So — when you ride down the Amazon in a flimsy open boat with someone, trying to beat a Big-Daddy thunderstorm that’s trailing you black and hard? You consider yourself bonded for life. (Well, that and the matching Columbia mosquito-proof shirts will do it.) Truth is, I was smitten with Big Mama long before our Compassion trip to Ecuador. We’ve both been blogging for what seems like a coon’s age and I’ve been reading her forever and the woman’s smart, funny and brilliant — and has a heart for Jesus bigger than her home state of Texas. She once reached out and loved on me with words like nobody’s business and there are friendships that are brave enough to stitch up real wounds with real grace. I’ll never love her enough for it. There ain’t nobody quite like Big Mama and the farm’s front porch is more than a bit happy to welcome her crazy wonderful words:
When Ann Voskamp invites you in her beautiful, gracious way if you’d ever like to share some words in her corner —
your first thought is “Man, this is probably going to need to be about something more meaningful than my current obsession with penciling in my eyebrows correctly.”
At least that’s your first thought if you’re me. Or if you also happen to be working on your eyebrow pencil technique.
Honestly, I had a moment of panic because life has been so busy lately with carpool lines and soccer tryouts and trying to make something new and delicious for dinner using only ground beef and a Jedi mind trick and coordinating the eight million details that seem to go along with the end of another school year, that I just feel completely worn out. Like I have nothing left over.
Except for maybe some good advice about various eyebrow pencils.
(I highly recommend the Anastasia Brow Wiz, by the way.)
And as I sat at my computer and thought about how I feel right now and debated just emailing Ann an archive from my blog, I remembered our Mountain Laurel trees.
My husband Perry and I moved into our house six months after we got married.
We were just two skinny newlyweds back then and when our realtor showed us this little cottage house that was the only semi-decent thing in our price range, we signed the contract and became real grown ups in the form of a thirty year mortgage the way God and Bank of America intended.
We saw promise in this house that was painted a hideous shade of yellow with mint green trim. And that was before mint green had made a comeback like it has lately. Seriously, mint green is everywhere right now. I don’t totally understand it, but it’s better than jelly shoes so let’s just go with it.
Perry was in full-time ministry at the time, but now owns a landscaping business. And I guess it was his landscaper’s eye that made it our top priority to get rid of the hideous, overgrown ligustrums on the west side of the house and replace them with two beautiful Mountain Laurel trees.
In case you don’t know, there are few things in nature better than a Mountain Laurel tree in the spring.
They get these gorgeous lavender blossoms that smell like grape soda and basically make the world feel like a better place.
So we had a company come plant our trees.
The next spring they were covered in blooms and we declared them worth every penny. We had tree pride and were sure all our neighbors had tree envy.
(Not really. I don’t think tree envy is a real thing. Unless maybe you’re a botanist.)
But over the ensuing years, they quit producing as many blooms. They began to look a little pitiful. I mean, they weren’t terrible and they were still alive, but I’d drive around town and see other trees that had flowers all over them and I’d feel bad about my trees. So maybe tree envy is a real thing and I had it.
Finally, this past spring, Perry had a tree specialist come out and look at our trees to see if there was a problem. The tree guy took one look at them and immediately made his diagnosis. When the trees were initially planted, they were planted too deep and over the years the roots had become covered by more and more layers of dirt and mulch until they weren’t getting enough light from above.
Hi. Spiritual analogy, anyone?
The tree guy brought in some kind of equipment that I’d tell you all about except I didn’t care enough to ask and he dug out all the excess dirt around the tree roots to expose them to the light.
And I am not kidding when I tell you that not even two weeks later both of our trees were covered in the bright green foliage that’s a sign of new growth and health. That’s all it took. The roots were in need of the light.
Those trees are a reminder to me that I let too many things crowd in and block out the voice of God in my life. And not even bad things necessarily, just busy things.
Things that distract me from absorbing how much God loves me.
I heard Beth Moore say once, “We will never be secure until we realize we are fully loved by God, no matter our failings.” That’s my struggle.
I struggle with grace.
I struggle to comprehend that I am fully loved by God no matter how much I fail. That’s the place I go when I let too much cover up the truth of God in my life.
Because I know myself. I know all my weaknesses and failures. I know what I’ve done and what I regret and what I’ve been saved from. I know all the ways I continue to fail on a daily basis.
And if I’m disappointed in myself — then how is God not disappointed in me? How does He look at me with unfailing love and hope that I’ll do better tomorrow but won’t love me any less if I don’t?
It doesn’t make sense. And sometimes it just feels easier to cover these insecurities up and pretend they’re not there instead of exposing them to the light.
Over the last few weeks God has shown His love to me in a hundred different ways, just small simple things. There have been moments when I’ve almost felt like it was too much. More than I deserved. Confirmation that He is weaving together plans and purposes and a future I couldn’t have imagined.
And I’ve felt Him say to me in the deepest part of my heart, the part I sometimes let get too covered up, “You are so much harder on yourself than I am.”
I am. I’m hard on myself. I get caught up in the comparison game and feel like everyone is loving better, living more purposefully, doing more significant things and, essentially, blooming so much better than me.
I give other people the benefit of the doubt, but I never give myself that same grace. And that’s what God has been whispering over me.
He has never once looked at me, shook his head and said, “Wow. What a failure. I should have gotten someone else to do that.” That’s not how He works.
I don’t know if any of us have the capability or the comprehension to ever fully grasp the love of God. It’s too big. But I know that the only way we’ll ever grow and become what He has called us to be is when we expose ourselves to the light. That’s where we bloom.
That’s where we have the fragrance that tells the world
who we belong to,
what He has done for us,
and that we are covered in ridiculous amounts of grace by the light of His truth.
New York Times best selling author, hostess and emcee for Lifeway conferences, blogger extraordinaire and the most down-to-earth, side-splitting funny sister you could meet, Melanie Shankle has all of our hearts!
And every page of her book Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn shimmers with her fabulous voice, honest hilarity and the light of a Savior that makes even the wackiest days of motherhood somehow glimmer with more than a glint of God!