The word prune in itself simply isn’t pleasing to my ears. In fact, when I look at myself in the mirror and say the word prune or pruning I don’t even like the way it makes my mouth poke out. The process of pruning, whether it be trees, relationships, closets or budgets is often equally as disturbing to me.
I get the whole thing of things needing to be cut off so other things can grow on or come in, but let’s be real. Who wants to go through all that? Why can’t the things that must go gingerly trickle away in a sweet, symphony of melodic tunes while the other things taking its place arrive in a triumphal parade of ease and grandness?
Earlier this year, towards the end of winter, my landscape team engaged in their annual cold-weather function of cutting back the trees and shrubs in my yard. (God bless them!!!! I mean that for real.) The did it during some of our coldest temperatures this year in Birmingham, Alabama, and they did it with several pieces of foliage that were in need of some serious TLC (tender leaf care). They did a superb job. Those trees and bushes were cleaner than a chicken bone in a toddlers hand and neater than the spice rack of a woman with OCD. The shrubs, which, of course, are smaller than the trees and not the first thing you see, were an aesthetic sight to behold. The trees, were, well, how shall I say this, naked, exposed, and bare for all the world (or at least those in my world) to see.
Fast-forward to now, and little beautiful blooms of pink and white buds are peeking out of the limbs of the manicured trees. Those bushes that were shaved back to their bare minimal are now interchangeable arrays of fuchsia, green and white.
Tree pruning is a lot like life, in as much as I don’t like to admit it. Yes, the pruning ain’t pretty, but before you know it the painful, embarrassing, ugly, awkward, confusing and inconvenient things that were revealed as a result of what was stripped away, cut back, dealt with and plain ol’ made to disappear are replaced with beautiful assurance of the blooming blessings ahead.
Somebody help me please. I’m quacking up over here. I’ve revised the post below two years prior with eager anticipation of doing the same this year once the ducks sent their yearly signal.
Today is April 14, 2014 and my friendly water fowl have STILL not yet serenaded me with my morning medley of quack-tastic tunes. Here’s the thing though. I see them on the lake. I’ve seen them crossing the street. I’ve seen them soaring through the air, but I haven’t heard a peep (or quack) out of them. I know they’re there, but I simply haven’t experienced them as I had before.
Even as I hold out hope for my symphony of duck sounds, this year, my ducks and duckettes are teaching me a tough, but valuable lesson I thought I’d already learned. Just because things aren’t the way they have been doesn’t mean they aren’t they way they should be…and that should be…
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Did the title of this blog post catch your attention? I bet some of you are thinking about the ugly battle that is often waged between man and wife or woman and husband over who walks away with what when the ink dries on the divorce decree. Too bad. So sad. That’s not at all what I’m talking about. Keep reading to find out more.
Weddings are one of those occasions where a great emphasis is placed on gifts. Sadly, divorce is one of those where the emphasis on gifts should be so much greater. I’ve learned through my four years of divorce that gifts are something that certainly come along with the pain you go through. Not gifts in the tangible sense that one would think of from a wedding, but gifts in a sense of skills, passions, and strengths that possibly never would have come had someone not left. Not at all should divorce be used as an exchange for gifts and elevation. It shouldn’t. But if you’re in the unfortunate position of having to go through that kind of loss you might as well gain something from it. So don’t dare get divorced and not get ALL of your gifts.
So what all can you get? Glad you asked:
- Like me, you can gain the gift of blogging, writing or using your pain as a platform to help others heal.
- You can gain the gift of budgeting (like nobody’s business!)
- You can gain the gift of learning household chores you normally would have shied away from.
- You can gain the gift of new friends who come along to help you in your time of need.
- You can gain a sense of humor that may even shock you at times as you learn to laugh at the things that would once make you cry.
- You can gain the gift of “shake it offness”, that uncanny ability to not let things or people bother you like they used to or at all for that matter.
- You can gain the gift of discernment if you truly tap into God and trust His plans, being able to innately hear from God more clearly concerning people, places and things. (I believe that’s His consolation prize so to speak, for all you’ve endured.)
- You can gain the gift of congeniality learning how to deal cordially and in a mature way with your ex-spouse.
- You can learn the gift of scheduling as you rework the newness of your life especially if it deals with children who are loved by, and shared with both parents.
- You can learn the gift of balance…your calendar, your checkbook, your emotions, your time, and everything in between.
- You can gain the gift of cooking for one and stretching meals and menus in a way that would be pleasing to the most frugal frugalista.
