Posted in Faith, Five Minute Friday

#FMF: Learning to Fly (aka Write)

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done Five Minute Friday!  Here’s the link to this week’s link-up:

http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/06/07/fmf-link-up-fly/


“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings.”

-Tom Petty

 

What do you suppose it’s actually like for baby birds when they are learning to fly?  When they take those first hops on the branch or in the nest, preparing to spread their wings and take to the sky like their mama bird?

Do you think instinct kicks in and they just follow where nature leads or do you think, as movies would have us believe, that there can be a bit of trepidation involved?  I mean, do birds have personalities and some are braver than others?  Who knows?

For us humans, learning to fly is petrifying.  I’m using flying as a metaphor here, flight representing whatever we want to learn.  We want people to teach us to fly, convince us we should fly, remind us of our flighworthiness. And sometimes we have those people. When I was becoming a teacher, I had a whole slew of mentor teachers, advisors, and professors walking me through the process and cheering me on.

Now, learning to be a writer at 40?  Not so much.  I am completely on my own. And as such, I have felt ill-equipped for this. I have figured everyone else who learns to fly must have some kind of an inside track. They must have, like, studied writing in college. Or have done it professionally.  Or have folks around them who write who are like, “Yes, you should totally do this, let me give you a leg up.”

Turns out, that’s not true.  As I’ve slowly made my way into communities of other writers, I’ve discovered that just about all of them feel as ill-equipped as I do. Each of them is also battling bouts of cluelessness and doubt- even after they’ve actually been published, even those who seem to me like they must be experts and have it all together.

It seems like having no idea what you’re doing is almost a prerequisite for becoming a writer. So if that’s you, jump right in. Learn to fly.

I leave you with this quote from my devotional this morning, Priscilla Shirer’s “Awaken”:

“If you’re sure you’re out of options, if you’re certain that the supplies on hand are nothing compared to the resources He’s made available to someone else, chances are you’ve not taken a second look at what’s already at your disposal.  Ask the Lord to open your spiritual eyes to see how much raw material He’s provided for you to utilize in fulfilling His purposes for this moment. Don’t discount the little things. They can become blessed things if you look at them through the lens of divine possibility.”

Posted in Faith, Favorites

Turns out, Becoming a Writer is a Bit Like Training for a Marathon…

I’ve never been much of a runner. I do it occasionally, but it has never really captured me.

Writing has.  My whole life, I’ve enjoyed it.  I did fairly well in my writing courses in high school and college (when I decided to try, that is) and the ability to express myself “on paper” has served me well in both my personal and professional life.

A few years ago, I started this blog. I had no idea what I was doing and I’ve been writing here in fits and spurts, going around and around about whether or not this was actually what I wanted and WAS CALLED TO be doing with my time.

A couple of months ago, I decided to stop messing around and get serious.  I don’t know if it was God finally releasing me or me finally releasing myself, but I finally decided to stop casually dating writing on the sly and stand up in front of my friends and family and IN THE SIGHT OF GOD make a commitment to it.

So I did.  And the journey began. And I was in no way prepared for how hard it would be.

Man.

And it’s not even the writing that’s the hard part.  Nope, it’s all the other sh…STUFF that comes up and makes me want to spend some days hiding in my closet with a blankie, tea, and my Bible.

If you want to avoid dealing with your own issues, do NOT become a writer. Or do anything else brave and stretchy. Because your sh…STUFF is going to come up and you’re going to have to deal with it.

Like I said, I’ve never been much of a runner- power walking is more my jam (and I do love to power walk). But I have friends who are BFF’s with running and when they talk about stepping up their game from casual morning jaunts to something like a marathon or a Ragnar relay, they describe experiencing something similar to what I’m discovering while becoming a writer.

Moving from casual running to training for longer distances means that little things are going to have a bigger impact. That ankle that starts bugging you toward the end of the third mile of your Saturday morning 5k?  That’s gonna be a much bigger deal when you’ve got 23.2 more miles left to go.  Having trouble sleeping at night? That fatigue is a huge issue when you’re running the distances required to train for a marathon. And you’re definitely going to have to start fueling your body better, those empty calories are no longer going to cut it.

