There have been several times in my life during which I’ve felt particularly useless.
Times when life seemed to be not only lacking opportunities to use my gifts and talents, but almost seems to be deliberately blocking the use of them.
I feel these times more acutely as a mother than another other time of my life thus far.
On a recent road trip with my family, I saw something that spoke to my heart and was such an encouragement to me for those times when I feel particularly useless. I’m sharing my thoughts over at The Better Mom today, and I’d love to have you come join me!
If you’ve just clicked over from The Better Mom, I want to extend a warm welcome to you, and thank you for taking the time to come visit! I hope this little corner of the web is an encouragement to you. Be sure to introduce yourself!
The sun streamed in through the floor-to-ceiling windows and warmed our backs as we sipped coffee at our favorite cafe – a rare treat in October (the sun, not the coffee). Our son toddled happily around his familiar surroundings and we just sipped, and chatted, and watched and enjoyed. When out of the corner of my eye I saw something moving – sort of twitching – around; so I gave it my full attention.
Just outside the window there was a beautiful flower cut out of wood leaning against the corner of the building. The petals were painted a bright fuchsia, and the center – about the size of a bowling ball – a vibrant yellow. The sun shone bright on its surface and it nearly glowed. A wasp buzzed spasmodically around it; it would land in the center, dance and run around it then take off again to get a better angle. With kamikaze-like precision it would hurtle towards the flower, peck at the core with it’s stinger, feet, head. This carried on for the better part of half an hour until finally it flew away, seemingly in a huff.
I can’t blame the little fella for being drawn to that flower – it was truly breathtaking glistening away in the autumn sunshine. It must have looked like a Utopian last-bastion of summer for that little guy. What got me was how he continued to try to suck some kind of sustenance from it once he was painfully aware it was fake. Was he aware we were watching and therefore trying to save face? Was he going to stick with it because he had committed, and once he commits to something he follows through with it, dadgummit? Did he think maybe if he changed his approach; tweaked the way he went about it he would find the magic button of pollination glory?
As we left the cafe and sauntered back to our car and the continuing to-do’s of everyday life, I couldn’t help but see myself in that poor little wasp.
In what things am I looking to find sustenance, nourishment, life-giving properties only to be pecking at a painted piece of particle board? To what beauties am I drawn by flashy coatings and vibrant color? In what endeavors am I wasting my time based on the empty promise of a first impression? To what tasks, or ideas, or ideals have I committed simply to save the embarrassment and hassle of admitting I was wrong?
The saddest part about the saga of our little friend, the wasp? There was a bush-full of beautiful, vibrant, fragrant flowers just around the corner from the cafe. Flowers full of sweet nectar and pollen just waiting to be taken on board, transported and transformed into something truly amazing – and satisfying.
Instead, he was deceived by the beauty of a coat of paint, ambient lighting, and the promise of something too good to be true; and he missed out on the real thing. And when he finally did admit to himself he’d been seeking his deepest need in the wrong place, he left defeated – and in the complete opposite direction of the real thing.
Oh, friends, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some pretty big wooden flowers in my life. I’m pecking away in search for something truly fulfilling in a place where’s there’s naught to be found but some dried out promises and painful splinters.
What about you? Where are you looking to find fulfillment? Happiness? Meaning? I invite you to join me and examine your life for the painted flowers and see what lies you’ve believed for too long. Because I know from experience, you can’t get pollen from paint.
We planted it back at the beginning of summer. Along with the strawberries that never quite made it, and the sweet pea that bloomed in beauty.
It was the first of the three plants to sprout, and the excitement was palpable. Day after day we’d rush to the pot to see what progress had been made overnight. Then, it just…stopped. Long, green shoots waved in the breeze with nary a bud in sight. Eventually we surmised it was a dud. Or we did something wrong. It just wasn’t going to bloom, and that was that.
I really need to just throw that thing away, I’d tell myself each time I’d walk in or out of the front door. It’s just taking up space. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Then…one day the tips began to change; to look a little like wheat. Ooh, this is it! We all thought. It’s going to bloom after all! And yet, there it sat in it’s wheat-like state for week after week. Such a disappointment. It had so much potential. It served to taunt me of all my own failures; a daily reminder of all the things that had promised to bloom, only to come up short in my own life.
Or in her life over there…she’s been working at that for years with nothing to show for it. Hrmph. She doesn’t know when enough is enough does she?
The morning dawned bright and clear with a brisk chill in the wind. We headed out like any other day for school, groceries, coffees and friends. And we stopped in our tracks. There on that useless, dud of a failed plant was the most striking purple and yellow bloom – and there were four more buds surrounding it!
I stood and stared at that delicate bloom, tears stinging my eyes. As the squeals of my children’s delight wafted on the air around me, a Still Small Voice whispered in my heart of hearts -
This is a promise. For you.
My mind immediately flooded with the myriad of tasks He had called me to before. Some days, some years before. Dreams and visions, some of which had nigh faded into the oblivion of just another thing I must have heard wrong.
