This is my third June in Birmingham and the first time I’ve noticed the flowers. To be honest, my first June was extremely lonely and overwhelming. Even writing that sentence feels sad and heavy… and two years have gone by. June of 2015 stretched into July and then August. It was beautiful but it was brutal and although I was living, I wasn’t alive.
(Well, technically, I was alive. But I trust that you know what I mean.)
I’m not sure how much money you’d have to pay me to re-live that summer, quite honestly. But even today as I flip through blog posts written during those months, I’m amazed at all God was doing. Under the surface and behind-the-scenes, He taught me important lessons, constantly invited me to turn to Him as both friend and provider, and showed Himself faithful at every turn.
Two years later and I’m sitting here reading posts like When Life Doesn’t Look Like You Imagined and How to Handle Change and New Beginnings and This Is My Brave. And I can’t help but shake my head because even in the loneliness and overwhelming moments, He was there.
My second June in Birmingham was full of unknowns and question marks. Everything felt up in the air and completely uncertain. I was more at home yet still restless, drawn toward a small and ordinary life but feeling prompted toward action and movement.
That summer held deep grief, abundant joy, and approximately zero answers.
I felt much like a toddler just trying to get her bearings, learning how to put one foot in front of the other and get back up after falling. Posts like Practicing Happiness in the Midst of Grief, on gleaning (and why you’re ordinary life is so good), and #beautifulordinarynow came out of that season… and you know what? One full year later I could still write the words to each of them all over again. I’m still living the message and the heartbeat of each one. (I wrote an entire book about it, actually.)
And yet a year has passed and even as the story continues, the page turns.
This past weekend, I walked a path I’ve walked since we moved in and I couldn’t help but notice the trees blooming red, pink, purple and bright white… and then I thought, “has this always happened?”
I hate to say it, but it’s entirely possible that I missed the beauty of June — twice. I was present but too often more focused on surviving than on my surroundings, too weighed down to look up.
There are still lonely days and I could easily list out ten different question mark situations, but this year feels different — in a good way.
I didn’t realize that might mean exchanging near-sighted lenses for a far-sighted outlook that acknowledges today’s worries but focuses on tomorrow’s promises.
Most likely, these trees bloom every June. All that money you’d have to pay me to re-live the summer of 2015? I’d bet it all that these flowers were here, blooming bright and beautiful in 2015.
I missed them then.
But I see them now.
The summers of 2015 and 2016 led to the summer of 2017. That’s how our story-lines go, of course. I’m re-learning what I learned before and it’s safe to assume He’ll teach me all over again in 2018.
But even as I continue to carry happiness and grief, as I welcome the ordinary and call it beautiful, and as I walk a road I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen… I can’t help but see one continuous thread of His faithfulness that has been with me every step of the way, on every page of the story.
And so I echo the prayer of Thomas Merton and I re-read the words I published and I rest in the promises as I stop to notice the flowers.
“Even when we don’t have all the answers we so long for, we don’t actually need to know the future. We just need to trust the One who authors it into being.” – Even If Not: Living, Loving and Learning in the in Between
Speaking of home, I absolutely have to tell you about a book releasing in a few weeks! I read an advanced copy and hands-down, it’s one of the best books I’ve read in months. Here’s the review I left for Almost There on Amazon:
I highly recommend this book! I could tell you about the storyline or what you’ll find inside, but I’m sure other reviewers will do so. Here’s what I’ll say:
1. Until stumbling upon this book, I had never heard of or read anything by Bekah DiFelice. So… without knowing anything about her, here’s what I can say about her writing: The book is honest, vulnerable, and very well-written. Bekah is a wonderful story-teller. She found a beautiful balance of wisdom and humor.
2. I’m 24, single, and from Florida/Alabama. I don’t relate much to her life (stay-at-home mom of two, military wife, from Colorado/Arizona/California)… and yet I saw myself in her story. It’s incredibly relatable simply because of how she tells it.
3. Personally, I love to write in books. I’ll scribble something in the margin, underline a sentence, star a paragraph, etc. However, unless I know the author’s writing well and am certain I’ll be marking up a book all the way through, I wait. I don’t want to highlight something in chapter two and then realize at the end of the book I haven’t marked anything else. Since I didn’t know anything about Bekah, her writing, or what the book would be like, I waited. By chapter 4 I knew I would go back and re-read this book, marking and highlighting sentences in each chapter. There are so many things Bekah shares and thinks through (within the book) that I want to go back over!
If I, knowing nothing about Bekah or her story, found myself excited to re-read the book again – while only through the first few chapters – then trust me: this is a good book. I finished it, immediately shared about it on social media, and then said out loud to a friend in the room: I want to be Bekah’s friend and I want to read all of these words again because they made me think, they invited me into the story, and it was truly an enjoyable read.