When Hurricane Hillary blew through Southern California, I stood back and prayed. We live in the mountains of Northern California, so except for praying for our friends and their neighbors who lived down south, we assumed we would be utterly unaffected by the storm.
But as we watched the weather reports, we realized that not only were we going to get thunder that required our dog to be on a constant stream of anti-anxiety medication, but there was going to be rain and wind enough to wreak havoc around our mini-homestead.
So we reinforced the chicken coop and brought in some of the equipment we didn’t want to get wet. Then I caught my husband, Roger, standing on a ladder, attempting to tie our sunflowers together. (Because that’s what you want to see as thunder and lightning come rolling in — your husband standing on a metal ladder in the middle of your garden.)
But here’s what you have to understand: These were not your average sunflowers. When I bought the seed packets months before, I wasn’t paying attention to the type of sunflowers I was getting.
When they named these “Mammoth Sunflowers,” they weren’t kidding. These yellow beauties have grown to fifteen feet and show no signs of stopping. I cannot tell you how much joy we’ve received from these flowers. I’ll be in the middle of a call with a client and find myself staring out the window at these majestic giants. And I’ve caught Roger more than once glancing out the kitchen window with a big smile on his face.
The amount of happiness we’ve sown from a two-dollar pack of seeds almost feels like cheating nature. That is, at least, until Hillary blew through.
We wanted to do our best to give these joy-bringers the best chance at survival.
I wasn’t worried about the smaller sunflowers and other flowers and vegetables that were protected by our garden fence. I knew they were enclosed and would ride out the storm just fine. But these giant sunflowers, which had grown ten feet beyond the garden fence, were the most at risk.
That’s something I’ve noticed often — it’s my friends and the people I love who are growing beyond their safe places and bringing so much joy to others who are often most susceptible to being hurt. The ones who are serving the most are the ones who are risking the most.
And what is the cure for that — to stay safe? To not grow beyond the expectations of others?
It’s to find the other people who are growing and serving and loving and hang out with them.
It is to lean on those friends who are also venturing outside the safe zone.
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
If you are in a season of growing, doing things beyond others’ expectations, beyond the safety of what you are “supposed” to be doing, that will make you vulnerable when the storm comes.
My strategy when I’m taking risks is to hang out with others who are doing the same. We can support each other and hold each other up.
If you are in that risk-taking season, I’m guessing you’re also supporting others who are doing the same. Can I suggest a few practical steps?
- Remind your friends, and yourself, that what you are doing is brave. Most people rarely grow beyond the garden fence. Taking risks is an act of courage and you are to be celebrated, and so are your friends. My friend, Susy, whom I consider my hype woman (and I hope I am the same for her), gives me words of encouragement, puts together celebration bags, and reminds me that even when I fail, I’m just clear-cutting a path for the next time I try.
- Feed that friend. About the holiest thing you can do when someone is in a battle is feed them. If they live nearby, take them food. If they live far away, send them Starbucks gift cards. Both are acts of service.
- Remember that everyone gets to succeed. My husband and I are a great team because we are too busy fighting side by side to fight with each other. We keep each other standing because that’s what you do with people who are by your side.
Oh, and our sunflowers? The ones Roger tied together? They survived. It was not the same story for the ones he didn’t get to support each other.
And that? Is a lesson for us all.