When the Emotional Tsunami Hits

The Japanese man clings to the rooftop of his home, adrift ten miles out to sea. The tsunami has swept his house and his wife away, and that bit of roof is what is keeping him alive. Miraculously, after two days tossed about by waves, he is rescued.

I have never had to overcome anything physically and materially as challenging as Hiromitsu Shinkawa faced. But I have had some very heavy blows in life. We’ve been talking about “how to deal” when life blindsides you and you are nearly destroyed by an emotional disaster. After the first key – Don’t Panic – the second key is this: Find the Rock.

God as a concept can seem overwhelming. It is difficult to think of Him in “manageable” terms – in a way our brains and hearts can understand. When someone tells you to “trust God” or “turn to God” in hard times – how do you know what he (God) is thinking? Do you cry out to him in desperation (as we have all done) saying, “Please God, please God, help me?”

And then what? Do you hear a reply? When your emotions are in turmoil, does he seem inaccessible? God’s Word, though, is always beautifully and easily accessible.

When life blindsides me, I cling as tenaciously to the words God speaks to us as Hiromitsu clung to that rooftop. Those words are my Rock, my stability. I read them, pray them, repeat them… and feel my spirit regain its strength.

Index cards have been a great tool for me. I carry them with me for easy access. When anxiety or fear starts to creep back in, I can pull out the verses, read them, resist the negative emotion and move on with my day.

Below are some samples… I highly recommend you make your own set of cards. Hold tight to the truths found in the Bible. They will keep you from drowning.

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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.

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.

Count Ike – a Child’s View

Happened this morning 7:25
Out the Door:
The three of us huddled under a huge umbrella, bowed against the fierce wind and sheets of rain, shuffling to the car.
Faith: “We’re a three chambered heart!”

Minutes Later, Driving to School:
Mom
: “That was a feeder band from hurricane Ike.”
Faith: “It was a minion, from Count Ike!”
Ben: “Yeah, you know Mike and Ike? Ike was the unpaid intern! He got tired of always being the unpaid intern and decided to take revenge on all of humanity!”

Note: Mike and Ike is a brand of candy in the States.

Stupid

I have this to say after watching the news:
If you are stupid enough to kite surf when the hurricane is coming, after the authorities told you not to, and the wind carries you over the water… over the beach… across the street… and slams you into a building – you better cough up some cash to pay for the paramedics that had to go peel your sorry self off a wall and take you to the hospital!
Sorry to be so cranky. I’d better get more cafecito – and ban myself from the computer!!

[PS – that picture is just a random kite surfer on a nice day… not the brilliant one that got blown into a wall today.]

Here is the video.