- You can regain healthy friendships and family associations that might have taken a backseat to your marriage.
- You can learn a new hobby.
- You can learn a new form of education through classes, seminars, workshops and even seeking additional degrees.
- You can learn an elevated level of compassion and empathy that might even shock you at times.
- You can learn more about God, who He is, and just how absolutely strong He made you.
Sometimes in life, but especially in divorce, it’s so easy to set your sights on what was lost or who left. There’s so much to gain from any situation if you just make it though to the other side of your pain. I’ll say it again, don’t dare get divorced and not get ALL of your gifts.
I miss my Grandma Jean’s biscuits. It’s been 26 years in this month of April since Jean Elizabeth Johnson Walker left this earth for her permanent baking place in Heaven. It’s been even a couple of years more since I feasted on her handcrafted goodies. I can remember the intoxicating, buttery scent of the flaky discs wafting through 701 Emerson Street as I entertained myself while lounging on the “pull out sofa” in the den watching Super Friends, The Great Grape Ape or Young World from the floor model TV. I can really remember just how special they were while proving to be just the right bite to pop in my mouth with a little fig preserves or Winn Dixie apple jelly while preparing for whatever big holiday that brought my family and me to Montgomery, Alabama from one hundred miles away Birmingham.
The biscuits weren’t especially big, but were in fact petite (which happens to be one of my favorite words). Now that I think of it, my Mama Jean was petite too, with beautiful, cottony, soft, long, thin hair that slightly moved as her distinct, caramel colored hands rolled the flour-laden concoction. The biscuits were likely tinier than your average breakfast bread because Mama Jean had to use the magical dough to feed the masses. Not only did she and my grandfather help rear their children, but their house, which was SUPER big in my eyes, was a temporary nesting space for their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, siblings and anyone else in between.
One regret regarding those biscuits is that, at that age, I didn’t recognize just how unique those biscuits were. I always thought they would be there to be whatever I needed them to be when I needed (or wanted them). Much like my grandmother, those pieces of pastry perfection were simply in a league of their own. One other regret I now have as an adult is that I didn’t know that one day I would no longer be able to enjoy them or the beautiful woman behind their undeniable goodness, and I wouldn’t even have a recipe to try to duplicate that delightful baked dough. I have memories, so many precious memories tied into my Grandmama’s biscuits and the way they had an undeniable way of making life deliciously seem better. I know my Mama Jean knew how much she was loved and how much she meant to so many. I’m certain that she was aware of how beloved she was for her superb food, her planning of epic Easter productions, her gentle wisdom, her ability to be truly “present” (as in supportive of so many) and her smile that shone through even the fatigue that only a woman in school, who works, is a Pastor’s wife, a mother and a mother-figure to hundreds would understand. At times I really wish she would have left that recipe for us. I’m growing more certain though, that part of me is somewhat glad that a recipe doesn’t exist, to my knowledge, because even if I mirrored it taste, it would pale in comparison to the total package of the baker and the baked good.
Thinking of my Grandmama’s biscuits reminded me of an important notion. My hope is that, through life, we are never void of showing our appreciation and admiration of those who’ve impacted us. From the helpful friend, to the loving spouse and the doting children, or the biscuit baking grandma, those who mean the most to us should always, always know it.
Why is it that people’s actions tend to have an influence on our reactions? I watched an associate completely change demeanor in a negative way because someone didn’t do what he/she was supposed to do. My associate is known for a vibrant, bubbly personality. Through one little mess up by man this individual became cynical and semi-bitter. Not fully being involved in the scenario, I couldn’t add my two cents worth, but I wanted to yell as loudly as I could, “Do you, Boo! Don’t ever let anyone negatively change you from being who you are and being how you were made to be.”
It takes work to work through personal disappointment and pain. But the work is worth it if it preserves you, and presents the best you. None of us should ever want to hear:
- She used to be so full of life until…
- He used to be so outgoing until…
- Right after “this or that happened” she became so…
- I remember when he used to be so much more…
- I wonder what happened to make her so…
- He used to be a snazzy dresser until…
- She used to be an all-star student before…
- He was such a nice person before…
- She was so upbeat and encouraging until…
As you’ve completed reading this blog post I’m sure your mind has wondered to people who fall into the above categories. Part of those people could even be you. Take heart. It’s never too late to become better or even better than before.
The moral of this story is: Never change you because of what others did or didn’t do.
Marriage is one of those amazing things ordained by God, but often messed up by His children. I remember vividly preparing for my first wedding more than a decade ago.
