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Watering Dandelions

Watering Dandelions (2)

Thursday, 07 April 2016 00:00

"Peace" (from Watering Dandelions)

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"Peace I leave with you; m y peace I give to you; not as the world give s do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27

Yesterday we had some pretty bad storms blow through! I was thinking about the irony of this last night as we huddled together in our basement, watching the weather, making brooms stand upright on their bristles and distracting Casey with junk food and Lincoln Logs. The storms looked scary. They will always terrify me. But on Facebook I kept seeing pictures people were posting of rainbows. Beautiful rainbows arced over their homes, giving hope, reminding us of a promise. And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” Genesis 9:12-13.


And of course, I couldn’t help but remember…

In 2006 my perspective, and possibly my life, changed forever. I had lost my dad a few years before and was sifting through the tremendous void his absence left in my identity and my day-to-day existence. I had taken a break from working in the medical community and had taken a job on Music Row doing publishing and A&R for an independent record label, owned by a man who used to hang in some of the same circles with my dad. I felt comfortable and safe. My husband, brother and I had also started our own side business, doing media duplication, marketing and publishing. Things had been trucking along so well, running our business from our garage for the last year, that we officially opened up a store front in a little strip of businesses across from Vol State Community College in Gallatin, TN.

On March 15th ( Beware the Ides of March ) we put down our deposit, built our counter and shelves, put up our fancy sign that read, “40 Media Solutions” and stocked the store with inventory. We put every dime of savings into our new venture, asked my mom to run the daily operations and had our Open House on April 1st (April Fools Day, yes I should have known). Things went great, we had steady business and we all felt like this was a new chapter in our lives. Things were going “just as planned”. HA!!!! God laughs every time we say this right?
This next part is very difficult for me to write but I am determined to share with you what God revealed to me through some unspeakable terror, humiliation, anger and down right shock.

So back to things going “as planned.” On April 7th (6 days after our Open House), I was at work on a beautiful spring day at my comfy office on Music Row, listening to music, amending some publishing agreements and looking over my notes on some local talent in Chicago from a recent trip I made there to scout some potential artists. The weather warned of a possibility of storms but it always does in April so I wasn’t overly concerned. The sky was beautiful and things seemed fine. Then around noon, I ran out for lunch and started hearing the rumors and predictions on the radio. This was before Facebook mind you so all I really knew was that maybe things were going to get worse than we originally thought. I spoke to Scott a few times and we reassured each other that the kids were safest in their school, mom would be fine in the shop under a steel frame, and we would see each other later.

My phone rang at 2:15. It was my mom. She said, “I see it coming… It has a black tail, it looks like a demon miíja… It’s right over Vol State now. It’s coming… Where do I go? I have nowhere to go…” Then she told me where some papers were at her house that I may need, and how much she loved me and then silence… just silence. I tried calling back but the “circuits were busy” and remained that way the rest of the day. I was petrified. I couldn’t lose her too… I jumped in the car and headed to Gallatin. It took 3 hours (usually a 30 minute trip). And I couldn’t get anywhere near our shop. Scott was trying to get to her too but wasn’t having any luck. Roads were either blocked off or destroyed. He finally ran on foot to the spot where our shop once stood. But it was unrecognizable; he wondered how anyone could have survived.....

What we didn’t know at that time was this: at 2:33pm an F4 tornado, same one that had already been invading homes and taking lives in the Nashville area since 1:00pm, swept across our shop, first ripping the roof off, then twisting the steel frame, then going through room by room disintegrating sheetrock, turning bricks to dust, bringing the inside out and the outside in, but next door at the Vehicles Emissions Testing Center, everyone had survived. At 2:50 they walked outside in hopes of helping. After several minutes of searching they found my mom underneath debris and what used to be the bathroom of our shop. Her blood tattooed the doorframe, the only frame that still stood in the entire store. They scooped her up, along with two things that lay beside her, her cell phone and her rosary, and she was alive. She was hurt, but she was alive !
As I waited for the news at my home (I couldn’t get any further) I looked out the back door across the field that I had stared at many times. Today it was lined with trees that had been shaved of their branches and a trench along the middle of the pasture that served as a reminder of how close the path was to our home but just beyond that, I saw a rainbow. I saw HOPE. And a few minutes later my mom arrived in our driveway, broken, beaten and scared. But in one piece. Driven there by the kindness of a stranger… Under the promise of that rainbow.

