My Ambivalent Fallout with a Bush: A Story of Unexpected Restoration

Last December, we had our front and back yards turned into desert landscaping. They went from being full of dirt, weeds, a big mulberry tree that pigeons pooped from, and a thorny bougainvillea, to being full of rocks, desert plants, a smaller tree that pigeons disdain, and a wispy bush with orange flowers.

We were enamored.

And then the weeds started. They got out of control. We tried to fight them, but we had to have professionals come in.

We were disappointed.

The weeds grew, and our citrus tree in back died.

We were dismayed.

The weeds grew, our citrus tree in back died, and the plants in front began to die.

We were disgruntled.

And then the beautiful soft bush that had replaced our sinister bougainvillea started to wilt.

I was disheartened.

Attempts to reach the landscaper who planted the bush yielded little result, and our gentle green plant with the orange flowers succumbed to little black dots we learned were called aphids - or the more visceral term "plant lice".

Every day, I could barely stand to look outside at the yellowed, broken carcass. I felt sickened by the sight of it. Since I wasn't comfortable with this sensation, I repackaged it into feeling livid. I felt abandoned, and that bush was evidence of it.

It's embarrassing how long it took me to realize what I was projecting onto that bush. Yes, I was angry that I could not get help for our yard and for this lovely creation that had saved my children from pricked fingers while framing our house perfectly. But it was more than that. While this disintegration of our outside yard was occurring, my reality was being inverted inside our home.

I felt neglected by my own Creator.

But I knew I couldn't let that be the end of the story. He wired me to be too stubborn to let something called plant lice win this battle.

So I declared life over our little dead bush. In doing so, I prayed that my Creator would again turn His face toward me. I reached out to an advisor who assisted me in taking bold and measured steps to get the attention of the landscaper. It worked: he immediately got to work on attending to the neglect. Today, our bush showed these signs of life:

If you look closely, you can see bright green sprouting out of the brown and yellow. It's a true visual of this song.

It's also a reflection of how I'm feeling: I have my Creator's attention, and He is bringing new life out of my former self. At last He heard; at last He delivered me.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor [wo]man cried, and the Lord heard [her] and saved [her] out of all [her] troubles.
Psalm 34:4-6 

In all this, I felt inexplicably compelled to read about how caterpillars become butterflies. We all know they crawl into a cocoon, hang out for a bit, then emerge in flight, right? I even shared one of my favorite quotes about this in a previous post.

Only it isn't true. Well, not for butterflies. For moths and other insects, yes.

But butterfly caterpillars actually harden their bodies into a chrysalis, and then their insides turn into goo. Goo! Here's where it gets even crazier: They have these things in that goo called imaginal discs that use the protein around them to grow into new shapes - legs, antennae, wings. In other words, they were carrying the precursors for their butterfly selves (Version 2.0, you could say) all along. Now that their old selves have been completely destroyed, their new selves can take shape into what they were meant to be all along!

Our Creator doesn't just have one set of 2D blueprints. His blueprints have many layers, and many dimensions. But His vision for us can only be realized when we go through those times of being dismantled, being broken, feeling neglected, crying out to Him. Every restoration story must have a before and a point of change so the after means anything.

I guess this might even require a new term. Because often the type of restoration He has in mind isn't the kind the bush experienced - returning to its previous state of flourishing - but instead into a new form like the caterpillar into the butterfly. So I'm going with a hybrid of restoration and transformation: Restormation.

Restormation is what my friend Rachel in grade school experienced when she lost her straight hair to a disease, and it grew back full and curly.

Restormation is what my friend Aubrey went through when her baby Shalom stopped growing inside her, leading Aubrey to write openly about grief and pregnancy loss to encourage other women broken by this taboo tragedy.

Restormation is what my friend Tammy proclaims as she shares her story of spiritual abuse and gender discrimination, which has strengthened her to be a strong leader and a powerful yet humble advocate for women in ministry.

Restormation is what my friends Renee and Tina and Kit and Brittney and so many many many others live every single day as they declare, "I am a new creation!" and love with the compassion of women who have accepted the reality of their childhood trauma and allowed the Healer to breathe life into the carcass of what was, encouraging countless lives and their own children in the possiblity of what can be.

