear the mark, a reminder found from a long surgical scar. Its waxy-red trail streaks a vertical line down my stomach. Cancer, they had said. Ovarian cancer. I was twenty-nine years old and eight months pregnant when they removed it. And when the pain and scars were ten days fresh, I gave birth to my daughter on Christmas Day. I started chemotherapy the next day.
My daughter entered the world like a miracle that she was. But even though the cancer was removed, I was not yet out of the woods.
I lived through that winter and spring in the same year, becoming a new mom, decorating the nursery, and wondering if I also needed to plan the music for my funeral. I researched survival rates. I watched my daughter start to smile as my hair fell out from chemo. During the night I lifted bottles to feed her. During the day nurses lifted iv bags of cisplatin to kill the cancer that lurked inside me.
The scars down my middle and my expectations of how I would become a mom defined me for a while. The physical places have healed, mostly. But I still carry “winter” with me to every doctor appointment, all these twenty years later.
I have also experienced fresh hope: like the spring after my cancer diagnosis with my first clear CT scan, or the day I learned that I would be a mom again, after all those drugs had left my body. Our son Mitchell proved that there would be more miracles, coming into our lives even after all the surgeries and therapies. Carrying fresh life inside of me again renewed my spirit and two and a half years after my winter season our son was born. Watching him smile for the first time to his big sister’s delight was like a ray of sunshine in my heart.
I’ve stood next to my husband many summers as a witness, watching our two children grow up. I’ve stared at them eating watermelon on our back deck on hot summer days or casting out their fishing line at the nearby lake. We’ve caught snowflakes on our tongues together and laughed ourselves silly on long hikes up mountain trails, the leaves changing to brilliant yellows. We’ve traveled through many seasons together, each with its gifts.
Of all the seasons, autumn is my favorite. There is something freeing and beautiful, though painful about letting things go, and facing the chill of change, waiting for the blanketing snow to make all things new. It reminds me most of what Jesus did for me in embracing that cross and allowing it to let go of all my sins.
When I met my dear friend and Co-Author Tammy four years ago, it was an instant kind of sisterhood. We walked the property of the most beautiful lodge retreat outside San Antonio, Texas one late fall several years ago. Her camera captured the breathtaking scene around us better than my iPhone ever could.
We realized quickly that we had the same heart for noticing the small details of the season- the floating leaf, the burnt orange bush, the vacant branches. We laughed hard by the fire those first few nights. We told stories that could only be understood by someone who had marched right through difficult spiritual seasons of estrangement, loss, and ultimately hope in an everlasting love of an eternal Father.
This book is a collection of stories reflecting our hearts, but most importantly, reflecting the heart of a God who is present in ALL of our seasons.
“A God of All Seasons” will launch in August with preorders available soon. It’s a collection of stories that speak to lifting our eyes to God’s unchanging love in every joy and every trial. I pray this book will challenge you to look at every spiritual season through the lens of mercy and grace. It has made all the difference for us.
To stay in the loop subscribe to our book newsletter here.
We can’t wait to swap stories with you and we have some fun, encouraging freebies and surprises planned for the next few weeks.
P.S. Tammy and I have a wicked sense of humor as well. I just LOVE this pic from three years ago in Texas..it pretty much expresses our excitement for this book.
The sun is still hanging above the cornfields and the stalks are not tall enough yet to silhouette the sky
The earth and sky touch with no interference.
I stand on land that I knew as a child, my grandparent’s farm which is now my uncle’s and a thousand acres of family land stretches out around us. I stare at the feed bunks that line the landscape and I remember the time I fell hard here. How I struggled to heal from those scars.
My heart is tugged in many directions but my eyes return to the sunset and the silos.
My mom, uncle and cousin Nancy are with me. Mom and I have traveled a thousand miles to get back to this land. My mother and uncle grew up here. I spent much of my childhood on these acres. It’s home.
I am lost in my own memories. I breathe deeply the country air. I close my eyes and remember a dozen trips to this farm as a child.
I am startled back to the present moment when my cousin starts to cry. Nancy is nine years younger than me and has lived under these Iowa skies her whole life. Down’s Syndrome makes her acutely aware of nuances. She cries loud and often. No emotion is left stifled in her.
I admire Nancy and her unbridled emotion. But I have no time to ask or process what she is feeling. I’m too caught up in my own nostalgia.
We drive my uncle’s truck fast the ½ mile back to his house, a dog jetting the same mph beside us. Open windows and a soft bed feel perfect. I sleep better than I have in years.
