Wandering around Hill Country, looking for meadows. Resting in a newfound sense of freedom.
When these photos were taken, I was on a kind of sabbatical. I was resting, deeply, in the season and place God had brought me. But with deep rest came the desire for more; and in this moment, I had never before looked so far beyond myself. I picked the wildflowers that rambled up and down roadsides. As I did so, I felt I was in a place remembered; a meadow garden of my girlhood. A place of freedom, possibility, and rest, untouched by anyone or anything. And I felt more than a return to my innocent past; I felt a longing for my future. I knew, somehow, that my limitations were far beyond where I had set them.
This pause came when I needed it. I was coming off of the most intense work period of my life. Creatively, physically, and emotionally, I had never given more than I had in the past few months. Wedding season as a florist is a special kind of exhilarating and a special kind of exhausting. The potential sources of stress are too numerous to mention here, but the most definite one is the need to produce beautiful work within definite time constraints. There were moments when I surely felt I was going to fall apart. And I discovered there was, in me, a strength, an emotional intact-ness that I could never have imagined. That I never would have discovered, had I not been so tested.
I watched how, one after the other, even the most trying productions gave way to beautiful weddings. I worked through things, when things were really sticky. And with each positive outcome, I came to know something of God’s tender and total care over me. When I came to the very end of myself, every time, I was given a new source of refreshment, a second wind, or the strength I needed to push through. The most obvious example, and one that changed me, came during a wedding in Colorado. Everything leading up to the wedding setup that day had been, in a word, horrible. And yet when I walked up to the wedding site, my flowers were blossoming, the clouds parted; sunlight flooded the mountains and the birds literally sang. I have never felt so looked after.
By the time most of the projects were complete, I was not weary. I was, instead, invigorated; I felt renewed, vibrant, and so hungry for more—much more than I ever thought I was capable of. I began planning for and dreaming of a second location for my business. I started to dream of travel, and more visible projects, and I started to actually want success—something I’ve always been afraid of.
Lately, there is a serenity, a solidness, and surety to my days. It is entirely newfound; this ease of being is not something I have ever known. All my life, I have been performing—as a skater, a dancer, a student, an artist—and I never knew how to live my actual life any other way. I could never turn off the performance mode in relationships, and I know it caused a disconnect. It certainly did within; I was fairly breaking under the weight of my expectations. Heading into this wedding season, I was more riddled with anxiety, fear, and feelings of inadequacy than ever before.
With help, however, I discovered something like real living. I learned, slowly, how to no longer view my work, life, or relationships as a performance. I learned that insecurity and self-hate is often exaggerated self-love. When talking about the crippling need to perform well, a friend gave me this wonderful counterargument—“what makes you so important?” The world will go on turning without my excessive efforts. I am, truly, a speck, a blip on the cosmos. And yet, the same friend reassured me, my insignificance is countered by the miraculous truth of being. We’re all a reflection of God. The two truths—that we are insignificant, and that we are made in the image of God—should be incredibly liberating. The one frees us from excessive importance; the other, from meaninglessness.
As I’ve begun to relax my outlook, the anxieties that governed and controlled my life have, for the most part, dissipated. Paradoxically, I found that performance and perfection were obscuring the parts of me that are most fascinating—my empathy, my humanness, my enthusiasms, my humor, and the piquant way I live. I find that people are more attracted to my work and frankly to me, now that I’ve taken everything down several thousand notches.
Letting go of performance is changing and healing my prayer life in a beautiful way. Performing for grace and acceptance most often led to feelings of condemnation and fear. When I realized that I was already accepted, that grace had saved me and that grace was keeping me, my whole being settled. How wonderful, that God could want communion, praises, and conversations with me. How wonderful, that the relationship is the takeaway. I feel less like I am performing for a Judge, and more like I am walking with someone I know and love.
With prayer, counseling, purpose, and an artistic coming-of-age, I feel myself becoming who I was intended to be. I settle deep into my strengths and I face and sometimes laugh at my limitations. I still experience tinges of anxiety and insecurities on the daily. I will continue to; I live in the world. That’s how it goes. But there is a relaxation, and it frees me up to pursue what I really love.
I had a conversation with a friend recently, about this newfound peace. “For the first time in as long as I can remember, I feel like I’m not aggressively healing from something.”
My friend repeated the sentence back to me, understanding truly the weight of those words. “’Aggressively healing from something.’ Wow. I think I’ll borrow that.”
“Please do, and take all the credit. It’s just that—right now, I’m not defeating something, healing from something, and there’s all this room. To grow. To explore. To have curiosities and interests; to dream and plan the next chapter. To dream! I mean, really, to look at the future with something like wonder and awe. Or at least something less than abject fear.”
“It’s true, isn’t it? You’re not exactly out climbing mountains when you’re lying in bed with a broken leg. Metaphorically speaking.”
For so long, I have been fighting and trying to heal my brokenness and my fear. And now, while I’m still struggling, I’m more or less open, receptive, and surrendered to God’s timing and provisions. I could feel tentative and unmoored. After all, I’ve surrendered all this control. Instead, I feel relieved, and hopeful.
I look back at these photos and I marvel most of all that they were taken days after a series of disappointing and confusing experiences. But I was just, ok. I was more than ok. My emotional makeup, my emotional integrity, is not tenuous. It does not collapse at the first signs of struggle. I am fundamentally ok.
I want so much for my current and future life. I want adventure and love. And I never was able to admit any of those desires, because for so long, I was bogged down with trying to fix myself and fix my fears. Now that I am living more than I’m performing, I feel real, true, organic desires resurrected in me. They are as natural as breathing. I want to further my work, deepen my relationships, and I want to find love and companionship. I want natural and good things for myself, which is new—for I am a whole self, a healed self; I am someone I like. I can say that without a trace of arrogance; I say it settled, secure, aware of my fallibility, and aware of my worth.
As I’m walking in in this peace, I just hope that everyone gets to experience it. Peace with the self is a result of peace with God. It is also a reflection of a reconciliation with oneself. My work will never be done; I will never walk into a place of totally untroubled calm. But I have learned to rest serenely within my troubles; I have learned to live. I so wish that for everyone here.
“Loving Creator, I have no quarrel with the way You have so carefully designed me in Your image. Truly I am Your work of art. Take me deeper today. Show me my virtues—the wonders of Your design for my life. Help me not to be afraid to look into the depths of myself and believe in what I see—for I am the work of Your hands. If I can believe in what I see, then I can rejoice in what I see. Precious in Your sight, I am Your work of art. Continue to create me in Your image. Amen.”
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9