I think I want to write you a letter today. This year I've been writing letters to a friend who is living far, far away, and the act of writing letters (well, emails that look like letters, anyway) has reminded me of the magic I used to experience keeping up with pen pals from summer camp as a child and young teenager. Going to the mailbox and knowing there might be something absolutely foreign waiting inside - something from somebody else's daily life . . . thoughts written down especially for me in the midst of another person's "normal." Letters are such beautiful things. You can read them over again on a different day and find you misunderstood or overlooked a line . . . you can write back and reconsider. Often when I'm writing a blog here, I think of it like a letter . . . today I thought I'd make it look like one, too.
I have a new garden, my Friend. I dug up a new plot of land, disturbing the soil. I introduced new wildlife. I added a lily given to me by my mother, which came from my late grandmother's garden. I waited a few days as the lone lily began uncurling her new leaves. After that, I walked slowly through my yard in the early spring air and dug up bluets and spring beauties wherever I saw them. I carried them in my son's bright orange sandcastle bucket and replanted them in my new garden. I've never been a gardener before, so this is all new and I'll probably make some mistakes. But I come from a long line of gardening women . . . women who look at the earth around their homes like a canvas they ought to decorate.
I called my mother and said, "I moved a bunch of spring beauties into the garden. I don't know if they'll be alright. Do you think the mulch from our fallen trees in the back yard is good enough to use there yet?" My mother talked about nitrogen in the soil, etc., etc., and then said something so beautiful that I've got to share it with you.
She said, "Spring beauties are truly incredible. They can survive much more than you might think. Even if the soil isn't good for many other things yet they'll probably do alright. Their root systems are fast growing and tough. They will seek their depth once planted."
They will seek their depth . . .
A spring beauty is a small, white or pink wildflower. They grow in little bunches, close to the ground. I often find them growing in little circles around our yard, where the soil is very rocky and sandy. I've seen them sprouting up against the roots of trees, showing their sunny little faces in the middle of an early drought. I've seen them multiply overnight, even after a late frost. My mother, of course, is right - they're incredible.
I spoke to a friend today who is facing so much uncertainty in life. Many of my dear friends have gone through patches like this - circumstances literally uproot us. We find ourselves faced with the uncompromising necessity of forced choice. We have to think faster than we can feel. These things come to us from all directions . . . consequences of past action or inaction . . . unexpected developments within our work or our family life. We move entire households. We change jobs. We attend other churches. We abandon institutions altogether. We lose friends or miss friends. We struggle, forgive, reconcile, and struggle again. We are disillusioned and heart broken. We are rebuilt and inspired.
It didn't occur to me until after I'd hung up the phone that I ought to have shared with my friend what my mother had been telling me about spring beauties. I'll have to call my friend back. But, Reader, I wanted to share it with you, too.
We, too, can seek our depth.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Our roots are fast growing and tough.
We can survive much more than we are ready to imagine.
The fact that we're so incredible and adaptable does not require us to minimize our own suffering or the suffering of others. Rather, it encourages a certain openness to the experience of suffering as we face forced choices in life.
Dear One, you may very well be uprooted. You might be transplanted in a less than glamorous way (in a bright orange sandcastle bucket, even). You might be plopped down in the midst of newly disturbed earth, with your broken roots still longing for the soil they'd gotten used to . . . the loose ends still bleeding. It's unglamorous. It's raw. The pain is legitimate.
But we may still grow into a day when, having sought our depth, we stand up taller and throw our beauty farther into the world than we previously thought possible.
You know me (or maybe you don't! Hi, nice to meet you) - I'm a big believer in counseling.
Resources that promote mental and emotional health are extremely useful during these times of upheaval. It can be water, fertilizer, sunlight, and a means of acclimation for us. We are not required to do all of this healing on our own. In fact, having been created by the great Trinity itself, we are designed to connect ourselves to others and to thrive, encircled by healthy, vibrant expressions of community. "Reaching out" is part of our spiritual DNA. Our roots are traveling roots. Our branches are designed to reach for other branches.
Five years ago my husband and I took one of my still-new songs and attempted our first claymation project. It was great fun and took much longer than we thought it would! The song is called "Knit Me Together." The claymation concept was the growth of a heart in a garden, the brokenness of the heart . . . and the healing of the heart.
I know it's a silly little thing . . . but over the years the words of this song have come back over and over to teach me. Sometimes I write a song that probably isn't so much to help someone else . . . it's more to help me, sometimes even a future me struggling with something I could never have predicted. I wrote this song before I knew I was prone to actual panic attacks and real depression - long before I would seek counseling for those things. I wrote it before I was uprooted by work and changes with work. I wrote it not knowing what it would be like to walk through many of the territories my busted soul has traversed since then.
And it's a garden. We're a garden. We're not perfect. We're not finished. We're diverse and adaptable. Purposeful, beautiful chaos. We are in process at all times.
My Friend, I don't know exactly what your reality is today, but I'm sure it's not perfect. Never believe the lie we're tempted with as we observe each other on social media and in social situations - the implication that others might be somehow perfect or that their lives are free of complication. It's never true. And while there's no way for us to have total understanding of each other, there is a way for us to be who we are and there is a way for us to be generally accepting of who others appear to be (we'll never all the way know each other because we are not God). God, in the person of Jesus, did a lot to try and convince us that we should be honest and forthright in our living.
Matthew 5:8 - "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God."
It doesn't say "blessed are the perfect ones" or "blessed are the ones who have it all together" or "blessed are the ones who get what they want."
It says, "Blessed are the pure in heart" - you know, the ones who are living, speaking, and acting honestly. Those people will see God even as they're being uprooted and tossed about. Living honestly promotes the search for healthy community and support. When we're honest about the experience of struggle or about our own brokenness we find access to grace for ourselves and grace for whoever is "other." We also find access to open conversation with friends, near and far, who can help us to normalize and accept our feelings about what is taking place in our lives . . . this does NOT mean that we have to remain stationary in the midst of bad circumstances . . . but it does mean that we can be still long enough to stop the bleeding, assess the damage, and seek appropriate treatment.
Yeah, sometimes we see God later . . . not so much in the midst of our trauma. That's ok. It's alright. God isn't puzzled by that. God isn't surprised at anything we say, do, or think. Omniscience is one of God's most gracious qualities - think about that for a minute. It's not a threat . . . it's not a bad thing that God knows all about our thoughts even before we think them. It's a beautiful, green pasture to rest in. God cannot be shocked by the force of any emotional reaction we have. God cannot be dumbfounded by how we deal with our own brokenness or the brokenness of others. We don't have to be afraid of "letting God down" because being "let down" is a reaction . . . and God, knowing all things already, is not reacting to anything. God is being. God is the only I AM. And we are the blessed dust being constantly revived by God's holy imagination.
Grace to you, Friend. Grace in the midst of whatever circumstances surround you.
Seek your depth.