Yet, just as we never know what is going on just under the surface of a tree or flower, so can one never be sure what is churning, germinating, growing, pushing through just beneath the surface of a heart; of a soul. He has not forgotten those things to which He has called me. Or you. He has not sat back and hoped for the best. No. Just beneath the surface of it all, yes, even way down deep, He has been cultivating and pruning and working.
And He has promised to work all things together for the good of those who love Him. To weave the beauty and passion, heartache and hardship, into a tapestry the likes of which are not to be found anywhere other than here. In this heart. It won’t make life perfect, pain free, flawless or easy. But it will ensure that not one thing will be for naught. Not one tear will be wasted. Not one prayer will float beyond His hearing.
This weaving, this working, this mysterious melding of mundane with glorious takes the toil, pain, joy and sorrow and works it to the very best for the one who places it all in the hands of the Weaver. And to be in His hand, His gentle yet infinitely strong hand…oh how that is the very best place to be.
So now, as I pass that pot time and time again in the comings and goings of this life of mine I am reminded of that promise. And I cling to the hope of things unseen. This heart flutters with anticipation of what is to come. Eager to see how the beauty blooming just beneath the surface will push through the filth and dirt and manure to burst forth in glorious color. For I know it is coming.
I’ve linked up with Time Warp Wife, Growing Home, Women Living Well, Life:Umasked, Denise in Bloom, Intentional Me, Womanhood With Purpose, Fellowship Fridays, Hope for Hurting Hearts, Grace Laced, The Better Mom
I rounded the corner and something seemed off…different.
Unable, at first, to put my finger on exactly what, I paused. Surveyed my surroundings and suddenly there it was clear as day…
Had that tree always been there? Yes, I recognize the silhouette.
And yet it’s so stark. So…bright.
Yes! That’s it! The berries!
That tree, bent with resignation against the years of gale-force winds blowing upon her. Shaping her. Pushing her. Molding her. That tree which for the last two years has sat barren. Withered.
She has blended in with her surroundings, bearing nothing distinguishing to the eye of the beholder. If you were to scan the horizon of this seemingly barren land you would see countless trees like her…the same bent shape from a lifetime of standing against the torrents of the world. The same bland color, as though the energy could not be mustered to match the vibrant greens this land is known for. Forty shades of green? Not her. The world has beat her down. Subdued her. Tamed her.
Two long, hard, laborious years she has stood; and she has born nothing. She has offered nothing to those who look at her that would cause one to take notice, make comment, or pause to enjoy her beauty. There has been no evidence to the outside world that she even lives, let alone produces or thrives.
Today she is radiant. Her branches laden with crimson berries so vibrant they make the deepest shades of green look dull. The warming palette of autumnal hues surrounding her subdue beside her brilliant fruit.
She stands in beauty. No taller, no stronger, yet completely different than she was yesterday. Look to the east or west and your eye is drawn to her. The bright red fruit a gift to the beholder. An offering for the season to come.
What does she offer?
She offers this weary soul hope.
Those two barren years were not in vain. Why she stood those years without showing her brilliant colors, I know not. Perhaps time was needed to recover from an illness only she knows. Perhaps the years of wilderness and barrenness were needed to strengthen her for the overabundance that was to come. Today.
I look at her and I see…myself.
I see those times of spiritual struggle and toil. Of emotional constipation. The times where to all those who looked upon me, self included, only death was visible. The times when I worked, and toiled and watered and sowed and got bare branches in return. No fruit to evidence my labor.
I see hope for those in my life for whom my love runs deepest; and for whom life brings only pain and strife. I see in them now the potential for an abundance of beauty to erupt from the years spent withered and cold and barren.
For who knows what carries on beneath the darkened skin and leafless branches of a body? Who knows what beauty sits in waiting just beneath the leathery surface of wind-worn skin, simply biding its time until the warmth of the perfect sunshine in balance with rain beckons it come.
I see that tree in all her glory, and I see a tie directly to my heart. I am filled with hope anew, anticipating my own blooming that will come from the seed He has been cultivating so long in my heart.
I see that seed in you as well, my friend. Weather the storms and the wind and cold, because one day soon, you are going to wake and be clothed in a beauty you never could have imagined.
And on that day, may the fruit that shines brilliantly in the Son, bring hope to another weary and barren soul looking for hope in a dreary, gray world.
If you’ve got kids, you know what I mean when I say most days I’m pretty sure I learn more from them than they do from me. And the things these kiddos teach me…I tell you what, it’s some tough stuff!
There’s one lesson that I’ve been learning throughout our nomadic lifestyle as a family has really been hitting home lately. We meet countless new people living where we live, doing what we do. So we have lots of fun hellos. But with a hello, goodbye inevitably follows. It’s painful every time. There are tears every time. And questions. And yet, there is still love.
Join me today at Intentional By Grace as I share about this lesson on deep love that my kids so expertly teach me everyday.
If you’re joining me today from Intentional By Grace, thanks so much for stopping by! The kettle is always on around here and there’s plenty of tea and coffee to go around! Take a look around, get familiar with things and make yourself at home. I’m glad you’re here!