After a less than ideal proposal and courtship, I recall eagerly meeting with florists, vendors, caterers, bridesmaids and the likes. I remember the excitement about the wedding, and not much excitement or focus on the marriage as my busy groom-to-be was foreshadowing his continual busyness, and I was entranced tending to “girl stuff” with our mothers. I remember a trusted girlfriend asking if I was “sure” this was what I wanted to do. I remember thinking, “things will get better”. I even remember the jilted ex (he wasn’t really jilted, I just like that word), declaring his last-ditch-effort love the day before my nuptials. I’ll admit now that I didn’t know if I was sure. I didn’t know if things would get better, and I could have virtually smacked that ex for pulling a Dewayne Wayne (Google it) so late in the game.
Anywho, my first wedding was one I’ll never forget. News of its approach was broadcast on local radio. More than a thousand squeezed in the sanctuary for a seat decked in lilac and silver. I remember sashaying down the aisle smiling as my recorded voice filled the walls with poetic declarations. I recall stirring songs “tearing down the house”. I remember the ministers praying and declaring blessings. I remember the rings and I remember the doves released to the air in a beautiful swirl of white wings flapping. I remember all of that, but still feeling “some kind of way” as the modern day youth say.
I’ve learned in retrospect that by design, marriages are key targets for the enemy to fire his best shot. Afterall, he’s jealous, and can never have what’s been promised to man! That makes it crucial for couples to be centered in Christ, committed to one another, and sure they’re down for the cause, especially when inconvenient. I’ve also come to know that there are subtle caution signs and blaring warning signs prior to the I Do, which can be used to help if heeded to, or can lead to the total opposite if ignored.
Marriage is a beautiful thing. However, it takes more than a ring and a prayer. It takes work from the beginning, in the middle and until the end, regardless of the outcome.
Aside from the spiritual mandates, physical connection, and honoring of God’s united purpose marriage takes:
• Two people committed to God first.
• Two people devoted to each other above all else other than God.
• Two people with hopes, dreams and goals that don’t have to match, but certainly have to mesh.
• Two people who love each other even when they don’t like each other’s actions.
• Two people who respect and support each other’s specific role in the marriage. It must be mutual.
• Two people who respect and support each other’s specific role in life.
• Two people willing to submit to growth and change for the greater good of the union.
• Two people who are aware of, and accept that marriage is really not about the wedding.
• Two people who have an ear to hear and heart to receive from the other.
• Two people willing to let the other “in” even if their natural tendency is to block out and shut down.
• Spiritual counseling prior to the marriage (My first husband and I didn’t have this, even though he was a pastor. I guess no one thought it was needed. Yikes!)
• Spiritual counseling and encouragement after the “honeymoon” has ended.
• Spiritual counseling throughout the marriage to prevent trials, and certainly when trouble like unexpected sickness, job woes, financial struggles, generational issues, children or the lack there of have entered the house.
• A strong network of mature, Godly supporters who are open to be totally honest with both parties, and who are not afraid to tell the truth in love for the greater good of the union. (I’m not talking about the “Girl, If I ‘was’ you I would” group, or “Man, you need to” crew, but true God-sent helpers.)
• Individual lives (friends, family, circles of influence and ministry) that support the marriage and don’t suffocate it.
• A healthy, committed way to openly communicate things that are pleasant, and not so pleasant, especially when it’s not so pleasant.
• Scheduled family prayer time.
• Scheduled time to discuss and handle family business
• Scheduled fun time.
• Spontaneous “FUN” time. (If you know what I mean.:)
Earlier this year, I ran into one of my former high school best friends at the funeral of a mutual friend. We were truly true friends who had a mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s quirkiness that is rare to find in teens. A friendship over a love for Kwame, polka-dots, brownies and “crimped” hair that started our freshman year blossomed into a great brotherhood/sisterhood that proved to be a treasured jewel after I experienced a tragedy my junior year. Then we blew it! We made the ill-fated choice our senior year to wreck the friendship by dating. Yikes! I know! What in the WORLD was I thinking? (I wasn’t.) And when I say wreck it, I mean we wrecked it! We messed up big time. Not only did we damage our friendship, and were truly mean, for lack of a better word, to each other, but we hurt a couple of others along the way. I regret our lack of, let’s just say, teenage sense.
Thankfully, we were able to get a pleasant association back on track by college, but things were never the same. We kept in touch from time-to-time, supported each other from a not too close distance in our relationships through college and in years that would follow would see each other at social or professional events and catch up. I remember his parents sending a present when I got married, and I remember being elated when I met his now wife, then fiancée in the mall one day.
