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I think I surprise my husband with my taste in flowers. Even I have to admit that my preferences are a little strange.

For example, I could care less about roses. I don’t like potted plants (because I kill them in Colorado). Most store-bought bouquets just don’t express the wild loveliness that I would prefer to capture in a vase and put on display.

But, wild flowers call to me. And sunflowers. White Lillies. Honeysuckle. 

And, perhaps one of my favorites, the brief-bloomers, Peonies.IMG_1156

There is something about their unfolding petals and huge blossoms that unfurl a longing in my heart for lazy summer days. For slow mornings with several cups of coffee. For roots. Community roots. Friendship roots. A season of healing and being whole. A longing for place. IMG_1157

So, when I won a print from Rachael Hope Photography earlier this year, I couldn’t help but request both of her Peony Prints from her shop. (Please pardon the poor photos that my iPhone was capable of capturing of her prints shown above. Go enjoy her site and her professional photography shop.)

Something about both of these peony prints spoke to a deep place in my heart where dreams are taking root.

Dreams of buying our own home again next year…

Dreams about growing our family again…

Dreams about allowing God to expose hurts that I’ve kept hidden to His healing light…

And, something more, dreams about abiding, deep friendships with women who KNOW me and accept my quirkiness, my perfectionism, my roller coaster of emotions, my sense of adventure, my love of literature and decorating and cooking and healthy living and hiking and running and lounging and “Scandal” Netflix episodes and strategy board games and good whiskey (please forgive me) and kombucha-making…ME.

When I wrote about the realities of motherhood for the CORD blog a few months back, the first lesson that I mentioned was my realization that motherhood should not be tackled alone. “Community,” I wrote, “is what shifts the mundane playtimes into stress-relieving coffee dates at the park. Community is what provides chocolate when the kids are sick, wine when they are feeling better, and support when you think teething might truly be the end of you. In community, the hard work of motherhood feels just a little bit easier.

Community is what makes an evening out with other tired moms into a chance to find refreshment. IMG_1042

Community is what makes a last-minute run to Target for diapers into an opportunity to splurge on Starbucks and feed our daughters popcorn in the cart for as long as that distraction lasts. IMG_1150

Community is what makes a zoo adventure into a time to share the journeys of our hearts AND chase our children at the same time. IMG_1006

Community drops off muffins on your front porch the morning after you attended a 24+ hour birth that kept you awake for about 40 hours when it was all said and done. IMG_1151

IMG_1152Community loves. Holds. Provides haven. Teaches. Trains. Supports. Feeds.

Real community…beyond the cliche…is rare and worth more in my mind than dozens of shallow friendships and acquaintances. Call me an introvert (because I am), but do you disagree?

So, I ask myself this afternoon as I eat one of those DELICIOUS muffins picture above (and consider a second), “Am I providing real community for others? Do I extend the unselfish services that friends need? Do I cheer other mamas on? Do I encourage and build up? Do I exemplify healthy boundaries? Do I LOVE through the good and the bad?”

I hope so. And, please, be honest with me if I’m not.

I’m desperately trying to evaluate some of the hurts from childhood church betrayals, situations with friends involving ugly abuse, attitudes of over-commitment and people-pleasing, scars from miscarriages and infertility, and what could be deemed petty arguments to assess the true nature of my heart. And, I’m not liking everything that I’m finding these days.

I’ve held onto bitterness because I was too tired and too emotional to see the big picture.

I’ve built walls because I didn’t care to find myself the victim once again.

I’ve created expectations for myself based on faulty presumptions that other people are always judging me (and even if they are, that fact shouldn’t matter).

But, this afternoon, I strive not for perfection, but for honesty. I speak of gratitude for those women and couples and fellow mamas and family members who have loved me through it all. I speak of grace for myself. Muffins for my belly. And park dates for my baby.

There is something blooming in my heart, and I dare say that it is more than the graceful peonies that bow there heads in all of their flowery fullness…

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