My Broken Flower Pot Life Lesson

In Louisiana Ladies, Teri Netterville by Lola Magazine

A couple of weeks after we received our one-year-old chocolate lab, Cowboy, he knocked over one of my large, heavy flower pots out back by the pool. 

This big pot that I bought years ago, was one of two freestanding flower pots that I had purposefully bought to put on either side of our diving platform for aesthetic reasons. 

I have a terrible green thumb, so although I don’t keep flowers in those big pots year round, I love the way they look, even if nothing is in them. And when I DO take the time to fill them with pretty spring flowers. It  just makes the whole place look so much prettier back there. 

Anyway, when one of our labs knocked that pot over and it broke into about 6 or 7 big pieces, (and many little ones), dirt fell out everywhere. I didn’t get mad or holler at him because, quite frankly, he didn’t do it on purpose. 

I was throwing him one of his favorite white bumpers to fetch (his favorite thing in the world to do) and I mistakenly threw it too close to that flower pot. When he happily darted toward the area where I had thrown his toy, he sideswiped my pot and it fell and broke into several pieces. 

I scrunched my face and said quietly, “Ugh. Dang it.” And then decided to just ignore it and go inside. Although I didn’t get mad at my playful pup, in that moment, I was frustrated. I didn’t even clean it up. 

I was tired. And I felt like I was the only one trying to keep things looking nice back there. Yep, just frustrated and tired. 

No matter how hard I worked to keep my backyard looking good and clean, things continued to get chewed up, spit out, and broken. And I seemed to be the only one who cared. 

Muddy paw prints colored every square inch of concrete around my pool.  And my yard barely had the grass it once had.

It’s a terrible feeling to feel like you are the only one who cares how things look…or how clean your place is. Many mamas know this feeling all too well. After a while, you sort of just give up.

But the frustration about it never really goes away. And sometimes, if help never arrives, the frustration you once felt is taken over by a little bitterness about it all. 

As for me? I just gave up trying to keep the backyard looking nice. I let all three labs have the run of the yard and thought, “I’ll get to that broken pot, dirty sidewalk and broken goggles another time…when I have the time.” Because for now, I’m tired. 

Days and weeks passed… and although I would still play with our dogs, I changed the scenery.  I started taking them out front instead. There was more space.  They couldn’t break anything out front and they had more grass to run on. 

They loved it. And I did too. 

I literally ignored the backyard. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Finally, summer arrived and it was time to clean up the back yard….and it was time to pick up the pieces of that big flower pot that still laid there on the ground, all covered in dirt. 

I started picking up the big clay pieces when I noticed something yellow. I had planted yellow lantana a year earlier in that same pot. To my surprise, that lantana had actually begun growing through all of the dirt during those months that I had neglected the backyard. 

“No way,” I thought to myself, as a smile crept across my face. It was yellow and as bright as the sun. I couldn’t believe it. 

You see, due to my own negligence in not keeping plants and flowers watered back there, I assumed everything I had planted from the year before was dead and I would simply replant new flowers like I do every year. 

But this little yellow fella was defying the odds and trying desperately to grow and be seen. I could not wipe the smile off of my face. It just made me so happy.

I actually transplanted that little flower and dirt into another area where it began to grow and spread with some other flowers I had planted there. It became beautiful to me. 

I had totally forgotten about all of that until a conversation came up between my oldest son, Steele, and me. 

Since these recent events and conversations have been induced due to the George Floyd murder, I have been tortured inside. I have not been able to stop thinking about all that has transpired. And I have been forever changed inside due to new information that I have been forced to process —  information I thought only “others” “over there” had to worry about. I never realized this sort of thing happened in my own “backyard.” I have been thinking non-stop…about all sides of it. 

I have discovered, through trusted friends’ writings, about the ugly side of life for our black sons who have been forced to learn how to respect authority in an entirely different way than their white counterparts. 

I have also read words from the families, (of the good and true law officers), that cry out in vain reminding the world not to let the venom and hatred felt for the few bad cops bleed into the subconscious minds of those already bitter to feel even more anger toward ALL officers of the law. Because as some have cried out, “Our guy understands. Our guy is with you in your plight! Don’t mistake him for a bad one!”

My gosh.

People are scared. 

People are frustrated. 

People are bitter.

