What God Did

Sometimes it’s important to tell others what God has done in our lives. You never know, maybe that person is in a similar situation, or any old situation, where someone like God would be darn useful.

So, here’s a story–really the pared down version–of what God did in my life when I had no money, no job, no home and no plan.

I was divorcing and for all the convoluted stories divorces can be, I won’t go into how this next thing happened, but it did. The ex got the house, and most of the money. I hadn’t worked in 15 years (stay-at-home mom), and was unemployed when this happened.

Here’s what I needed: a home, money to move, a job that would pay for myself and my son, and a plan. A really good plan.

The plan was the thing that bugged me the most. I believed if I could come up with a good plan, I could begin whittling away at this God-sized dilemma.

I did pray about it. A lot. But, I prayed without expecting anything. My prayers were really just my worries directed at God, which I think is how most of us pray most of the time.

One afternoon, while my son was at school, I was curled up in the bed. I was going through these mental gymnastics that were crazy. I was repeating over and over, “Think, Cinthia, think. You can come up with a plan.” After hours of this, I finally said, “Lord, I don’t have a plan. I hope you do.” It was more rhetoric than faith. Sort of like saying, “I don’t have a clue. Anybody else got one?”

Turns out he did have a plan.

I got a job at a local garden center in a town an hour and 15 minutes away. The two men that own the garden center are very godly men with a heart to help those who need it, and they helped me. They got involved personally, not just professionally, and loaned me some furniture and a box truck for moving.

Simultaneously, my son got a soccer scholarship to the university in that same small town. It was a perfect fit for him, academically and athletically.

Obviously, the town was turning out to be our new home. One day, I took a deep breath and asked customers as they shopped if they knew of any rentals. They did not. It’s a small town, mostly retirees, not a lot of rental property. Until I was locking up, and a woman asked if she could come in and browse while I closed. Turns out she was a realtor who knew of a house. She could take me there as soon as I was finished for the day. It was the perfect house for someone who had deposit money (first and last month) and a credit score that proved you would pay the rent. I had neither.

The house was one block from the university, and had a washer and dryer, my only criteria.

But, the realty agency was owned by a godly man, and he chose to help me by trusting that God would provide a way for me to pay the rent, and he waived the fees. The banker that processed a personal loan for my moving expenses was also a godly man who echoed the realtor. He smiled (he is still a friend and has a very boyish smile), and said, “God will provide a way for you to pay this back.”

In March of 2012 I had no home, no money, no job and no plan. In August of 2012, I had a home, a job and a plan.

Here’s the thing: It’s easy to say that none of this was God because I did what people do in that situation. I found a job. I found a home. I moved. I didn’t stay on that bed and wait for God to make all those things happen, (though he could have). I went looking for a job and a home. So, was it God or was it me? Shrug your shoulders to that question and move on.

It was God. Here’s why:

  • The small town was never even a thought to me. It is so small and so out of the way, I wouldn’t have considered it.
  • I wasn’t looking for a garden center job. I was looking for a professional job that paid professional money, but at 53 I discovered that wasn’t going to happen. I am both a City Planner and a horticulturist, and while I prefer working as a horticulturist, I just figured I’d have to sit through the endless meetings of a City Planner to pay the bills. To date, I am paying the bills on garden center money.
  • My son getting accepted and receiving a scholarship to the small university in the town I was offered a job.
  • The first and only house I looked at is still my home three years later, and is a block away from the university.
  • The godly people God put in my path who blessed me with their generosity.

God had a plan. I had no plan. I was a desperate girl in desperate times, and God showed me the way.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s one more thing: I left behind a 20-year-old garden. It was a cottage garden, full of beautiful perennials. One of my favorites was a spring blooming bulb called Spanish bluebells. As Spring of 2013 came I noticed my new yard had a million of “something” coming up in it. Friends asked what that plant was. I didn’t know, but truly, I hadn’t looked at them. I was busy working and frankly, it still hadn’t completely occurred to me that God was orchestrating this life I was now leading.

One morning I woke up remembering the Spanish bluebells at South Turkey Creek. This would be the first spring in 20+ years that I would miss them. I said, “Lord, the bluebells. I won’t see them this year.” Disappointed and missing my garden, I got ready for work and walked out my front door. Over night that plant had bloomed. Turns out the former owner of my little house loved Spanish bluebells, too. There were millions of them, literally everywhere–every bed, every corner, along the street, along the fence, against the house, among the shrubs–everywhere, erect, blue and showing off.

God not only had a plan, he remembered that I loved Spanish bluebells and placed me in a home that had an abundance of them. He’s like that. When he makes a plan, he attends to every detail.

 

 

 

so this happened how will you respond

So, this Happened. How Will You Respond?

So, this happened. How will you respond?

I’ve been asking myself that question all week.

