The plan was to move to a new city and just fall into a pattern.
Mom and I would pack up my life and squeeze everything I own into a Toyota Camry, with complete reliance on air-sucking vacuum bags and Mom’s clever eye for strategic squeezing and layering. This level of problem solving just didn’t make it into my DNA.
The nautical lamp didn’t make the journey, so I said goodbye to the nautical knots and every smile who I love and the entire life that faded into the rearview mirror. The gigantic wooden framed map made it, wrapped in layers of protective bubble wrap.
Mom wrapped me in layers of protective bubble wrap too, but it didn’t take long before every single bubble was popped.
She wound me tight with my arms by my side, but I shut the door at the airport–DEPARTURES straight ahead–and swallowed down the lump in my throat and fought it for about 2 seconds before I gushed over a steering wheel, begging it to steer me home–and I had no idea what home even meant. This is when the unraveling began.
Episodes of Friends turned into meeting real-life friends with energy and new smiles. Were they unraveling too? Could they see that I was coming undone from my tightly wound cocoon?
With every pop of another bubble, I unraveled more and more, and nothing was holding me up anymore.
Words? What are words? Writing? Am I a writer?
Where am I?
Thirsty. Thirsty is the only word God has given me since being here.
How could I return to God in a place where He was supposed to be waiting for me?
This word has played over and over again in my head, in this dry, dry land…this foreign, dry land where these people call it “fall” but I haven’t seen a single leaf change to the magnificent colors I left behind.
We have a God who is the ultimate thirst quencher. Unraveled, popped, weak, puddled, and thirsty like I’ve never thirsted before. Thirsty. I know I will return, but what is this word and where did it come from and where do I carry it?
So here, in this thirsty land, I am learning about learning. Learning is nothing like I expected, nothing like I’ve ever done before. Here there are no boxes to check off, no pencils to sharpen, no grades to pile up, no flashcards to learn and unlearn. Well, there are–if you want them.
Here, in this thirsty land, I can’t be an empty bucket waiting for another drop of knowledge to fill me up.
This isn’t about the bucket or the drops or the accumulating drops or the numbness of being the mop that gets dunked in the accumulated drops and just lets the mopper drag the braided and twisted yarn across the dirty floor, again and again, sloshing and drowning.
No. We are not buckets or drops or mops.
Here, in this thirsty land, we learn that learning happens in the heart.
Learning happens in the heart that shapes the habits that aim the arrows that pierce the center of a moving target that gets harder to hit with every day, every advertisement, every commercial, every trip to the mall, every breathing second of comparison.
Unraveled, popped, exposed, and thirsty. Will anyone bring me flowers?
The plan was not to drive 1,350 miles to be unraveled and be popped and re-learn how to learn. I thought I already knew how to learn.
The plan was not to have a roommate with plants.
Green plants. I looked around and realized that these plants were alive. Every day, she waters them or moves them into the sun or into the shade. She protects them and she nurtures them.
The plan was not to realize that I’ve never had a plant. I’ve never made time to care for a plant. Fake plants seemed easier because they never died.
So I was popped and shared with my professor about these green plants that I knew nothing about.
“Go buy a plant!!! Start by buying fresh-cut flowers every week at the grocery store. Let your care for the flowers become a habit and begin to affect how you care for other aspects of your life.”
So on a Tuesday, when I sit in lectures from sun up to sun down, gulping up information like a gasping hiker in the middle of the woods who discovers a bubbling stream, I paused.
I got in my car and took control of the steering wheel and I guided myself to Trader Joe’s, and I gazed and gawked at the flowers.
Counting pennies is an expression that doesn’t hold up with millennials, but I’ve been watching every penny deplete in my bank account as I embrace the life of a full-time grad student. Here in this thirsty land, I am coming to like tuna and beans and penny-saving foods that fill me to the brim and make me flood over with endless thanks for another meal, another penny, another day here in this place to learn and to trust and to grow.
So on this Tuesday, I bought flowers. Yellow lilies. The cashier rang up my first bouquet of flowers at 11:11 am. If I believed in superstitions, this would be a special moment.
But this is a special moment without the need of a superstitious bump to make it any more special than it already is standing alone.
No one knocked on my door and brought me these flowers. No one knocked on my door and handed me a silver platter with beauty that I needed in my life. I watched my pennies, I trusted in provision, I gawked, I handpicked these yellow lilies, I bought them a $1 vase from the Dollar Tree, and I brought them home and I trimmed them and filled them in a vase with water, and I arranged them and I stopped and I watched them bloom. Every day I have felt the grittiness between my fingers and I have stopped and watched them bloom a little more every day.
This is a pattern, a ritual, that I want to shape into a habit that is steady and dependable and life-giving.
I need to feed my soul.
And then I need to rejoice when God sends other people to feed my soul. Let them in and let them feed my soul.
Two days after my 11:11 lily adventure, I received an email: “You have FLOWERS at the front desk.”
I let my friend in on a secret that I was learning to feed my soul, to slow down and take time to invite life into my life. And she heard my cries and she sent me flowers.
You are so incredibly loved.
A time zone away and this deep, deep friendship could feel how deeply I needed to hear that I was and am still incredibly loved.
I can admire this beautiful life with my beautiful, deepest friendships. The ones who know my handwriting and make my voice quiver when they just ask how I’m doing.
The plan was to move into a new city and just fall into a pattern.
But the pattern didn’t fall into place. The silver platter didn’t arrive. The beauty didn’t walk through the door until I invited it. If I could just open my eyes, there are colors of beauty everywhere. There is beauty in boiling water, beauty in the fresh scent of clean towels, beauty with every sunrise and sunset.
Thank you for the flowers. This is why I so deeply needed and will need these flowers.
Tuesdays will be my flower day. That is the plan, the beautiful plan.
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