When we first moved into our apartment, a lovely couple from our new church gave us this beautiful pot of flowers outside our front door. I was so touched and felt especially welcomed by this gift. I genuinely appreciated these flowers and yet in the busyness off unpacking and settling in, I could not for the life of me remember to water these flowers. And so, in the Santa Barbara warmth, this beautiful pot of flowers promptly died after about a week. Sadly, I still kept this pot, full of dead flowers, outside our door for at least a month and a half. For some reason, I held on to this crazy idea that one day I’d take the time to try and rehabilitate them, but I never seemed to get around to it. Then, in mid-September, I was given a packet of wildflower seeds. As soon as I saw the seeds, I knew that I wanted to plant them in the pot outside our front door. And so, a few days later, I finally decided to examine the poor pot of flowers that I had previously neglected for over a month.
I must be honest, this flower pot was not in good shape. The plants that remained were dry and brittle and the soil was so parched it was nearly dust. I honestly think that the only thing still holding this soil together was the old and dying roots of the flowers that once were. I knew that before I could plant my new seeds, I would first need to restore this pot of soil.
The process of restoring the soil took me a lot longer than I originally thought it would. Not only was the soil in desperate need of water, but I realized that I needed to remove all the remnants of the old plants as much as I could, including the roots. And so I began to dig in, pulling out all that was left of the old plants, doing my best to untangle the messy roots from the dry and lifeless soil.
Finally, after a long process of sifting through the dirt, removing the withered plants and tangled roots, and adding a lot of water, the soil finally appeared ready to embrace life again. I then planted the packet of seeds. While I was cautiously hopeful, I felt a sense of expectancy for new life to grow in this pot outside our front door. I found myself eagerly anticipating their growth and I actually remembered to check the soil regularly to make sure the pot remained well watered. (Perhaps overcompensating for my previous negligence, I honestly think that I might have actually gotten a little obsessive with this last part, checking the soil multiple times a day, but anyways….)
After patiently waiting for about a week, wondering if these seeds would actually grow, I finally began to see some sprouts! Over the past week or so, more sprouts have appeared and they’ve slowly begun to grow. I honestly have no idea how long it will take for these sprouts to grow into plants and begin produce flowers, but I am looking forward to whatever they become.
Perhaps the craziest thing about this simple pot of flowers is that it has been a living metaphor for what I have been processing and experienced over the past couple of months since moving to Santa Barbara.
As much as I want this to just be a story of new life and growth and hope for the future, I would be skipping over the difficult truths that I have wrestled with over the past couple of months. More than anything, this is a story of restoration. And it’s not just about the end result, but about the actual process of being restored. It’s about digging in and getting messy, about starting over and uncovering dead roots that need to be untangled in order to make space for new life.
A lot of people have asked me how I like Santa Barbara or how we’re adjusting to the move. I will often tell people that we’re settling in great and we love living here, etc – all of which is true. There is seriously little I could complain about. Everyone has been so welcoming and Jeff and I are continually encouraged and remain confident that God has called us here. Like the initial pot of flowers gifted to us, this place is full of life and beauty. I see that. But at the same time, the past couple of months have been anything but easy for me.
You see, as we prepared for our move, I was so excited to just jump right into this abundant community. I was looking forward to plugging in and making new friends. I was excited and hopeful and could really envision us thriving in our new community. But despite all the goodness surrounding me, as we began to settle in, the difficult reality of starting over loomed over me.
I knew that this moved would require me to start over, but I didn’t quite realize how difficult this process would be. Although I will admit that I was a bit nervous about moving, particularly in regards to leaving my job and not having a new job lined up in Santa Barbara, I was eager to discover what was next. I longed to discover what God had in store for me here. I was ready for new seeds to be planted, for new adventures and challenges and growth. But as I began soul-searching, I discovered that what I needed was not so much clarity as to my passions or purpose, but rather, I was in desperate need of restoration. Somewhere along the way the roots of my identity, purpose, and value got tangled up in false beliefs that diminished my sense of self worth and led to exhausting patterns of trying to prove or earn my place. These patterns left me burnt out, depleted and parched, uncertain of what was next or if new life would even be possible.
And so, in starting over, I am learning to dig deep. I am sifting through and learning to let go these patterns that have led to death instead of life. And I am beginning to gently untangle the roots of my identity, purpose, and value. I am soaking in the abundant love and grace of my Creator and starting to experience restoration deep within my soul. And slowly, as I go through this process, I am finding myself more ready and open to embrace new life.
New seeds are being planted and I am certain it will take time for them to grow. For now, I am patiently waiting, intently checking the soil, and doing my best to keep it well watered. I do this with the hope that the roots will grow deep in healthy soil and then perhaps new life will begin to sprout.
P.S. This post calls to mind another entry I wrote about a year and a half ago called Death & Resurrection. I only vaguely remember what I was feeling at that time, but I am marveled by how deeply those words resonate with me once again.