She flourishes in the dirt.
It’s was 3 pm on a Tuesday afternoon, an ordinary day, typical week in February. Earlier in the day I had written the annual check to my accountant, blessing his ears greatly for all he does to keep my business and taxes in check. As I left the appointment in my small rural town and headed south to my next errand, I began reflecting on a few checks that had transcribed over recent years.
The first check. I’m in the mid of my forty’s. I suppose it safe to say I’m approaching half way through this adventure we call life. That in itself deserves a medal. If you knew my kitchen or traffic skills, you would agree. I’m certainly no Sookie of Gilmore Girls, or maybe I am. If I remember right, her oven caught on fire once too, and I do make a mean Beef Wellington.
The second check. This year marks twenty-five years with the man who has been tolerable to endow my craziness with patience or fury, depending on the penury of the moment. I am very grateful for the beautiful and at times challenging narration our diary has animated, my husband and I. We’ve raised two gorgeous women, check check. Inside and out they are. I can not imagine this life without them. We are so blessed beyond measure to watch their smiles thrive. They are my heart song and energy of life. We enjoy so many laughs together. They keep me in check.
Twelve years ago I said goodbye to my hometown career, hugged my extended family with every strength of a smile I could muster, looked my aspiring children in the eye and set for adventure as we followed my husband, their dad, three states away to pursue a new position in his profession. I knew at the time and I know now, it was the right check for our family. Extremely difficult and emotionally challenging to be so far removed from endearing family and everything closely comfortable and predictable? Yes. Absolutely, yes. But a person does not grow in a pot. She flourishes in the dirt. Dirt is everywhere. It’s in the pot, on the sidewalks. But the worn paths that tread well seem to be in the beautiful bare grounds of the wide open. I’ve had to remind myself this perspective on more than one occasion over the years. At times, feeling like this resolute was the only petal I had left to extend for others to see. Yet, I chose to perceive the positive. Check.
Settling in to our new state of living, i soon found myself with the endeavor of homeschooling our grade school girls. An avenue I had no prior experience down. Contemplating this feat, i heard many voices. You can, you shouldn’t, you must, you wouldn’t. And so I did. Check. Our girls are now in the midst of their college and career chasing passions. Looking back at the road we traveled together, I hear every sound of laughter, moan of learning, and embrace every ounce of memory as it pens my mind. Childhood is a fleeting adventure, and i am so filled with gratitude that I had such a wide open window of fresh opportunity to explore with my girls on their journey. I will never regret that they were able to escape the room of standard education for a few years. Was i perfect at this challenge? No. Asking them, I’m certain they will convey their laughs and personal rise to educate themselves. If I instilled one trait in them, it certainly was not shyness of belief. Check.
Over the years, we girls have enjoyed the gift of animals, namely horses and dogs, and this passion has exploded into a wealth of new friendships and endeavors for both our girls and myself. The horse industry is such a wonderful family, and the values learned over the years as my girls worked toward their goals have been priceless. I’ve heard many words along this path too. Too expensive, too dirty, too smelly, too childish, too unreligious, too much dedication, too much period, just why? etc. It takes a lot of focus to ride a horse and a good grip to walk a dog. If you are not centered in your thinking, you just might trip over the leash or get trapped in the saddle stirrup. I heard all those words, but they filtered through. And as i reflect on this passion, I see a career blessed by God almighty Himself and the compeers, opportunities, and acquaintances He has provided along the way, and i think to myself. The dirt. The flourish. The beauty of grace. Check.
There have been aching root stumbles through my growth. In a two year time frame not too far back, I said never good bye to my only and best of childhood and adulthood companions brother who succumbed the nightmare of cancer with amazing heart strength that I can’t even put into words. Sitting through his memorial once again in my mind, listening to the sweet solo voice of his middle son of three very young boys echo the silence of standing room only as he framed the tune “Lean on me when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend.”. It is the sound that echos my brother’s life, then, and still yet. Words plant. His will never uproot from my soul. Check. His relentless charm and daring audacity drive me forward consistently asking what it is that could possibly hold me? I am certain my surviving sisters hear this same echo.
