• Laura Alvarado-Newson

Thorns or blossoms

These pictures were taken near my house. I have stared at these trees year after year, at least 6 years to be exact; always wondering how the same tree can either have thorns or blossoms, but not both at the same time. These trees are lined up in front of a parking lot. There are several of them, and all but one look dried up and dangerously thorny. The thorns are quite intimidating. I don't know what kind of tree this is or what the explanation is for thorns vs. blossoms, but BOY! do they speak to my soul. Year after year, they have spoken to my soul.

For some reason, this past week, I took a closer look and could practically relate to both conditions of these trees. I had to take a picture this time and as quickly as I took the pictures, I could hear a soft voice in my heart ask me 2 simple, yet painful questions: "Do you have thorns or blossoms? " "Do you want thorns or blossoms?"

I'm 45 years old, and ever since I crossed the 40 line, I have experienced a series of internal and external changes. I know this is normal and is "supposed to" happen but this doesn't take the edge off of the fact that I am saying goodbye to my young self as I look in the mirror to a middle-aged me, who will just get older. This post isn't about me whining because I'm getting old. On the contrary, aside from the miracle of giving my life to Jesus, having my 3 beautiful children and experiencing less aches and pains, I can honestly say, GOODBYE YOUNGER ME, DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YA IN THE BUTT!

You see, I put way too much pressure on myself; from my walk with God, to my relationship with others, to my physical appearance; I was NEVER happy or content. I was always self-evaluating, self-criticizing, judging and condemning myself, even when God and most people showed me unconditional love and acceptance, I was unable to receive it. I was never good enough at being a Christian, at being a wife, at being a mom, at being a woman, forget the area of gifts or talents, I stunk at it all. So needless to say, I spent most of my 20's and 30's in mental torment, self-pity and not really loving others whole-heartedly because internally I was in constant competition to be like or better than most of my peers; and no one knew.

Sidenote. If you are in your teens, 20's or 30's, I hope something in this post will get you thinking. Now, in my 40's, I realize I had allowed the enemy and my feelings to lie to me. I wasted those years following my fickle emotions and thoughts. Don't get me wrong, there were good times, times of laughter and times I felt like I had been freed to just be me, but I was too vulnerable, relying too much on others and on my emotions to tell me who I was supposed to be, how I was supposed to look and how to get people to love me; instead of relying on God's word and admitting that yes, I was imperfect and my true identity and happiness was only in Christ. I didn't get it, I was too busy working for my salvation. Doing, doing, DOING! so God and people would love and accept me. (It didn't work!) You can be free from this, God has freed me, I just took the long road.

So what does this have to do with my neighborhood trees?

As I enter in this new season of change, which also involves a lot of emotions (oh no!), God is speaking to me about how I want to see this season play out. Am I going to allow certain changes and emotions to run my life, my behavior, how I treat others, or how I see myself? Or am I going to allow the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort me, love on me, speak His words of comfort and hope to me, so I can love and speak to others with words of hope and comfort.

I know too many women in this season who are less than approachable. I remember being in my early 30's, distraught over a fight I had with my husband, I decided to swallow my pride and approach a well-respected older woman for advice and comfort. To my surprise, all I got was a chuckle (she seemed entertained by my tears) and a harsh "you should know better!" out of this woman. A very "thorny" response if you ask me.

The sad realization is that I could easily be that woman and I must always keep that thought in the front of my mind. In my walk towards my 40's there has been so much heartache, heartbreak, so many mistakes, some really big mistakes. These moments of pain and regret have brought me to an obvious, yet, not so obvious revelation that I cannot do this on my own. I know now, that I will never reach that self-righteous perfection I vainly ran after for years. I thought I had it in me. I could do it, I could be good, beautiful, obedient, a great wife, mom, woman if I just tried a little harder, and every one would love me. I had to let it all go, I had to stop feeling sorry for myself, let go of bitterness and unforgiveness, allow God to heal me, to show me I am worthy of love NOW! I need Jesus to truly be happy, I need to just rest in Him, just be who He created me to be. I need His Holy Spirit every day to guide my words, my thoughts, my feelings. Oh, where would I be without His grace and mercy. I mess up and more times than I care to admit, but Jesus always picks me back up and dusts off the dirt from my dress and lovingly whispers softly "my child, are you done? Can I help you now, or do you want to keep trying by yourself?

I want to be that tree with blossoms, I want to be beautiful, but not the beauty of the world or pop culture, I want beauty only the Holy Spirit can give. I want to have blossoms of blessing and love others can pick from, not thorns that cause pain and misery. I never see a tree with both thorns and blossoms, it seems to be either thorns or blossoms.

My prayer is to be able to say what the prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 50:4-5

"The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He awakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away."

Goals for this new season in my life:

*A well-instructed tongue

* To have words of sustenance for the weary

*To have ears to listen, willing to be instructed

*To not be rebellious or turn away

The only way to achieve these goals is to spend time and listen to God morning by morning (everyday).

Here's to blossoming!

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