I rise to a sunrise that takes my breath away. I pick a few flowers.
I pour coffee early and turn my rental car onto dirt roads to make the four hour round-trip to visit my grandmother. I’m still thinking about the previous night’s sunset and Nancy’s crying but my eyes look forward.
Folks can carry a thousand unknowns down dirt roads and end up at a place where it all makes sense.
Rain clouds surround the road that I travel and speckled gray skies are threatening. I have already traveled more than 1200 miles and just 60 remain. Up ahead a turquoise blue band glows over my destination and I stop to take a photo.
After hugs I get a glimpse at my grandma’s creativity. New paints are lined up there on her kitchen table.
I smile wide that she hasn’t forgotten the most important things.
She holds the words I’ve written (my first book) in her 94 year old hands and it’s more beautiful than the Iowa sunset I stood in awe of last night by the barn.
I have seven hours on her couch and if that couch could talk it would tell you stories that would frighten fish. It’s a sacred space, a confessional. Something between us knows that this might be the last goodbye. The final confessional. We hold nothing back. We don’t have time for small talk or editing of our sentences.
The truth is that we never did.
I stand up to leave and the hugs are too many to count. I keep saying goodbye and she does too but we come back to me kneeling and her brushing my hair and smiling at me. I get Kleenex.
She whispers “I’m so proud of you” and I whisper the same words back.
I add: “You’ve always been my favorite person, you know?”
I glance at all the pictures, 27 great-grandchildren in a line on her fridge. I point at all the pictures and say “I made you a grandmother, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.” She smiles.
A good gig, huh? I reply. She laughs and her eyes twinkle blue just as they always have. Her dimples show and mine mirror hers as I get up to leave.
“The best.” She says, dimples showing.
As I leave her last words are “be a good girl”
Which is the exact phrase she’s said to me every time I’ve left that couch for all of my 49 years.
My reply is always the same: “I’ll do my best, grandma.”
I sit in the parking lot for 20 minutes because I don’t know how to leave. I don’t want the sun to set on this. But there is no staying. We have said all the words.
There is only Iowa sky and dirt roads in between me and the 100 miles I have to journey.
I drive the 106 miles of pavement and dirt roads back to the farm and arrive just in time for another dinner and sunset.
I ask my cousin Nancy when I return to the farm what I didn’t know how to ask her the night before.
“Nancy- when you were crying last night was it because the sun was going away?”
“Yeah” she said, looking up shyly above her glasses.
“Do you always cry when the sun goes down, or just sometimes”?
“Just sometimes” she says, our eyes meeting.
“Ah, me too,” I respond, holding back tears.
“Because when something is that beautiful you never want to say goodbye.”
I read yesterday that Wonder Woman‘s film debut marked the biggest opening ever for a female director. There was huge anticipation for this debut and I might have been a little too giddy about seeing this movie. Some girlfriends and I decided it warranted costumes, especially since we were going for our friend’s 50th birthday.
I mean who doesn’t feel more powerful with silver bracelets? If only we had thought to also make a Lasso of Truth.
Wonder Woman was quite simply one of the most profound movies I have seen in a very long time.
The story is ultimately about Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) becoming herself. Of her believing she is who she has always been, claiming her destiny and power within. It’s not a Christian plot, but the truths that can be drawn from the storyline left me breathless. I didn’t expect to come near tears in the theatre, but I did, especially during the battle scenes.
There is something empowering for all women when one woman steps up into her own truth.
The film begins with young Diana (Wonder Woman) standing on a ridge in Themyscira, watching the women of her island sparring. She can see everything they are doing and begins copying the actions of the women warriors. This little girl is full of strength and tenacity and I fall in love with her gumption right away. She is studying how to be a warrior from the women around her and each is strong and skilled, practicing daily. Diana convinces her aunt to begin training her for battle and it begins…the discovering of her power, conviction and strength. She is kicking at air and begging to be trained as a warrior, like her mama. Her mother wants to protect her because she is so young. But ultimately her sheer determination wins over even her mother’s heart and she convinces her aunt to begin her training as a warrior.
In those early days of Diana’s training her aunt says these words which pierce through the armor of my own heart
“You are stronger than you believe.”
And this is true for all of us.
Because isn’t that the story of every woman?
When Diana feels the calling to leave the safety of her island and fight the evil she has learned of in the world, her response to her mother’s concern is “Who will I be if I stay”?
