Tag Archives: Starting Over

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

18 Jul

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” –Albert Bigelow Paine, misquoting Mark Twain

So yes, the Portrait Writer is officially alive and back at the keyboard. It has been a long, strange journey since I last blogged, May 31, 2019. A few things have happened since then, resulting in huge changes in my life, in this nation, and in the world.

I have no comment to offer regarding the nation or the world, other than this—God is not surprised, God has not changed, and God is still running things. Let Him be your source for counsel and hope.

This leaves only one subject I am qualified to discuss, but that’s nearly impossible to do without acknowledging the effects of local, national and world events. I’ve been quite buffeted by recent storms, and right now I’d describe parts of my life as “wistfully unsettled.” I’m a bit like the feather in the opening and closing scenes of Forrest Gump, being carried along at the whim of the air around me. It’s not a bad situation, but I believe it would be nice to land.

A LITTLE NOTE BEFORE WE PROCEED: I am a writer, so I write about writing. But these pages are intended to inspire you to consider your purpose, that call to be who you were created to be, regardless of what others think or what your practical voice tells you. While you read, I encourage you to exchange the words “write/writer/writing” with whatever is your equivalent; whatever makes your heart sing, whether you cook, paint, teach, garden, raise children, drive a taxi, or rake quahogs from the bed of Rhode Island’s Sakonnet River (that last is a shout out to my brother Chris, who is more likely raking Greenwich Bay but that sounds less cool).

Lately I’ve spent a significant amount of time re-reading every Portrait Writer blog post—starting in April of 2013, when my writing dream began to take root. I’ve learned a lot about myself, about those who read my writing (what moved them to comment and what messages seemed to resonate most), and about my journey. The blog I kept coming back to, the one that resonates most in this season, is the saga of the plumeria, our Lily tree, from September 2018. (You can click the link to refresh your memory).

When I wrote that blog, I believed God intended for me a season of rest, a pruning. What God knew, and I didn’t, was that it wouldn’t be a short season—for me or the tree.

In the year following the plumeria’s traumatic toppling, we (my husband) nurtured forth a second plant from one of the broken branches (the third didn’t survive the winter). The tiny thing struggled, but its stubbornness was rewarded when it sprouted three leaves. The original tree recovered as well and produced about ten beautiful flowers. We brought them back inside in the fall, thinking the worst was over.

The following spring, we coaxed both plants out of hibernation and set them on the deck to bask in the sun. Their branches had just begun to turn green when they were assaulted by a squirrel (or perhaps more than one). The beasts had taken large chunks out of both stalks, gnawing primarily on the greenest portions, right down to the nubs. We thought the poor plants were dead for sure.

We found a natural (albeit putrid-smelling) product that squirrels apparently dislike and sprayed the plants, their pots, and the ground around them. Somehow the plants rebounded. They sprouted new nubs that twisted in odd directions and produced another sprig of leaves.

Then came the ants. Apparently, whatever we sprayed on them smelled delicious to the little pests. Thousands swarmed up and down the stalks, covering the leaves and causing a milky white sap to leak out, as if the plants were crying. I, too, wanted to cry.

Dear Lord, haven’t they been through enough?

Scarred, bitten, windblown, and bent,
but stubbornly alive and leaning
toward the Sun.

Today, after surviving the worst that nature could throw at them, both plumeria are alive and . . . well, let’s just say alive. Both produced leafy greens this spring, but no flowers. Sometimes we have to be content with basic survival. Their story is not unlike some of what we’re all experiencing in these crazy, unpredictable, unsettling times.

Right now, I can say the same for my writing dream. It is alive, and I’ll be content with that for now. Like the plumeria, I have produced a few blossoms, then suffered a few squirrel bites and an ant invasion. And as the storms, the squirrels, and the ants in my life relentlessly try to shut me down, I found myself shrugging it off. Where there are no expectations, there can be no disappointment.

I put down writing and took up a part-time job, which I then left for a full-time government job similar to the one I walked away from in 2014.

As God and I went over the evidence of my situation, I pointed out (or should I say pouted out), with not a little sarcasm, that I seem to be back where I started in April of 2013: no concrete direction, just a mind full of ideas, working full-time in a non-writing job, relegating creativity to that mythical “free time” slot.  

Perhaps I’m just not meant to write.

He replied, with absolutely zero sarcasm, “Come to me.”

Which, of course, made no sense as a response, so I stowed it away in my ponder-in-my-heart-like-Mary place. There it sat, until the next time I read Matthew 11, specifically verse 28, which says, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

“What! Rest? What have these past two years been if not to rest? I don’t need rest. I want to produce. I want to work. To create. To DO SOMETHING! You claim this is a gift, well why am I not using it?”

Which is when it hit me. The plumeria did nothing to get back to life except to live. It sloughed off what the world gave it and continued to smile at the sun, drinking in its nutrients and becoming strengthened day-by-day. Life was its gift from God. I’ve not been resting. I’ve been doing. Every. Single. Day. Planning, responding, managing, striving to overcome difficulties, to get by, to find a different way forward, to not be crushed by adversity. Figure out what’s coming and prepare. I made a mental picture of what the end of the tunnel would look like and I’ve been struggling to reach it, thinking I’d know it when I saw it. But I’m in the wrong tunnel. Mine is more like a drainage ditch along the bank of a huge mansion, where I’m a pine needle moving at the whim of the current. Striving is pointless. Yet, all along, Jesus has been walking alongside me on the lawn, saying, “Come to me.”

I’m more than weary. I’m exhausted trying to run my own life. I just want to be. I want to put my head back and soak up the Son and all His nutrients. He never told me to make all those choices that brought me full circle. I told HIM I intended to make them, and He let me.

One of the sweetest realizations for those living with Jesus in our hearts is that we get second, third, tenth, twentieth chances. Even though my situation looks similar, I AM NOT the same. And neither are you. The great irony is that what we’ve experienced on our journey makes us even more qualified to answer the call than we were yesterday, but we have fewer tomorrows to do it in.

So, what do you think? Is something calling you? Have you set aside your true love in attempt to manipulate your own life? How’s that working for you?  If you’re still on the fence, ask yourself these two questions: Why is it considered a “calling,” and who is doing this calling?

Enough procrastinating. Shall we jump back in together?


Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
but much increase comes by the strength of an ox. –Prov. 14:4