How Do We Bloom, When Life is Tough?

I think as women we spend much of our time over thinking things. Have you ever asked yourself these questions: Is what I'm doing making a difference? How does my life count? What sort of legacy am I going to leave behind? Am I worthwhile? Am I enough? 

For this particular post I am not going to address all those other questions we ask ourselves: What am I going to make for dinner? Does my spouse really love me? Are my kids listening to me? Am I too fat? Am I pretty? You get the idea and I am sure you could add your own list of questions.

petunias

You have probably heard the phrase, "Bloom where you are planted." It has been around for a while. I found an interesting article on Huffington Post written in 2014. You can see that article here. The author, Smita Malhotra, MD has a basic premise; that we can live a full life no matter what situation we find ourselves in if we just practice four things:

1. (Remember) Every step in life prepares you for the next one.

2. Stop complaining.

3. Be a blessing.

4. Bloom through concrete.

To thoroughly understand where she is coming from it would be good to read her article. What I would like to do is use that as a spring board for us, specifically as wives, mothers, and grandmothers. You all know it is true, motherhood and sometimes being a wife is a thankless job.  I'm sure there are those who would say, If you teach your children properly, they will be thankful. While this is true, the hard bits of motherhood are not easily understood until experienced. 

I think there are several scriptural ideas that we need to be reminded of to enable us to better bloom where we are planted. 

1. God is in control. I know we all say it. It rolls off our tongues as easily as water, but how many of us actually believe it? It's okay to be honest. I have a hard time with it myself. Didn't the disciples struggle with believing He was in control those dark hours after Jesus was crucified then laid in the tomb? Read through the Psalms. David questioned God on more than one occasion.

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
— Psalm 10:1 (NASB)

But he always came back to the fact that God was in control.

The Lord is King forever and ever;
Nations have perished from His land.
O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
— Psalm 10:16-17

Perhaps that is part of the problem. We let ourselves go through hours, days and even weeks of wandering, worrying and hand-wringing, when really all we need to do is exactly what David did. Bring it back to God. 

2. God is trustworthy. There is an element to trust that must be akin to jumping out of the airplane. Let go! When it comes to our kids and our grandkids, we want to be able to keep them from all evil, but frankly evil happens. Our wishing it away, or ignoring it, is not going to keep bad things from happening. However, we can choose to place our trust in the One who is higher than I. 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)

The Psalmist again, questions God's goodness at the beginning of the Psalm. This is showing us, it is okay to feel these difficult emotions. The worry, stress, fear, anger, are all part of being human in a fallen world. 

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6 (NASB)

By the end of the Psalm, which isn't very long, the psalmist remembers who God is, and that He is faithful. He makes a choice to not allow his thoughts to stay on the despair and agony page. He is confident that God is trustworthy.

3. Thankfulness makes a difference. I can't say this enough. Ann Voskamp wrote an entire book on the subject, called One Thousand Gifts. Go to Amazon and type in books on gratitude to see the list that pops up. Nancy Leigh DeMoss wrote Choosing Gratitude. For perspectives that are not strictly Christian there is also, The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and Daily Gratitude by National Geographic. Thankfulness can transform our minds and our lives. It is, after all, commanded in God's word.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

4. Get positive. I wanted to differentiate this from being thankful because I think there is more to bringing our thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, than just thankfulness. Thankfulness is a huge part of it, but we can forget to be thankful, or we can express gratitude and then quickly move on to something else that is wearing away at our peace. God's word expresses this idea of positivity in the book of Philippians.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

This verse comes after verses 4-7 which talk about rejoicing, not being anxious and the peace of God. This verse brings the whole idea of positive thinking into fine focus. We are to be thinking about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent and worthy of praise. Start measuring your thought life up against that list. Would you say your thoughts are mostly positive or are you seeing some work that needs to be done? 

Positivity can come from music, good books, uplifting movies, non-toxic friendships, exercise, getting out in nature, owning a pet and of course things like going to church and reading God's word. 

mirror

There are times when I look at my reflection in the mirror and I talk out loud to myself. I tell myself I am valuable, loved with an everlasting love and beautiful. I also tell myself that most of the worries I have are never going to happen, so just chill. Sometimes, I pray out loud, doing battle with the enemy and hearing myself say it makes me realize I have the power of God available to me at all times. I love to go for walks and when I do, I try to thank God for the beauty of the world around me, even on a gray day. 

Blooming where we are planted is basically the ability to be the person God wants you to be no matter where you are at any point in your life. You might not think you are blooming, let alone thriving, but try to remember whose you are and that He's got it all figured out. Then just lean into Him. He will help you to grow through the toughest concrete out there. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Pies, Processing and Proclamation

With all of the terrible things happening in our country, around the world, even in our own families, it is difficult to not want to run away and hide. A Gilligan's Island type shack on a sunny tropical beach sounds pretty good about now. No radio, no television, no cell phones and no internet. I want to be blissfully ignorant. Who wouldn't? But that is not reality. Reality is harsh and troubling. Reality screams of violence and injustice. Sometimes, reality just plain acts like a vacuum! It really sucks!

Photo credit Lisa Jessamy on StockSnap.

Photo credit Lisa Jessamy on StockSnap.

We all have to process life's difficulties and we all have different ways of processing. Some people go to the gym, while others sleep. You might lose yourself in a book, or curl up with a movie. Still, others turn to drugs, alcohol or food. We all have to process. You can't get away from it. Oh, you can ignore it for a while, but eventually it will all come crashing in on you, forcing you to process.

Today, I was very tired. My brain felt fuzzy. I really didn't want to do anything. Thoughts of the families of victims of violence flitted through my mind. I also dwelt on a friend who had a heart attack. There were others that my heart grieved for; my nephew who was supposed to marry next weekend, but whose fiancee called off the wedding, my daughter and her five year old son, who is struggling to find full time work, my mother who is almost 90 and still living on her own. Processing, processing.

One way of processing is to worry. Worry basically plays that same scenario through your mind, over and over and over. That doesn't get you very far. Another way of processing is to blame. It has to be everyone else's fault. Good luck with that. Today, I chose to process, by making a pie.

Photo credit Christy Lane Campbell on StockSnap.

Photo credit Christy Lane Campbell on StockSnap.

As I wearily got out the ingredients and started mixing them together, I began to process. Flour, salt, shortening, water, they are all simple ingredients. It felt almost therapeutic to mix the dough, pat it and roll it out on the table. It reminded me of what a lovely, simple task it was, but how very necessary to making a good crust. It occurred to me that God uses simple ingredients to bring about change in our lives and in our world. Difficulty is an ingredient. Heartbreak is an ingredient. So is love, forgiveness and repentance. If I want to make a good pie, I have to mix the ingredients together. God is mixing. I am processing. Sometimes, I process by writing. 

Part of processing is asking questions: Why is this happening? Why me? Why so much hate and violence? Why so much pain and heartache? It's okay to ask questions. You can even shout them at God in anger if you want. He loves you and He knows you are hurting. But after you've asked the questions, don't forget to listen for the answers. They may not look exactly like the answers you wanted, but go back to the basics. Flour - He is the bread of life. Salt - He is the salt of the earth. Shortening - like a fattened calf, He was our sacrifice. Water - He is the living water. 

Photo credit  Markus Spiske  on StockSnap

Photo credit Markus Spiske on StockSnap

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
— Hebrews 13:8 (NASB)

Processing should always lead back to Jesus. Only Jesus can make this chaotic thing called life turn into a good pie. If we allow our thoughts to go the road of worry, hate, bitterness and anger, no problems will ever be solved. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the life. That's what I choose to think on.

crosses
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Philippians 4:8