During covid, I decided (as many of you did) to expand my horizons and start new things/get back into some lost hobbies. I started playing video games with Casey (i.e. watching him play and giving advice), watercolor painting, taking care of plants, cooking and baking more, and playing piano/singing with Casey more. We also got a bird feeder and have become an 80 year old couple who gets up to watch the birds on Saturday mornings, and I don't hate that at all. These things were all so good for my heart and continue to be. I must say, my favorite newfound hobby is the plant-caring-for and bird-watching.
Now, you have to realize, only in the past couple of years have I been able to keep plants alive. Before, whenever I would buy a plant, no matter how sturdy it was, I would kill it, usually by over- or under-watering. In June 2020, after much encouragement from Casey and my friend Hanna, I went to Lowe's and bought a Pothos. While we were getting it settled at home that afternoon, my sweet old neighbor (who was the plant KING, he was amazing, his patio was full of lush plants and so beautiful) came over and offered a cutting of one of his favorite plants. He swore that it was impossible to kill and that it would survive anything, so I accepted it and planted it. After some googling, I *just* discovered it is type of Pallidia plant sometimes called 'Purple Heart'. From there, my little plant collection has grown. I propagated my Pothos shortly after moving to Cleveland- and IT WORKED! So now I have the big Pothos plant and two little ones, my Purple Heart, and I bought a Croton plant last summer that is still thriving!
At the end of April 2021, I wanted to go for something more adventurous, so I got my first tomato plants. I was pumped, bought some giant terra cotta planters and tomato food and all that jazz, and jumped in. While I was asking around for any advice about tomato plants, my mom gave some advice that became much more meaningful than plant advice. She said, "Since your tomato plants are in pots, you need water them upside-down, to be sure to water the roots. Put a tray under them and water the tray over and over until the plant stops soaking it up. That forces the roots to grow deep in search of water, and your plant will be stronger." That just about smacked me on the forehead. It immediately felt like a metaphor for my faith.
Over the past year or two, I have been in a new/different/odd place in my relationship with Christ. For a long time, our relationship was easy. I didn't have to work at it much. I had desire to be in the Word and communing with other Believers, and it just... happened. But sometime in the past couple of years, that shifted. It felt like I was in the weird teenage phase of my relationship, where I wasn't 'rebellious', but I found myself suddenly questioning things that had always felt certain. Similar to, "Wait... do my parents REALLY know what is best here? Do they understand the nuances of this situation? Should I lean fully on their judgment or take it with a grain of salt?" Except my questions were, "How do I know I can lean fully on God's guidance? What does it look like to be fully His? Is it possible to be fully His and ________?" (so many things can fill in this blank) So, to use a 'forbidden' buzzword, I believe I'm deconstructing. I see so many things taking hold of the Church in America that make me go... That's not Jesus. How do they think that's like Jesus? And so many things in my heart that make me go... That's not Jesus. How did I think that was like Jesus for this long?
In the midst of these questions and the watering of plants, I realized, I am being watered upside-down right now. He is growing my roots deep. And it doesn't look pretty on the outside, it doesn't feel like a freshly-watered pot, and many days I have felt dry on the surface, but I am watered deep within. I think that's a good thing? Sometimes I'm not sure that I'm doing this right, but I am trying, and I am looking for Him wherever I can find Him, and I am saying Yes to Him when he starts to change me, and I think that's right.
There are many days I have asked Him, "Am I on the right path? Please move me if I'm not." I am so afraid of getting decades down the path and suddenly realizing I went the wrong way. Is it enough to just trust that He is a Good Shepherd and will lead and guide me, and my feeble idea of control is absolutely laughable?
Somewhere in here, the birds fit in. They absolutely love our feeder and will empty it in 8 hours. As I watch them, and look at the plants on my patio, I am reminded of Matthew 6 and filled with hope. The birds do not prepare or plan ahead, and yet God cares for them and feeds them. The plants do not toil to be clothed, but God makes their coverings beautiful- for something that is here one day and gone the next! "How much more so" just keeps coming to my mind. How much more so does He prepare and provide for me and cover me. There, on my back patio, He has given the cure for my worries.
