Are You Starting Over?

It is becoming a tradition that I post this every year!  I have found that there’s always someone out there that needs it right around this time of year… could it be you?

Sometimes things get blown apart...

I am sitting in a Starbucks thinking about growing things.

In 2003, when we moved into our house, there was a huge 60 foot (at least) Tree. It was a hub of zoological life in our back yard. A virtual Grand Central Station of flora and fauna. Squirrels, birds, foot long fluorescent green lizards, children… all were drawn to it.

In 2005 hurricane Wilma visited. For a day we watch it assault our beloved Tree. Through the night it howled, as our Tree and thousands of others fought a losing battle. We watched 20-foot branches weaken and begin to tear, giant invisible hands pulling on them until they fell with a crash, inaudible in the roaring storm.

Morning came; our Tree was devastated. By God’s mercy it didn’t cave in our home. It simply fell apart, becoming a pile of wood and leaves, taller than me, filling our entire yard, destroyed by an event totally outside its control.

I miss that big old shady Tree, so full of life. It made me feel safe. It gave me a sense of roots, of stability when we first moved here and were weary with transition.

The yard has been transformed. Grass grows where it could not grow before, because the Tree’s shadow used to lord it over all. A new tree now grows in its place. Not the same at all, but pretty. Several feet away I planted an avocado tree. Can’t wait to taste the fruit. On the rebuilt fence nearby morninglories grow. Always my favorite flower, because they are new every morning, just like the mercy of God.

And in an opposite corner, I have two papaya trees waiting to be planted. They were given to me as babies, six inches tall each. Now they are a few feet tall, and more than ready to be planted. I very much look forward to their fruit.

I’m planning on having lots of containerized trees also. Oranges, mandarins, lemons… and maybe a mango tree or two in the ground.

New things grow when old things fall apart. It’s the way things work. My big old Tree in an odd way was a special friend. I would look out the window at the kitchen sink, see its huge trunk enveloped with life, and feel safe. But its foliage, so beautiful, was too big.

It was top heavy and in the end that is why it could not stand the storm. Its presence fell over the entire yard, and a lot of other things couldn’t grow in its shadow.

When we hauled all the old branches out, and the stump was ripped out of the ground, I had no inspiration as to what would replace it. I didn’t understand why it had to go.

Now I do.

My thoughts drift to other places in life. More than once I have had cherished relationships torn apart by storms the hit us unannounced. Work situations, life situations, seemingly unnecessary situations…

But new things grow when old things fall apart. Always.

Deadheading and Moonlight


I was just outside under the moonlight, in our front lawn deadheading… no not the gratefully passed on kind, but the blooms are wilted on the plants and need to be plucked off kind…

For those of you who don’t garden, it’s important to pick dead flowers from the plant. This allows the plant to focus its energy on pushing forth new blooms. You get more flowers that way.

9:30 at night is not the traditional time to do it. But it works for me.

There is a slight breeze, and the street light (on the fritz) fades in and out, light winking at me through the palm branches. Crouching there in my muddy bare feet, the thought just keeps nagging me: do I let Gardener do the same to me?

What activities, thought patterns, habits are faded blooms that need removal? What new things are just waiting for that extra bit of strength on my part, to begin to bloom?

Then I get distracted. The street light is completely out – and it is very dark only 25 feet way. I am in the light. Reminds me of the aftermath of hurricane Wilma, when we had no electricity for a week. Light was so much more than symbolically important then…

So I get even more distracted, now time-traveling emotionally back to the finca (farm, sort-of) where we used to visit my grandparents in Costa Rica… They had no electricity, and as we approached in the pitch black night through the curvy roads, under a distantly brilliant starry sky, we could see the kerosene lamp through the windows…

Upon our arrival, the guest of honor was always the car battery. My dad would hook it up to the TV set, and the family that cared for Abuelito and Abuelita could watch TV. This was a once a month treat for their children!