  • You really did get fired. How will you respond?
  • You’re alone, now. How will you respond?
  • You were lied too. How will you respond?
  • Your health is gone. How will you respond?
  • Your children have ignored all the values you taught them. How will you respond?
  • Your spouse is no help at all. How will you respond?

These are mild compared to some I could write. You just declared bankruptcy. How will you respond?

But, they’re also pretty heavy compared to some I could write. The shower is stopped up. How will you respond?

How about this one? You’ve gained weight. How will you respond? (I’m going to deal with it tomorrow, that’s how.)

A friend shared a Christmas letter she received from a friend. She wanted my take on it. It wasn’t hard to understand what the author of the letter was suffering from–bitterness. He’d had a full life, a brilliant career and great health, due to a healthy lifestyle. So, yeah, he was supposed to be that guy. The guy we want to be when our turn comes. His plans were to write his memoir during retirement, but his health betrayed him. Instead, he’s making daily doctor runs, and the pages of the memoir remain blank. He’s not jogging through old age. He’s pushing a walker. It happens.

So, who are you pointing the finger at? Because, can we be honest? The first response is always the tragedy staring me. Look what happened to me. (If you’re still on your parents, then Lord help you, please respond by saying thank you for giving me life, and move on.)

Having a fit won’t change what happened. It happened.

I’m taking a class in setting personal boundaries. Here’s what I’ve realized. I don’t need to learn to say no, as much as I need to learn to respect other people’s no. I seriously need to stop hearing their no as an attack on me, and instead hear it for what it is.

Just a plain, simple no.

Oh but, that is hard when it is a gut-wrenching no.  And, we all have at least one gut-wrenching no. That one we try not to remember because when we do, we feel it all over again. Rejection.

Years ago, I worked in a Community Rehabilitation program. We helped with repairs on low-income homes. I was assigned to an African-American woman, who I thought was younger than I was (I was mid-20s.) Turns out she was 42, just gorgeous and aging really well. But, she was, as the saying goes, bat-shit crazy. She talked about her husband. Her husband this, her husband that. The husband had been gone for 20+ years. He was married with kids. Her response? She was having none of his no. She believed he would come back.

That’s one response, I suppose. Denial.

But, like the guy frustrated with doctor’s offices, and blank memoirs, how much time are we wasting? That stunningly beautiful woman lived alone her entire adult life. The brilliant man knew illness happened to others, but believed he was exempt. She believed no one could leave her. He believed doing it all right insulated him. People leave. We’re not insulated from anything.

So, this has happened. How will you respond? How will I respond? I’ve been asking myself that question all week. My conclusion? Grace. Grace for me. Grace for whoever. What else is there, really?

 

 

 

Here’s What I Want: To Be Enough

Here’s what I want. To be able to fix the things in my life that I think need fixing. Relationships, employment, writing, health, a plan. Oh my gosh, I need a plan! But there isn’t one. I’m still in transition. But, have I always been? In transition, I mean. Because aren’t we all always trying to discern what is next? What comes next?

Do I move for my job (straight out of school)?

Do I marry this person?

Do I have children?

Do I go it alone?

Do I move to China?

Do I work at the same place forever?

Do I cheat on my spouse?

Do I believe this God stuff (oh, please let the God stuff be true)?

Do I ask for a promotion?

Do I ask for a raise?

Do I look for another job?

Do I stay close to my aging parents?

Do I retire early?

How much money does one need to retire?

Oh dear lord, may we just have a plan? And then, may we be happy with the plan? May we spend our days feeling smug and self-satisfied that it was indeed a good plan? Because a good plan means, somehow, that we succeeded. And, there is great comfort in a plan. Especially one without glitches or things that pop up that you cannot control. Like:

Your lover, your soon-to-be spouse changes their mind and the wedding announcements are replaced with the no-wedding notices.

Or maybe, no one ever asks you to marry them. Why not? Is it me? Is it them? Is it the world? What the heck is it?

Your child is not perfect. They have a few issues.

The roof leaks.

There is no money to fix the roof because your child has issues.

No matter how many budgets you make, and keep, the unexpected always exceeds the category for the unexpected.

You get laid off.

You get fired.

You work with people who are underhanded, manipulative and downright scary. And, they think they’re nice.

Your parents are off on to some spa in Arizona. Weren’t they going to need you?

Your parents are old, and boy do they need you. They desperately need you.

Grandchildren are perfect. Why can’t everyone just have grandchildren?

You’ve saved money. You’ve spent money. You’ve been in debt. You’ve been debt free. But still, you always have the same amount of money. What does your financial planner say about that?

Old age is scary. But aren’t all ages scary?

Your adult kids worry you. You keep silent.

The worst actually does happen, just when you’ve convinced yourself that worry is silly, the worst rears its head, and actually happens. What is up?

You lay awake at night wondering. How do I fix my marriage, my children, my job, my house, my budget, my health, my social life? Do I go to the party? And then, DANG, you remember, I’m supposed to be exercising in the middle of all this. I’m supposed to be skinny, look good, wear great clothes, look professional or cool or sexy or whatever the occasion calls for. Heck, I’m not just supposed to be on top of all this other mess, I’m supposed to be on top of me, too. Don’t I have a physical soon? Geez.

