Living in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass


Four o’clock rolled around and all was well. By five o’clock it had all fallen apart. 

I was happy at four-thirty today. Giddy even.

For the past several years I have been working really hard towards a specific thing. You could even call it a promise. Hours have been spent researching the best way to go about pursuing this promise. Pens have run out of ink as I have taken detailed notes and filled out all the required paperwork. Scribbles on paper with charts and lists have covered my dining room table late into the night as I look over my plan.

You have no idea- seriously no idea – how many questions I have been asked and answers I’ve found as I have plotted the path for this big dream of mine to come to pass. It was starting to grow legs and arms and come to life before my eyes.

After holding it with cautious hope, I have recently begun to embrace it. Own it and let the excitement of its existence seep into all the little bits of me. At four o’clock this afternoon, I was talking to someone involved and the details were starting to come together. Ideas were bounced around and getting polished. Life was good at four o’clock today.

Then the phone rang. It was 5 o’clock.

I answered it. On the other end was the woman who held the keys to this little dream of mine being born. Not just in my mind, but in actual life. The kind of life you can photograph and share beyond the limitations of imagination.

It wasn’t good. She informed me of some news that changed the plan. In fact, it kind of erased the plan, burned the paper it was written on and then scattered the ashes somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. At least that is how it felt by 5:05pm.

The dream doesn’t have to die, but it does have to wait. And it goes to being a bit of a lottery when it comes to how it will work. There are no guarantees really.

The worst part? I started to scold myself for actually letting myself get excited. Chasing this promise has been years of ups and downs. Dangled carrots dropped in front of me and actually believing that I was finally going to get to eat them. I’d lunge to catch the dream between my teeth, but it always pulls right back up out of reach. Sitting there taunting me, but too far to have for myself.

You know what I am talking about. Falling in love only for the other person to back out. Working long hours just to watch another person end up with the credit. Finally saving enough money for a backpacking trip with friends but having to drain your account to pay a car repair. And now you are using your newly fixed car to drive your friends to the airport. Carrots dangled.

Sitting here tonight, I still choke back the tears of disappointment and frustration. This isn’t my first rodeo with “almost but not quite” when it comes to promises. And I’ve come to know what will pop up next.

Spray painted grass, that’s what.

I see the other side where the grass is greener. The side where everything went as planned. A field of grass that grows bright green and beautiful. That piece of earth where the money never ran out and the world is fair. Where people get what they have worked hard for and the rain falls with perfect timing.

I know you know exactly what I am talking about because you have had to live in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass yourself.

The truth about that grass? It isn’t really green. It has been painted with idealism, envy and a good old-fashioned dose of imagination. It is the futuristic version of what would have happened if everything would have gone our way. The perfect interpretation of our plan before real life happens.

And just like that, we are discontent with where we are. The trinkets we carry as our own are no longer valuable. Our relationships don’t sparkle with endless perfection. Our romances are tarnished with human flaws. Promotions at work that went to another suddenly make our job seem insignificant.

And that’s the biggest problem with chasing dreams, promises and grander plans. Sometimes they don’t work out the way we want and we see our own grass as the enemy.

The other grass surely would have been softer, never needed mowing and would naturally repel all insects so you could picnic in peace. The people who live there are faultless and easy to love. At least it looks that way from here.

But this place? This place is work and pain. Trying and risking over and over. It’s loving the person in front of you when you have a very specific person in mind you’d rather be loving. This grass embeds thorns in your feet if you try to run through it carefree.

Right now at 9pm? I don’t really love my grass. It is poking me in all the wrong places and isn’t growing the way I want it too. But, I am trying to remind myself that the other grass isn’t real. It is spray painted with deceiving filters and all the unwanted parts have been cropped out of the picture.

It’s like Instagram grass. Perfected by perception.

This little patch of field I will go to bed on tonight? It is my home for now and I will be thankful for it. The people parked on this side of the fence with me are my neighbors and they are just as worth loving as the people on the spray painted grass. I’ll wake up in the morning and will choose to enjoy and cultivate the land I have been given.

Continuing to work towards the promise, but choosing to live my life with gusto right here until then. I’ve learned that here in this tension. We’ve got to live settled. Not the kind of settled where you compromise for something lesser. The kind of settled where you find contentment where you are while still working toward something else. That is a thing fought for and hashed out over late night conversations with friends.

There will always be a tension between the carrots we chase and the fields we sleep in. Even when it stings us to the core, we have to let go of our plans and believe the promise.

On the days when a late afternoon phone call crushes you, God has given you a place to sit and rest while you catch your breath. It might not be the perfectly manicured grass you were hoping for, but it is your place for now. And there is a grace to make it home.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, something bigger, Uncategorized, Whimsy

16 responses to “Living in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass

  1. My heat aches for you, Sweetie. Aches. God is still God and he can cut through anything/everything. He aches with you, too, but he KNOWS…and SEES..

  2. Bloom where you are planted… until the wind carries your seed on to that new place!

  3. lindley

    Ugh–that feeling. That 5:00 phone call. I’m sorry. And, I don’t know what to say because I don’t know. Except, I do. I know you know Who’s in control. You know who to trust!
    Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks!

  4. i like it. thanks for being real.

  5. Mom

    This is when my heart breaks for you. And it’s also when I’m thankful that you know Who to call on and Who to trust. Praying that you will continue to trust in the Lord and He WILL give you the desires of your heart.

  6. mel

    Wow you cut to me to the core with that. I am with you too. And I love how you creatively explained it.

  7. Man, you guys are so trustworthy. The fulfillment side will have the capacity for greater glory because of the perseverance on this side. Thanks for living an open life, it is inspiring.

  8. Penny Allison

    Your words have helped me recommit to my side of the fence. Thanks!

  9. Jessi

    Wow. This has me in tears. I’ve been living that tension for almost a year now and let’s just say it was starting to break me. In fact, I work up this morning and the only prayer on my mouth was “When God? When?”. I’m starting to feeling like the little girl tugging on her Daddy’s shirt in the car asking “are we there yet? How about now? Any closer?”. In all honesty, I don’t feel like I’ve been living content…I’ve been living feeling like I’m stuck with settling for less. Less than I wanted. Less than my dreams. Less than I have prayed for over the past year. Less than what everyone else has (greener grass and all).
    But after reading your post I’ve come to realize I’m living with more. More than I knew I could’ve wanted. More than most others have, More than whatever I had planned for myself. More than I ever deserved. I have God. I know God. The Creator of all. The One whole holds things perfectly in His hands. The One who chooses to forgive every single sin I’ve ever committed and wash away the years I didn’t believe in Him. The One who chooses to pour out blessings and daily mercies on my life every single day even when I’m complaining. It’s hard NOT to trust that He has something more wonderful coming together when I look at it that way and that is certainly a reason to live with gusto.
    Thank you again for letting God use your life to inspire others in the blogosphere. Through the ups and downs He is using your story to open the eyes of others, like me, to see Him working. Keep cultivating the land!

  10. Kayla

    Thank you for this! I happened upon your blog from a sweet comment left on my Instagram and have no doubt that God had intentions of me reading this exact post. While I’m blessed beyond anything I could ever deserve, I still often look at the spray painted grass with the same longing. Thank you for this reminder to be mindful and thankful for each of my todays!

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