Oops, Barby, come back to the present… gotta finish the little gardening jaunt – it is getting late…

But wait, that bush really needs to be pruned… So I grab the pruners and trim the branches that need to be cut back, so the plant can grow stronger.

Then, as I stand there in my muddy bare feet, holding the pruners with now dirty hands, the thought just keeps nagging me: do I let God do the same to me?

What activities, thought patterns, habits are branches that need pruning? What new things are just waiting for that extra bit of strength on my part, to begin to grow back stronger than ever?

I don’t know, dear Gardener. It’s up to you.

A (Bridged) Chasm – guest author

This post is for leaders! Our guest author is a young leader, a grad student near to my heart, who likes to wrestle with issues.

Turns out my brain was not quiet enough to let me sleep. In fact, what must amount to a discordant symphony of thoughts have been rolling around in my head for the past three hours. And so, in the interest of sanity, I am attempting to drown out the noise through the quiet clatter of my keyboard.

I have been thinking about my faith and my religion, and the enormous chasm that sometimes seems to separate the two. I think it has become a bit of a theme in these “notes” of mine, but I haven’t written about it in awhile, so why not at 4 am on a Tuesday? As good a time as any…

Not quite sure what has triggered this round; perhaps it is the fact that Ted Haggard is surfacing in the news again, amid new allegations and an HBO special. All other issues notwithstanding, an HBO special? Did he honestly think HBO would paint him in a positive light? The stupidity astounds me.

I’ve tried to figure out what kind of Christian I am, which denomination I fit into. The first part of that question is easy for me: Protestant or Catholic? Protestant. And then it gets complicated. I don’t understand theology much; I have spent many mornings with my parents at the breakfast table discussing how things came to be and which groups believe what. The truth is, after awhile, theology confounds me. While I know it’s important, I reach a point of sheer frustration, because, in the end, WHO CARES? In a world where millions of children are dying (more from relatively easy-to-fix, lackluster issues like diarrheal diseases than from the sexier issues like HIV/AIDS), who cares about the difference between a Methodist and a Lutheran? Jesus basically said, “Get off your lazy tush and DO SOMETHING!!!” So, in my view, if you claim to be a Christian and are doing nothing, I really don’t want to waste my time with you, regardless of the technicalities of your beliefs. (Is there a such thing as the DO SOMETHING!!! denomination? If there’s not, there should be…)

Which brings me to the chasm. How dare you seek respect and legitimacy for your cause, to claim to fight for the purification of an institution, when you were the one that initiated the deterioration? How dare you seek forgiveness, and then seek profit? How dare you allow petty disagreements to cloud your vision, flaring tempers to disable you from fulfilling your destiny? It is not that you have shaken the foundations of my faith and broken my heart, along with the ones I care most deeply about. It is that you have lost sight of the purpose. Where is the fruit? Do you not realize that every second you waste, someone suffers; every minute you let escape, another person dies. Not because of an incurable disease; BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE CLEAN WATER TO DRINK!

Which brings me to the bridge. Leaders with vision! Individuals living their lives with purpose, determined to make a difference. DO SOMETHING!!! Christians. I appreciate you more than I can express. And here’s the most important part: the world will feel your impact.

Finally Fruit!


What for me started as little seedlings have now become satisfying mouth fulls of juicy vitamin packed fruit. This plateful of papaya took a bit of work, and a lot of vigilance against pesky hungry squirrels and other critters.

Life is just like that. Okay, so this may be the most childlike application possible, but it is also the most relevant for us! If you want to reap delicious fruit, you have to work and be very vigilant against the pests that want to take the fruit from you. Every single day.

For me those thieves can be worry, procrastination, fear of what others think…
What about you? What is trying to distract you from your harvest and your dreams?

When You Have to Start Over

It is becoming a tradition that I post this every year!  I have found that there’s always someone out there that needs it right around this time of year… could it be you?

I am sitting in a Starbucks thinking about growing things.

