Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does YOUR garden grow?

(WARNING: What you are about to read is long and rambling and may make no sense to anyone other than myself. Continue at your own risk...)

I sit here not even knowing what to write. My blog has been completely neglected for months (my last post was from our first day of school – we are now halfway through week 12 in our My Father’s World curriculum) but it’s not for lack of good content. On the contrary, actually. There have been so many wonderful happenings in life that it’s a little overwhelming to just pick one to write about.

But I guess that’s kind of the point… Life is good. Life is blessed. Life is beautiful. But life is FULL.

My days start before 6am, and I’m rarely asleep before 11 at night. And Sweet Pea, who will be eight months old tomorrow, is still waking up every two hours through the night. My oldest two sons are in 4th and 2nd grade and we’re doing My Father’s World’s first year of their five-year cycle – Exploring Countries and Cultures - in addition to their math, spelling, language arts (which I admit I pretty much don’t do), etc. Goose (5) and Girly Pie (3) are both what I consider preschoolers and I’m making every effort to actually do SOME preschooly stuff with them every day – some Cubbies verses for our Awana club, reading lessons for 5 year old Goose, some Rod and Staff workbooks, fun sticker books, puzzles, games and lots and lots of play dough. Bug is rounding the corner to two and I just can’t seem to squeeze all our school into his nap time anymore so he is more of an entity this year as well. He is NOT content to just sit happily at the table with a fun activity in front of him. No, he seems to think that school time is the one time of day when he wants, NEEDS Mommy’s full, undivided, direct attention. And he has no problem LOUDLY making this fact known. Of course as soon as I’m not trying to work with anyone else he’s happy to putter about quietly, contently, and independently. Did I mention he’s almost two? ;o) And darling little Sweet Pea naps through some of our morning routine but not all of it. She’s at the age where she is happy to crawl and play sometimes, hungry lots of other times, and wanting to be held and played with the rest of the time. Of course I love doing all these things with all of them - but they often overlap and I have to run triage a bit, so to speak.

And there is laundry and cooking and cleaning and and disciplining and friends to keep up with and appointments to schedule and diapers to change and sewing projects to sneak in and Christmas presents to plan and make and buy… and after all that is mostly done in a day there is of course my husband who still hopes to have a cheerful wife to come home to and enjoy each evening. And sleep is good. I like sleep. I do get some – that’s a good thing.

And the thing is - I LOVE everything I do. I am really enjoying the school stuff with my big boys this year and feel like I’ve really hit my stride for the first time as a homeschooler. I really enjoy the preschool time with my Middles. I really love having a toddler and watching him grow and learn and talk and discover. And having a baby to cuddle and love on is of course a daily joy and blessing. I love having a large family and seeing their relationships blossom and grow. I love my wonderful husband and enjoy the time I get to spend with him. Heck, I even enjoy doing laundry at this point. Crazy, but true.

And did you know I’m a Christian? Did I mention I know God? No? I didn’t mention that, did I?

You see, I do know God. I do know He is there and has handed me every single blessing and good thing in my life. And I love Him. And I am so, so, so thankful. Truly. I do give thanks in all circumstances. I see nothing in my life that I feel anything but thankful for.

But this full life of blessings is still… full. And I find less and less time to actually read the Bible. I pray constantly – all day long really. A constant connection to Him, reaching out all day long. But those long “real” prayers where you write stuff down and seek Him out and lift others up in prayer that I hear tell of – nope. Don’t do that. The kids and I read the Bible together daily for school time – but personal reading time, alone time “with God”? Nope. Don’t do that much at all. Honestly, I even get a little bummed when I hear people speak of a “close personal relationship” with Jesus. I think I know what that is, but I can’t say I have experienced it. I mean, maybe I have. I have felt close to Him. I know I love Him. I know He loves me. I can’t wait to meet Him in heaven and I hope I make Him proud. But close and personal doesn’t quite describe it. Respectful. Loving. Thankful. Honoring… but maybe even just a little bit distant. There – but not quite right HERE. Does that make sense?

I’m just being totally honest here. I’m sure it’ll get all kinds of offensive for someone, or will draw pity or contempt from others. I don’t know. But it’s the truth.

And the thing is – I’m OK with a little distant right now. Is that OK? I feel like I’m supposed to WANT close and personal, and that maybe I’m wrong for not. I wonder if I sound un-Christian to the right sort of people and when I read certain blogs or books that speak of all those things I start to get this sinking feeling that I’m doing it all wrong. That maybe the God I know and love, who loves me through thick and thin and understands when I’m busy living the life He gave me and loves me anyway is not the God that they are talking about. Maybe God is more judgmental and has a higher standard than I thought He did. I start to shrink down into my little cave and feel like I’ve not only failed all the other people out there whom I would consider my peers, but that I’ve failed Him somehow, too. Then I try to do more, shine more, look better, fill in a better Christian “resume,” you know?

And every once in a while He snaps me back to attention and turns my face back up to His and reminds me that I really, truly do not need to earn His love or His Grace. They are both free. Freely given, and His hope is that they will be freely received.

But sometimes when I spend too much time looking around at others I get it all muddled up in my brain and heart. I see the good in them and somehow turn that into an expectation upon myself to do better. Be better. Earn more of His free gifts of love and Grace.

