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Bloom

January 15, 2015

It must have been standard operating procedure for people being sent overseas a couple of decades ago:

1. MUST HAVE CROSS-STITCH HUNG ON BATHROOM WALLS. CROSS-STITCH MUST HAVE HOKEY FLOWERS AND THE AWFUL SAYING “BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED.”

Maybe they handed the things out during orientation to the field. Or required a cross-stitching class before being allowed to leave the home country. Somehow, lots of people ended up with this saying on their walls and in their hearts. Oh, I know the sentiment is sincere. I can even kind of get it. But.

I hate it.

I can distinctly remember, both as a kid living overseas at different times and now in the last few years, at least four different houses that had this little gem adorning their walls, heaping unrealistic expectations upon the poor schmucks who were led to believe this was a good motto to ponder as they sat captive doing their business below its overly cheerful glow. As though someone had aggressively uprooted and re-planted their sorry selves against their sorry wills into some sorry, stinky soil and now it was all.up.to.them to BLOOM. That it was their fault if they didn’t, couldn’t–something they weren’t doing right, some way they weren’t trying hard enough.

It’s not.

I’m not much of a gardener. I’m no gardener at all, actually. Caleb and I tried a vegetable garden our first couple of years at Omo. The original understanding was that Caleb would clear it and plant it and then I’d take over–watering, weeding, harvesting. Well, weeding proved to be way beyond me and then I would forget to water, or forget to turn off the water and flood everything. And then the whole mess became a jungle and there was no way I was wading in to grab the gigantic, hard-as-wood zucchini from the itchy, prickly, vegetational labyrinth.

We spent the next five years mooching off Papa’s garden.

But I have observed a couple of things while others have gotten their hands dirty and I’ve sat by and collected the eggplant. Gardening is hard work. Planting is decisive, detailed in its design. There’s choice involved: here I will plant carrots and there I’ll plant my lettuce and over here, the okra, the peppers. It is patient work, and there are no instant results. From what I’ve seen, I don’t think gardeners are very aggressive people.

And blooming? Tell me you’ve seen a greater mystery, a more amazing wonder. Explain to me the motivation, the why, behind the sheer extravagance of a flower. It is the whimsy of a beautiful mess of a world. You don’t force a bloom. There’s no willing the success of a blossom. It’s the wonder of a seed going deep into the ground–dying–and living again.

It’s a miracle.

We’re in a new place. I’m just getting my toes in the dirt. We’ve made the choice to be here. Yeah, there has been some uprooting. But here we are: going through the details, the work, of starting something new. Of growing. I don’t know a thing about blooming, about shining, about doing well or succeeding. I don’t know what any of that looks like, yet. I don’t know if I ever will. That’s okay. I’m willing to be underground awhile. I’m acquainting myself with the dark, with the unknown. I’m learning to be patient.

But if all of this ever blooms into color? If this blossoms into radiance? It’ll be a mystery. It’ll be a wonder. It’ll be whimsy. It’ll be a miracle.

It will be grace.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    January 31, 2015 11:42 pm

    Joanna. I love this. You have to die first bloom. That is the part that that ridiculous saying leaves out. Just like Jesus says his yoke is easy and His Burden is light – He also says to take up your cross. Lately I think that cross is good-byes, never knowing if what you are doing is making a real difference, but praying that the fruit comes – even if your eyes only view the beginning of the harvest, if that. I am more aware of that dying than ever before. I am not sure why after 8 years on the field it is more acute and more real, but that’s just kingdom work – being subversive and quietly changing things around you.

    • February 1, 2015 7:23 am

      Exactly. It must feel so raw right now. Feeling for you guys.

  2. Erin permalink
    January 31, 2015 11:42 pm

    And hoping that the “bloom” is beautiful.

  3. February 3, 2015 4:02 am

    As always, I love your blog and the honesty it brings. Thank you.

  4. haitiruth permalink
    December 16, 2015 3:31 pm

    So good!

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