F is for: “Fluffy Soil”

Hair: brown hair, blonde hair, black hair, white hair, auburn hair, strawberry blonde hair and today there is blue hair and sometimes even pink hair too! My hair: bright, bright, the brightest of bright-red hair; the not-so-good color of red, that garish-stand-out red color. This is a hair color that works in some people’s favor because they have a firecracker personality to match and they are fine to stand out. As a young person I did not want to stand out, but on the night of this memory I was a teenager at a dance and I did want someone to notice me and ask me to dance. No one did. I stood alone at the edge of the dance floor. All of my friends were invited by boys to join them and dance. Who knows why no one came over; my mind at the time blamed the fluffy, over-permed, (you know what I am talking about my 80’s friends) bright-red hair!

I am a late bloomer when it comes to believing in myself and recognizing who God knows I am becoming. Through much of my life I was convinced that I was not good enough, had little talent, and that no one liked me. In a way I was so “me” focused that I thought everything was about me. I mistakenly thought everyone noticed everything I did and said, and they thought it was all flawed. Hopefully we all know that this kind of anxious thinking just isn’t connected with reality. It has taken time and extremely difficult experiences involving this same hair that I am now seeing myself as inherently good—divine even.

To explain further let’s consider two staples in any kitchen garden, fluffy soil and home grown carrots.

Have you ever seen homegrown carrots that are gnarled and forked, like when three carrot roots grow from one carrot top? What happens to cause these carrots not to grow to their ideal potential of long, straight roots? My husband (The Midnight Gardener) has explained to me that during the first weeks after sprouting, a carrot seed sends a fine, thin root deep into the dirt, which if it doesn’t meet obstructions such as compacted soil or stones, will grow straight without becoming stunted or forked.

When he first built our garden boxes my husband spent hours screening our gravel-strewn soil through a homemade soil sifter with the help of our oldest daughter. I remember thinking, “What a waste of time! Those bits of stone are tiny.” I felt annoyed with him and the unnecessarily meticulous and slow process. What I have since realized is that while his preparations with the soil took a lot of time, it was not time wasted because only fine, fluffy soil will grow garden vegetables as glorious as they are meant to be. My favorite carrots happen to be purple and when they are grown in the finely screened soil of our garden boxes, they are delicious, truly divine. Our oldest daughter, Clever Girl, the one who sifted all that soil, eats them straight out of the garden box.

Oh, and by the way, if you visit our garden please do not walk on my husband’s fluffy garden soil—stay on the paths or risk a scolding! Because the soil slumps over time, he aerates and maintains our garden beds each spring with a broad fork.

Returning to my fluffy, over-permed red hair…I hate to bring up the word cancer, but it is one of those words that has been a part of my life since the age of 13. Ovarian, lung and skin cancer have rocked my world and been the cause of the battles that helped me recognize and access the divinity within myself.

When I was thirteen I was thrust into a frightening fight with ovarian cancer. I underwent surgery, during which doctors removed a grapefruit-sized tumor and the affected parts of my body. Surgery was followed by three months of chemotherapy treatments. During the 1980’s cancer patients, especially children, were required to stay in the hospital during these treatments. I was in the hospital for a week, then could be at home the next—this pattern continuing during the three months.

Near the end of the treatment, I noticed that my hair had begun to fall out when I brushed it. So I stopped brushing my hair altogether. My hair next began to snarl into knots. Finally, when only a few strands held the snarled mass to my head, my mom and I sat in the shower as I sobbed and she gently removed what was left. After that, I wore a wig to school until my hair grew back.

Years later, at the age of forty-two, I had to subject my body once again to chemotherapy treatments. This time it followed a diagnosis of lung cancer. One morning I startled awake to the feeling of hair against my face. With dread in my heart I noted the many hairs on my pillow. It was at 4:30 a.m. when I woke my husband. It had become my determination in the preceding weeks that this time it would be up to me when my hair came out. I had made my decision. I asked my husband to shave it off right then. I wanted it done before the children awoke.

In those next moments he became known to me as the “Great Beautician.” Why? Because he took the time to use the clippers, then an electric razor, and finally shaving cream and a razor to leave my head nice and clean. He kept my spirits up by talking about funny things, and he told me, “You look beautiful” when I felt truly hideous! My practical (read: “cheap”) husband has teased me off and on throughout the years that I didn’t need an expensive hair dresser because HE could cut and color my hair. (And this from the man who did my daughter’s hair like Farrah Fawcett one Sunday when I had early meetings, and who brought her to church like that, with a part down the center and those feathered wings, and who, when I accused, “She looks like Farrah Fawcett from the 70’s!” cracked a naive smile and responded appreciatively, “Perfect! That is exactly the look I was going for!”) In response to his offers, I would just laugh, roll my eyes and change the subject! But, on this early morning with gentle curls of my red hair strewn on the kitchen floor around his slippers, I considered him to be a great beautician, my best friend and the love of my life.

Over the months that followed, my lack of hair was a daily reminder of my diagnosis. My 7-year-old daughter offered this unvarnished observation, “Momma, you look like an alien.” One morning when I came downstairs without a hat on, my 6-year-old son looked away and pleaded, “Mom, I am going to turn away and when I turn back around, you will have your hat on.” I laughed at each comment, instead of crying because they were both oh, so sincere. I did wear many cute hats instead of a wig, as I had done as that 13-year-old bald teenage girl. Thoughtful family and friends knit, sewed or bought me lovely hats. And you know, I began to realize something about myself—looking at my altered self each day in the mirror, I started to realize that I was beautiful with hair or without hair. I recognized something deeper and I began to understand my own worth through God’s eyes.

“Boo hoo” to all the self-esteem books out there. We are endowed with divine worth! As children of God we have a deeply-seated and intrinsic value. I began to understand that I needed to love and forgive myself more. I needed to stop deleting every imperfect photo of myself, for example, and eliminate the belief that I looked awful every time my face appeared on my phone’s screen. “Ahhhh!” I used to scream when I saw myself on the camera. I try not to do this anymore, but change is hard! I am however, seeing myself more and more as He sees me. I am striving each day not to let my potential for growth be stunted by overwhelming negative thoughts about myself. I am asking you, and telling you, that you can do the same. We must stop stunting our growth by stamping down the fine, fluffy soil within us—we must remember that we are created by a perfect God!

I want to be loved by the people that surround me—we all do, but more and more I am caring less and less what others think of me. And maybe no one will ask us to dance, or like the looks of our freckles, or our hair, or enjoy every word that we speak, but to me it just doesn’t matter. I know I am a daughter of God and what He thinks of me and how I feel about Him is of greatest value to me. As this knowledge sinks more deeply into my heart, I find more peace and I feel less fearful and worried.

Who He intends for us to become is beyond anything we can imagine. The sifting here on earth, for me and I am sure for you, has been and will continue to be difficult, tedious, and yes—plain old hard work. We may continue to have moments when we doubt ourselves. But, over the past two and a half years of recovery, I have heard His words in my mind over and over again, “Trust me.” In Psalms 91:2 we read, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”

My friends—believe in Him, trust Him and rest in His love. For when we meet Him face to face again He will not care about the state of our hair but He will recognize the condition of our hearts and want to know that we trusted in Him.

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