A Lesson on Dirt and Fear

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It’s springtime on our little farm here in Oregon, which means everything is green and bursting with new life. I love this time of year, but it’s also bittersweet. On May 3rd, it will mark 10 years since my mom died. I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of her at this time and I continue to be amazed how I can feel such joy and happiness, while also feeling such sorrow.

Today was the day I decided to start the garden. My husband had tilled and it was ready. But, ready for what? All I saw when I looked at it was a big plot of land, looming back at me. Empty.

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I’ve been eyeing that dirt for the last few days. Intimidated by its vast size and blankness. Instead of seeing it’s potential, I saw and felt fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of failure; fear of all the “what ifs.” It was the same fear I felt after my mom died and when I made the decision to stop drinking. I was filled with fear of the unknown.

As I was making the bed this morning, I began crying as the fear poured out of me. Doubt started taking over. I couldn’t do this. What if I had gotten in over my head with this farm stuff? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a “real” gardener? What if everything I planted in that plot of dirt died? I needed my mom. She was the real gardener. She would know exactly how to turn that brown piece of dirt into a lush garden.

As tears rolled down my face, I walked into the bathroom where my husband was getting ready. One look and he pulled me into his arms. He reminded me that my mom’s here – she’s always here. She’s by my side, quietly watching and teaching me as I walk through this life. And, he reminded me that I can do hard things. I can walk through the fear because I’ve done it before. I did it when I gave birth to our daughter four months after my mom died, not knowing anything about being a mom myself. I did it when I walked into that first recovery meeting, not knowing a single person or what to expect. I continue to do it when I share my story with others, unaware of how they will perceive me or what they will say.

Fear is real and it paralyzes us if we allow it to. But, making a choice to walk through the fear, to push it aside and instead see the possibilities of the new and unknown – that is freedom.

I spent all day in the garden today. Plotting, staking, digging rows and planting seeds one by one, envisioning the new seedlings poking up through the barren land. Tired and sore, I was faithful that the vast emptiness would one day reap a great harvest.

By continuing to walk through these moments of fear, I experience peace, joy, faith in the unknown and the freedom to be my true self, which is a beautiful thing.

Walking Through Fear

 

Finding Joy in the Silence

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I grew up in the fog on the coast of California, but nothing compares to the thick, cold fog that has engulfed us over the past few weeks in the Oregon valley where we live. It’s hard to tell whether it’s 7 am or 4 pm, each day rolling into night only to repeat itself the next day. To say it’s depressing is an understatement. It’s why so many of us (despite the cancer warnings) are often tempted to find refuge in a tanning bed. I won’t, but, as I write this, it sounds absolutely amazing.

Today, despite the frigid temperatures and thick, white fog, I decided to bundle up and get some much needed yard work done. I was beginning to feel suffocated inside, surrounded by the stale air and constant buzz of the forced air heater. The air was cold and crisp, and hung low covering the yard like a thick blanket. It reminded me of the English moors that I’ve so often read about in the Secret Garden or Wuthering Heights, eerily enchanting.

My outfit on the other hand, was anything but enchanting.

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As I worked my arms back and forth, cutting down the grasses that had become brown and wilted, I felt a surge of energy pulse through my body. I could feel the blood flowing through my veins, heating my body up and giving me a burst of energy. As I breathed the cold, thick air in and out, I felt my lungs come alive, grateful for the fresh air.

Despite the silence and starkness of the yard, I heard birds chirping nearby, perhaps cheerfully optimistic of the upcoming Spring. As I pulled the remaining growth from the raised garden beds, I found great satisfaction in the flat, emptiness of the beds. Instead of seeing them as sad and empty, I saw the great potential for next season’s crops. I thought of the parallels between those garden beds and my life and an upcoming panel I’ve been asked to be part of where I will share my story of recovery. I saw those empty beds as my life when I made the decision to get sober – sparse and barren, yet so full of potential. I’ve been nervous and apprehensive about sharing my story in a panel-like format, but today I realized the power that a once empty, but now overflowing garden bed could have on one looking in from the outside. To see potential is to have hope.