When we stay in the shallow end of the pool, stick to quick morning jogs, or write casually for funsies, we can get by with our brokenness.  Those little things that fester just below the surface can stay under the radar and for the most part, we can pretend they’re not there. But when we do the BIG and the BRAVE and the DIFFICULT, when we stretch ourselves and reach for bigger and greater things, all of a sudden those things rear their ugly heads and REQUIRE that we deal with them, otherwise they’re going to stop us dead in our tracks.

That ankle? For me that’s the comparison trap, I’m terrible about comparing myself to other people (and I ALWAYS end up finding myself lacking).  The sleep issues?  That’s self-criticism. I can be SUPER hard on myself and when it comes to writing, that can be absolutely crippling.  The diet and empty calories?  That’s me needing to be careful about how I spend my time, energy, and attention. If it doesn’t build me up, nourish me, and make me stronger, it’s gots ta go.  Buh-bye.

And it’s hard work. Hard, HARD work. And often times, it’s painful and unpleasant. and it can take a long time, much longer than we would like.

But you know what?  It’s good. And it’s important. And it’s even holy and sacred. We are stronger- MUCH stronger- for having dealt with that ankle and battled back against the comparison trap.

And for me, it’s all underscored by a pressing, frantic, desperate NEED! FOR! GOD!  The One who created me, redeems me, loves me unconditionally, knit me together in the womb, knows my every anxious thought, The One from whom NOTHING is hidden- even the things I’ve been trying to hide from myself.  Anything that deepens my need for Him, causes me to seek Him, allows Him to reveal more of Himself, His nature, and His truth to me is never a bad thing.

Like an aspiring marathoner, I have goals.  Mine isn’t a finish line with a time attached, mine looks more like a book, maybe, and definitely the chance to write and speak to women and moms about our worth, our identity, our strength, and the need to FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES against the lies that Satan tries to sell us.  I’m working every day toward those goals.

But even if I meet my own personal Heartbreak Hill in mile 20 of my race and don’t cross the finish line, I will be so much stronger and better for having done the work.  Guts, grit, and grace are refining me, drawing me nearer to God- and it’s worth it. It’s worth every single time I curl up under the blankets and cry, “I CAN’T DO THIS!” and then do it anyway. It’s worth every time I blast “Not Today, Satan” by KB in my headphones to shout down the lies.  It’s worth fixing this bum ankle and getting my daily nutrition right.

If you can relate to this post, then let me know. Because I want to be praying for you and cheering for you. Praising God and you for the courage you have to take your marathon journey, to do the brave and stretchy thing- the thing that brings up all your sh…stuff and makes you deal with it.

You are a warrior. I am a warrior. And goshdarnit, I AM a Writer.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

A Love Letter to the Hot Mess Mom

Dear “Hot Mess” Mom,

I’m writing to you today to thank you for being you and to let you know that you are my favorite, you are absolutely my people, let’s be besties.  Whether you haven’t showered in three days (or five…or seven), have no idea what’s for dinner tonight, CAN! NOT! seem to keep your house from looking like a cyclone hit it, have never once been on time for preschool drop-off, or haven’t worn anything but sweats in two years because nothing else fits- I think you are glorious.

And those of you for whom your “hot mess” feels a bit deeper, if you’re battling a mental or physical illness that makes you not want to get out of bed or get off the couch, wrestling with demons from your own childhood that have been dredged up by becoming a mom, harboring worry, resentment, and/or stress in your life or relationships that are eating away at you- you are glorious as well and I love you.

Because, my sisters, you are my people. You are the ones I want to sit in my own messy living room and drink coffee with and discuss the realness of life.  You are my jam. I love your messes- OUR messes- because they make us perfect for one another. The knicks in our armor, the rips in the supermom capes, those are the places where we reach out and connect.  They make us accessible to one another and give one another permission to come to connection just as we are.