As if it weren’t enough to ache the soul, i also said never good bye to three other close-to-my-heart extended family members in the midst of those two years. It felt like every few months another rock was being hurled into the pit of my stomach. I grew up in a very loving close knit family, and saying never good bye so quick and often felt like amputations of the heart. It changes your mobility of perception, forcing the paradigm of who are the leaders of the generation now? What is worse? Finding out a week after my brother’s passing that my father would now succumb to the same curse a year later. How twisted is that? The most passionate, caring, giving man you could ever know finds his own fate amidst the heart wrench of losing his only son, and then proceeds a year of laying his own mother to rest while simultaneously comforting his sister as she says never good bye to her life long partner, our uncle, and through the midst of all this he was keeping a firm hug around my mother’s shoulders, as she dealt with the a whirl of loss and losing. We said never good bye to her mother in this same season. I could hardly bear understanding he had to carry these burdens at the end of his journey. The strength of emotion, the gentleness and kindness, and quiet way of continually giving of himself to others that my father emulated will forever burn the memory of my heart. He was never without time to help another along their path, and just because he might have been suffering internally was no excuse to keep him from giving all he could emotionally only to ease the emotional pain of his family as slowly we faced another amputation. I think sometimes how ugly and cruel it was, to know what must have been going through his mind during his passing hours. I have no doubt that leaving three very young grand boys and a whirl of grand girls and my precious sweet mother to fend life alone weighed heavy on his heart. I choose the word succumb for that is what it is. Those who overcome are no doubt completely blessed and feel so, but for others succumbing is the word. For who in their right mind would choose a war with an internal curse. Cancer is not a battle as some call it. We all have the will and fight to survive. Cancer simply sucks. And that is coming from a lady who passionately scolded her girls on the use of that word because it is simply dirty and unappropriated for life, period. So is cancer. Check.
I can not express the agony of what I had to face in those years. A few close friends know specifically what I faced emotionally amidst the twist of pain in not being close to home in final hours, days or lifetime. I had to stay focused and positive for my immediate family. Words come close, and some of the words shared with me during this season of my life were harsh and difficult to resonate. But others were strengthening. Those friends were the voices of encouragement, saying trudge on. You are doing the right thing. Stay strong. Stay focused. You can smile every day for your kids. You can be who you need to be. It’s in you. You can conquer what feels like desperation. You may be three states away from spending final hours with your loved ones, but you are not alone in your sadness. You may feel external pressures from negative voices, but they do not define you. You define you. I am forever grateful for the kind words offered. I listened. I chose the positive. Check.
When asked how he was coping with his challenge of succumbing, you know what my father solely stated? “God is good.” Resolutely. Quietly. If you ask me where the foundation of my internal strength comes from to face things unconquered in life, you now know. God is good?! Is He? Yes. When you believe, internally, deep within, and it is not just some surface set of superficial guidelines for you to do things right by or look pretty at, you will experience the unexplainable. You will know the root of joy and trust that glimmers in the darkness of the hours. You will know faith. I cant explain that to you. It is just a path you alone must choose to take or not. I choose Joy. Check.
This brings me to the final quest of my errand list in retrospect. People, girls especially are always in search of beauty. We snap pictures of it, we savor it, we are enamored by it, we exercise for it, we collect supplies for it, and the list enlarges. We try every external adventure toward it, we envy it of others, but seldom do we encounter within.
I’m speaking to you, dear sweet young girl, (because we ladies never age).
The most beautiful thing you can do to express your majesty is to think of your words. What’s in your dirt? Is it pride? Pride makes you stoic and cold, toss it out, warm up. Is it fear? Fear pales you, add some color like boldness. Is it bitterness? Bitterness is distasteful and dark spotted. Let’s not age too soon! Is it hesitation or withdraw? Maybe unsure or contemplation? Or maybe it’s he said, she said. Whatever it is. It’s not pretty girlfriend. Glam up from the inside, with the right nutrients, naturally. Do you sometimes feel like the only seed on the plain, alone in your thinking? Negative weeds blocking your sunlight? Look around at the field of opportunities available to you! Water runs deep, and it is how we thrive. Reach for the good. The most gorgeous you that you could ever be is you. Who is that? How did you get here? Where are you going? What is it you believe? Does it make you smile? Does it give you hope? Are you inspired? Are you reaching for it? Do you even want to reach for it? How are you going to do this? Why wouldn’t you? Stop looking down, and look up! Focus your eye without fear. You were created with a foundation of amazing attributes that are way more beautiful than anything topical. Who needs face paint?! Or body toner, or potions and spray? Let’s get real here. Check.
Superficial is a big word appearing to be real until closely examined. It hides true gorgeous beauty. And someone knows this about you. They may envy your natural smile. Are you believing their words? Are you covered in them? Sprout yourself darling. We all must face the black and white of ourselves. Reach around the hard places. Let a little sunshine in and have faith to believe that dirt is just surface clutter to rise above, and oddly as it is, we need a little to blossom. Check.
Ps. I do not wear foundation or color my hair. But i do strive to eat well and avoid digesting the negative. Give it a try. Cause you are loved. There is nothing prettier than a natural smile that comes from the heart. And that natural smile is best seen when it is clean, genuine and real. Once you realize this, it waters your soul with a smile you can’t hold in.