In 2003, when we moved into our house, there was a huge 60 foot (at least) Tree. It was a hub of zoological life in our back yard. A virtual Grand Central Station of flora and fauna. Squirrels, birds, foot long fluorescent green lizards, children… all were drawn to it.

In 2005 hurricane Wilma visited. For a day we watch it assault our beloved Tree. Through the night it howled, as our Tree and thousands of others fought a losing battle. We watched 20-foot branches weaken and begin to tear, giant invisible hands pulling on them until they fell with a crash, inaudible in the roaring storm.

Morning came; our Tree was devastated. By God’s mercy it didn’t cave in our home. It simply fell apart, becoming a pile of wood and leaves, taller than me, filling our entire yard, destroyed by an event totally outside its control.

I miss that big old shady Tree, so full of life. It made me feel safe. It gave me a sense of roots, of stability when we first moved here and were weary with transition.

The yard has been transformed. Grass grows where it could not grow before, because the Tree’s shadow used to lord it over all. A new tree now grows in its place. Not the same at all, but pretty. Several feet away I planted an avocado tree. Can’t wait to taste the fruit. On the rebuilt fence nearby morninglories grow. Always my favorite flower, because they are new every morning, just like the mercy of God.

And in an opposite corner, I have two papaya trees waiting to be planted. They were given to me as babies, six inches tall each. Now they are a few feet tall, and more than ready to be planted. I very much look forward to their fruit.

I’m planning on having lots of containerized trees also. Oranges, mandarins, lemons… and maybe a mango tree or two in the ground.

New things grow when old things fall apart. It’s the way things work. My big old Tree in an odd way was a special friend. I would look out the window at the kitchen sink, see its huge trunk enveloped with life, and feel safe. But its foliage, so beautiful, was too big.

It was top heavy and in the end that is why it could not stand the storm. Its presence fell over the entire yard, and a lot of other things couldn’t grow in its shadow.

When we hauled all the old branches out, and the stump was ripped out of the ground, I had no inspiration as to what would replace it. I didn’t understand why it had to go.

Now I do.

My thoughts drift to other places in life. More than once I have had cherished relationships torn apart by storms the hit us unannounced. Work situations, life situations, seemingly unnecessary situations…

But new things grow when old things fall apart. Always.

Your Voice

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.
I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, an activist.

Everyday I pray that my children will learn to hear God’s voice… and learn to love that voice, to trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But another aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my voice. I have a voice. You have a voice. Each person has a voice. Is your voice effective?

I strongly believe that every human has a purpose and that God gives us a voice as the means by which we fulfill that purpose. By voice I mean that unique set of attributes that makes you, you!

We each need to look at all areas of current or future involvement – relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others – but making no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, time to move on (and I’m not speaking of a marriage here, by the way!). If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, time to move on. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “yeah, great input” and no action, time to move on. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely for what your voice can do for them? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on.

I’m not talking about giving up when things get tough! If you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you don’t get to “move on” – that is a whole other subject…

Bottom line today – your voice is valuable, and there is a definite place where it is needed and where there will be grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season changes. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as you listen for God’s voice in the stillness, remember – He is listening for yours.

Follow the Nudge

So Saturday morning I’m staring aimlessly (I find aimless staring to be therapeutic) at my backyard. Suddenly I focus on one of the two papaya trees. It has the most beautiful, plentiful fruit. It is leaning, looking like this tree on the left.

I get this nudge, this feeling (okay, maybe it was glaringly obvious) – “mental note: prop it up, TODAY.

“Yes,” I reply to myself. “I’ll do it now.”

RESTOFTHESTORY: IFORGOTTODOIT


Now I have this in my kitchen –
more than 130 green or semi-ripe papayas!

Friends, one of the several lessons to glean from my self-inflicted dilemma:

When something is producing a lot of fruit, it needs a lot of support.
If you want the fruit, give the support.

And when you feel a nudge, an obvious prompt,

JUST DO IT. DO IT NOW.
Timing is everything.
What prompting have you been ignoring lately?