I adore house plants. I get so much delight from seeing them thrive and grow, and when something goes wrong and the leaves turn a sick yellow color, or worse yet, brown and crispy, I feel the loss deeply.
When I first bought my button fern, it was sparse and small, and we battled at length before I found a window that it deemed perfect. Once it found its home, it really began showing off: displaying new fronds, lengthening original ones, and soon outgrowing the pot. I relocated it into quite a larger container, and it continued to grow. However, I noticed there was never any new growth outside of the original root ball.
In December 2021…
I thought I had killed my sweet button fern. In my non-gardening life, I was beginning to recognize I had spent a year believing my husband’s words when there were no actions to validate them. Around this same time, an extended separation was set into motion, and any bit of hope that had been flickering within me was snuffed out. I was struggling to take care of myself and my kids.
Needless to say, my beloved plants suffered immensely. By the time I watered the fern again, it looked dead, but I babied it. It responded by dropping many leaves, but it made a full comeback and over the next year, growing bigger and fuller than ever.
I, on the other hand, felt like life was wringing me dry. I lost so much of myself that I hardly recognized who I was. Every “before” picture or video haunted me. I longed to access that naive, carefree person that I used to be. She had innocent trusting eyes and she enjoyed life. Instead, I had to learn how to firmly hold boundaries where there was consistent push back. I wanted to protect my heart yet keep it tender. Additionally, I longed to be content with being misunderstood and judged by well meaning undereducated folks.
My marriage continued to crumble, and I was faced with some devastating choices. At times, I wasn’t sure that I would survive. Slowly and gradually though, I began to recognize the false narratives that had controlled me for too long. I began to use my voice in places where previously I allowed myself to be silenced. In the midst of that season – what was actually growth taking place – I felt dead, overcome, and defeated.
Fast forward to December 2022 . . .
I made the mistake of moving the fern from its favorite window. Then I waited two days too long to water it. I was crushed. Grief was ever present and with the pitiful state of my fern, grief threatened to consume me. I bit back tears and had a bit of a pity party for myself as I poured water over the fern’s remains wondering why I even bothered. Finally after a couple of weeks of no fern improvement and feeling mocked every time I walked by, I cut all its fronds off. I told myself I would give it another couple of weeks before I trashed it.
A Real Life Revelation
After a few weeks, I picked the fern up to carry it to its grave, and I noticed something looked different. . .
Just as the conversation around restoration was beginning in Hope Online, there was new life beginning to peek through the crispy ruins. Since that first day, there have been many new shoots showing themselves. The part that fascinates me the most? Most of this new growth is outside of the original root system of the plant.
Perhaps, all that time I “felt like I was dying,” the Lord was preparing the way for me to grow outside of old thought patterns, behaviors, and responses. Perhaps while I faced what looked and felt like death and the impossible, He was cultivating the soil for fragile new growth. I still don’t have the fully thriving marriage/home that I hope and pray for, and there are still bits of the ruins lying scattered about, but there are little shoots of new growth in the midst of it. It doesn’t look the same as before, but there is so much beauty.
Our family’s landscape is outside of “our original root system,” and it is a bit scary at times, but I’m also finding it quite delightful and freeing. I like who I’m becoming. What a wonderful surprise that I never expected at the beginning of this journey! It’s not carefree naïveté, but an anchored playfulness. I’m really beginning to adore the new set of eyes that look back at me from the mirror.
This must be restoration: Life and hope out of what appears lifeless and impossible. I couldn’t have imagined it, but He does, and He also brings it forth. And sometimes, he sends a sweet button fern to make it tangible.