So maybe that’s the distance piece? Maybe I take too much from the Christian culture around me and tell myself I’m distant. He’s distant.

Maybe it’s really OK that my days feel fullin a good way. Maybe it’s OK that I can’t check off the box of Bible reading and quiet prayer time every day (or week, or month, if I’m going to be perfectly honest…). Maybe I can teach and love and make a home for my family without a moment to spare every day – and feel stretched and full but happy and blessed. Maybe He knows that’s where I am today, in this season. Maybe he knows that six children nine and under, with babies 13 months apart means my arms are never empty – no matter what else might need doing.

I’ve heard people describe this stage in life as “running on autopilot.”

But maybe running on autopilot really isn’t the best way to describe it. I actually don’t quite feel like I’m on autopilot. I do feel like I’m so busy living each and every moment that I just can’t stop and ponder each and every moment the way I once could.

Maybe it’s kind of like the old “stop and smell the roses” saying. I am smelling the roses. All day long I smell roses. And daffodils. And lilies. And lilacs. I have a whole beautiful English garden full of lovely flowers to smell. And I love them all. But all I can do in this beautiful garden is walk around and smell the garden as a whole. I can’t really just smell the roses – because the lilacs are so fragrant right next to them. The perfume of the whole garden is beautiful and fills up all my senses. I can see the colors, textures and shapes, the light shining through the leaves and brightening up the colors around me even more. I can smell the fragrance. I can hear the birds chirping and the frogs croaking and the children playing. I can feel the warm sun shining on my face. All of it. Deliciously, all at once. Isn’t that what a garden is all about, after all?

But when I hear someone mention a rose I missed, or a tulip that slipped by unnoticed by me – I start to doubt if I’m doing right by enjoying the garden as a whole. As though I’m doing it wrong somehow.

But then my Gardener reminds me, when I take the time to listen to Him and block out the other garden guests around me, that He planted this garden, and He put me in this particular garden – as full as it is. And really, if He just wanted me to smell the roses, He would most likely have just planted roses for me.

But He didn’t plant just roses. And I like all the color and beauty of the wild, busy garden I’m in. I suspect He knew just what kind of garden was right for me. Those neat and tidy gardens that other people like never did appeal to me. Straight rows of bushes, everything in order, one pretty flowering plant amidst the many evergreen bushes and shrubs, and always so green and always neatly trimmed – but so… predictable. I have always been drawn to the gardens that are so full of color and life and variety that you can’t really pick out just one flower and love it best. You have no choice but to just stand there, in the middle of it, and take in the beauty of the garden as a whole. Sure, there are weeds down in there… but there are so many beautiful flowers to admire that you can’t even see the weeds hiding under them. And some things are overgrown and a bit messy even – but somehow that just adds to the beauty of it all. That has always been my kind of garden. And He knows it – which, again, is why He likely put me in this one rather than those pretty, neat and predictable gardens all around me.

To be perfectly honest there are times that I do get a little overloaded - when I'm so busy in my garden that I miss the smells and sights and sounds for a bit. I won't deny that sometimes I really do wish I could just smell roses every once in a while. After all, once upon a time my garden was small and I did smell only roses - but my roses grew and many more flowers have been planted since then. But I wouldn't give any of the beauty of it up. And I never long for the plain gardens. And I know that if I did just stop and smell the roses only, that I'd very quickly miss the colors and smells of the garden as a whole.

So that’s where I am. That’s why I haven’t written in a while. That's why I forget things and sounds distracted much of the time. I’m not sure I have much worth saying that anyone else cares to hear. But my little garden does need me and I do so love walking around in it, trimming a bit, watering a bit – but mostly just living in it and smelling all those many flowers. And somehow, it’s often hard to find the time to sit here at this computer and get all these wonderful thoughts on record in between piggy-backing nappers and growing children, but it does feel good to see it all written down in front of me.

So I am going to resolve to spend more time in the midst of my life remembering that my Gardener planted me here - and He wants me to enjoy this garden. The full, busy, wild beauty of it all. And I am going to stop comparing my messy, overgrown garden to the neat and tidy gardens that others have. And I am going to try to enjoy the beauty of this garden even more - and not feel guilt over the hidden weeds or the gangly lilacs. That is the hardest part for me... to let go of the guilt that somehow I'm missing something or doing something wrong and that enjoying it is not enough, but rather that I have to earn it. But I am going to remember that this garden was meant as a gift for me. And I am going to remember that my Gardener loves me, and I'm not going to let those neat and tidy garden dwellers make me feel like I'm doing it wrong or messing up His garden. But I also want to remember even more that my Gardener wants to enjoy it with me. SO I am just going to keep on walking through the garden and talking with Him as I do so.

And maybe in another season I'll be able to single out one flower or another to enjoy more thoroughly, or have long, uniterrupted talks with the Gardener - but I think it's OK to be doing it this way for now. I think this little garden is growing well and all of us who live in it are enjoying it immensely. And I think it's really going to be alright.

And maybe, just maybe, I can make a little more time to take notes and write down my adventures. It's been a while... but this was surprisingly fun and theraputic. ;o)