I am, without a doubt, one of the world's worst gardeners. I am the biology major with no green thumb whatsoever, but nevertheless Paul built me a garden in our new home in the hopes that I would grow some delicious tomatoes and herbs to incorporate into my recipes and wow him in the kitchen. I am sure that as he built it he had visions of me out there every day tending it and harvesting its bounty, in all my summery glory. . .
A few years ago, the entire bounty of my garden was this.
Yep, one (really tiny) pepper.
Paul and I laughed and took this picture of it, then we chopped it up and put it in a salad to eat VERY CEREMONIOUSLY. At least it was good?!
Gardening, not my special talent. Paul finally took over the garden last year, and he does way better. I'm in the season of growing little boys right now, and nurturing the little gardens of their minds is just about the best I can do.
Truth is, I used to get very frustrated with myself for the (many) things that I couldn't do in this season of life. When I went back to teaching, newly pregnant and with an infant to care for, I expected myself to continue my same level of professional involvement: sponsoring clubs, serving on committees, designing curriculum. My passion for teaching was still so strong (and still is) that I poured it all out to my students and made my commute home from work with literally nothing left. I would change out of my heels, put Phil in his Johnny Jump Up and doze off on the floor next to him while we waited for Paul to get home from work. I would disguise my growing baby bump with control top hose and my under-eye circles with concealer, I didn't want anyone to think that I had changed. I couldn't let myself slow down, and I definitely couldn't say no for fear of letting anyone down. I still wanted to be everything to everyone. When I went on my second maternity leave, I then struggled with the loss of the trappings of my previous season. I couldn't even figure out what to wear for this new life! I had a closet full of outfits requiring dry cleaning and people who liked to wipe their nose on me! I had no idea that it was possible to feel lonely and be surrounded by people, but when I was at home a baby and a toddler I knew it to be true. And it was hard for me to slow down to tiny people speed. I was used to a pile of papers to whiz through, a lab to set up, a lunch to scarf down, and always hurrying click-clack in high heels down the hall to my mailbox or a meeting or practice. There were bells and starts and finishes and lists and rosters and structure and hierarchy and curriculum and challenges and rewards and people who spoke in complete sentences to talk to all of the time. I found myself in a new territory, where everything that I was doing promptly got undone and there were no clear starts or finishes. Even the day didn't have a finish as it blurred into the next through the hazy lens of sleep deprivation. Wash the same dishes, fold the same laundry (didn't I just put that away?), read the same board books, sing the same songs, feed the same cereal, stumble out of bed and put in the same pacifier. . .repeat. Not to mention the expectations I put on myself to work 20 hours a week from home and maintain the same level of personal hygiene, house cleanliness, culinary variety, volunteerism and social interaction that I had achieved pre-kids. Lord, I was sweating it. It was like wearing my winter coat, hat, gloves, boots, thermal underwear and wool socks. . .in May.
That's a recipe for a hot mess! I needed to shed! Maybe not some clothes, but definitely time to shed some expectations. It was time for me to accept the forecast and to stop dressing for the wrong season. To use the words of the wise Garth Algar, Motherhood: It's kind of like a new pair of underwear. At first, it's constrictive. But after awhile, it becomes a part of you. It's so hard to get that at first, because society sends the message: "Hold on to YOU! Buy the gadget and it will be easy. Read this book and it will be clear. Do the 10 things in this blog post and you will be perfect. Don't let parenthood change you. You can manage it all. Don't miss a chance to do something. Hurry up, it will pass you by!"
But, baby Noah has shown me the deeper truth. Slow down, or you will pass it by. I needed to let motherhood change me. To bless and release the things of faster times and embrace the things of now. And as I look at my Noah getting ready to turn two, I can already feel the summer days shortening. Like the song of the crickets or the crunch of the river birch leaves in the drying grass. . .little milestones like two year molars and gap-toothed grins and tucking themselves under the covers let me know that this beautiful season of tiny little boys will end before I know it. Today, as Noah and I walked hand in hand with nowhere in particular to go but wherever he wanted to toddle, I felt the warm sun and the deep joy of knowing I was right where I was supposed to be. Right at that moment. In Noah's presence, in God's presence. . .the fullness of joy.
He wants His joy for each of us, so I believe that truly, we can have it all. . .if "it all" means the things that are important to us in the deepest parts of our hearts. We can have friends, a family, meaningful work, heck, even a garden if that's our thing. Don't let anyone tell you differently. I trust our God will provide us everything we need to do our life's work if we keep our eyes on Him. And those things might look different for each of us, and look different in each season, but they will be ever-present.
This. This is our season of planting. Tending. Watering. Waiting.
The winter is over. The harvest is later.
This is the season of shedding the layers, because, y'all, we can't garden in Uggs. The season of saying "no" so we can say "yes", the season of meaning a lot to a little, the season of asking for help. To do the things we can the best we can, slow down when we can, to let go of the layers of perfection and expectation, to let Grace cover the rest.
Every season, with a purpose, under Heaven.
Let's put our toes in the warm grass together and soak it in.