Sometimes we simply know we must go into battle, to leave the comfortable: to start the ministry, run the business, write the book, face the demons. Because who will we be if we stay?
But the scene that affected me the most was almost cut from the movie entirely.
She marches alone into the battle on a field no one has dared to enter before. Diana stepped into who she really was, tapped into the power she already had inside of her and forged up the hill of “No Man’s Land.” Diana Prince marches up that hill and every member of the audience in that theatre is spellbound. We cheered for her.
I have read articles by the film’s director that she had to fight for that No Man’s Land scene. The scene was initially misunderstood because she wasn’t really fighting anyone. But that was the point, the producer explained. The scene was about her deep compassion and desire for justice. It was about owning her name and stepping into her calling. It was not about who she was fighting; it was about who she is.
Witnessing a woman muster all her courage, her knowledge about herself, and harnessing her call to save the world, to fight true evil. The scene was overwhelming. It brought something up in me. It made me sit taller and lean forward. It made her my superhero.
Because when one woman is empowered to be herself it empowers all women.
At the very end of the movie, Wonder Woman has to make an ultimate decision. Diana has a choice to make. She can either destroy the humans whom she had such hope for, but have displayed great evil or she can direct all her energy to the root of evil. And what she does is amazing, a true reflection of Christ’s love for us. (No spoilers-seriously go see the movie)
And it got me thinking: where do we direct our rage? Because we can sling and use all our energy fighting human beings or we can put on the armor, lace up our boots and go into the real battle.
The movie closes with this powerful quote:
“I used to want to save the world, to end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know… that only love can truly save the world.”
This what Wonder Woman reminded me:
The younger generation is watching us. They are taking in all the ways that we fight our battles. Let’s fight well, ladies.
Put on the full armor of God. We have tools for the things that try to slay us.
Remember who the real enemy is and who the fight is really against. It’s not flesh. It’s satan. It’s a waste of time directing hatred at people.
We can impact the world when we step into the power and giftings that already reside inside of us through the Holy Spirit.
Know with certainty who you are and where you came from. Diana always introduced herself as “I am Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta!” we have to keep reminding ourselves that no matter how our biological family looks, we are Beloved, daughters of the King.
Thank you Diana Prince. Thanks for awakening something in me that is deeper than my envy of your physical strength, black boots and silver bracelets. Thank you for reminding me that we all can step into Wonder Women kind of faith. We just have to believe in the power within us. This is way more than being brave. It is not about mustering something up in ourselves or about being courageous in our own strength. It’s about knowing who we are and the power that already lives inside of us.
We all face our own personal “No Man’s Lands.” Let’s march into them ready.
It leaves me speechless, awed, the enormity of the cross.
The plaque at its base, rising 208 feet over the marshes, says that it marks the approximate site where Christianity was first planted in what is now the United States back in 1565.
The historical marker says that back then a small wooden cross was placed in this exact location. The enormous cross that stands before me now was erected in 1966, 400 years afterwards. I read further that it’s build of seventy tons of stainless steel plates and packed with concrete on its lower third to prevent toppling in hurricanes. That would explain how it still stand after Hurricane Matthew swept through here months ago.
Spanish moss hangs low from the oaks and sun filters among the gravestones and I meander the paths slowly and quietly. I run my hand along plaques and touch stones, trying to feel and breathe in the stories here.There is a quiet hush on this coastal marsh and I understand why it is called “America’s most sacred acre.”
I step into the small chapel and breathe in the scent of lit candles, each with a name and a prayer.
The altar inside is simple wood, covered in lace.
I pause, reverent, and peer out the window before I walk under a canopy of oak and cedar trees and make my way toward the rustic altar. The sun filters between gravestones that date back to the 1800s.
I arrive to my favorite spot on this historic land that I’ve visited a handful of times on my trips to St. Augustine, Florida. I read the words on the sign but I don’t need them to know THIS altar is where the first Mass in the United States took place.
Sometimes there is a gate or an altar rail, or a curtain that can be closed at more solemn times at altars, but this one is an open table, the place where the first Christians gathered in the United States. For a moment it seems like it should be grander, a cathedral with fresco paintings.
But no, this is exactly how it should be: simple, wooden, open, elevated.
I want to know how they worshipped at this altar, in a new land.I want to hear the conversations. Because sometimes the history of a place can speak to a soul in quiet whispers of truth.
