Turn Toward the Sun

Ironically, as I was putting the finishing touches on my new book, You Are Enough: Heartbreak, Healing, and Becoming Whole several months ago…I went through one of the most significant heartbreaks of my life. A story I’ll save for another day. Right now I want to tell you about how I got to the other side of that heartbreak. Because today, almost a year later, I’m not the same woman I was when I met him. And I am immensely grateful for that.

I lost pieces of myself in that relationship, and when I found myself on the other side of it, I was desperate to reclaim them. I had forgotten how to be okay with standing alone. I had forgotten that I determined my worth…not any man. I had forgotten how to plant my own garden and decorate my own soul. And I was determined to remember how, in a  very literal way. The picture below might not look very impressive but those little sprouts meant the world to me. They were the first fruits of my new endeavor at garden planting and soul decorating. When my dad and I planted these seeds back in April, I whispered a fervent prayer that one day soon, they would sprout into my favorite flower of all – the sunflower.

And over the coming weeks as I worked through my grief and heartbreak and resulting anxiety and insomnia…God continued to place this scripture on my heart. He seemed to keep bringing me back to this point:

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” ~John 12:24 (MSG)

One day I had lunch with my friend Laura…and she, too, had been continuously pointed back to scriptures about seeds and growth and planting and fruit. She was even speaking at a retreat that weekend where that was the theme! And I didn’t believe in “coincidence.”

Over the course of a year and a half, I had been through several disappointing relationships. A couple of which you’ll read about in You Are Enough. And most recently, the biggest heartbreak of all. I mean…this was the man I thought I was going to marry. And ultimately, he didn’t choose me. He chose to walk away instead.
I know this feeling of “not being chosen” is a struggle for lots of people, not just me. I’m sure you can relate. Especially my fellow single woman! So I decided to look up scriptures about being “chosen by God,” and He pointed me to this one! Once again, the theme of being planted (buried) so you can bear fruit:
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed and placed and purposefully planted you, so that you would go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit will remain and be lasting, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name [as My representative] He may give to you.” ~John 15:16 (AMP)
I was still trying to make sense of it all…but as I gazed upon my little sunflower sprouts one lovely April day, it hit me that just a few days ago, those sprouts were just seeds, tossed into dirt and buried on a wing and a prayer that something good would come of them.
Buried in darkness and then forgotten. To the outside eye, that pot of dirt would have looked lifeless, hopeless, even a little sad. But the darkness and the dirt was only the beginning of the story for those seeds…not the end.
I had been guilty of never TRULY letting relationships die. As evidenced by how long I let Mr. E linger around (10 years! You have to read my books to know this reference. And you’ll read the final chapter of Mr. E in You Are Enough. Yes, he makes an appearance.)
I tend to go back and try and resurrect things instead of truly letting them fall into the ground and die. (Who else is with me in this unfortunate habit?)
Well, I had decided, no more. It was time to let the past die. Let every old relationship and connection die. To even let my hopes for marriage die, knowing that if it was something God truly wanted for me (and I believe it is), the only way to bring it to life was to let it die, once and for all.
The only way to gain your life is by losing it. The first will be last. Die in order to live. It’s all completely backwards to what the world teaches but nobody ever accused Jesus of being a conformist. And that’s why I love Him so.
And that’s why I encourage those of you who feel like you’ve been buried to keep reaching for the light. Your time to bloom is coming.
How do I know this? Just a couple of weeks later, here was what my little seeds that I buried in dirt looked like…

And just a few weeks after that…!
Watching my little sprouts grow and change as I myself was growing and changing was such a beautiful thing. I loved how they were turned toward the sun. Perhaps sunflowers hold the secret of life: Be patient, and turn toward the sun.
You know what the whole process of my little balcony garden represented to me? Hope. This is what happens when you turn toward the sun. You grow, and you change, and eventually…you bloom.
I threw a handful of seeds into a pot of dirt a few months ago when I desperately needed to see evidence that darkness never gets the last word.
Me and this little plant…
We spent months stubbornly reaching for the light together.
And whether my little sunflower bud chose to bloom where it had been planted or not…
I did.
I chose to let the dirt do the work. I chose to embrace the sunny days AND rainy nights. I chose to pull up the weeds that were choking my growth.
I chose to turn toward the sun.
I chose growth. Because growth might be painful, and change might be painful…
But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
One day a couple of months later, when I was in Charleston, SC on vacation with my family…I received this picture from my housemate…

My sweet little sunflower had BLOOMED!
My plant choosing to bloom the minute I went of town felt very symbolic. Growth doesn’t often happen when we’re sitting there watching and waiting for it.
It happens when we do our part, then let it go.
By the time I got home from the beach, my plant had two blooms instead of one.
I learned so many lessons from that little sunflower. It taught me to trust that even in the darkest times, the light never leaves us.

It taught me that even in the middle of your brokenness, you look around one day and realize that you’re smiling. And that this being-leveled-right-down-to-the-foundation stuff doesn’t have to be sad and empty…it can be hopeful. It taught me that suddenly losing everything I thought I wanted looked less like loss and more like ROOM. Room for new things and people and places and opportunities. Room to stretch and grow and bloom. Room to be ME.

Did you know that sunflowers are called sunflowers because they literally turn toward the sun? It’s why I wanted one on the cover of my new book. Because we can’t all snap our fingers and make the sad turn to joy or the rain turn to sun overnight. But we CAN all turn toward the sun…and TRUST. And the darkness won’t seem so overwhelming anymore once we’ve identified the light. And being lost won’t look so overwhelming anymore; it will simply look like finding ourselves, finding a new way—one of our own, one that no one else charted before us.

My new book, You Are Enough: Heartbreak, Healing, and Becoming Whole hits bookstores on October 23rd.

2 Responses to “ Turn Toward the Sun ”

  1. Ginger Phillips
    October 12, 2018

    A times life gets difficult and we are left trying to survive alone. But remember we are all placed in situations by our dear lord, he knows what we can handle and he won’t put us in any situation too hard. You have given me so many wonderful words of wisdom. I’m truly looking forward to reading your new book. God bless you always Mandy!!

  2. reen
    October 13, 2018

    Thank you. Funny how an email with a link to your words shine a little light and hope. Excited for the next book and some inspiration on moving on.

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