Many other things transpired in the days and weeks to come. Financially we lost everything. We spent months trying to piece things back together. I resigned from my job to devote my full-time attention to putting our life back together and we spent a lot of time just feeling shock and disbelief. But we were given a second chance in more ways than one. Although we had discussed the possibility of expanding our family previously, we now knew that we were in no financial situation to make that a reality (plus our boys were already 10 and 12 so who in their right minds would start over now). So, you can imagine our surprise when we learned that Casey Sanders McDougal was expected to be born on April 13th, 2007, almost one year to the day after the tornado. Standing in the kitchen, as Scott walked in (because I couldn’t look), holding that little test with the prophetic 2 lines, seeing the tears of amazement in his eyes, I felt that same familiar rainbow start to glow in my heart. And as he said to me, "Everything's going to be ok, actually it’s going to be better than ok", I saw a rainbow in his eyes. I saw hope. I saw something that I never could have imagined and I saw my life change in an instant. My preparation for that birth in 2006 is what led me to the work I do today. Through the terror and pain of that day, the perspective and direction of my heart was forever changed. 9 people in my community lost their lives to that tornado. Neighborhoods were leveled. Churches were destroyed. Families were torn apart. But I was given a rainbow. I was given hope…

One year later, while I impatiently waited for Casey’s arrival, I again weathered a storm (literally and figuratively). Through a series of events including another mighty April wind, we found ourselves at the Hampton Inn due to severe storm damage to our home. It wasn’t livable, and we were supposed to have a homebirth there any day. Our perfectly planned birth was in danger and our son had the very real possibility of being born in a hotel. But another rainbow was revealed to me in the bathtub of the Hampton Inn on April 7th, on the one year anniversary of that ravenous storm that almost took my mommy from me, as I prayed and cried and gave the
future of this new life kicking inside of me to Christ, I realized… He would use me!! He would use this … the parts of me that I felt were unworthy. The parts of me that I wanted to hide. The parts of me that held fear and doubt. He would use it all! I was important and He had already worked it all out for my good. And in my heart, in the quiet places where no one else resides, He was there. And I was firmly convinced at that moment that there was a reason for ALL of it and I knew he would be faithful. I also knew that as much as I wanted to meet this baby that I was not to do anything that might interrupt God’ s handiwork; I was to do NOTHING to change His timing. I finally felt PEACE. I was ready to let God have His way with me.

              Three days past his due date (thank God for his timing and not mine), already in early labor, we were finally able to move back into our home. And the very next day, on April 17th, in our home, in the same exact place in which his tiny being was knitted inside of me by the breath of God, Casey made his arrival, finishing off the Lenten season and establishing his rightful place in our Easter celebration.


All under a bright blue April sky. And somewhere that day; I have no doubt, that a rainbow hugged its beautiful colors of promise and hope across someone else’s life… A rainbow of new beginnings, a rainbow of journey, a rainbow of mercy… For us there was no pot of gold at the end of ours, but instead an endless platter of redemption.

And we celebrated.

And we still do. For along the journey of confusion and pain, God was waiting with a promise.

And He doesn’t break His promises.

“Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God. And when I saw it, I fell on my face.” Ezekiel 1:28

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 14:16

"GENTLENESS" (an excerpt from "Watering Dandelions")

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47388325A candle-lit room, a bowl of strawberries, fluffy pillows in a pile, sheets a tangled mess; his scent lingers on your skin from all the creative positioning and slow dancing. Your ears delight in the familiar melodies (a perfect mix you have carefully selected for this day). You feel vulnerable but safe, loved and supported by someone you completely trust. Your body simultaneously experiences a flood of delight and pain. You compare it to a runner’s high and laugh through tears of anticipation and excitement. Your body is tired but you remain in control. There is pain; but it has a purpose and it is helping you understand how to move, how to sway, and you surrender to it… And as you do, your body opens as naturally as a flower, just as it did during conception. But THIS! This is so much more… This is the grand finale of conception; this is BIRTH…


Labor-and-Delivery-SuiteOn this same night, your friend enters a cold room she’s never seen before; it smells unfamiliar. She is told to lie flat on her back. Her weak body is starving and thirsty. Fingers aggressively enter her body and curiously explore her very tender cervix while the man in the white coat shakes his head in a disapproving way and announces that she is “inefficient and inadequate.” Her body tenses up with fear and pain. She is tired, intimidated and defeated. She knows her chances of leaving this room alive are smaller than women in almost every other industrialized country. The physical and emotional pain is too much to bear so she trades her control for a numbing relief. Her body refuses to open, and like an unripe piece of fruit, it has to be cut…


This is also birth.