Dark wood, sky and water mingle in the dappled sunlight and I think of the altars where I’ve stood: in ornate cathedrals with breathtaking views, in the quiet hush where I kneeled during our wedding ceremony all those years ago. And I think of the figurative altars: in a circle of believers with no table between us, taking holy bread and wine.
I remember my grandmother’s hospital room, how that little table raised above her frail body became a place for Eucharist one last time before she went home.How we stood around that room and didn’t need ornate carvings on the wall to know that this was sacred. I also recall at a simple pine table in my aunt’s kitchen in Iowa, where a part of my heart comes alive because it feels like home.
Altars of differing shapes and sizes teach me. Each challenges me and fills me at the same time. I may not see the messes that splay out at the altar rails at my home church, but I know that ragamuffin souls leave carnage there every week and if the blood could be seen then surely it would flow mighty down the aisles.
Because any altar will be a call to sacrifice. The Hebrew definition means “a place of slaughter or sacrifice.”
Stand at the altar and say “I do” and you’ll need to lay down pride and ego and split wide open with grace to survive life with another.
Sit at a table with family and you’ll need to listen more and talk less, forgive seven times seventy and show up when you don’t feel like it.
Approach an altar rail underneath the roof of your hometown and you’ll need to set your heart right up there and ask Jesus to examine it.
Answer a call to ministry and you’ll need to make sure that platform you are standing on is a primitive slab of wood shaped like a cross. You’ll have to nail some things to the cross right alongside Jesus if you’ve been called to serve Him.
Only when you lay something down can you open and receive what is placed on it’s holy surface.
So maybe an altar is anywhere, everyday. Any time we sacrifice, surrender, and open our hands to receive something new: grace, forgiveness, mercy, healing, acceptance.
Maybe what I learned that day, there at that primitive altar, is that every moment can be a consecrated altar, set apart.
In grade school my family made yearly summer vacations to visit our family in Iowa. I remember going out into the backyard garden with my Grandpa Leo. The dew still on the tomatoes and lettuce, we’d search for the perfect peas and the ripened tomatoes for the evening’s salad. We’d pluck carrots from the ground and he’d whistle and say how perfect they were. I can still picture the khaki fedora hat perched on his head and way his eyes would grow big when we found the perfect radish.
There was something honest and simple about that garden. It felt wholesome and productive to gather all those vegetables in the early morning and then share them that evening with family around a picnic table next to the Des Moines River. Up by the house Grandma had hostas and iris and a bed of yellow roses she called her “Anita” roses after my mother. She tucked antique sinks and sculptures and birdhouses in between the gorgeous blooms. The whole backyard was a work of art. I have many photos tucked away of her garden. I knew even at a very young age that someday I wanted to have a little plot of land like that. I wanted to plant and arrange and tend and decorate. I wanted to make a salad that I had grown myself.
And so in our backyard, about the same size as my grandparent’s plot that I remember from all those years ago, you’ll often find me puttering in the early morning and late evenings.
I have planted daisies and jasmine, roses and hydrangeas in my yard for more than fifteen years. I add herbs and lavender in early spring, cutting and drying them to add to recipes. The garden is a place of therapy for me. It’s exercise: the pulling, the planting, the rearranging, the pruning. I’ve learned so much by digging in the soil.
Here are just eight things my garden spot has taught me:
Harsh pruning is necessary. Sometimes you’ll think that beauty will never come back from all snipping. But when the roses bloom in early May you’ll realize it wasn’t so cruel after all. Life is like this, too. The painful parts can feel unbearable, but often they are shaping our faith to be stronger.
You’ll pull up the same weed up year after year. There is a thorny vine that wraps itself around my rose bushes every. Single. Year. It’s sharp and quick-growing and often shoots up in early March. In the last couple of years I’ve come to expect it, and I’m prepared to tackle it. I’ve discovered that the roots are shallow and if I’m careful, wearing gloves, I can get the whole thing in one good yank. Its tendrils will come back in a few weeks and I’ll repeat the process. I’ve come to understand that the “weeds” in our lives are similar: thorny, familiar sins or temptations. It takes a consistent plan to tackle them: staying in the Word, Christian music, daily reminders to keep those weeds at bay. And as we age we begin to recognize them more clearly and learn to deal with them before they have choked out our lives.
Something unexpected will survive the winter. This year it was a geranium in the window box.Geraniums are annuals and their season is supposed to be short. Isn’t that just like hope in our lives? Sometimes we are certain something is dead: a dream, a passion or a relationship and there it goes- coming back to life. Look for and expect miracles.
