Hey Sweet Friends! Welcome back! I pray you had a happy Christmas and New Year. I also pray that if you didn’t, you were able to see God and His love for you, even in the dirty and dark bits.
It’s the year of our Lord, 2022, and if I’m completely honest there is a big chunk of me still trying to make sense of 2020. Even so, this is the day that the Lord has made and this is the year I am in, so even though I’m a finisher and I like things to be completed, I set my need to understand and make sense of, aside and I ask the Lord, “What is now?”
If you are new here, I bought my very first house in July. If you are not new here, admittedly, this new house has kept me busy with projects which have become a very expensive form of emotional therapy, slash escapism, which may, or may not, be why there are three months of silence between episodes 18 and 19.
One thing owning a home has taught me is that finishing quickly isn’t as important as finishing well. In 2019, my house was purchased and then flipped. It’s beautiful and I love it and I feel more than blessed to call it mine but there have been moments when I wondered why on earth I bought a house!
You see, something flipped in my brain when I signed that mountain of paperwork…when I laid claim to the miracle God asked me to pray for. I’ve always taken care of the properties I’ve rented, always gotten my security deposit back but in my mind, I did things just to make them work for a little while because there was no investment, not in finances or in time. It was my home for the moment so I took care, but never at a cost from me.
All of a sudden I didn’t just want projects done, I wanted them done right the first time, and what I was learning was that in order to do them right the first time, most of the time, a project took longer to finish. Whether it was the availability of those who could help me, or because I thought I had all the supplies when actually I didn’t, or because it rained when it needed to be sunny, or it was still too warm to plant the bulbs!
As a finisher, I really like to finish one project before I start another. It helps my brain remain uncluttered and, unrealistic as it may be, I get a lot of satisfaction in checking a thing off my list before I start on a new task. Looking back, my struggle with procrastination can 100% be linked back to this need to finish. If I can’t finish a thing I don’t even want to start it.
If I can’t read the book in a week’s time, I won’t pick it up. If I can’t finish a home project in a weekend, I’ll wait until I have a week off. If I can’t finish writing a new blog post in one sitting, I’ll wait until the day I can. See the problem?
Obviously, this system isn’t working well for me and now the whole world knows so in God’s kindness in not leaving me in this, He used my dreams for my house to teach me a thing. My brain is capable of holding multiple projects that all have multiple steps.
In a month’s time, I received, acclimated, and planted two beloved apple trees, named David and Claire, in my front yard. I prepped a flower bulb bed, planted said bulbs. Then I started and completed a feature wall in my master bedroom and bathroom.
Listing it out like that, it doesn’t seem like a lot for an entire month, but remember, these days I’m doing things right the first time so let me spell out what planting the apples trees took, as an example.
Now, before you roll your eyes and judge me for naming my apple trees I’ll remind you what apple trees have meant to me in my relationship with the Lord in the past. If you need a further reminder you can read Memorial Stones. Once the first thought of having my very own apple trees entered my mind, I could not dislodge it and entered a wormhole of research.
What varieties are good for my planting zone? Is one enough or do I need two so they can cross pollinate? Solo trees can’t produce fruit? What size would be best for my yard…standard, semi-dwarf, or dwarf? Once I got all the information, I ended up with a Pink Lady, Claire, and a Honeycrisp, David, both semi-dwarf.
They were delivered in boxes on a Friday morning and I was immediately ready to plant them…but what do I know about planting trees, so I called my Moma.
“Can you and Daddy come over tomorrow to help me plant my trees?”
“Sure. You need to call before you dig. Have you done that yet?”
No, no I had not. That question set in motion about five steps I hadn’t even considered when I spent over $100 on these trees. Who knew planting trees would be so complicated? I certainly didn’t.
Every time something else came up that would delay their planting, like deciding to take down a dead dogwood tree so that Claire would have room to grow tall, but first, needing to call Georgia power because the dead branches were in the power lines, I battled with wanting to just get them in the ground already. But instead of cutting corners and finishing prematurely, I let my truest desire overwhelm my need to be finished.
And what is that truest desire?
In two to three years, if I do this right the first time, I will have fruit bearing apple trees in my own front yard. I will have two trees full of fruit that my land produced that I can share, and can, and cook, and bake with. And when my neighbors walk by, as they join me in watching them grow, maybe one day the Lord will open the door for me to tell them about that apple tree in Claire’s backyard in Inverness, Scotland and all about El Roi, the God who sees me. Another week doesn’t matter, Kathryn. What is a week and another phone call if it means you get to have your trees for years?!?
It took two weeks to get those trees in the ground, the right way and I wouldn’t have done it any differently.
Once they went into the ground everyone else expected them to start growing. I had been talking about them so much, my people were invested and they wanted to make sure they were doing well, but I planted them in the fall as they were preparing to go dormant.
There is still a part of me that wonders if all the articles I’ve read are telling me the truth. It feels so very counterintuitive to plant a thing and then want it to lose its leaves so that it looks like nothing but a large stick driven into the earth. But if the experts are actually that, they tell me that apple trees require a certain number of “chill” hours, so every day when I go out to check on them and talk to them…
Again with the judgement! I’ve read that talking to your plants is good for them and I’m doing everything I can to make sure these trees yield fruit!