Read more of this love letter from me to you over at the Project Mother blog:

https://projectmother.co/blog/a-love-letter-to-the-hot-mess-mom

Posted in Favorites

Flashback: The REAL Reasons my Toddler is Crying

Hey, Y’all!  Over the summer I’m going to be re-sharing some old blog posts as part of the weekly rotation.  Here’s why:

  1. Because my readership has GROWN (squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!) and it’ll give new folks a chance to see some stuff they might have missed.
  2. Because I am working on A PROJECT (squeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!) and recycling some old material will give me space to write for the PROJECT (squeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!)

I’m kicking off the summer of Flashback Favorites with “The Real Reasons my Toddler is Crying.”  It has been far and away my most-read post ever, more than FOUR TIMES THE HITS of any other post and HALF of my blog hits from 2016 were for this post.

It’s a year and a half later and I still have to re-read it occasionally myself when my patience fails because WE AE STILL CRYING ALL THE TIME OVER HERE.

Seriously.  At the end of the preschool field trip on Thursday, she burst into tears because she didn’t want to go back to school but she wanted to go back to her classroom and she didn’t want to go with me but she didn’t want me to leave her and WHY WAS I GOING TO LEAVE HER!  This one little dude in her class just sat there staring with this expression on his face that was ALL OF US.  Like, “What in heaven’s name is even going on right now?!?!?”

So anyway, here ’tis.  The Real Reasons My Toddler is Crying. (click the link to go to the original post:

https://awingandaprayer.blog/2016/09/05/the-real-reasons-my-toddler-is-crying/

Posted in Uncategorized

Five Minute Friday: Secret (Lord of the Rings

I’m a Lord of the Rings nut.  Love the books, love the movies, and I could probably speak entirely in Tolkien quotes if called upon to do so. Not in Elvish, though. Haven’t gotten that far.

So, obviously, this image of Gandalf from the beginning of “The Fellowship of the Ring” is what popped into my head when I read the word “secret.”

Gandalf is encouraging Frodo to keep The One Ring, “The Precious,” secret and safe, lest the servants of the enemy find out He has it and come to take it from him.

I feel like most of us have a “Precious” in our lives- or more than one

There are things in our hearts that feel like “The Precious,” like VERY BAD THINGS will happen if we let them out into the light and let others know we have them.

And in some ways, this is true.  When the agents of the enemy, those influenced by the power of the one who seeks to destroy us all, learn that we have certain things in our hearts, they will use it against us.

But flip side is what happens in Rivendell.

Once Frodo gets The Precious to the home of the elves, he finds a group of allies at The Council of Elrond. An unlikely bunch:  an elf, a dwarf, two men with secrets of their own, three other hapless hobbits, and Gandalf himself, assemble to stand beside Frodo and help him carry this burden, “As long as it is yours to bear.”

Frodo is strengthened and protected by The Fellowship of the Ring.  He would not succeed in his quest if not for them. Each plays a part in his journey to lay down this dark burden, each risking his very LIFE for Frodo and the Ring.

What is your Precious?  Is there a heavy secret weighing down your heart, eating away at your heart and weakening you? Is there a BEAUTIFUL burden, a secret precious dream that you feel God calling you to?

Whatever it is, you need a Fellowship of the Ring.

JRR Tolkien was a believer in God, the image created by this Fellowship was no accident.  Pray that God will bring you your Fellowship, your crew to carry this burden with you and help you lift it up and lay it down.  I will pray that for you right now, whoever you are.

Will you pray that for me? I need it, too!

Posted in Family, Friendship, Mom Power

Got Mom Friends? Want Mom Friends?

If you read this here blog, then you probably know that connecting and empowering moms is absolutely my jam.

I believe that friendships between women are POWERFUL. I’m talking chain-breaking, iron-sharpening, soul-healing, world-changing, hands and feet of Jesus powerful.

Never has this been more true in my life than here in the trenches of motherhood.  Connecting with other moms is pretty much the only earthly way I’ve gotten through it all thus far. Those relationships and the audacious acceptance I’ve experienced through them have been both life-giving and life-changing.

That’s why I believe so strongly in the work my friends Sara and Chrissi are doing over at Project Mother and why I’m totally stoked to be working with them as Community Coordinator. Project Mother is an organization that is TOTALLY 100% ABOUT empowering and connecting moms.  As Community Coordinator, my role is to support moms in establishing #MotherLocal Groups in their communities where moms can come together to connect in environments free from judgement and overflowing with support and acceptance.  Sound like your jam?

