We had lived in this new house for less than six months. Walls had been painted, furniture set in place, and decor was somewhat coming together. Plenty was still left to do but considering decorating, revamping, and freshening up my home has a significantly high rank on my lists of favorite things, that is a job that is delightfully unending.
The yard we inherited is beautifully green with spans of open grass suitable for all things sports that three boys fine appealing. There are also private set aside spots for a soon to be coming chair, the perfect spot for spring and fall reading. A variety of little spaces give an illusion of rooms in the wide open space where yard games are played, water balloons filled, birds visit feeders, berries picked, or trees climbed depending on in which section you find yourself.
My greatest challenge will not only be adding pretty flowering color but also to not destroy this green haven that has been around for decades. I am not nearly as handy in the outside home world as I am on the inside. Vision is never a problem, but the results can end up a little brown and crispy more often than I would like.
Although most of the spots out of our doors are ones that I love there was another that stuck out every time I stood on the porch and glanced around the yard. It cried out for help, or maybe I was crying out to help it, because staring front and center in my view were 30 year old boxwood bushes.
It is a mystery to when my hate/hate relationship with these bushes began, but ever since childhood I would stare at these boxy things cornering curbs, lining up on house fronts, and blocking fences and scowl at their trimmed shape. Maybe in the elaborate garden of an English manor they have their place but in every home I have lived as an adult they are on the list to go.
One Sunday afternoon while the boys were resting and Zach and I were feeling our Sabbath rest needed to be more active of body to help quiet the spirit, we began tackling the task of ripping out those eye sores of mine. We spent little more than an hour trimming, digging, pulling, and then hauling away. In little more than an hour this spot that had occupied my line of sight was left clear of debris and ready to bear something new in its space.
In little more than an hour God granted me a milestone moment. A day where my heart was changed, and I saw more of what He was doing, what he had done. A day where so many struggles and prayers were whisked away and answered as pieces came together in my head and heart.
In one afternoon, I learned four fundamental truths at the exact same time...
1) Roots have to soften if you want to dig them out. Difficult situations produce growing roots inside your heart just like Truths do. The longer they live within you the deeper and stronger they grow to the point that they can almost feel permanent. Ripping them out can be painful, exhausting work. You can dig all around or you can wield and axe and turn them into shards but either way you will be spent and torn apart.
The bushes we dug out had been soaking up rain for over a week. The water had seeped in and softened so that the roots let go of the dirt around them and were able to be lifted out. The Holy Spirit and the Truth it reveals serves the same purpose. It can soak into and around the roots in your heart, softening their hold, so that they can be lifted out. There's still a hole to fill no doubt, and making a hole of any kind does not come without some effort, without some pain. However when it is not made through violent force, but with tender care it makes all the difference.
2) Digging out roots is hard work. Clearing out, digging out, is good. It provides clean slates, level footing, new beginnings but it is not easy. It takes effort but more importantly it takes getting started. My wonderful Mary Poppins said, "once begun is half done." Standing on the porch staring and grimacing at a bunch of bushes accomplished nothing. Getting down in the dirt is where I had to be to complete the task.
C.S. Lewis said "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” The metaphorical roots that grow within us can be even more difficult and painful to remove but once gone it leaves more space for Truth to root down inside you and "Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong." (Eph. 3:17)
3) You need help. Uprooting is not for the faint of heart and it is not a job done easily alone. My parents will drive four hours to spend a weekend digging flower beds, trimming trees and planting new things. I have a friend whose parents have done the same thing several times as well. Friends will mow your grass when you're sick or out of town, check on your pets, gather your mail. God places people in your life for community, for bearing one another's burdens, for digging roots out of the ground.
There are people in your life who love you and are willing to drop almost anything to come to your aid, accept their help. You were not mean to live life alone.
4) The finished result is well worth the work. One of my favorite feelings is sitting outside all fresh and clean from a shower after a long day of work and enjoying the fruits of the labor. Getting started might take awhile, there is obvious hemming and hawing sometimes, procrastination at it's finest but in the end when the job has been done the statement "I wish we would have done this sooner" is often uttered.
I don't always understand God's timing. Often I feel as if He might have wanted to show me things sooner but was just waiting until I was paying attention, but He is sovereign over all and I pray to accept His perfect plan as it comes or as I notice.
On October 4, 2015, one of my milestone days, I was given the gift of being able to completely forgive, submit to the command to love another even when the world would tell me not to, and just as that space was now cleared and ready for new growth, so was my heart ready to completely heal. It can still take time, just as it can for you. Weeds can pop up when the right care is not being taken but Hope remains as the promise of new mercies is ever present and the Divine Gardener is a much better care taker than I.
This is the last of this three part series of days and dates, joys and sorrows, milestones and newness. I hope at some point my story and my words drifted away and you saw your own in it's stead.
I'm praying for you, pray for me.