…so when I go out to check on them and talk to them I just have to have faith that come spring they will do everything they were created to do. I’ve done all I know to do, they’ll do the rest.
In August one of my students and his dad came over to look at my yard to see if they could take me on as a pro bono, grass cutting client. I asked what I could pay them but it was really important to my student that I did not pay them, so I graciously let them serve me and I sent them home with a cake for their trouble! That first day the dad stood under my enormous trees that shelter my quiet, peaceful backyard, looked up and said, “Well, you’re going to have fun come fall!”
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“This place is going to be a mess of leaves.”
I brushed it off and said something along the lines of “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.” Turns out I would need that bridge. I would need it to cross the sea of leaves that was my backyard!
It hit a breaking point the week before Thanksgiving when I opened my front door and couldn’t see my sidewalk for all the leaves, because my backyard isn’t the only place I have tall trees. I let myself finish that week of work well without thought of how badly the yard needed to be raked but committed the first two days of the next week to getting those leaves raked.
With my daddy’s leaf blower strapped to my back and bags and rake and gloves in tow, I made quick work of the front yard. The next day I went to tackle the backyard and quick work it was not. As I put my 16th bag of leaves by the road for the city of Columbus, Georgia to pick up I looked at the mountain of leaves still sitting in my backyard feeling the ache of two days of yard work in my body and the loneliness of hard work done alone.
That is when I heard the enemy…in the tired and the achy and the lonely. “You know if any of the men in your life come over you’ll hear, ‘Left some leaves on the ground, didn’t you?’”
I wanted so badly to start and finish a big project all by myself but this job was proving never ending as I looked up into those trees that someone promised me would bring me “fun”. That is when I heard the enemy use the voice of my dad, or my brother, or my uncle. I couldn’t determine which one, I just knew it had a Means Man tone. Maybe it isn’t fair to throw them under the bus like this but we have a standard of doing things with excellence in our family and sometimes that excellence is simply not realistic. Because the truth is, even if that mountain of leaves was put away neatly in bags there would still be rouge leaves that made their escape.
Finishing well, doesn’t mean finishing perfectly and doing a job the right way the first time doesn’t mean it is done perfectly.
I know this now but I did not know it in the moment when the enemy used the voice of my men in my head…
“Left some leaves on the ground, didn’t you?”
I felt like a failure for all of half a second and then I heard Pastor Steven Furtick’s voice in my spirit from a message a few weeks before,
“Why are you talking to a serpent? Why are you talking to what is beneath you?”
Isn’t it just like the enemy to take something that is true and twist it? It was true, I did leave some leaves on the ground. What was also true is that I had 16 bags of leaves by the road.
Sometimes we still have metaphorical leaves on the ground of our lives, Sweet Friends. Leaves that remind us we aren’t perfect and don’t have it together as much as we’d like. Leaves that remind us that we are in need of a Savior, but let the exhaustion and ache and loneliness that you feel remind you that you don’t have as many leaves on the ground as you did when you started. I had 16 bags of proof that I was farther ahead than I was when I started, so I gave myself permission to put down my rake and go inside to start cooking for Thanksgiving.
The next day at Thanksgiving lunch my brother offered for him and my 13 year-old nephew to come over the following day and help me bag up what was left, to which I joyfully accepted. He didn’t have a snarky thing to say, instead he offered to be a solution. As we bagged up what would be another 16 bags of leaves, I told him about the lie I heard the enemy whisper to my heart. He told me that he has heard that Means Man voice as well, but he told me that when he heard it it encouraged him to keep pushing forward in his recovery all those years ago. As he raked and bagged leaves, navigating Willa’s poop, from his wheelchair, I again marveled at his servant’s heart and the testimony of perseverance he has to share with the world.
When we were done I knew I would have to rake again before the season was over. In fact, I just bagged another 6 bags from my front yard two days ago and the backyard is still waiting for it’s second go ‘round. I knew I would have to do it again, but I stood looking at the 32 bags of leaves and two of my men who came to help me make quicker work of my mess of leaves and something in my heart slid into place.
Here’s what I know to be true…it doesn’t matter how quickly we finish a thing. It matters if we finish well and who we invite to take to the finish line with us.
Now, that might mean our finish line is delayed. When you do a thing right, taking all variables into consideration, chances are, you’ll need to put more work in. Whether that is a project at home, work or school, or even in growing in your relationship with Jesus and becoming more like Him. More than likely the extra work will be hard, leave you tired, achy and possibly lonely. In putting in this extra work, you’ll make the enemy nervous and he might start hitting you with arrows that pierce your heart, but I want you to stand up from your work every once in a while and look at all those bags sitting on the street waiting to be picked up. When you feel too tired to continue on, when you still see so much to be done, when, for half a second you believed the lie that you aren’t good enough because of everything you still have on the ground of your life, look at those 32 bags of work you’ve completed, even if it was with some help, you did that. You completed that and it matters!
So, no matter how you finished 2020 or 2021, even if you feel like things are too unsettled to move into 2022, I’m praying God gives you the grace to set your need to understand and make sense of, aside and ask the Lord, “What is now?” Because, Sweet Friends, it’s doing the NOW well that eventually leads us to finishing well.
Until next time,
Thank you for being here.
Remember to take deep breaths.
And God has got us!