Learn more in today’s post on the Project Mother blog:

http://bit.ly/motherlocal

If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved with, follow the links in the blog post to get more info and you can contact me directly through the contact box there! Or just email me at tori@projectmother.co

Hope to hear from you soon!

Posted in Five Minute Friday, Friendship

#FMF: Include (This one Made Me Cry)

It’s Five Minute Friday! Or in my case, Five Minute Saturday because life.  And also kids.  This week’s word is “Include” and if I’m perfectly honest, I may have been putting this off just a bit.

Inclusion/Exclusion are a big deal for me.  There’s a story to tell there, and I don’t know how much I’m ready for and how deep into it I’m going to get…

But I’ve been for a run, I’ve got “Stronger” by Britney Spears blasting on repeat in my ears, and I think I’m ready to do this.

*fastens big girl britches*


Include.

Exclude.

Those are loaded words for me.

Words that have carried so much meaning and heartbreak over the years.  Words that also carry hope and empowerment.

I have been the seventh grader in class on Monday morning with all the kids around me talking about the birthday party they went to, realizing I was just abou the only one who wasn’t invited.

I have been the 18-year-old girl, the week before her freshman year of college, sitting on the floor of her dorm room listening to her Rush Counselors tell her that not a single sorority on campus had asked her back for the rush events that night.

I have been an adult, watching as friend groups have congealed around me, feeling like I should be a part of them and desperately wanting to, and feeling the weight and conviction of my own failures to fit in, to be include, that followed me into adulthood.

I have felt the sting and condemnation of exclusion.

But then…but now…God has changed my story.

This is Five Minute Friday so I don’t have time to get into the details, but since I became a mom, inclusion has allowed me to break free of the chains that exclusion had wrapped around my heart. I have seen how the healing power of audacious, extravagant INCLUSION can create a space for growth, for healing, can help us break free.

And so now here I am, preaching inclusion. In the Kingdom and in the world.

Because I believe that inclusion changes lives, it’s changed mine.


GAH! I wasn’t even ready for that…

There’s more there, some day…thanks for reading.

Posted in Friendship

5 Moms You Meet in the Comment Section (And How to Respond)

Warning: This post is a little salty.  Kinda sweet, but mostly salty. Bless my heart…

Ah, the comment section of social media posts, where common decency goes to die. The intoxicating combination of strong opinions and unrestricted access to a keyboard causes grown adults forget their manners AND their Jesus all over Ellen or Jen Hatmaker or Today Parents or KGW Newschannel 8 or whoever has evoked their righteous opinionation. I wonder what would happen if, at the end of each day, everyone had to show their mom what they commented on Facebook.  I’ll bet things would look a lot different.

This is particularly true of PARENTING POSTS. Almost everyone has either had a parent or been a parent and so eeeeeeeeeeeeeeverybody has an opinion, experience, advice, etc.  I’m not just talking about strangers on the other side of a computer screen here. Sometimes the responses we get from our very own friends and family when we post about the realities of our parenting journeys can be disheartening. We get strong opinions and advice WHETHER OR NOT WE ASKED FOR THEM and too often they are not presented with much love and care.  For a mom whose heart is cracked wide open with love for her babies, who is tired and tender from the struggle she’s in, it can feel like a punch in the gut.

Over time, however, you start to notice patterns in these responses.  The same people say the same types of things, DIFFERENT people say the same types of things…and you start to think that maaaaaaaaaaybe, just maybe these comments that people are leaving are actually more about them than they are about us.

I brought this topic up to a group of moms who have solemnly sworn to be brutally honest with me as I write about motherhood (I’m lookin’ at you, TBMFers), and what follows are character sketches of five of the most common types of commenters we have encountered on our social media posts about parenting.

Disclaimers
-This list is by no means exhaustive.  Good heavens, it’s nowhere NEAR comprehensive of all we’ve experienced as we’ve shared our parenting journeys out loud.
-It’s not designed to make anyone feel badly about the comments they leave for others. It’s meant to let other moms know they aren’t alone when they see these types of comments show up on their posts.  YOU! ARE! A! GREAT! MOM!  And don’t ever let anyone make you forget it…


  1. The Perfect Mom.
    On a post about formula feeding, she says, “Oh, I wouldn’t know. I breastfed all nine of my kids until they were five.”
    When a mom is trying to bring some realness about the struggle of keeping a clean house with kids in it, she says,  “My kids were all picking up after themselves before their first birthday. My house never looks like that.”

    This is the mom who seems to see another mom’s post as a chance to talk about great she herself  is. She doesn’t really have anything helpful to say, but she does see a chance to be seen and heard for her own parenting prowess, so she chimes in. This type of response is 100% about her and not about you. Whether she realizes or not, this mom feels like she has something to prove so she’s looking for any opportunity to remind herself and everyone else that she’s good at this mom thing.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  2. The Silver Bullet Expert.
    She shows up on the post about chronic constipation and simply says, “Prunes. Worked for my kids every time.”  I mean…really? CHRONIC constipation and you think we haven’t tried prunes?  Or when you’ve had a sleepless month (or several months) and just want some sympathy for your fatigue, this person shows up with, “Sleep training. We did it and Drizella sleeps perfectly now.”

    Whether you’re asking for advice or not, this commenter has it.  And it’s perfect. Worked perfectly every single time for every kid they ever had and if it hasn’t worked for you, you CLEARLY must not have tried it yet.  Also, this person rarely bothers with any fluff along with their sage advice. No, “I’m sorry you’re struggling.” No, “Oh, been there, girl!” Nope, this commenter just drops their wisdom in as few words as possible, drops the mic, and walks off to bless someone else with their infinite wisdom.

     This mom might actually think she’s being helpful. Maybe she doesn’t have time to add much more.  Or maybe she genuinely just does not GET. IT. that all families and all kids are different and what works for her might not work for the rest of us.  In any case,

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  3. The “Just Waiter”
    There seem to be two types of “Just Waiters.”
    One of them is the seasoned parent who, for some reason, doesn’t want us newbies getting too big for our britches so always wants to make sure we know WE AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET, just wait…  When you’re dealing with pregnancy insomnia, she says, “This is nothing, just wait until the baby is born!”  When you’re crying at preschool graduation, she quips, “Just wait until he leaves for college…”
    The other “Just Waiters” are well-intentioned friends who are trying to share in our excitement, but miss the mark a bit. When your kid says, “mama” for the first time, “Oh, just wait until she says ‘I love you!’”  When your kid learns to pull himself up, “Just wait until he runs to you for the first time!”

    In either case, this type of response tends to sting a little because the moments feel BIG and BAD (or GOOD) for us, and it’s just not awesome to have someone come through and point out that it’s going to get worse (or better).  (And, for the record, sometimes they are wrong. Pregnancy insomnia was worse for me than newborn sleeplessness). While their intentions are often pure, sometimes they are doing their level best to be excited with us, the “Just Waiter” could stand to take a step back and just let us have our moment.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  4. The Veteran Whose Kids “Turned Out Fine.”
    “Rear facing until two? Hmph! In my day we didn’t even have car seats and my kids turned out fine!”
    “No solid food until after six months? Hmph. I fed you strained peas at two days old and you turned out fine.”

    There you are, doing your best to follow the latest research on what’s best for your kids, and here comes The Veteran to tell you she doesn’t understand the fuss over this newfangled flibbertygibbert, her kids turned out just fine without it so it must just be some witchcraft nonsense.  Truth be told, I can actually feel where this mom is coming from. Nobody wants to hear that the way they raised their kids wouldn’t fly by today’s standards.  But here’s the thing: I fully expect to experience the same thing when I’ve achieved Veteran status. I expect that science and progress will unlock better and safer methods for future generations of moms. But that won’t mean I was a bad mom, nor does baby-led weaning and back-is-best sleeping mean that the moms of previous generations were bad either. We all do the best we can with whatever information we have at the time. So I kind of want to hug the Veteran Whose Kids Turned Out Fine and tell her she was a great mom.  But also remind her that progress is a good thing in other areas and it’s a good thing in parenting as well.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and keep on scrolling.

  5. The One Who Really Sees You.
    Sometimes she has actual practical advice for you, and sometimes she just says, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this, that sounds so hard.”  When things are good, she applauds and gushes over your kids’ accomplishments and yours, and reminds you that you and your kids actually ARE every bit as special as you feel in that moment.
    She tells you you’re a great mom and that your kids are lucky to have you.

    This is the mom who shows up in your tough moments and makes you feel like you’re not alone, like you’re not ACTUALLY failing, and like you might just make it out of this season of parenting.  She’s authentic and honest about her own struggles, knowing that being herself will give you permission to be yourself.  Her goal is not to give the best advice or make you feel better about HER, her goal is to shine light into your darkness and make you feel better about yourself.  This is the kind of mom you want in your squad, the kind of friend you want to give your best love back to, and the kind of commenter that makes us feel like we just might survive the internet after all.

    How to respond: Bless her heart and hold on tight.  


 

In the end, we would be remiss if we hated on these moms too much. Fact is, their hearts are just as tender from their parenting experiences as ours are. And also, who knows but what we may have inadvertently stepped on someone else’s toes when we commented on their post either. So nothin’ but love, mamas. Nothin’ but love.

But the fact remains that we all need to be told we are good moms, that we aren’t screwing our kids up, and that we are seen in our struggles. If we are honest with ourselves, that’s probably why most of us post online AND the reason the above-described moms comment the way they do.  So the next time you feel led to comment on someone else’s social media post about parenting, throw in these six little words:

Sounds like you’re a great mom.

These words cover a MYRIAD of sins, mistakes we might inadvertently make, because they are dripping with love and grace and what everyone needs to hear.

“Sounds like you’re a great mom!  Have you tried prunes?  It worked for us!”

“Sounds like you’re a great mom! I haven’t been there, but I’m here if you need support.”

“Sounds like you’re a great mom. We didn’t have car seats when I was raising my kids, what will they think of next?”

If enough of us said this to each other, the comment section would become a much more encouraging place for moms to be- and Lord knows we need more of those spaces.

Go forth and love other moms.

Posted in Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday: Adapt

Every week, Christian writers across the internet join together to write for five minutes about a one-word prompt and share our responses with each other.  This is my second week participating. 

This week’s word is: Adapt


 

Adapt or Die is the title of a book about leadership principals written by former US Army General Rick Lynch.

It would also be a fabulous title for a book about parenting.

From the moment you go from zero kids to being responsible for a newborn to the moment they are grown, getting married, and having kids of their own (or so I’ve heard), you’re hanging on tight and trying to keep up with all the developmental changes their seasons of life are throwing at you.

Just when you’ve got them napping three times a day, they start to drop one of their naps…then the other…and then stop napping altogether, leaving you to ADAPT OR DIE,

When you’ve parented your way out of one behavioral struggle, they decide to start testing the boundaries in another way, leaving you to regroup the troops, formulate new battle plans and ADAPT OR DIE

In these seasons of rapidly-changing life, I am so glad I’ve got a God who is unchanging. The same yesterday, today, and always. Because if I didn’t have an anchor in this storm a safe harbor to run to as the winds and waves of ADAPT OR DIE are swirling around me, I would lose my ever-loving mind.

Father, thank You for Your unchanging grace and mercy, both for me and for my kids. Thank  You that Your mercies are new every morning, that Your truth is ALWAYS true, and that as life changes us around us, Your love and Your plan for us can be our foundation and our solid rock. Amen.

(And the timer went off thirty seconds ago, but I had to finish that prayers.)


See you next week!

Posted in Faith

When God Prunes Good Things

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

Spring has (FINALLY!!!) sprung here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Trees are leafing out, flowers are blooming, people are sneezing, and we’ve all begun sprucing up our yards.  This year,  Jeff and I decided it was time to stop messin’ around and hired a crew to come in and basically lay waste to our front yard.  The weeds were pulled, the grass was edged, the shrubs were trimmed.  But also, some stuff that we  (or the previous owners) had planted on purpose got ripped out as well, things we didn’t like, that were hard to keep up, looked messy, even things we were just kind of “meh” about.  Right now, our front yard looks neat, but a little barren as it waits for whatever we’re going to do next- and frankly, we haven’t even gotten that far yet. We’re gonna plant stuff, that’s about all we know.

