I was having a bad day, when a friend showed up on my front porch with bright pink gerbera daisies, a pop of color that brought beauty into my anxiety-ridden heart. The same day, my husband came home with burnt orange tulips, bidding me with their gentle presence on my table to believe I am loved. (Trust me, I know—my people are the best.)

I didn’t even consider the time it had taken those flowers to grow before I was able to enjoy them. All I noticed were the blossoms.

Beautiful as they are, I know I will only get a few more days out of these bouquets. Blooms just don’t last very long, even for the most proficient gardeners (ahem…not me).

Most growth happens unseen and unnoticed.

Early each spring at our house, green shoots start to poke through the dirt along our front porch. Stalks grow quickly and soon our walkway is lined with beautiful yellow, pink and orange tulips, with a few daffodils thrown in for good measure.

For about two glorious weeks as winter melts into spring, exquisite colors greet me each time I step outside. Then all too soon, the wind blows without mercy, and all that remains are empty stems and a few lonely petals hanging on for dear life. The leaves die and we cut the tulips back until the next year, when their beauty will emerge again in all its splendor.

The rest of the year, though, the bulbs lay dormant underground. Alive, but dormant. With no visible signs of growth. We can’t see that below the surface, life is preparing to burst through.

To fill in the gaps in our landscaping after the tulips finish blooming, we planted a few small rosebushes in our front yard. We carefully placed each root ball into the holes we’d dug, gently protecting the plants’ delicate roots to help them transition from their pots to our soil.

It turns out a plant can’t live without healthy roots. We can’t live without healthy roots either.

Growing deep roots is slow, tedious work. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is the growth noticeable as it takes place. Root growing occurs slowly, imperceptibly, through the consistent watering and nourishment of our souls.

I often find myself longing for the beauty of life in full bloom but struggling to do the unseen work of tending to what lies below the surface. I want flowers without gardening. I want beauty without discipline. I want security without stillness. I want growth without waiting. I want fulfillment without making space for what brings life.

So what does it look like to grow deep roots?

It looks like noticing what’s going on inside me, underneath the visible realm of activity and knee-jerk reactions and the tyranny of the urgent.

Paying attention to the voice within, the one whispering about what my heart needs, waiting for me to pause long enough to listen.

Allowing my character to be formed in the hidden moments while no one else is watching, valuing faithfulness over recognition.

Root care often feels unproductive, wasteful, and even indulgent. But investing in what is unseen is not optional; we either grow or shrivel. Healthy roots are necessary for hearts to burst into full bloom–and there is nothing more breathtaking than a woman fully alive.

In a moment of quiet during my kids’ nap time, I left dishes in the sink and sat down with Jesus’ words about what it takes to grow. “I am the vine; you are the branches,” he said. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Nothing. I can do nothing apart from the vine. No wonder it feels like I’m running on empty when I fill up my schedule without filling my heart. 

It’s so easy to get caught up in doing work that is seen, productive, affirmed by others, comparing myself and hustling for recognition and admiration. But no amount of approval can give me the life I crave. Growth happens in the unseen work of holding still long enough to receive the approval I’ve already been given.

Life flows into roots that hold still. Striving isn’t the key to growth–stillness is. No amount of self-effort will cause my life to yield the beauty I desire, but only resting in the slow, steady, mostly invisible growth that comes from believing I am loved today.

So instead of exhausting myself this year in an attempt to make flowers grow, I am giving myself permission to be still and grow deep roots.

I’m going to keep my days more simple and slow than full and frantic.

I’m going to write when I feel inspired, not when I feel pressure to perform.

I’m going to spend time alone with the Gardener of my soul.

I’m going to read books that inspire my heart and mind.

I’m going to ask God questions and listen for his answers.

I’m going to play with my kids while they still ask.

I’m going to run with gratitude for a body that can.

I’m going to be honest about my needs and limits.

I’m going to celebrate others’ gifts without comparing myself to them.

I’m going to stop striving to feel beautiful and rest in the loveliness of being myself.

And I’m pretty sure that blooms will come eventually. But I hope I will be too busy growing deep roots to notice.

What does root-care look like for you? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

 

11 thoughts on “On Growing Deep Roots

    1. So glad it encouraged you, Lori! I need to remind myself often, daily even, that life is better lived slow and growing. It’s helpful to know we all need reminders–thanks for your feedback!

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  1. Dearest Jillian, I just had a quiet moment to read this and as usual, your words resonate deeply with me. This one especially hit the mark for me this week. While I know God has called me to serve my family and pull away from the “seen” things of service these past months, it has been feeling really hard lately. I am taking to heart “what it looks like to grow deep roots” and going to pray through your words of gratitude…asking God to show me what my list should be. Thank you friend. Sure love and appreciate you. xo

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    1. I’m so thankful for your feedback, Joanne. Recognizing how much growth happens in “unseen” places is hard indeed–grateful for your courage to do the underground work that will actually benefit many, especially your own heart! I can’t wait to hear more about what this looks like in your life. You are brave and faithful.

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