failure to thrive

I have a plant that is stressing me out.

One of my goals for this year was to grow some stuff. We are working toward a family garden all the way from seed to plate. In addition to that, I want to learn the art of keeping a few houseplants alive.

I know this is possible. In my recent history it just hasn’t been probable.

I’ve often felt that my love for a cute planter may quite possibly outweigh my love for actual plants. But alas, I’ve been setting aside a little of my grocery cash each trip to welcome a few live plants into our home. I’m swearing to myself that THIS YEAR I will work harder to keep them alive. THIS YEAR I won’t toss these plants out only days or weeks after I purchase them. THIS YEAR is the YEAR OF THE PLANT!

Maybe I’m mourning my childbearing years or maybe we need a puppy, but this yearning in my heart to nurture something and watch it grow has been a theme of my life lately. For goodness sake, these are grocery store plants. Exactly how hard can it be to make sure they receive the right sunlight, oxygen and water that they need?

I’ll tell you how hard.

photo 1

I’m a first rate plant murderer. If you want to know where plants come to die, it’s my house. For real.

As little as a few weeks ago, this plant was thriving and perky and beautiful. Over the past week, a little bit of a droopy situation has developed.

photo 1-5

As crazy as it is, I have another plant that I have treated the exact same way and it is doing just fine. It’s blooming and growing and happy to here with us. I give it a few ice cubes every few days and it sits where the sun comes in and it’s just as perky and plump as can be. Obviously what works for one plant variety doesn’t work for another.

photo 2

This recent development with my other plant, the nearly dead one, has caused me much worry and concern. I keep moving it to places in the house with varying degrees of sunlight. I have taken it on my back porch to breathe and I’ve watered it as directed. I have even talked to it. And it isn’t behaving like it should.

I feel like I did in those early days of new motherhood. I was hyper-vigilant and constantly trying every trick I knew to take care of every perceived need of my baby. This plant just isn’t responding to my efforts. As I am watching it wilt and perish right before my very eyes I’m getting panicky and willing to try any last ditch efforts to ensure its survival.

I asked my resident science/biology/nature expert, Ryan, what I must do to help this dear plant. He first suggested bringing it back inside as it is a tropical plant and the cool, outdoor air is too much for it. I did that and it perked back up for about three days. And then earlier this week, it just started to droop and drag again.

It’s the end of January and I refuse to let this plant die in the first month of the new year. It’s a matter of principle at this point.

Ryan suggested that maybe it needed to be repotted.

photo 3

I’m hoping and praying that he’s right. I layered some rocks on the bottom of the planter to act as a drain system and added some fresh outdoor soil and loosened the limp plant from the plastic container it came in.

photo 4

I’ve repotted and will now continue to watch and pray.

As I am so often prone to do, the moment Ryan mentioned transitioning the plant to a bigger container, I began to connect the symbolism of the plant life to my own life.

I’ve spent much time thinking and writing about my own struggles to make sense of living life in the military where we move around often and never really have the opportunity to plant deep roots anywhere or with anyone. On more than one occasion my emotions have felt just like the top photo of my plant; deflated, defeated and wilting. There’s an oft overused cliche you hear in military circles of “blooming where you’re planted.”

Sometimes that is downright difficult to do when you’re in a nearly constant state of uprooting. Sometimes that’s magnified even more when you know you were created for relationships and connection. Sometimes, much like a plant, you feel like you are cut off from the light, resources, and very air you need to breathe in order to survive or thrive. Sometimes, much like the plant, your heart begins to droop and shrivel and you lose hope for your future.

In recent months I have battled a few growing pains in a new place. I have been in a particular situation where I feel like it has been especially difficult to “break into” a new group. I know sometimes it can be a personality thing, or a timing thing or just a missed connection. I can easily allow my heart, mind and emotions to turn on me and begin to whisper lies that it’s something about me that’s unlikeable or unapproachable or unattractive to new potential friendships.

As a military family I always hope that we can move to a new place and jump right in, making fast friends and deep connections. The truth is those things take time. My feelings can play tricks on me and betray me. My feelings can tell me that others just don’t see investing in friendship with me or my family as worth their time or effort. My feelings can tell me, there’s no need to even try to plant roots here because before you know it, you’ll be ripping them up and moving on and moving away.

But I know that kind of thinking is faulty and untrue. I have to snap my thoughts back to reality and realize that maybe God’s plan all along is to show me that the repotting process is not only normal, natural and healthy but also BENEFICIAL to my spiritual growth.

It’s so easy to get comfortable in the safety of the tight little root ball of my container. Nevertheless, I can only go so long without the sunlight, oxygen, water and SPACE I need to continue growing. I must leave the comforts of one pot (city, duty station, circle of friends) in order to move on to another pot where I can take root and continue to thrive.

Maybe I’ve mixed too many metaphors. But today, I repotted my plant into a bigger space making room for the growth it needs. I’m telling myself not to give up on my plant. I’m going to keep nurturing it and making sure I’m doing all I can to help it survive and thrive. I’ll keep doing this in my own life as well.

We’re still new-ish here in Georgia. I’ll keep rolling with the ups and downs of finding the right fit and rhythm in my new environment. And I’ll keep in mind that nurturing things takes time and attention. Not only is this the Year of the Plant, more importantly, it’s a Year of Growth for me.


“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” {Colossians 1:9-10}

Is there an area of your life where you feel the Lord is trying to nudge you into being “repotted” elsewhere? What do you think he has in mind for your growth? I’d love it if you leave a comment!

6 thoughts on “failure to thrive

  1. Kathy Milligan says:

    There are some things that I feel a stirring in my heart about. I just know it’s going to take a strong commitment…so I’m taking some time, weighing it all out so I can know that I will stick with it. I’m so guilty of being inconsistent and I’m making a conscious effort to change that! Ugh! Anyway….I have the same kind of plant that I’ve had for about two years now that has done well, until the last couple of weeks. Looks like I may have to do the same thing.


    • claire says:

      I completely understand the feeling Kathy! It’s so hard to have the “want to” and to stick with things. This is the story of my life. Praying for persistence and changes for you! Hugs!


  2. Allison Duncan says:

    Thanks for sharing Claire! I love the army because you get to move and meet so many new people all the time but then I don’t like it because you have to move and meet so many people all the time! We moved to Oklahoma and are only here for 6 months so I’m struggling with this too! I need fellowship and friendships but we are only here for such a short time that I fear none of that will happen! Been praying a lot! I know Jesus tells us to go out and He def provides! I would say that I made so many deep rooted friendships at Bliss in the 3 1/2 years we were there so I know it’s possible! Sorry long post! I’ll be praying for you as well! Love you!


    • claire says:

      You are so right about the benefit of Army life being the wonderful friendships we make. I can totally understand the intensity of this on a six month stay. I will be praying for you. I surely miss our park (sanity) walks, just you, me and Naomi. Hang in there!


  3. Gwen Chandler says:

    Wow! I so relate with every move we made! My roots would dangle for at least a year! My new season of staying put while my life seems to continue changing is crazy too! God never wants us to get too comfortable. Instead He loves to see us grow into the godly women He so desires! Love your posts! We need to do lunch!


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