Passing decades and the stressors of life are a mirror. They reveal who we really are. 2020 was such a challenging year, and probably felt like an entire decade for many of us! For me, it was a mirror year. With the isolation from normal distractions, and the intense amount of time at home, I could see my reflection well.
At the deepest part of my motivation, I really want to be in control. It’s not a selfish control, but control nonetheless. I want to prevent pain in my life and in the lives of those I love. Over the years I’ve found a few protective strategies (not all healthy). But then conflict comes when someone else wants to prevent pain their own way. I’m not sure if it will work. I don’t trust them enough to risk failure. Perhaps their solution to controlling the situation doesn’t protect me from pain! I’m pretty sure this is at the root of all the conflict between my husband, my kids, and myself. Of course we all love each other deeply, but we do what we want, or think is best, according to our own lenses. There are six different lenses in our home. If I’m honest with myself, the times that I’ve really wanted to be in charge, are the times that I’ve also caused pain.
The close of 2020 gave me the opportunity to reflect not only on the last year, but the last decade. I’ve really struggled to trust God. There’s been so much pain that has been completely out of my control.
- The resources I needed for Mossy just weren’t available in Alabama, so I had to leave my deeply rooted community of love, security, and purpose. That was the hardest move I’ve ever made, and I felt so lost when I came to the mid-Atlantic region.
- Life as a single mom to a special-needs teenager broke my heart. There were lots of wonderful moments, but there were lots of terrible moments.
- Though marrying Chris was a dream come true, I found myself leaving again. Leaving a loving community that had walked through so much with Mossy and I. Here I was, starting over again.
- Becoming a wife and stepmother broke me again. The intense stress and loneliness in a new community, revealed my uglier side. Instead of having the strength and wisdom to parent grieving children with patience and grace, I often found myself operating out of my own self-protective strategies – caring more about obedience than the heart, teaching more than nurturing, and struggling to be truly vulnerable with Chris.
A decade of threads being woven in grief, hope, chaos, doubt, struggling faith, and anger.
As I contemplated these themes, it was like God invited me to come around and see his view of the tapestry being woven. And there was this beautiful picture of a garden for refuge, healing, and the life.
It was as if God walked me through the last 20 years of my heart, and showed me how he took a neglected garden and restored it to life. He started long ago by walking through the mess of overgrown brambles and weeds. The master gardener assessed which plants needed to be removed, pruned, or divided for healthier growth. Each year, he added completely new plants throughout the garden. After years of tending, and giving time for the plants to mature, it is now a place of life for birds, butterflies, and bees.
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.Isaiah 58:11
This is the work that has shaped me to be a safe friend to immigrants and refugees who are alone in their struggle to assimilate, special needs children and parents exhausted by navigating their atypical situation in a typical world, and those doing the brave work of fostering and adoption.
I just stood in awe and gratitude of his ways that are so much greater than mine.
Facing the start of 2021, I felt compelled to ask the Lord to make this year one of gratitude and grace. Gratitude for the new challenges I face, because I know that He will use them to grow my garden. And, therefore, grace for those around me. I don’t have to be in control if God is working it all together for good.