Blue Hydrangeas: Encountering the Father in Breakdown & Beauty
In the summer of 2019, I took a big leap of faith. I quit my job as a youth minister in my hometown in Texas, and accepted a job working for a small podcast/ministry in Atlanta, GA. This was a bold move that required a lot of sacrifice. Many important people in my life were not in support of me following what I felt like the Lord was calling me to. In addition, I was in a dating relationship, and moving meant long distance dating. By God's grace, I was able to put my faith in the Father, pack up my car (Jade the Jeta), and go in haste in pursuit of the adventure God was calling me to.
I've come to recognize, in deep gratitude, I have been given a mighty gift of faith, which allows me to listen well to the Father and go quickly in the direction of His will. Regardless of the difficulties present or disapproval of others, God's grace has always allowed me to not be paralyzed by fear and to move boldly in the direction of His will. Now before you think I'm tooting my own horn, what I have come to realize is that my struggle with fear, doubt, and anxiety does not come in making a decision. For me, the doubt, anxiety, and fear come after I've made a decision.
When I arrived in Georgia, I hit the ground running and set my mind on making Atlanta home. As a former D1athlete, I know how to set myself up for success. Immediately, I set a schedule and routine, seeking to establish a structure for myself to thrive. Within a week of being in Georgia, I was already back to my old routine of prayer, working out, and hanging out with friends...how did I already have friends in the first week of living in a new place? Even I don't know.
All that's to say is I thought I could make myself feel stable and settled simply by willing it. If I just say my prayers, establish myself in routines, have a good attitude, and act like everything is okay, then I will be okay... or so I thought.
By Sunday afternoon, the charade was crumbling. I woke up feeling pain in my heart and heaviness in my spirit. Instead of acknowledging it, I put on some red lipstick and a fun outfit, and then busy myself with something that looks holy and wonderful to distract myself from the inner turmoil I'm actually feeling.
As I was driving to Mass, I sought to be my own personal hype girl and talk myself out of feeling sad. I put my music on full blast and sang at the top of my lungs, hoping to drown out the voice of sorrow with a little cumbia. Despite having my very own personal concert, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't okay.
During Mass, I tried very hard to listen, take notes, and receive the message from the readings and homily. My ears were hearing, my hand was writing, my eyes were focused on the priest, but interiorly I felt miles away from everything that was happening.
“Alegría. Alegría. Alegría” (joy, joy, joy) I kept saying to myself, fighting back the pain rising in my heart. My head was strong and determined to keep it all together, but eventually I couldn’t ignore the pain and sadness. I suddenly felt the hurt in my chest, my fingers felt numb, and all the noise in the sanctuary seemed to fade away. The only thing I could hear was the violent beat of my heart.
The remainder of Mass felt more like sleep walking rather than worshiping, and before I knew it I was sitting in the Sanctuary alone. I got out of my pew and moved to the first row closer to the altar. When I looked up at the statue of Jesus hanging above me, I came completely undone. As His eyes met mine, no amount of red lipstick, positive self talk, or structured routine could stand in the light of His piercing gaze.
I started to weep. At first, I tried to maintain some composure, but after a few seconds I got hit with a tidal wave of emotion. Through my tears I whispered "Lord I’m here in Georgia. I’ve done it. I’ve made the move, I took the chance, I’m chasing you... but now that I am here.. I feel alone and scared. I know you are here and I need you right now"
What happened next is something I'm sure is common to almost every single person, when they've whispered a genuine prayer in a moment of desperation and despair...
After 10 minutes of this, I got up in even greater sadness and walked to my car. With my head down and a somber heart, I slumped into the seat of my car utterly defeated. I set the GPS to return to my new home and started to drive.
As I got going, I suddenly felt the emotion welling up in my chest, and before I knew it I was full on crying again. Not just tears, but ugly tears mixed with snot and spit. You know what kind of cry I'm talking about. In the safety of my car, I was in a full on lament with the Father and began to yell out a fierce prayer.
“DADDY” I yelled/cried. I said it again and again, as I gasped for breath and sniffled. Although I was disappointed by the radio silence I received at Church, I continued to call out to my Father. I didn't know why there was silence, but I knew even in the silence He was still there. Intensely aware of my need, and resolute in my belief in the presence of God, I took my needy, aching, sad heart to my Father.
“Daddy, I cannot handle this. I cannot handle this. I cannot handle this.
Help me, Daddy. Please.” I yelled once more.
At that exact moment, the GPS, rerouted me. I looked at my phone, confused and startled. I suddenly felt uneasy and unsure about this route change. However, I didn’t have time to think or look at the directions closely, as I was in the middle of an emotional break down and driving. I thought about pulling over to get a better look at the map, but decided to just go with it and get back to my prayer.
This new route back to the house took me down a winding country road. Although I had no idea where I was, there was something about the winding curved roads and the sun shining through the trees that soothed my soul.
I drove along and I told the Father everything that was on my mind and heart. A lot of people are afraid of talking about themselves in prayer or asking things of God. Some people put prayer in a box and make you feel like you have to follow certain steps to access the heart of the Father. My approach is much more simple. I just say what is on my heart. I don’t worry about having the right words, I know my words will never be sufficient. I don’t worry about having a formula, I was never good at math/science anyways. Instead of worrying about parts, fractions, steps, and segments, I simply hand the Father my entire heart.