Tiny seeds can reap huge beauty. I planted miniscule wildflower seeds in an egg carton back in February. A little sprinkle of water daily along with large doses of sunshine through my kitchen window, they sprouted and began to grow along my windowsill. They have just become strong enough to be moved outside to thrive. Never underestimate the power of planting a small seed in your own life or in the life of another- these small offerings can bloom into strong and beautiful things. And remember what Jesus said about the mustard seed? Just do the next right thing, however small.
Paying attention is important. You can miss a lot of things if you don’t pay attention to detail. A weed can sprout up and choke a whole patch of daisies, or the first spray of lavender can bloom and you won’t notice unless you are looking. Gardening, like life, means paying being present, noticing. The same is true in our lives: a deep breath and taking a good hard look around can do wonders for perspective.
I’ve learned patience: It can take years to see results. I planted a crepe myrtle tree twelve years ago. It was nothing but a skinny stick. Today it stands strong and holds two birdfeeders, the breadth of its branches becoming a home for bird nests. Each season I watch it transform. The process of growth has been slow but I smile knowing that I’ve watched that tree grow up over the years.The pink flowing myrtle reminds me to be patient in my life, too. Most good things happen over time, not overnight.
A dormant season is necessary. Yes, it’s beautiful to watch all the blooms come to life in early spring. The smell of jasmine fills the air and I pick roses and daisies to arrange in mason jars. But spring is not a stand-alone season. There is a great deal of work that is done in the dormancy, quiet, and stillness of winter. I need to remember this in my own life: sometimes stillness and rest is what’s needed for the next season to fully bloom.
If things don’t’ bloom where they are initially planted, you can move them. I learned this from my grandmother. She would plant a new flower where she thought it would look best in the garden. I asked her once “what if it doesn’t like it there?” Her response stuck with me: “That’s the beautiful thing about gardening, you can just dig it up and move it.” I think we forget this sometimes in our own lives. We don’t have to stay the same: sometimes we’ll bloom somewhere new- not always a physical or geographic move, but more often a shift in our thinking, a new friend, a new routine that brings us to life. We need to notice where we are thriving and what makes us wither, giving more energy to those things that nourish us.
When God placed his human creation in a garden he may have been providing us with more than just a beautiful setting. What a gorgeous reminder and metaphor for creativity, and the knowledge that God gave us everything we would need to care for ourselves. There were lessons there. All for the taking.
The greeting card aisle is going to be packed this week at the grocery store- dozen of folks swarmed around to find just the right words to stick in an envelope. It’s coming Sunday: Mother’s Day. This is the day we set aside to celebrate moms and all they mean to us. Seventy-five percent of all the flower sales in the U.S. each year happen THIS weekend. That’s a lot of roses, ya’ll. For many moms and their children this is a beautiful day filled with family and flowers, good food and gifts. We will smile and thank our families and share a meal, and it will be restful. I anticipate it will be that way for me. But this is far from reality for many.
Because sometimes there are no words and no bouquets.
For some Mother’s Day can be a brutal-reminder kind of day. The day that points out to a woman all the holes, the tattered places, the loss. There is a vacant seat at the table, an empty mailbox, or a painful place in our hearts.
Because this broken world can mean wayward children and less-than-perfect relationships. Often there is no card that can be purchased that says just the right thing from a daughter who carries too much pain and distance between herself and her mom. Or Sunday might be a day that a daughter just sits with memories of her mother, lost from this world because of cancer, a lifetime cut way too short.
Or maybe a mother sits surrounded by photographs hung on the walls of her children, her table empty, no visitors to welcome. Maybe she’s lost a child to death or to a prodigal path. Maybe there’s just silence these days. Maybe she has given up that she will ever hug them again.
These are not Hallmark moments.
So to all the moms or daughters who feel a little broken this Mother’s Day… I see you. This Sunday might be a time of mending for you, or it might just be a day to sit with the feelings. I don’t know. I only know that I have a little gift for you, to remind you that regardless of your circumstances, you are beloved.
I created these reminders for myself: 18 scriptures printed on a page that speak truth to me. I framed them, right there here where I can see them daily.
They contain words like:
You are loved. You are beautiful. You are special. You are cared for.
Words from a Father who knew that we would need them. Words just maybe for such a time as this- a day that comes with mixed feelings and lonely places.
So to moms or daughters that find this weekend hard, these are for you. I’d send you roses and daisies from my yard too if I could. You are not alone.