The darkness of night literally mocks you. Did I make the right decisions? Is it too late to make new ones? You pray, God, please be real, and please have a purpose for my life other than just being an organ donor. Not that you don’t want to be an organ donor, you do. You really do. You’re a nice person. You think. You hope.

So, you shake it off. Go play golf. Go for a bike ride. Go shopping. Go walk the dog. Go sit outside in the sunlight for a bit. You forget for a few moments that you’re supposed to fix everything. Nothing needs fixing. The sunlight just feels good. You wonder, why is it I’m not supposed to bury my head in the sand? You like sand.

Abraham did not have a plan. God said, GO to Abraham, and he went. But, for Pete’s sake, that was sort of a plan. God at least said something–Go. You wonder, if God told me to go, would I start walking right now? You’re tempted. Just walk right out that door and keep walking and don’t look back and don’t wonder where you’re going because that would involve a plan, and aside from planning what to eat for supper, you’re rather sick of plans.

But, maybe God said stay. Stay and let him fix the roof, the marriage, the health, the finances, the kids, the crazy co-workers, the dark nights. Even when everyone else is gone, you stay. Can you do that? Can you stay and trust God to fix, in the way only he can fix, what needs fixing? Can you truly trust the God of the universe to care enough about your little universe to fix anything where you’re concerned? Is he really the good shepherd or are you following him straight to the slaughter house? Is he enough? You already know you’re not. I already know that I am not.

The darkness whispers he is. God is enough. Follow him. He’s got a plan. And, in one simple moment of clarity, you realize that’s the plan. Following God. That is really the only possible plan because he’s got the big picture and you only have a slice.You shake your head in the darkness. Lord, you say, I’ll follow your plan. I’ll follow you. And, finally you go to sleep. That’s a plan.

.

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Horticulturist

Advice from a Blue Collar Girl

A guy asked me out recently. (Oh. Stop. It can happen.)

Anyway, when he found out I was a horticulturist, he lost interest.

I’ll quote him:

“I didn’t realize you were a blue collar girl.” he said, pausing to consider the ramifications of this on his personal life.  “I thought you graduated from Furman University.” Silence, while he pondered this newsflash a bit more, rubbing his chin a lot like my divorce attorney did. He concluded. “I don’t really want to date a blue collar girl.” 

My response:

“Oh good, because I didn’t realize you were an a**, but now that I know you are, I don’t want to date you.”

I know. We can’t all be as classy as I am.

So here’s my topic. I’m going to give ya’ll some career advice. The dating advice was a freebie that I just threw in. You’re welcome.

Career Advice from a Blue Collar Girl:

1. There is no shame in hard work, blue collar, or whatever collar you wear. Be proud of your job, and your hard work.

2. You can work in the pouring rain, melting heat, blowing wind, freezing cold, and baking sun. You think you can’t, but you can.

3. DayQuill will get you through even your sickest days.

4. Don’t wait to be brave to do something. Bravery comes with doing, not waiting (or reading a self-help book).

5. Get over the idea that you should be at the same place someone who has been doing their craft/job for decades is.  Stay focused. It will come. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just persevere.

6. And, while we’re on that subject. Perseverance is the number one thing needed to succeed at whatever you’re doing: work, career, family, marriage, hobby, gardening, writing, etc.

7. Most people quit way before the finish line; some quit when it’s in sight. Don’t quit.

8. Your body, no matter the age, can do more than you think. Push yourself.

9. Training matters. Not every job or every person needs a college degree. But, training is important. Take lots of extra-curricular classes to improve your job skills, and add to your resume (it is all about the resume these days).

10. If you don’t know, do ask. And, don’t bs your way through. Horticulture is a knowledge based industry and the knowledge changes daily. It is vast and wide. People often remark to me that they had no idea just how deep this industry is. I’m assuming the same could be said about your industry. So, don’t be a know-it-all, but do aspire to know it all. 

Advice from a blue collar girl.

God Made a Garden

I work in a pretty and charming flower market. Its about 2 minutes from my house, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that  every person that walks into the store says the same thing to me. This place is so wonderful. It must be fantastic to work here.

That statement makes me feel better because some mornings I wake up and think, ugh, I don’t want to go to work today. Then I remember people envy my job. Because I work in a garden.

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Pretty hanging plant (air plant)

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Gorgeous succulent design (by Linda Clemens)

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Pretty benches and pagodas

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Whimsical Chairs

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A Good Spot to Sit

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Tropicals in the kiosk

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Bamboo containers downtown for our “adopt a tree planting space” (design by Erik Ladd)

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Front view of store, Come on in.

I suppose, when you consider the fact that God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and told them to work it, then it is only natural that we’d want to be in one too.