As my old pal and I stood in line at the funeral to greet the wife of our mutual friend I was so happy to see him. Based on the Cheshire cat grin on his face I could tell he felt the same. We caught up on life, flashed pictures from our phone, asked about our parents and siblings, made embarrassingly, wacky jokes reminiscent of the ones plucked straight from the halls of our hallowed days at Ramsay… and then parted ways as if our friendship didn’t help tightly weave the fabric of our teen lives back in the 80s and 90s.
I felt weird being in his presence. It wasn’t at all in a non-platonic way, but because I wondered, what could have become of our friendship (not the other messy part we invited along for the ride). One decision to stick to what was working (friendship) and things could have been different. We could have been best buds, growing up together, with our new families and futures in tow.
I admire truly platonic relationships between men and women which have stood the test of time, and have been respectfully adjusted to fit each person’s purpose and changes in life. That’s a desire of mine as I greatly appreciate the insight and influence of men (I’m one of the prissiest girls who can hang with the boys I know.). I would be tickled pink to be able to spend time from time-to-time with wise, funny, food-loving, football-watching, helpful, honest single men who get the gist of “just friends”. As our individual lives transformed and we each meet whomever is being made ready, I envision it being totally rad to form cool cliques as married couples where we can enjoy healthy, meaningful and fun times together as family units. Call me crazy, but a girl’s gotta dream every now and again.
I have only one male friend whom I never dated and am proud to still call friend. I have appreciated his candor (he is brutally honest, helping “peep me to the game”), and concern when needed, but outside of the occasional civic function every year or so our lives aren’t intersected. So he doesn’t really count. (Don’t tell him I said that.) So for me, the quest for the “he’s just my friend” continues. A Sunday afternoon dinner with girlfriends resurrected the question of whether men and women can be friends, and resurrected this blog post which I originally posted in April 2014. My friends all gladly reminded me of my mishaps of old with male friendships-gone-awry because one or both of us didn’t stay in our lanes. To me, that’s a sign of me revisiting my heart’s desire to have some cool, platonic, single dudes in my life. I believe that men and women can be friends. I just believe that it takes a personal choice to value friendship just as much as a relationship.
So many times, as women, we think having a “man” is the most important thing. Don’t get me wrong, I want and will have one of those too, but I’ve realized, at 42, that having a friend is equally as valuable and necessary in life. Each person we encounter serves a specific purpose. It’s our responsibility, and to our advantage to know who belongs where in our life and be gratefully content with it.
Recently I was having a conversation with a friend attempting to encourage her as she travels down a road I’m unfortunately familiar. We sent multiple text messages, then talked and finally the right words came to me as I tried to assure her that one day, these days would provide her with some of the best laughter of her life. In the battles she’s fighting the flesh would easily tell her to fight back, literally. With the struggles she was enduring the enemy would cunningly try to convince her to be consumed with her circumstances. With the pain she’s experiencing her own mind would try to talk her into what her spirit knows isn’t the way to make it out of a challenge better than before. I tried being very transparent with her about some of the ungodly ways I wanted to handle some of my own past troubles (thank God for Jesus I didn’t). Then I remembered words my Mama told me several years ago. She said, “Put on your lip gloss, your high heels and keep it moving.” I did. I did. And I did.
Ladies, no matter what the matter may be there’s a destination ahead that’s being made ready for you. Health challenges, financial obstacles, relationship problems, family matters, self-esteem struggles, career roadblocks, spiritual battles and the likes pale in comparison to who God says you are, and what He has in store for you as your trust Him.
You are: Unique. Covered. Chosen. Favored. Blessed. Beautiful. Protected. Anointed. Guided. Assured. Necessary. Wonderful. Valuable. Redeemed. Important. On purpose. Appreciated. Admired. Prosperous. Healed. Restored. Destined. By design. Fabulous. Graceful. Classy. Purpose-filled. An overcomer. Above that (whatever your stressful “that” is) and Loved by the Lord!
God has BIG plans for you, girl! Brush yourself off and get up with a bold confidence in Christ, that shows to the watching world. I’m telling you. He has BIG plans for you! When you make it to where you’re on your way to make sure you are your best from head to toe, and everything in-between and from within. I don’t care what the troubles of this world may be trying to tell you, YOU, my sister are God’s special joy and He will make sure no one, or no thing takes away the glory He gets from, and gives through you. So, in the words of my Mama, “Put on your lip gloss, your high heels and keep it moving.”