As I walked through the yard, picking up debris from the recent windstorm, I thought of my mom who I often feel closest to while I’m gardening or doing yard work. I felt her presence all around me and pictured her in her robe and slippers working in her yard as I would so often find her growing up. I imagined her pointing out all the new growth on the camellias or the first glimpses of Spring in the daffodils pushing up through the hard, cold dirt. And, I realized no matter how much time passes, I still miss her just as much now as I did back then.

Yet, regardless of the sadness and longing I felt, I found a deep sense of peace and joy in the silence of the cold, thick fog – and hope in the new signs of life growing up all around me.

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The Bunny Is Real…And Other Easter Memories

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You know the saying, you don’t just marry the person, you marry their family? Well, that was definitely true for me. Despite both my husband and I being only children, unlike me he is from a very large, close-knit Catholic family who all, despite a few, live within close proximity to each other. I would be lying to say that I wasn’t completely and utterly overwhelmed when I attended my first Easter celebration with his family.

Growing up, we celebrated Easter, but nothing compared to my husband’s family. The week leading up to Easter is filled with excitement and anticipation, especially now that we have two kids who are obsessed with the Easter Bunny and all things Easter. There are Easter crafts, Easter stories, Easter baking, Easter cartoons, and, of course, lots of talk about Aunt Tess’ and the Easter Bunny! And, yes, the “Easter Bunny” makes an appearance each year at the annual Easter gathering at “the farm.” Okay, so Aunt Tess used to work at Hallmark and got the bunny costume at a great deal – but I digress.

The day begins with early Mass and then everyone makes the short trip to “the farm.” It’s not technically a farm, but there are a few horses, a cow or two, dogs and lots of room for the kids to run around – it’s beautiful. It’s the first time most of us have seen each other since Christmas, so there’s a lot of catching up and eating – lots and lots of eating. At some point, someone is chosen (or told!) to be the “bunny.” Usually, it’s one of the older cousins who have yet to participate in this coming of age-like experience.

As the anticipation builds, everyone gathers on the lawn awaiting the Bunny’s arrival. It’s always a surprise as to how Mr. Bunny will make his entrance. Last year, I believe he rode in on a four-wheeler and the year before that being pulled by a tractor – like I said, you never know! Of course, once the Bunny is spotted the kids go wild, some laughing, some crying and some standing in awe. It’s a sight to see!

Over the years, I’ve come to realize how truly special this celebration is. Before the Easter dinner (as with all family celebrations), we stand in a circle holding hands and say the traditional Catholic meal prayer, giving thanks to God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. As you look around, you will see Nornie, the matriarch of the family, along with most of her six children and their spouses, her grandchildren and their spouses and a multitude of great-grandchildren. What a sight to behold!

As the day comes to an end, you will find groups gathered by the fire or playing a board game and a few napping on the sofas, exhausted from the day’s activities. Those of us who have children, will gather them up, load them in the car and drive home, tired yet grateful for another year of Easter at “the farm.”

And, this year, I will be especially grateful for my second Easter spent sober and present, enjoying the excitement and joy of my children and glorifying the Lord who makes it all possible.

Blessings this Easter and always!

Let There Be Light

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5:45

I woke up this morning feeling kind of blah. It rained all night and was still raining this morning when I got up. My stomach felt kind of cruddy and, well, I was just in one of those moods. You know, the kind where everything looks grey and wet, and despite being the first day of Spring, you feel like the sun might never shine again. If you live or have ever lived in the Pacific Northwest you know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, sitting down with my first cup of coffee I opened my daily devotional to find today’s topic “Thoughts On Rain.” With that, I said to myself, “Okay, God, I’m listening.” Geez, how does He do that?! As I read, the author talked about the dreary feeling of watching the rain beat against her newly planted flowers, yet within a few hours of the sun coming up they were standing straight and strong. Wow, what a beautiful visual! At that point, I said to myself, “Okay, God, I get it.”

And, I thought back to all the times in my life where I had experienced torrential downpours, yet as the “rain” lifted I often discovered new growth and new beginnings. How often do we get stuck in the gloom and doom of life’s storms, instead of focusing on the nourishment God is providing us? Often, we don’t realize the new growth until the wreckage of the storm is cleared and we see the beauty in all the new life around us.

It’s still raining here, but instead of focusing on the grey skies, I’m focused on that small patch of sun illuminating the valley below. Because, in the worst storm, God will always provide us with His light if we search for it.

Happy Spring!