It can be easy when we find ourselves on the other side of lost love to also feel a little lost, ourselves. When a relationship died in Mandy Hale’s life a few years ago, she felt God urging her toward new life in a very visceral way. And as she watched the dirt to the work to the garden she planted, she felt God do an even greater work in her soul. It’s a grace to welcome Mandy to the farm’s table today…
After a difficult breakup, I knew I had also lost pieces of myself to my relationship, and I was desperate to reclaim them. I had forgotten that I determined my worth…not any man, or anyone (other than God). I had forgotten, as the old poem says, how to plant my own garden and decorate my own soul. And I was determined to remember how, in a very literal way.
I felt like I needed to create something, and to watch something be birthed from the difficult season I had just come through. I wanted to dig my fingers into the dirt and plant things, and watch new life spring up from the desolation of my still-fractured heart.
I decided to grow my own little garden, and I recruited my dad to help me.
After a day of scouting out garden centers, I had the makings of my mini-garden: a tomato plant, a bell pepper plant, and sunflower seeds. And with each little seed that my dad and I planted that day, I whispered a fervent prayer that someday soon, they would sprout…bringing beauty and hope and light with them. It felt almost symbolic to me.
If I could get these plants to grow, then surely I could resurrect my own independence and confidence and sense of self-worth.
“There’s something very visceral and restorative about literally getting your hands dirty to create something new that wasn’t there before.”
Over the coming weeks as I diligently watered my little plants and searched every day for new signs of life, tending to my balcony garden helped me work through my grief and heartbreak and resulting anxiety.
There’s something very visceral and restorative about literally getting your hands dirty to create something new that wasn’t there before.
And as I worked, God continued to place this scripture on my heart. He seemed to, time and again, keep bringing me back to this point:
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” John 12:24 (MSG)
I was still trying to make sense of the things God was laying on my heart…but as I gazed upon my little sprouts one lovely spring day, it hit me that just a few days earlier, those sprouts were just seeds, tossed into dirt and buried on a wing and a prayer that something good would come of them.
“the darkness and the dirt was only the beginning of the story for those seeds…not the end.”
Buried in darkness and then forgotten. To the outside eye, that pot of dirt would have looked lifeless, hopeless, even a little sad. But the darkness and the dirt was only the beginning of the story for those seeds…not the end.
Something about lovingly tending to my garden was teaching me how to lovingly tend to my own heart. It was time to stop camping out in the safe WHAT IF of former love and live fully in the glorious unknown of the WHAT IS. And in what was still to come! It was time let the past die, and to let that failed relationship go. To even let my hopes for marriage go, knowing that if it was something God truly wanted for me (and I believed it was), the only way to bring it to life was to let it die, once and for all.
The only way to gain your life is by losing it. The first will be last. Die in order to live. Let go to hold on. Release WHAT IF and embrace WHAT IS. It’s all completely backwards to what the world teaches, but nobody ever accused Jesus of being a conformist. And that’s just one of the many reasons why I love Him so.
A couple of weeks later, my little seeds that I had buried in dirt began to spring. First it was the tomatoes, then the peppers…and I hoped soon, the sunflowers.
One day a couple of months later, when I was on vacation with my family…I received the most unexpected picture from my housemate.
My sweet little sunflower had BLOOMED! There it was, like a great big ball of sunshine, waving joyfully in the breeze.
By the time I got home from the beach and raced out to check on my garden, my sunflower plant had two blooms instead of one. Those stubborn little sunflowers would go on to stretch high into the sky, reaching boldly for the sun and bringing a smile to my face every time I saw them.
“Perhaps sunflowers really do hold the secret of life: Be patient, and turn toward the sun.”
Watching my little sunflower sprouts grow and change as I myself was growing and changing was such a beautiful thing. I loved how they were always turned toward the sun. Perhaps sunflowers really do hold the secret of life: Be patient, and turn toward the sun.
I learned so many lessons from that little sunflower. It taught me to trust that even in the darkest times, the light never leaves us.
It taught me that sometimes all you can do is all you can do…and then let it go.
It taught me that the biggest growth tends to happen when we just let all the many WHAT IF’s of life be and exist wholly and simply in the WHAT IS.
And it taught me that letting go and moving on looks impossible at the beginning, messy in the middle, and absolutely gloriously beautiful at the end.
Mandy Hale is a blogger turned New York Times bestselling author and speaker. Creator of the social media movement The Single Woman, Mandy cuts to the heart of single life with her inspirational, straight-talking, witty takes on life and love.
If recent world events have taught us anything, it’s that life doesn’t always look the way we want it to look. And while we can’t control the curveballs life throws at us, we can control our response to them. We can choose to loosen our grip on what we think life is “supposed” to be and embrace life for exactly what it is–messiness and mayhem and all. We can choose to stubbornly turn toward the sun, even as the storm rages around us.
If you’ve felt depleted or despairing as you’ve wrestled with circumstances beyond your control, Mandy Hale’s Turn Toward the Sun: Releasing What If and Embracing What Is will be a trustworthy guide through the storm.
[ Our humble thanks to Revell for their partnership in today’s devotion. ]