And now, Casey and I find ourselves moving to a new back patio. Back "home" to Hub City. And while we are overjoyed at the Lord providing this, it is also extremely bittersweet. There have been loooooots of opportunities for worry, and God has been providing so much peace. Peace that, as Philippians 4 promised, passes my understanding. I literally find myself trying to objectively process the fact that we are moving, starting new jobs, living in a house, leaving our Cleveland people... all the changes... and going, wait- shouldn't I feel more worried about this? This is not like me. But thanks be to God for this peace that feels illogical!
Let me rewind a bit:
When we first found out we were moving to Cleveland, I was not happy. I shed a lot of tears and felt a lot of rebellion in my heart, but thanks to some wise and encouraging friends, I found the ability to exhale a prayer: “if this is it, God, change my heart.”
And He so absolutely did.
Against all odds, I love this place. At first, it was just “oh my gosh, Cleveland is so small!”, but so many things that weren’t Cleveland’s fault have given reason for us to not love it. We have been far from our families, with few friends, in a small town. We experienced the darkest days of grief here. We lost three of our favorite people in less than two years- two of them within a month of each other. The walls of apartment 4102 have echoed our cries and seen our buckets of tears. We have been so fluent in tears during our Cleveland time. And yet…
I have loved this season. Casey and I are even more of a weird little team who spend 90% of our time together, and it shows. I love the people that Cleveland brought us, especially PDS. It was a miracle to begin with, me finding PDS at the time that I did, but it has become more of a miracle each day. My heart is knotted up in it, and leaving is gonna be excruciating. I fully believe Mary Kline, my teaching partner, is literally a gift from the Lord to me. There are not words good enough to express how much her guidance and partnership has meant to me. In fact, I feel that way about most of PDS. It is something I do not count lightly, the way they accepted this stranger so quickly, the deep love I have for the place I’ve worked and the people I’ve worked with. I know how uncommon it is to find that. I know the discomfort of working in a place where you feel like you have to keep your guard up. And let me tell you, it has been an absolute oasis to be in a place that is so much the opposite of that.
Somehow, oasis seems to be the word sticking in my mind during this move. When I drove away from my job interview at my new school and began talking to God, I said through happy tears: it feels like I have been in a desert this whole time and just stumbled upon an oasis. Kinda doing a double-take, like... wait, I was in a desert this whole time?!?
And while I am so thankful for the Lord's presence with me (and Casey) in the desert, in the spiritually dry and lonely and exhausting, I keep leaking out more happy tears at His provision of WATER. Set-your-Pothos-in-the-water-bowl-and-let-it-soak-up-everything-it-can water. We were watered upside-down in this season, and it was necessary and good and brought some beautiful lessons. I can't express my gratitude for that enough. And simultaneously, I am deeply thankful for the change of season happening before my eyes and looking forward to the new lessons and gifts it holds.
So. goodbye Cleveland. There are so many things I will miss: La Michoacana mocha ice cream and nutella pops, 50 nights of lights, Zoe Coffee, Uncle Jo’s mac and cheese, going out for Sunday lunch after church, being literally 5 minutes (or less) away from anywhere I need to go, seeing people we know in Kroger every single time, the winter snows, and stunning sunsets. And you sure know I won’t miss it, but I will never forget the insane mosquito season. 😂 I will, however, miss the dragonflies in July/August and my wonderful little slice of heaven in room 406 at PDS and my #dreamteam partner.
|this plant was in a funeral arrangement from a loved one, |
and it became our classroom plant this year. I marvel at the irony
(or accuracy?) of the planter: let love grow.
|my sweet lil patio plants last summer (pre-bird feeder)|
So thank you, my God, for being One who walks beside me in Cleveland and Hattiesburg just the same. Thank you for these plants and the ways you teach me about me through them.
Thank you for planting me, for planting Your Word in me (Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the Word planted in you, which can save you! IF YOU DON'T THINK JAMES 1 THROWS DOWN, WE CANNOT BE FRIENDS haha but really).
Thanks for the eleven- and twelve-year-olds that speak James 1 to me and over me multiple times a day-- that's a gift I don't think I even grasp the depth of yet.
Thank you for this heart of mine that cares so deeply and holds on so strongly to those I love. Thank you for the beauty of a broken heart as I leave people who have affected every bit of me.
Thank you for constantly reminding me "how much more so".
Thank you for holding all my tomorrows and tenderly walking me into each one- that is the best of it all.