The Story of the Sunflowers

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I planted 70 sunflowers for my wedding in June 2006.  They grew, they flourished, they were beautiful.  Many girls love roses or carnations but not me, my eyes were drawn to sunflowers.  I think of myself much like a sunflower; they are not elegant like a rose but they turn their face to smile at the sun.  They stand side by side with arms raised and when you look at them you can’t help but smile.  I may not be a rare beauty but I can make people smile.

The sunflowers at my wedding were beautiful.  I remember them still in all their bright color.  I hoped that they would be a symbol of a vibrant love but deep inside I knew that I was marrying the wrong man.  Blinded by a whirl of romance I found ways to overlook his quirks that spoke of hurts deeper than I or he knew.  As I danced my first dance with the man that I married I could almost feel the life drain out of him.  We were surrounded by family, friends and sunflowers but he seemed to turn cold in my arms.

Others looking on would not have been able to tell, but I could. I knew, I just felt it, and it scared me.

We moved into a little house on a lake that had wine colored lilies planted along the front walk and beautiful pine paneling throughout the inside.  I will forever remember that little house.  I had hoped that we would begin an amazing journey together in that house but it felt more like a roller coaster ride, than a walk with the one you love.  We had happy times that would lift us followed by unrest and confusion which brought us down.  My husband began to express deep doubts about his faith, self image and ability.  He was good at many things but could not seem to commit to anything.  I noticed the pattern but could do nothing but tell him I loved him.

He found it difficult to socialize, so I would stay with him.  I tried to help him, to make him see that he was a good man, but the lies entrenched in his soul were that he was no good and never could be.  The more I tried to help him see that I loved him despite his faults, the more he set about rejecting me so that I could not be close to him.  I had married a man who turned out not to love God or me and he became unable to hide his lie.

However, the sunflowers I grew on my parents farm seeded themselves and that year many grew back.

After two years rejection turned into intimidation and neglect.  I felt like his poison.  Where I was, he did not want to be.  He was suicidal and I was constantly afraid I would come home to a dead husband.  So again I would stay with him, but out of the way so I would not bother him, just to be sure he was safe.  I felt stranded and alone with shattered dreams kept alive by co-depependence on the only man I had ever dared to love, feeling deeply that I had given away my heart only to have all that it contains rejected.

But the sunflowers grew back again to remind me of all I had hoped for, but this year there were less.

We tried therapy and there he seemed to hide further as he realized more of his pain that he never knew he had.  He fell deeper into depression and I fell with him.  I longed to be loved by him, but love was the one thing he said he could not give.

That year only a few sunflowers grew back.

Then, after four years of praying for him until my heart ached, God made it clear that he was done with me and I needed to be done with him.  He had moved in with another woman, the betrayal seemed complete and I could not hold on anymore.  I could not make it work. This type of work takes two. All the prayers with my face to the sky, like the sunflower, and my arms outstretched to the God of Heaven could not change the broken heart of the only man I had ever loved.  That man did not want to change, he did not want me and I had to let him go.  So with open hands like the sunflower I made the choice I never thought I would make and we became legally unbound.

That year there were no sunflowers growing in the field at my parents’ farm.  I went out to find them but they were gone.  Was this my life?  Gone was the promise I made for better or worse.  Gone was the man and gone were the dreams I thought we would share.

You may think that this is a sad story or that I am a sad person.  You may think I was pitiful to stay so long.  I would be lying if I said that those four years of being unloved by the man who promised to love me did not leave a mark.  There was sadness, and there were tears, there were days when my hands seemed to drag upon the floor and breathing in was a chore.

But remember the sunflower…

I am like the sunflower and when the sun goes down the head droops but when the sun comes up the flower has no choice but to lift its head.  Its God given design is to lift its head in response to the light of the sun.  God perhaps made me like the sunflower for this very moment in time, not elegant or fragrant like the rose but thick stemmed and desperate for the Son.

Although the pain of divorce felt like flesh being ripped off my bones, Jesus, the Son, was the one who knit it back onto my bones perhaps much like He knits a baby in the womb.  I remember one day when I was particularly distressed, I cried out to God on my living room floor, “I need to hear from you! I need something!” Through the tears I looked up at the blurry CD player in front of me. I got this urge to turn it on. I had not listened to it in months and was not even sure there was a disc inside, but I obeyed my urge. The familiar song began to play by Third Day “Don’t you know I’ve always loved you? Even before there was time. Though you turn away, I tell you still…I always loved you and I always will.” I melted into a puddle, like a block of ice in summer. The warmth of the Son began soothing my pain with tender love. He was my rescue and my head lifted in response to the Son as nourishment streamed in.  Jesus, the Son of God, was my balm and he slowly returned what the locusts had stolen as I began to deal with the things that had led me to marry someone I knew I shouldn’t. I began to see my own wounding, insecurity and hang-ups that led me down the path I took. I began to heal and in the process discovered who I truly am.

