Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

If you look at the lower right hand corner of this photo, you will see the tractor that has been methodically traversing this barren field across from our home for 5 days. We wake daily to the sound of it’s engine early in the morning, and observe the cloud of dust surrounding it’s implement, breaking up the earth’s crust in it’s wake until quitting time.

What has me stumped, is the need for so many trips across, back and forth, side to side, diagonally, back and forth, over and over?

Well I looked it up on and after sifting through pages of instructions on farming, I learned about “harrowing” which, after plowing, breaks the ground into dime-sized pieces that will allow the tiny seeds to push up their tender shoots unimpeded, simultaneously allowing water to evenly soak into the earth. Harrowing takes numerous treks across the field in order to refine the soil.

So why am I suddenly interested in this familiar activity now, after watching this same scenario for almost 14 years?

Well, for the first time in these 14 years, that large field across from me has lain fallow for awhile. The routine was interrupted. Instead of the plowing, harrowing, rowing and planting of cilantro or parsley, cabbage or bok-choy, we have had weeds and dirt out our front windows, with the accompanying invasion of more dust than usual inside our home. Usually, the first thing I see through my windows when I walk out of my upstairs bedroom is the lush plants that seem to pop up over night after the tractors do their work. No such loveliness for months!

This brings me to the point of my post. When I am engaged in my Fourth-step inventory (part of ongoing 12-step recovery work) I experience it as a breaking up of fallow ground. The methodical plowing up, turning over and harrowing work of inventory can take a miserably long time, each time. When I work this step thoroughly, I often ask myself the same question – “why is it necessary to go over all this ground again and again?” To be rigorously honest, it is sometimes a tiresome process. Each time, however, I am reminded of a precious Bible promise in Hosea 10:12, “Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.” I dare not let the ground lay fallow for too long.

Recovery is not about rehashing the past to blame, justify my actions or defend myself. It is about seeking God and allowing the seeds of His righteousness to have a soft and fertile field in which to grow and bear the fruit of His Spirit in me so that others may taste and see that the Lord is good.

It takes many passes over the fallow ground of my heart in order to accomplish the rich environment for a good harvest, especially if I have let the ground of my heart harden. But I can trust my Heavenly Gardener to break up the fallow ground enough to finish the work He has begun in me.

I have learned over the last 20 years of recovery that this breaking is always painful, always longer than I anticipate but always for my good. (Romans 8:28)


Connectednes and Closets

My Strength-finder Profile: #3 Connectedness – confident in the connectedness of the big picture, that we are part of something bigger.

Ah yes, so dealing with the small and insignificant daily routine is so contrary to my nature! Take, for instance, purging my bedroom closet.
Cleaning out a closet is rather uncomfortable. It’s dusty, a little smelly near the shoes and the piles seem to multiply on the shelves along with wire hangers from the dry cleaner. On this day the object of my discontent and reminder of my failure as a seamstress, is a small, neat and be-flowered cardboard box. Casting it’s shaming shadow from the high shelf above the hanging rod of longer length clothing items, I wonder how I have tolerated it’s taunting presence for so long. I have dusted and relocated this commonplace yet decorative box from sewing room to shelf to closets over the years, with never a change nor improvement of it’s content.
It sits in all it’s humiliating glory, next to my fall and winter purses, which were dutifully switched out to my spring and summer purses in May, silently mocking the uncountable resolves to finish that little summer shift in time for the hot weather. Yes, the “Simplicity New Look Easy Option FIVE Dress Variations IN ONE” -Size A pattern sheath lies in repose. Delicate tissue pieces cut and neatly pinned to a lightweight cotton, flower-print fabric waiting patiently for the skilled dressmaker’s touch upon the Brother Portable. Like a time-capsule, only not buried in the ground.To be completely honest, there is also a lace curtain panel and two skeins of yarn (I checked to make sure for the accuracy of this post).