For an astoundingly high number of women in our country (over 50% in some parts), the second scenario is their birth story. When we are attacked inside of such an intimate and vulnerable season, our bodies will usually react with defense. They will tighten and close. It is PART OF THE DESIGN! See, when these artificial means of creating labor don’t work, it is not because our bodies didn’t respond. It’s because they did! They did exactly what they were created to do- defend us and our babies. Hang up the “closed” sign and hope that the attacker will go away. This business of having babies is a private, gentle, intimate affair. Like prayer and meditation in this quiet season of reflection, we are called to solitude, to a place of intimacy and trust. A place where we can be with the lover of our hearts and the creator of our soul. A place that is accepting. A place that has no rules or definition. In some of the most important moments in scripture, even the Son of God had to be alone. He had to get away, to call on strength from the Father in a private and personal way. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” Mark 1:35. I don’t know about you but in solitude, I withdraw from everyone- from all the noise, all my responsibilities, my blackberry, my computer, my charts, my obligations, from all the stimulation and distractions of life to be with God. I get away from all of my roles, all of the people who are either cheering me on or criticizing my efforts. I get away from all of that to just be alone with God… to find out if there's anything really just between us, and that’s when I hear Him the loudest. That’s when I feel His breath across my cheek, His hand upon my shoulder, His grace upon my existence. And this is what gives me strength.


jess doula supportBut getting back to birth, why 40 weeks?? What could be so significant about that number? Yes, we all know that 40 is biblically significant. But, could God possibly hold the same importance and protection over my pregnancy as He did over Moses & Elijah, the Israelites, Noah and even… Jesus?? I mean sure, sometimes pregnancy can make us feel like an Israelite wandering alone in the desert for 40 years. It can be scary, isolating, unpredictable and even painful. But what I most remember about those precious 40 weeks was that it was a time when my own wisdom, strength, resourcefulness and patience weren’t nearly enough. Like the Israelites, I had to rely on God. Fully, completely and unconditionally. For 40 weeks (41.3 actually but who’s counting), I wandered around in the desert of my own heart. Like Noah must have felt for 40 days and 40 nights, I found myself questioning if this job was really meant for me? Was I really being entrusted to carry and birth this child? Was I even capable? And like Jesus, in the desert for 40 days, I was tempted by the enemy.



I was so tempted... with greed, false comforts, unkindness and impatience. It would have been so easy to give in and give up. To make a deal, to make a trade. The strength of God for the strength that man has to offer. The timing of God for the much more convenient timing of man. But, guess what? Turns out God was right. At 12 weeks I was still pretty selfish. At 19 weeks I was still too weak. At 22 weeks I was unforgiving. At 30 weeks I was not generous enough. At 39 weeks I was still resentful. It took 40 full weeks of sacrifice, prayer, stillness, laying at His feet, praising His name and receiving His grace for me to be capable of attending that celebration in the manner in which He intended. By 40 weeks, He had molded, polished and spoken my heart into a place of true, unconditional love, capable of opening His perfect gift. Not just the gift of a precious baby, but the gift of birth. He crafted the skills that I would uniquely need to peel back the layers of my labor, to open the inner most part of my body and soul, to release my man-made fears and replace them with His supernatural ability to usher forth life!


378565 2249359749728 1974044151 nAnd isn’t it just plain cool that it physically doesn’t work as well until we allow that to happen? That He desires this for us so much that He built it into the design of birth? Into the exact way He builds His kingdom? And we are allowed to participate in that! When we are weak enough to fully allow the might of creation to flow through our body and soul, a profound truth is revealed to us. With each moment of surrender our pride is a little more unraveled, our flesh is a little more broken, our fight is a little less aggressive and our motivations are a little less our own, and with each moment of surrender, God knits us into grace, builds us back up into faith, motivates us to conviction and battles in our place for redemption! I think that is part of the plan, part of His design. For us to “shut the door” and “wander alone in the desert with only Him” as we offer sacrifice and seek solitude in our most vulnerable moments, our most personal seasons, so that we can fully  “open up” to what He has to offer. To the thing that seems most impossible. And through our season of solitude and sacrifice we will celebrate like the season, opening up, bursting with color and aroma, or like the cloud, pouring out rain over a thirsty field or like the mother, opening up to the sensations of surrender, ushering and welcoming new life.


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