As I drove along, a pop of blue caught my eye out the window. I looked to my left to see one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. The biggest, bluest, longest stretch of hydrangeas bushes I’d ever seen in my life. I slowed down, and lost my breath as I passed by the most spectacular backyard ever.
As I passed the yard, a voice in my heart said
Turn around. This is why I took you this way.
Immediately I pulled off the side of the road and turned around to go back to the magical yard.
I wasn’t sure what I was doing, it was almost like I was on autopilot or something. In that moment, the Holy Spirit was in total control, and the only thing I knew was that I needed to park, get out of my car, and take in all the beauty. As soon as I got out of my car, I was sprinting in high heels, a bright red jumpsuit, with tears/makeup streaming down my face, determined to behold this yard. I practically fell to the ground at the sight of all the hydrangeas. I cried there, crouched on my knees on the side of the road, praising God for His beauty and majesty.
A little context for ya.... Blue hydrangeas are my absolute favorite flower. Since I was a little girl, I have found such delight in hydrangeas, particularly blue ones. I can remember visiting my grandmother's house in Michigan when I was a little girl, and being completely enamored with these flowers, which I thought looked like cotton candy. I remember running around her yard, weaving in and out of cotton candy bushes, pretending I was a brave and heroic princess in an epic storybook.
It’s very uncommon to find hydrangeas growing in Texas, especially blue ones. You can find them at a grocery store, but they are nowhere near as vibrant as the ones you find growing in someone's garden. Growing up (with the exception of my visits to my grandmother's house in the summer) I seldom encountered hydrangeas. After I found my faith in Jesus Christ, I started to notice that the Lord would use hydrangeas as a simple sign of his affection and love for me.
Sweet memories from my childhood and a deep sense of the presence of God flooded my whole being, as I gazed upon the beautiful flowers. The fence, encompassing the property, was about 30-40 yards or so, was completely lined with the largest hydrangea bushes I'd ever seen in my life. As I walked next to the fence, a sweet floral aroma filled the air, and I began to twirl and dance as I once did in my grandmother's yard all those years ago.
I did a walk around the yard, and then came to a wooden arbor, which lined a path of stairs descending into the yard itself. I looked down to see the stairs leading to what appeared to be an outdoor gathering space. Caught up in the aroma and colors, I walked down the wooden path. Light danced all around me in green sparkles, as the sun beamed through the kudzu vines lining the arbor. The path was adorned with gnomes, art, and various decorations. You could tell the person who owned this space, arranged it all with purpose and care. I didn’t feel as if I was walking through a backyard, but through someone’s heart and soul. There was something sacred about walking through what was clearly the embodiment and manifestation of a wild, big, and beautiful dream.
I crossed a small wooden bridge and stepped into the large gathering space. Despite it being a size-able area, it had a cozy and intimate feel. At the center was fire pit surrounded by10 ft benches, and beyond that were several homemade wooden tables with little tree stumps for chairs. Around the space was an array of what used to be scraps of metal, wood, and colored glass, repurposed to make wind chimes and hanging art.
I walked through, carefully observing every block of wood, bottle of colored glass, light fixture, and all the other pieces that brought life to the gathering space. I looked around in complete wonder as the homemade art, trees, flowers, and sunshine, all flowed and danced together to create one harmonious space.
I suddenly came back to my senses and realized I was in someone’s backyard. I’m sure to any person passing by, I probably looked crazy! Crying, dancing, and now trespassing on someone's property. I looked across the gathering space and saw a continuation of the arbor and pathway ascending to a small house. I looked at it for a while, and then felt the need to go up to the house and meet the person who created this enchanting space.
Looking back, I am amazed that I am here to tell this story... Most people who are found trespassing on someone's property, especially in the south, are not alive to tell the tale... Anyways, I ended up knocking on the door of the house on the other side of the magical yard, and spending some time talking with the owners. Ms. Amelia was the creative visionary, who had an eye for wonder and beauty. She was the one with all the crazy ideas and desires for creating the magnificent space. Her husband (I forgot his name) was an electrician, who engineered and constructed the whole thing. In a revetting conversation over a glass of sweet tea, Ms. Amelia shared how she would bring her inspirations to her husband, who would work tirelessly to bring them to life and make sure things didn't catch on fire.
After about an hour, Amelia walked me back to my car, and sent me home with a giant vase of blue and purple hydrangeas. I drove the whole way home in peaceful silence with a deep sense of contentment in my soul. I zipped down and around winding Georgia backroads, and breathed in deeply the aroma of hydrangeas which flooded my car. I was still unsure of the red dirt road the Father had me on, but was very sure of the presence of a deeply personal God who never leaves us alone.
I'm thankful for a God who sees me, knows me, and loves me as I am. The same God who is with me in my strength is even closer to me in my sorrow. The same God who knows the big picture is acutely aware of the minor details and delights of my heart. My Father is a man of deep love for me in the wholeness and fullness of who I am.
Admittedly, I don't know how to end this blog. This story means so much to me... beyond what words can capture.... My hope in sharing this story is to share that the Father is VERY interested in interacting with you. In all of your brokenness and in all of your beauty. It is in our ability to behold grief and grace that we mirror the person of Jesus Christ and experience the abundant life He purchased for us. Often times we feel like it's one or the other, but more and more I am seeing that it's not in the absence of brokenness that our life is beautiful. It is in the representation of the story of God's amazing grace at work in the intricacies and specificities of our story, that we are renewed afresh in the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ.