Thursday, August 9, 2018

Grapes, Pruning, and a Mother's Prayer

By Patricia Beal | @bealpat 

I’m a known procrastinator and often write my posts late, but this one takes the prize. T minus 14 hours. Yikes.


Habit. I like what I produce under pressure. But this is different. Today is different.

Maybe it goes back to the old advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Maybe it’s fear of being exposed and feeling vulnerable through/because of what I have to say.

Maybe it’s the enemy planting doubt and fear in my head because a post like this can bless others who might be feeling the same way, thinking they’re alone, inadequate, and lacking.

Well here we go.


I read a lovely guest post by Joanna Davidson Politano, author of the new novel A Rumored Fortune. I encourage you to read it (the post and the novels—she’s very good) -

In the post, she talks about her vineyard research for this latest novel, and I had a “Tig” moment. Yes, I know, The Tig is now history. But I will always thing of “aha!” moments as “Tig” moments, thanks to Meghan Markle.

Vineyards do produce more fruit than they can possibly support while still maintaining a healthy and strong connection to the vine.

Lives too can produce too much fruit for the Christian to nurture while still maintaining a healthy and strong connection to our True Vine, Jesus Christ.

Pruning is a must. Something’s gotta give. And you don’t want it to be the quality of the connection to The Vine. Like Joanna says on the post, a poor connection results in fruit that may look good but is bitter and immature.


You can do some pruning yourself, but God will often prune too.

I think this is the hardest part. There are tons of great and godly things out there for us to do, and we says “yes” a lot. Then next thing we know, we are too heavy with busyness to have enough quiet time with God and enough time in His Word. The connection gets weak. We begin going through the motions. Our fruit may look good on the outside (emphasis on “may”) but is bitter and immature. Fruit on survival mode.

Last month I cut off one big thing and a smaller one, and God cut another big thing.

Self-pruning part I: 

I stopped dancing. I was in three studios and struggling to pick one. In my attempt to decide, I realized that my motives were all wrong. I was doing it for the applause. I was doing it because it felt good to be an older dancer. I was doing it because people always talked about how good I looked. That’s no reason to spend time away from family. I waited for a good class, one I could hang my hat on in case I never go back and walked away. I was taking lyrical for the first time and stopped after dancing Hamilton’s “Dear Theodosia.” It felt good to dance that song, and it feels good to be done. When/if kids leave the home, and I get bored, I can do something with dance again.

Self-pruning part II: 

I stopped promoting Facebook posts to the rate I used to and at times don’t post daily anymore. I did this in part because I’m depressed about the writing life—there, I said it—and in part because I don’t think it’s wise to continue spending what I spend in writing endeavors.

Oh my goodness, there are so many folds to this statement. It could be a post in itself, but it would be too sad. Having Asperger’s, I have to fight for joy and fight to be comfortable in my own skin. As a Christian, I feel horrible. I’m supposed to be full of joy. I shouldn’t have to fight for it. I’m supposed to be thankful, but I have to constantly remind myself of what I have and if how far I’ve come, or my brain navigates naturally to the negative.

It’s okay though. Allen Arnold says feeling stuck is an opportunity to go places brand new with God. These are great podcasts.

Link to part 1:

Link to part 2:

And homeschool will begin soon with the best antidote to depression: Hope.

That (homeschool) brings me to the pruning God did.

The pruning God did:

He planted in my daughter’s heart the desire to go to school outside the home, and she begins fourth grade at our church’s academy on Friday.

Break to take my son to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu… Back. T minus ten.

My son… We struggle. I pray that in this year of homeschooling just him, we can figure out the way ahead. We’ve tried a lot of different strategies to help him. Nothing works. He now refuses to go to any place for any therapy or program. Jiu-Jitsu is it. He goes to church, but his participation is all over the place. The day he was supposed to go to the Hope Through Horses place (July post), he barricaded himself in his room and refused to come out.

I’m to the point I want to ask his pediatrician to reevaluate him and maybe take autism out of his official record since autism specialists who’ve spent hours and hours in our home have failed to help him time and again. I haven’t decided what to do about medication either. I took him off ADHD meds for the summer and am not sure if I want him back on. I don’t think it will be necessary for homeschool. I don’t think it has a positive impact on behavior.

As for now, the plan is to love him to death and see if I can figure out what’s really going on in that head of his. He is considering going to an academy too, but this year, when he asked, sixth grade was already full. I'm kind of glad. Maybe this is the year that we can figure each other out, bond better, and start working together as a family instead of hurting because of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD).

If you know someone who struggles with ODD in the family, give them a hug for me. It’s so heartbreaking. As a parent you’re baffled every hour on the hour. Everything is a fight. And people think you just failed as a parent. With time you begin believing it’s really all your fault. Then you have to remind yourself about just how early the chaos started. For us, I remember locking myself in a bathroom with my newborn when little man was less than two. Yep, the anger and lack of control was so intense I was afraid that early. ODD is real. You don’t teach that intensity to a kid under two. Some people are born that way. Many end up in institutions. I’m committed to not letting mine end up that way.

I might be the one ending up in an institution though… Lol…

Okay, I will stop writing this blog post and take up journaling to sort out my emotions. Thanks for reading this far :o

A Mother’s Prayer 

Oh, Daddy… (if you’re a Lucado fan, you know where this comes from)

How did I end up here and how do I get someplace better?

I have less than ten years left in these formative years with my kids. I’ve given it my all, but it doesn’t show. Why? Trips to the book store, to the library, to the playground, playdates, programs, intervention, no intervention, church, friends, parties, things, people. Is it me, Lord? Am I not enough for them?

I might not be enough, but You are. Give me wisdom to do this right. You promised you would. I’m begging. Give me wisdom.

Please give us a good school year. Please help me be joyful for them. Please help me show them my love. Please help them understand I’m human too and have weaknesses and needs.

If You don’t help me, I will continue to do all the work while they play. I can no longer fight over chores. I don’t have it in me. Not anymore. They win. I would rather just do it myself. But I know that’s bad for them. Give me wisdom. Strategies that work. Do a work in their hearts. I need You to intervene. I’m exhausted.

Forgive me for applying for government positions (five in the last 24 hours!) that I know I will probably not accept. Right now, how could I? I just need to know that beyond my front door there’s a normal world, where hard work pays off and achievement is recognized.

I know that within the front door You recognize my labor too, but I feel You so far away. A silly job offer for a job I cannot now take would give me more validation than Your love, always there. Isn’t that sad?

That must mean I’m ill connected. But this is something else I don’t know how to fix. In our walk too I’m doing my best. Now what?

“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 

1 Corinthians 13 

The Message 

By the way, we’re on waiting mode on the writing front. I don’t like waiting modes on any fronts. Boo.

Advice? I obviously need it…

Tales from mature parents of demanding kids? Those bring amazing comfort and that’s why I share my stories. It’s not to hear myself talk. It’s to let others in the trenches know they don’t hurt alone.

One more plug: Tricia Goyer’s new book is awesome when it comes to not feeling alone in the whirlwind. She talks a lot about letting God shape you in the middle of the madness instead of focusing solely on outcomes.

I promise I will try to post something more uplifting next time :)

Patricia Beal has danced ballet her whole life. She is from Brazil and fell in love with the English language while washing dishes at a McDonald's in Indianapolis. She put herself through college working at a BP gas station and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati with a B.A. in English Literature. She then worked as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army for seven years.

She now writes contemporary fiction and is represented by Bob Hostetler of The Steve Laube Agency. Her debut novel, A Season to Dance, came out in May of 2017 (Bling! / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). A Portuguese translation just came out in her native Brazil on August 3, 2018 (Editora Pandorga). Patricia is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. She and her husband live in North Carolina with their two children.

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  1. Wow, Patricia! So much going on. Thank you for sharing so honestly. It feels rare in this shiny ‘what’s new!’ world where people are encouraged to be ruthlessly upbeat. How freeing such honesty can be. It takes the pressure off ourselves, and others.
    Taking pressure off also via less social media involvement sounds like a good plan. Earlier this year I had enforced time away with a digital detox which did my headspace a world of good, allowing more time for God and His perspective, rather than the Fakebook world it’s so easy to inhabit.
    Regarding your pruning analogy, I think part of the battle is actually recognizing it IS a time for pruning. It’s when we don’t and we’re fighting God’s intentions and refusing to lay things down that we get heart heavy, frustrated and discouraged.
    And I hope you’ll be encouraged by knowing pruning is just part of the season; there will be times of growth, and times when the wine will flow sweet and refreshing again.
    Praying for you and your family. ❤️

    1. Thank you for praying. It's much needed and appreciated. There are songs and books about how it's okay to not be okay. Christian songs and Christian books. But it's still very hard for us to say, "hey, here, me, I'm the brokenhearted..." But you're right. It's a season... :)

  2. Hi, Patricia. Thank you for once again sharing boots and all. It's always refreshing to read your posts because you share your heart. Oh, parenting is hard, isn't it. ODD (that's not really a condition is it?) - I have a son who is non-compliant, not ODD as you describe it but a free spirit I guess who didn't appreciate boundaries. Still doesn't even though he's 25, married and a dad. But it's what makes him who he is. He's courageous and brave, very talented and generally delightful to be around. Just don't ask him to do anything for you.

    I wonder if giving up dancing is the right thing? Is it not your time for you? Yes, I understand your thinking re: doing it for the wrong reasons but I also suspect you do it because you love it and it fills a hole that you don't get anywhere else. But as you say perhaps it's just a season but allow yourself the grace to appreciate that it might only be a short season without dancing. It may be the right to do before the kids have grown up.