And people are tired. 

So very tired.

Tired of the unfairness. 

Tired of the burden. 

Tired of not feeling heard, understood or validated in their thoughts and feelings.

I hear the message now. I hear you.

Black people and the good and true law officers are SO TIRED of people… like me…who see the pot broken and the dirt all around it, but who purposefully choose to turn and walk away from it, instead of being part of the help in cleaning it up. 

But this time is different. 

Just like that big ole broken pot in my backyard, my heart also feels broken. Shattered over what I have chosen not to see. Crushed over not being part of the solution. 

But, also like that broken pot, my heart also feels opened. Opened to what I feel God is about to do with all of this brokenness. 

What happened when that pot broke? The same thing that always happens when I hear of another shooting….another unfair life moment that doesn’t directly affect my own family.

 I scrunched my face, uttered “Dadgumit” and walked away.

I convinced myself it was okay to leave the dirt and brokenness on the ground. 

I told myself I’d get to it later when I could…when I could face it. 

I was tired, I said. 

Tired? 

Puh-lease, Teri. 

What a joke. 

It was an excuse. That’s all it ever is. Just like all the excuses I tend to make when I don’t want to jump in and take the time from my life to clean up a mess I don’t feel I made. 

HOWEVER, there comes a time, when there are no more excuses. You are forced to face it and you have a choice. Clean it up or let the dirt and mess stay.

But understand this, if you leave that mess, it’ll still make the whole place look bad, no matter how hard you worked on cleaning up the other areas. This is the truth of the matter. If that one area stays dirty and messy, then the whole place still looks unfinished. Unclean. Messy. 

But here’s the beauty of God and his brand of heavenly love. Even when we turn away and leave the world broken and shattered with dirt all around,  God still pours His love into us, watering the seeds of beauty, forcing us to come out of hiding. 

Think about it like this: When that pot broke and I left it behind, the dirt that had been buried so deeply at the bottom saw its first glimpse of sunlight since it had been poured into that oversized pot years ago. 

That sunlight felt good to those seeds that had been buried so deeply in that dirt. 

Over time, with the mixture of God’s beautiful sunlight and rain, something quite magical began to happen.  

Suddenly, those seeds that had been buried with no nourishment for months and months began to grow. As they strengthened, they began making their way through the dirt and toward the heavens with one mission… A mission to sprout and bloom. A mission to make the world a more beautiful place just by growing and doing what it was meant to do all along.

That’s like all of us.

Just like that beautiful yellow flower, our greatest job in this world is to strengthen, grow, take in God’s light, pour over His word and make our corner of the world more beautiful. 

When we do this, God will use us to do even more.

By His hand, like that one lantana seedling, our strength, our beauty and our mission will truly begin. The mission will spread covering an entire area making it even more beautiful…touching other seeds…growing others to bloom where they are planted. 

His landscaping is just a slice of what we will see when we get to His side of heaven. 

Remember when we were younger and more afraid of the dark than the light? Somehow it gets reversed when we become adults. The dark seems safer because we are so afraid to step into the light and let others see us for who we are. We are afraid to become more. We are afraid to be the light others so desperately need us to be because it requires more work!

No! I don’t want to be that person so snug and safe in the bottom of the flower pot. 

I WANT to be broken. 

I WANT the sunlight and rain forced on me. 

I WANT to be a beacon of light. 

I WANT to be a lighthouse for personal growth.

I WANT to be what I was meant to be all along…a place of goodness…a place people can count on for warmth, light and God’s goodness. 

Lord, I am broken. My heart has been shattered. Please Father, while my heart feels opened to the mess of this world, pour your rains of grace, mercy and love into the depths of my soul where You have planted the seeds of compassion, empathy, understanding and unyielding love into my very being.

Then, Lord, shine your light into those very seeds so that I may grow and grow and grow and grow.

Use me, Lord. 

Please use me.

I no longer am comfortable leaving the dirt behind for others to clean up. I thank you for this opportunity for change and betterment to me and to my world. Please use this storm that was meant to destroy our foundation to actually quench the thirst for change. 

Use the rain to refresh all of us affected. 

May we grow like that little yellow lantana seed that finally saw the light. May we grow into something beautiful that can spread like wildfire to all of those around us. 

In your mighty name I pray.

Amen