Fertile Soil: What Blooms After A Dark Season
Anybody else totally smitten by all the flowers peaking their pretty little heads out of the ground lately? I stopped three times on my way into the mall yesterday to take pictures of flowerbeds filled with tulips in the parking lot.
Tulips are my favorite. Well, so are peonies. Ok, and daffodils and gerbera daises! But, back to tulips—they are like these tiny armies of springtime announcers. For a few short weeks, they stand tall and proud, all lined up in all their colorful glory to proclaim, “Spring is here, guys!” They remind us after a long winter that the world is still beautiful and fully alive.
As much as I love flowers, springtime, for me, is bittersweet.
Five years ago over spring break, I received one of the worst phone calls of my 25 years of life. My best friends and I were in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We had just returned to our condo after a long day of sunbathing and flirting with frat boys when she called.
“Hey Mom,” I casually answered, tying to snap out of my sleepy, sunburned haze.
She cut right to the chase. No sense in small talk, when the world is falling apart. She proceeded to tell me that my precious cousin Taylor had been in a terrible skiing accident. Mom explained the situation as delicately as she possibly could, sharing with me that Taylor suffered severe head trauma from hitting a tree and was in critical condition.
“I’m so sorry,” she said as she hung up the phone.
Mom knew this was not the first time I’d received difficult calls about loved ones. In my four years at Coppell High School I’d lost ten classmates and friends. My college experience hadn’t been much easier. But this call might have trumped them all.
Taylor and her family lived right around the corner from the house I grew up in. She was 13. She had joyful, baby-blue eyes and the best bubbly laugh. Taylor was kind. She overflowed with love for others because she was loved well by Aunt Tara and Uncle Todd. She was adored by all of us.
She was supposed to grow up to play varsity volleyball at Coppell. I was supposed to give her the secret handshake and a bear hug during her initiation ceremony when she rushed Theta like Aunt Tara and me.
Instead, in the middle of spring break, I flew home from Gulf Shores to prepare for her funeral.
For nearly a week my whole family sat bleary-eyed in Aunt Tara and Uncle Todd’s living room as we tried to figure out how to move forward. By this point in my life I had been to many, many funerals for teenagers, so I became somewhat of a resident expert. I helped choose the music for her funeral, worked on the programs, and helped my uncle pick out the casket.
Listen. No one—not a mommy or a daddy or a cousin should have to point to a small, light purple box and decide: that, that is where I want to place my little girl. That is a decision I never ever want to make again.
You see for me, spring is bittersweet because it reminds me of light purple caskets. But spring also reminds me of God’s very real promise of new life.
James chapter one, talks about enduring under trials and verse 5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom (understanding), you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
And oh, did I ask.
When Taylor passed away, I cried out to God until it felt like my entire soul was empty. I said angry prayers like, “Dear God: What. The. Hell?” and desperate, confused prayers, and prayers the mostly involved repeating the words, “help me, help me, help me understand You.”
There were days when I felt like giving up on Him, but God held me tight in His arms and never let me jump out. Over the next several months, He began to help me understand—just like he promised.
He was almost as if He whispered, Isaiah 43:19 in my ear. He said, “Morgan, ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’”
When Taylor passed away, my aunt and uncle made the very selfless and brave choice to donate her organs. The months following her death, we slowly began to receive letters and emails from those who her organ recipients. There were five of them—five people whose lives were saved.
One of those people was a beautiful woman named Patricia. Patricia was a mother of 2 and she had Taylor’s heart beating inside her chest. Aunt Tara got to hear her baby girl’s heartbeat again, but through those miracles I got to hear God’s steady, faithful voice.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
As much as I would love to have Taylor back, her story is beautiful because it illustrates God’s promise of new life.
Let me be clear: it still hurts. We miss her everyday. But it’s obvious to me that God knew what He was doing.
I do NOT believe God caused Taylor to hit that tree. But I am confident of this: My God is loving. He is trustworthy. And He is truthful when He promised, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
One of my favorite Francis Chan quotes says: “Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be! If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives.”
I believe that God is big—bigger than I’ll ever understand. (And that’s okay.)
I also believe He can make painful, ugly situations beautiful. Just like He took a tragedy—the death of a beautiful 13 year old—and used it to save lives, shape my aunt and uncle into brave leaders, impact thousands of people, and tell a story of new life that only comes through Christ!
I’m learning God sometimes uses hard, messy things to shape us.
Have you ever thought about how a compost bin works? (Random, I know. Stay with me.) To make compost, we add our trash—old banana peals, leftovers, dead leaves, and other waste. Over time, that pile of junk creates the most fertile soil.
In the same way, God has the ability to turn our darkest moments into the greatest opportunities for growth and redemption. (See also: Easter.)
Compost is not intended to stay in that black bin forever. No, it’s meant to be spread out in our flowerbeds where we plant rainbows of hydrangeas and tulips and daffodils.
Dear friend, I don’t know the specific hardships and pain that are composting in your life. But because we live in a fallen world, I know that you have been through hard things. In the lives of those who found this page, there are miscarriages, depression, divorce, cancer, abortion, break ups, bankruptcy, loss, addiction … and I could l go on.
I’m so sorry.
I pray you would continue to allow God to hold you close as you process those hard times. I’m not sure it will ever be easy or painless, but I hope that as you grieve you will be absolutely convinced of His deep love for you. I pray that you will experience God undeniable goodness first hand—even if you don’t fully understand it.
Then, I pray you will trust our Creator to use that rich soil to grow something beautiful.
Before He went to the cross, Jesus reminded His disciples: “This is going to be a rough weekend guys. But trust me, Sunday is coming!” (John 16 extremely paraphrased)
And so, today, let Him remind you: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33