As I watched this process unfold over the course of a few hours on a rainy Friday morning, it jogged something in my mind, a memory of what the past year of my life has looked like.  It was almost exactly a year ago that God began a process in me that looked an awful lot like what was happening in our yard that morning- and left the landscape of my life looking very similar to how our yard looked after the workers left: stripped down, a little empty, and awaiting new planting.

Over the course of the past year, God has gone on a pruning spree.  People, places, spaces, relationships, endeavors: Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.  And it’s not just the weeds we are talking about here, we are talking about stuff I had planted in my life on purpose- even and especially stuff HE had planted- stuff I had cultivated, nurtured, watered, and grown in a way that probably made the plants in my front yard exceedingly jealous.

And unlike the workers in our front yard, I did not get to tell God what to take out.  As a matter of fact, He went for some things that I very much wanted to keep- and I fought Him tooth and nail as He took them out, digging in my heels, clinging until my knuckles were white, probably making quite the scene in the process.

I’ve prayed on multiple occasions over the years that God would do in my life the work that Jesus describes in John 15:2:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesa so that it will be even more fruitful.”   

But when I pictured God doing the work of pruning, I pictured withered branches, failing bushes, toxic weeds, dead weight. And I envisioned it feeling good, like having burdens lifted or split ends trimmed off. I didn’t imagine Him cutting off vines that still had lush leaves, ripping out shrubs I had planted and tended and even loved. And I didn’t picture it hurting so much.

I didn’t picture Him pruning GOOD things, and yet He did.  They were things that had been life-giving, iron-sharpening, and had changed me for the better in their season.

I have grieved for the things He pruned, I have experienced anger and even betrayal as they’ve been taken, and I have struggled mightily as some toxic weeds like resentment and bitterness have tried to take root in the empty spaces they left behind.

But God is always good, no exceptions. Through this season, He has taught me some new things about the times when He’s moving in ways I don’t understand.

  • Just because it hurts doesn’t mean it’s bad.  Because the pruning didn’t feel like I expected it to, it was quite awhile before I recognized God’s hand in what was happening.  As a matter of fact, there were times when I wondered where the heck God was as the landscape of my life was being uprooted in painful ways.  But God is everywhere at all times and just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t holy and blessed.
  • Just because things were pruned doesn’t mean they were bad.  Sometimes God prunes things because they weren’t good and we just couldn’t see it.  But even the most life-giving things can have an expiration date in our lives, a point when it’s time for them to give way to what’s next.  We don’t have to let the pruning cast a shadow on the graces of seasons past, what was good in our lives will always have been good, even after its time in our life is over.
  • Just because they’ve been pruned doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gone for good.  Some things are gone for good or will remain permanently as a shadow of what they once were.  But some things God trims so they could grow back better, fuller, and healthier.  Some things need to be gone for awhile but will sprout up again when their season in our lives return.  God can redeem, restore, and revive anything so I’m keeping a door open in my heart for these good things, maybe they will have their time again.

Unlike our yard, which still awaits us getting off our rear ends and planting new things, the empty spaces in my life are beginning to be filled in. Some new things are starting to sprout, some existing things are starting to expand into the empty spaces, all good and beautiful growth that was enabled by the painful pruning season. But some of the landscape is still blank, and much like our yard, it looks and feels little barren as it waits for whatever He’s going to do next. I feel like I’m only seeing a small piece of what He has planned, but my trust muscles were also strengthened through this pruning. I don’t know what He’s got planned, all I know is that He’s going to plant stuff and it’s going to be beautiful.


If this post resonated with you, check out this episode of Annie F. Down’s “That Sounds Fun” podcast featuring Tauren Wells, one of my current favorite musical artists.  In it, Tauren uses the term “divine expiration” to describe the end of the season of things in our lives  I can’t recommend it enough.