Whenever I am uncomfortable with myself – be it current aggravation a or nagging issues of the past, unfinished projects in my home appear larger and more noticeable – like the droplets of dried soap attached to the backsplash behind my kitchen sink, the marks of teething-toddlers on the low window sill near the front door, the dust on the blinds in the laundry room…like that obscure little box in my closet. It’s time to scrub, patch, paint,dust and deal with that box.
Likewise, I have come to notice recently, in the course of what we “Recovery People” call doing a 4th Step, a character defect about which I have been in denial. I have in past “step work” identified my three chief character defects. They present as DEFENDING, JUSTIFYING and BLAMING . But there it is, epitomized in that old, wretched little box, IGNORING! Hidden within unassuming pieces of corrugated paper and glue, tidy pieces of cloth and steel lie ignored. All that is needed is dedication of time and patience to move to full potential – ignored.

Maybe I am just justifying my lack of time or defending my right to do more important things than sew. Perhaps I’m blaming my 6th grade Home Economics teacher for giving me a discouraging”C” in sewing…but reality sits there in my little box. I have had hundreds of opportunities and not a few choices to do something about that box. Ignoring, like good intentions without action, is a low road. So i’ve learned to ask, what is the core issue of my discontent? What was the “trigger”? What is really bothering me?

It’s right there in the first paragraph…I didn’t even know until I re-read the post to this point! Failure. Failure to notice. Failure to act. Failure to get it right. And what was the trigger? Something totally unrelated to a box of fabric, a dirty backsplash, uneven plaster, or dusty blinds. A connectedness much bigger in the grand scheme of things. Connectedness, really? It’s just a box of scraps!

Because of the ease of connectedness via Internet, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore what’s happening in the world. Even in a foreign event like the birth of the Royal heir to the English throne, there is a connectedness in being human, emotions we feel for people we’ve never met. We read, watch Barbara Walter’s interviews, cheer and text and blog about the privileged future of a tiny monarch and sometimes speculate about all that can go wrong in the most ideal family.
Ironically, my trigger occurred while reading a prayer written and posted by Christian writer and speaker Ann Voskamp on behalf of the Royal Family. “A Prayer For All The World’s Sons” It is a lovely prayer, filled with the poetic word images for which she is known.
Instead of taking delight in this insightful and blessed piece on royal sonship, I began “connecting” in the worst way to the past; desperate cries of my heart to God with other mothers on behalf of sons who had turned away from their spiritual inheritance and are the Lost Boys of Christian families. Some of these sons are in jail, or on the streets, or have died too soon because of their lifestyle choices. For some, they are still squandering their time, treasure and talents for that which can never satisfy, destroying their marriages and short-changing their own sons. Still the mothers pray with faith to a seemingly silent God, and try to figure out what went wrong.

This was the trigger of my own Core Issue – my own doubt, fear, guilt and feelings of failure as a Christian mom despite good churches, constant prayers, Bible knowledge, teaching and counseling others, giving money and time, performing community service, and authentic zeal for the Kingdom of Christ. There was however, this hidden box of dysfunction in the closet of my heart that I justified keeping secret BECAUSE I was a Christian, defending it’s presence. I blamed others for giving it to me and yes, ignored dealing with for decades.

In Recovery we have a saying ( well we have many sayings) “You’re only as sick as your secrets” The grace of God finally led me in brokenness to Celebrate Recovery and a safe community of other “box hiders” in connectedness – to clear away the wreckage of my past. With Jesus and with one another, our destructive hurts, hang-ups and habits were transformed into gifts of experience, strength and hope to share with others. Sometimes triggers and painful core issues, like leftover material and yarn need an event to bring the box out of the closet again to deal with them. It’s His grace and kindness that leads to repentance.

Today I am grateful to God that my sons (and daughter) never knew life apart from a practicing Christian family, albeit often dysfunctional. My children are not without issues of their own, but I cherish their love for Christ and their authentic faith. I’m grateful that they are passing on faith to their children as well. I pray and trust that God will free them from the harm I unknowingly passed onto them, and for a deepening surrender to Christ’s care and will for their lives.

Thanks be to God for sons (and daughters), for the new little Prince, and thank you Ann Voskamp for your beautiful prayer. I’m copying it for my sons and grandsons and all the world’s sons.