Whether it's restoration or restormation, we can trust life will come in some way when we seek the Creator and Redeemer. The green will reappear, the butterfly will take flight, the broken heart will feel in new ways. Some work will always be required, and it may even feel like death at times. But our Creator installed His own special kind of imaginal discs in us. Don't you want to see what yours might become?


Cover Charge

I was never much of a clubber. In my late teens and early twenties, I liked going dancing with my friends on occasion, but my dancing was more entertaining than sexy so I didn't fit in at many venues. Plus, most of them were smoker friendly back then, and drinks cost a hefty fraction of my paycheck. (There weren't many people who wanted to buy a drink for the gal using coffee stirrers as glow sticks during the remix of Ben Folds Five's "Brick" - which, by the way, whose awful idea was that to create a club version of a tragic abortion song? )

Still,  heading out with a small group of friends to bust loose on the dance floor usually promised a good time. I lived an hour from Canada, which was a huge draw for teens because the drinking age in this exotic foreign land was 19, as opposed to the U.S.'s 21. I'll be honest: I never took advantage of that fact.

But I did take advantage of how many clubs existed within walking distance of one another in downtown Windsor. You could hop from one to another, only paying a loonie or a toonie to get inside each one, bop about for a bit, judge the gathering as "not my crowd", and move onto the next. I even found a place that played White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, and indie artists that no one reading this remembers like Tahiti 80, and who didn't care that my clubwear was a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that said, "I like math."

I digress. My point was that every place had some kind of entry fee. Maybe they would waive it for things like "ladies night" or "dress like the '70s night" or "bring a canned good for the food pantry night" (I truly hope that last one is a thing), but it still existed. In places like Windsor, where the clubs were competing with their next door neighbors, the fee was lower than the places I visited in downtown Detroit who knew their nearest competition was several blocks over, a walk that would require interacting with  fragrant steam emanating from manhole covers and sketchy dudes asking for money in one way or another.

The cover charge was a way to prove you wanted to be there. You were willing to part with some cash for the experience that awaited you within. I figured out fairly quickly  which clubs were worth the loonies, the toonies, or the $10. (No further comment on how those currencies compared, since at one point the Canadian dollar was stronger than the U.S. dollar, ruining a lot of our jokes. I've learned.)

This may seem like an odd link, but bear with me. I see this principle in my journey with Christ. Each time I get to another level, He asks if I'm willing to pay the cover charge. Early on, it was pretty cheap. And it was good. But it got progressively more costly. Whereas at first, I might just have to get up 5 minutes earlier so I could have time to pray in the morning, I came to a place where I was giving up life goals in faith He would enhance them - or sometimes change them entirely, which was not what I wanted at the time but totally something I wanted in retrospect. But I've already talked a lot about that, which will save me a tangent.

This got me thinking: Has there been a cover charge I wasn't willing to pay? Because I've seen some of my loved ones stand at the door of an opportunity, looking down at their hand deciding if they want to pay or go home. Or go to a cheaper place. And in this vision - it's a tad cheesy, I admit, but incredibly poignant for me at this point in my life - God is holding His hand out asking if they are willing to explore and surrender their unforgiveness toward their ex. And, like the rich young ruler in the Gospels, they walk away in sorrow because they aren't willing to part with that.

So, again, I ask myself, has there been a cover charge I wasn't willing to pay? And I realize the answer is that there have been, but my Savior's relentless love has always sought me out and drawn the price from a very willing me. There were friendships I didn't want to let go of, and I clung to them; but then they didn't fit into the life I found myself moving toward, and they fell away. There were attitudes of judgment in my marriage, bitterness in my family, and competition in my relationships, and I gathered them tightly to myself because they felt so good in their badness. And then His love. His love. His wild, persistent love and the adventure that awaited me within loosened my grip.

Unlike with so many of those dank, carcinogenic clubs of old, I've never regretted paying a fee.

Have you refused to pay cover at some point? Here's the great news: He's still waiting with open hand, and the adventure is still ready just. for. you. Trust me: The return far outweighs the investment. But you need to hand it over to see what's next.