I am like the sunflower.

God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans). He used this bad marriage to reveal to me a multitude of personal issues, to heal them and to show me exactly how much he loves me. Jesus loves me, this I know, because He has spoken it into my very soul. I now sit here, over three years after my divorce, a completely different person. I am older, wiser and at peace with who I am. I like who I am, when before I sought validation from other people. Now I am validated by the knowledge that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the God of the universe. I am fiercely loved by my Maker. I am worth fighting for!

Recently Jesus revealed to me that He is the perfect sacrifice as I read through Hebrews. He is the one that tore the curtain in the temple as a representation of a new covenant with His people. Blood shed because of the love of a Father for his people. He fought for all of us on the cross, because we are all worth fighting for. Do you believe that you are worth fighting for? I didn’t, but I do now. The very thought often brings me to tears.

My sister got married this summer. It was a beautiful wedding on top of a green hill, with a strong wind blowing. I made the altar with hay bales and bikes and sunflowers. I looked at those sunflowers as the wind blew and their vows were exchanged and knew that I was the bride of Christ that day. I felt like the most beautiful bride, even as the wind blew my hairstyle apart. The wind seemed like the Presence of the Most High, showing power and love to my sister and her new husband to blow blessings into their new marriage. To blow blessings into my heart, to breathe life and fully revive everything that I am to be.

The morning after my sisters wedding the sunflowers used as her decorations were on the kitchen table. My mother noted their beauty and then in passing mentioned how beautiful the sunflowers were at my wedding. She then paused – she may have thought she spoke before thinking. She looked at me and I looked into my mothers eyes, who has always seemed to see into my soul, and I simply said “Yes, they were beautiful”. I knew then my healing was complete and the story of the sunflowers finally had a happy ending.

 

 

Life is Change

I am moving out of the apartment that I have lived in for over 6 years. I have loved this place. I have loved this town. It has become a part of me that will not be forgotten. I have shared both the worst and the best times of my life in this apartment, literally. Now it is time to move on. I feel it in my bones. It is time to let go and turn a new page to write a new chapter.

This does not mean that I will not miss this apartment with all my heart. I have healed from more heartache here than I ever thought possible. I have come to know Jesus more intimately than I ever thought possible. I learned how to be a single women here, how to fix things, how to change bike tires, how to balance a washing machine. I learned how to be on my own, a skill that is too often over looked and under appreciated in our hook up culture.

I wrote songs here. The walls may hold a melody when I leave, they may miss the sound of my voice as I will miss their protection. I have grown so accustomed to living here that I don’t even turn the lights on to walk around, I just know where I am going. I will miss this place. The familiar smell, the familiar sounds of the street traffic, the breeze from the lake.

Now I say goodbye to this place where I have laid my head. I am thankful for the time I spent here and as I turn over the key I know that I am not alone, Jesus has His hand in mine. We walk away together because He has prompted me to move on and He holds each tear that I cry as my heart sifts through this change. My home is not on this earth, my home is with Jesus and He goes with me wherever I go.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

For My Sistah…

Emily and I

Yes I meant to say sistah. We are Maine girls and though I can personally pronounce an “R” I have developed a term of endearment for my sister, Emily, as Sistah.

Emily is an amazing person. Possibly one the most organized and driven people that I know. If she says she will do it, then she does it. If she says you look fat in those pants then you do. Don’t expect a lie because you will get the truth and I love her for it.

The name Emily actually means industrious or hard working. Mom and Dad, could you have picked a better name for your first born?

As the younger sister I can attest to the hard working qualities of my sister and I found myself striving to be like her because she was just so good. Most little sisters want to be like their big sister but not all of them had good examples to follow. I did.

Sometimes when I smell hay, I close my eyes and pretend that we are little girls again playing and working along side each other on the farm. There are few childhood memories without my sister in them. We milked cows, delivered calves, fed cows, showed cows and cleaned up after cows our whole young lives. It was a beautiful way to grow up and I think we both know that this upbringing is a large part of why we are who we are today. We had incredible teachers in our parents who saw to it that we understood the value of hard work and each other. Looking back, we really had it all and now Emily gets to share all of that richness with Keith.

I think she picked a great person to share herself with.

Keith, I love that you and Emily found each other. I am proud to have you as part of our family. I have watched you with my sister, you know her and you are what she needs. You are steady, strong and kind and she has blossomed in your presence.

I have full confidence that Emily will stand by you always. She takes nothing lightly Keith and she will fiercely love, protect and defend you no matter the trial. She said yes to you because she meant it…Remember, in Emily you will find no lie.

So to both of you, I wish you much love and happiness. I am pleased knowing that each of you have found rest in the other and I pray rich blessings upon you as you live this life together. Love you Both. Your little Sistah

How much do I miss?