    Pruning is hard and often unpleasant. But good for us - we come out the otherwise healthier than before. And this is what I pray for you that the Lord would reveal more of Himself to you and so you experience more of His goodness and love as you journey through this difficult season.


    1. ODD is an official condition (a child who's consistently oppositional, vindictive, makes everyone feel miserable on purpose and often, believes he/she can defeat adults always, feels equal to adults, etcetera), but, like ADHD, some challenge the validity/benefit of such diagnoses. The common meds are tightly controlled and kind of scary. We've been using several different ones for the past four years. All help with attention and are a must for successful group education (for us right now). None help with behavior (for us). One did, but the side effects were so severe we were sent to a psychiatric ER and no one dares prescribe it again now that he's much bigger and much older, though it's a common drug. High on that thing he showed/said once in his almost 12 years that he wanted to make me happy. It was almost freaky. He said he wanted to do well on a test because that would make me happy and he wanted to make me happy. What? Who is this person and where's my kid? Anyway... He's been off meds since early May, and I think I will keep it that way. If my new approach works (extra time, extra love shown, more investment on one-on-one talks), I plan on taking all unused meds to a specialty appointment we have on Sept. 17. I'm praying hard and working hard, and I've seen a couple of miracles--God working in me, and the enemy is pushing back hard. So I must be doing something right...

      Thank you, Ian, for the kind words. It's all a season. God guided my steps before I even cared for Him. How much more must he be guiding me now? This is a trouble prepared/permitted. I've noticed that in the current Ransomed Hearts marriage podcasts and in Tricia's book there's an emphasis on transformation, on how's God wanting us to grow and mature through the challenges under our roofs. I like that. There's something there. I think we'll all be better people when we get to the other end...

      Are we there yet? :)

    2. Okay, ODD is a real thing! Thanks for the detail. It has me thinking.

      Yes, wouldn't it be marvellous simply to arrive at that person that the Lord has assigned us to be. Now! But He obviously knows that the journey is the better part of the process, even though we find it so tiring and burdensome at times. I go through seasons of boredom, the frustration of treading water and not being sure how to move forward in my relationship with Him. How He must get bored with me! But it's that always leaning in and posturing oneself to Him that opens my eyes to more of His goodness and vibrant life so kick starts me every time.

    3. Leaning in, posturing ... God's goodness, vibrant life. I like the sound of that. Thanks, Ian :)

  3. Patricia, thank you for sharing honestly from your life--your words will give others the courage to be real too, and knowing we're not alone in our diverse struggles gives strength to keep pressing into God and not give up.

    You know what? I don't think the joy is handed easily to many Christians... at least not long-term. I think the choice, struggle, even fight to choose it is part of spiritual living. Like a discipline, or like spiritual warfare, even though the joy comes from God. He gives freely, but maybe we have to work out the receiving part? We definitely have an enemy who does not want us to experience God's joy. Some of the New Testament verses calling us to joy make it sound like there's regular work involved :)

    I pray God will bless you abundantly this year, with hope--and joy--and with wisdom in parenting your son. You are honouring Him in your pruning, and I'm praying for sweet, mature fruit.

    I'm in Canada, and I don't know who The Tig was, but I understand "aha" moments :)

    1. I think you're right. It does take work. It takes work because it takes being thankful at all times first, and for me that's hard. It takes dying to self and that's hard too... But it's doable. The Bible says all things are possible through Christ, but it doesn't say all things are easy, right?

      So, The Tig! The Tig was Meghan Markle's wonderful blog. It was huge and she shut it down when things with Prince Harry got very serious. "Tig" is short for the name of her favorite full-bodied Italian red wine, Tignanello. When she sipped it for the first time, she had an "Aha" moment, now referred to as "Tig" moments for her. "Suddenly I understood what people meant by the body, legs, structure of wine," she wrote.

      Thank you so much for praying for us and for the sweet words of encouragement. We need it :)

    2. Thankfulness and dying to self -- important life practices, and they sure don't come easy sometimes! I'm glad that Jesus doesn't expect us to be able to do it without Him.

      And thanks for explaining The Tig. I didn't know Meghan Markle was a writer... that must have been a hard bit of pruning, to let the blog go.

    3. So true! The Bible always says "do this / achieve that / become this" in Christ, through Christ, etcetera. Another thing that's learned. Most of us are like Peter in the garden, going for the sword and cutting ears, when Jesus can knock down a band of man with the sound of His name (John 18:5). I definitely don't want to do battle using my micro power :o Great reminder.

      Yes, Meghan Markle writes quite well. It was a post on The Tig that got the UN's attention and the invite to become a UN Women ambassador. She did give up a lot. Rachel Hauck wrote a neat guest post about that and comparing marrying a prince to our future life in the kingdom of heaven - the things we give up, what we gain. If you have a chance, check it out :) :)