Learn from the way the wildflowers grow: the story of who I was, where I went, who I met, and why I
It feels stupid to be blogging again. I mean, really, do people still read blogs?
There’s the chance you might remember me from my first blog, Piece of Cake; married with four children under the age of seven, living in a tiny, two bedroom, one bath townhouse, in sunny Los Angeles. I suppose I was what you would call “a mommy blogger”, or as some would say, “a dime a dozen.” Cheaper than therapy, blogs really appeared to emerge as the new anti-depressant for stay at home moms, and I went for it hook, line and sinker.
What was my blog about? It was the story of how I began baking to save my family, which sounds crazy, but it is the truth and the truth often is crazy. I thought if I could sell enough cakes, we could afford to live the way we wanted to (which I assure you, was by no means an outrageous display of greed and material desire. I just wanted to be able to pay rent and afford school tuition). When your bank account is in the red more often than not, it takes a toll. Relationships suffer. Shame and blame force their way in. Small fractures turn into full on breaks. You can not imagine how you will ever get out of this hole. It is a terrifying way to live, really, and if you have been there or are there, you know what I mean. And so out of fear, I baked. And I not only baked, but I wrote about the baking. And the debt. And the tired relationships. And those four kids under the age of seven. Piece of Cake became a great way to manage my sanity with humor, and at the same time, allowed me permission to feel purposeful in what was beginning to feel like an unpurposeful life. My identity was in that blog. It was where I put all of my hope. But you see, something happens when you put your hope in something other than God. You leave space for despair, you invite the lie in. You begin to believe what you knew was true all along, that this is all there is, and that your life will never be what you had hoped for.
After a move to Connecticut, I quit writing Piece of Cake because God asked me to. Of course, that is not what I told my readers back then because they would have thought I had truly, once and for all, lost my mind. But here is the thing; in that place of despair, in the midst of the lie, when I truly had lost myself, I met Jesus. Smack in the middle of my mess, He showed up. Now, I am so not a fan of people showing up to my house uninvited. Seriously. Don’t ever do that to me. I prefer a heads up so I can at least wipe a toilet seat or pick up the socks that are on the floor of every room. But Jesus doesn’t work that way. Jesus is not out to find the clean house to visit; He seeks out the house that needs cleaning. And so there we were, with filthy toilets and dirty clothes on the floor. And He reached out His hand, and He picked me up, and I have been following Him ever since. Those Gospel stories I had grown up hearing over and over again...you know, the ones about how Jesus heals the lame (JN 5:1-15), restores sight to the blind (MK 8:22-25), raises the dead (MT 9:18-26), and after they are healed, they immediately get up and go out to tell everyone they know about this man who saved them---those stories suddenly made so much sense! There is just no way you can encounter Jesus, and stay the same. There is too strong a pull to serve and to spread what you now know is true; that this is not all there is, that our lives do have meaning. When you encounter Jesus, He moves you. He changes you. He calls you to your purpose. And sometimes, He asks you to change your blog.
I took some time away from writing and used that time to listen instead. I seeked God’s voice out in everything. After taking my heart, and unpacking it and wrestling with it over and over again, asking God what I should do, I took a huge leap of faith. I began a new blog. A faith blog. Why was this so hard? Well, for starters, when is it ever easy to publically talk about God and your Catholic faith? I dare you to try that at your next office party or PTA meeting. And don’t forget, I had a former “following”, and what would they think of me now? Fear of being put down, fear of being ridiculed, fear of being challenged, fear of being cut off, fear of being the “Jesus freak”….it all played a part in my deep reservation and hesitation to put myself back out there. I had already weathered some questionable remarks, from close friends mostly. “You and your new zeal for your faith” sounded a bit condescending, and being told, “I am not Catholic like you are Catholic” didn’t come across as a compliment to how I was choosing to live it out. I was made to feel weird. And I had a hunch that if I went all out and proclaimed my love of the Lord as I truly did, I would lose friends. I was afraid to write again. But I did. Because when God asks you do something, you do it. Even Mary said so at Cana. Do whatever He tells you (JN 2:5). He also gives you the grace to persevere, if you open yourself up to it, which I have to say, is a real sweet deal. And so I called this new blog of mine SHINE. And although I was afraid to jump back into the pool, I was also excited to swim again. My first published post talked about the light in the darkness, and how there is no darkness that the light of Christ can not overcome. Two weeks later, there was a shooting at my children’s elementary school. Twenty first graders and six educators were killed that bright, sunny, December morning. And in an instant, everything...and I mean everything, went dark. Everything, but the light.
I had to shut down the new blog. For my own sanity (which by the way, is still highly questionable), for my family’s safety, and for all of our healing. I felt I had no other choice. And I have stayed more or less silent for a long time, and for those of you who know me personally, I think we can both agree that staying silent is not one of my spiritual gifts. And so I attempted to revive SHINE, putting into place some safety nets, such as closing comments, and eliminating the use of photographs of my children, because, well, there are some interesting folks out there in this world, and by interesting, I mean scary and misguided. But this new SHINE never felt right. I am kind of all about “go big or go home”, and this half-in attempt to write again just didn’t flow. It wasn’t me. It was not authentic. The truth? I was afraid to open myself up to the world again, because after experiencing the trauma of an unspeakable act of violence and the chaos that follows, the evil that prowls around the world got all too close and personal. It went after my kids. And then? Then it went after me. And so the REAL truth? I wasn’t afraid. I was terrified.
Not too long ago, I was on retreat, when I heard a beautiful speaker talk about women as being wildflowers. I love that image, in part because a bouquet of colorful wild flowers is my absolute favorite flower arrangement of all. But also, because my mind went right to the passage I love so much and have highlighted and circled in my Bible:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wildflowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?”- Matthew 7:25-30
I have been charged by God with a mission to shine His light into dark places. And I will no longer allow fear to get in the way of that call. People, we do not have to live in fear. God tells us “Be not afraid”, 365 times in the Bible, and as our Deacon just preached, “He’s got you covered for every day of the year.” And how true that is. Worrying about what might happen tomorrow is useless. We have no control over what what will happen today, let alone tomorrow. Live for the right now, and live it with gratitude, because this very moment is all gift. If you woke up with air in your lungs today, God has a purpose for you, I promise you that. It is time we stop working and spinning and start growing in our dependence on God. How do you conquer fear? You conquer it with faith. You dive into truth, and you hold onto it for dear life. It is time for us to set fear aside, and to grow wild, courageous, lives; to be flowers of a beauty and grace that stretches and bends to the will of our Heavenly Father; to lift our faces up towards the sun, and to grow in His light, knowing that He will tend to our needs, that He will keep us safe, that we have nothing to fear. The reward, my friend, is unimaginable joy without limits. A life with no fear. An eternity of never questioning where your comfort will come from. How do we get there?
Do what He says. Follow Him. Then look to the wildflowers. Learn from them.