Today’s world has so many options, so many distractions, so much bustle, that I ask myself, “How much do I miss?” I work as a nurse and will often pray each morning for God to help me see people. I don’t want to see just their outward appearance but their inward need, fear, or hope. Many days I feel as though I pray this prayer and then dive into my shift with anxiety and let the many tasks overtake my hearts desire to help people where they are. I am consumed by me in this, focused on how my patients and the tasks I must do for them, affects me.
I have no children, but I imagine that this must be how a mother feels knowing that her children require much attention and that her needs to eat, sleep and toilet will be put second. I desire to see people yet focus on my own needs? Do I do this because our world is fixated on “I”, or because I simply struggle with the same selfishness that would take the heart of us all as humans if we let it. I do not think that we have to be taught how to be selfish. I could blame it on the culture or Facebook or television but truly it is my responsibility as to how I will react to my world and what I will do with the time that I have.
In recently talking with a new friend, I realized my passion in life as I spoke the words into the the air before her listening ears. I want to love people like I have been loved in my life. I feel lucky. I have been loved exceptionally well. The loving arms of a farm family is where I grew to be strong. Then the loving presence of a spiritual family brought me through Great trials that I could not handle on my own. They listened to me, they had the right advice. They loved me and because of that love and care I listened to their good advice and chose to grow through my trial instead of succumb to it.
Makes no mistakes, love is not the fluffy term that many throw around when talking of their new favorite song or food. Love is synonymous with work. Two four letter words that don’t seem to go together, but they were made for each other. Love is hanging in for the long haul. Love is helping someone in their need no matter how it inconveniences me. Love is hard and selfless and I am selfish.
None the less, my hearts desire is to see people, and by seeing them to be able to love them where they are. Though this is my desire it dose not always come naturally because I am fighting the sin nature within me. However, when the fight is won, some of the richest experiences in my life have been connecting with the needs of others and offering help in a time of need.
I try to live authentically. Through Jesus Christ and His love for me I have found the truest version of me, and that person continues to grow and to desire to be like Jesus, the selfless one, the one who loved so much that He laid down His life for us. I want others to be honest with me and so I am being honest right now and I confess that I miss much in life because I am caught up in my own need.
There have been many moments of clarity in my life but conversely there has been many foggy times. There is much less fog now than their used to be. By fog I mean lies that I have believed about myself and others, that shaped the way I viewed the world. In moments of fatigue and stress the old ways of viewing the world spring back up. I am amused by the fact that I chose a profession where I am constantly under stress.

God is faithful and he will flush out of us the things that are lying to us and He will use everyday life to do it.

Sometimes I find myself day dreaming about another life, one I don’t have, where there is a godly husband holding my hand and a baby growing in my womb. When I do this I miss what I have right now. I will say that again, when I do this I miss what I have right now! This is not to say that those desires are bad or wrong but I miss life when I day dream about things that are not promised.
What is promised to me is all the measure of the fullness of God through Christ Jesus. The creator of the universe thinks of me, knows each hair on my head, has collected all my tears in a bottle, and loves me more that I can understand. Nothing can separate us, I am His and He is mine and that my friends is what the apostle Paul meant when he said “I have learned to be content with what ever I have. Living on almost nothing or everything, empty stomach or full, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians (4:12-13).
One thing that I have learned is that God is faithful and trustworthy. I can give him my dreams and know that he Has good things for my life. I don’t want to miss the message He is sending me through everyday life. There is nothing mundane unless we let it be mundane. There is opportunities everywhere for thankfulness and rejoicing, yet when I live inside myself and focus on my needs I miss them.
I was driving home from work the other day and smelled silage. The scent instantly brought me back to a much simpler time. I felt like I could have parked my car gotten out and been on the front step of our family farm getting ready to go down to the barn to do chores. I didn’t miss it! I took a minute and drank in the smell of silage (it does not smell good, but it is distinct and familiar). For a minute God let me be a little girl again, and I could almost feel the cow hide underneath my finger tips. I could see the way the cows would dive unashamedly in to a pile of silage spattering it about with their excitement to eat.
There is power in being in the moment and accepting what God is giving. I could have turned my nose up at the smell of silage. I could have chosen not to let my heart become involved like I do so many other times. Now I celebrate a moment with silage, and a soft heart that accepted the good gift God gave me and a fond memory of a beautiful childhood.
The significance of all of this is that my heart each day much rest in God and faith in His goodness. This softens the heart to see the people I pray to see. This allows me to accept the gift of seeing people. It is I not that He doesn’t answer my prayer, it is that when the hard moment comes along I can choose to embrace it in all of it’s complexity or I can grumble and be irritated. I don’t want to miss out on what God has for me right now. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to love someone well, to listen to a person’s story, to help meet a need. If this were easy we would all do it naturally, I think that is why it is so hard because love is hard work.
I am about to turn a year older. I dedicate this new year of my life to living in the most loving way I can muster. To be unafraid of what lies ahead because I know that God is Good. To choose to see outside me when I want to focus inside.

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future” Proverbs 31:25