On Tending My Garden

tendinggarden

In my vocation as wife and mother, God has given me three people to nurture, three little plants in to keep in my own little garden.

I keep a close eye on each one. I pick off the beetles and caterpillars. I cover them in the frost. I give each one the nutrients fit for the particular plant, watching soil acidity and drainage. Making sure that each receives the correct amount of water and sun. Under this discerning care, the plant thrives and produces its fruit.

At least that’s how my garden should be tended.

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve made an awful mess of my garden. I’ve treated my peppers the same way as my tomatoes while ignoring my pecan tree altogether, all the while tapping my toes, scowling while waiting for that fruit to drop into my crotchety crossed arms.

That is to say, I’m learning to love my family selflessly and the process takes time. Time and practice. You learn in the doing.

There are times in my marriage when my husband says something that, in some small way, by word or look or sigh, resembles a type of soft persecution. He loves me, but not always in the way that I want to be loved.

In my hurt pride I am tempted to withdraw my love and affection to weep and mourn remember to trust less next time, at least until he gives me what I think I deserve. I find I have a tremendous capacity for self pity.

But that is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.

He is not my enemy. We have a common enemy.

My duty is to love more and be patient and tend my pear tree with the same tenderness as I do my delicate sprouts.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45

Nighttime Ministry

2015-01-22 09.08.09Nighttime is the province of mothers.

Almost every night I find myself reciting some version of this same directive: “Lillian, why are you crying? It’s still nighttime, baby, let’s get back in bed.” She doesn’t usually answer my question, but I kneel on the floor beside her bed and hold her for a few minutes before leaving her with BeBe dog and a pile of less important stuffed animals.

Last night started off typically. I was in bed by 10:30, but up again at 11 to nurse the baby and 11:30 to kiss Lillian back to bed. I found myself awake again at 4 to nurse Cara, only to send her off again into restless sleep which also kept me awake. Eventually I retreated to the couch to sleep for another 30 minutes before being greeted again by Lillian’s screams and refusal to go back to bed.

As I spent the morning bleary eyed and coffee-dependent, it occurred to me that as a wife and mother the home in a general way, is my mission field. This is especially true because my husband is not a Christian. No surprise there.

But nighttime is when the Gospel really walks and talks for me.

These nighttime risings challenge me to serve the needs of someone else through my own desperation at precisely the moment which is the most inconvenient to me, and I have a choice whether to serve in joy or in bitterness. Today I tried to greet the day with charity even though it started a lot earlier than I hoped.

This is my nighttime ministry.

Water Generously & Prune When Necessary

waterRemoving Lillian’s sleeper is a challenge in patience and dexterity. She approaches every interaction as an opportunity to be tickled. Changing her clothes or changing her diaper I’m met with peals of wild laughter, and exclamations of, “tickle, tickle!” She clenches her body, knees and neck to chest and grins like a hyena. Her eyes say, “we’ll see if you can grasp that zipper!” as she wiggles and laughs. Oh, how she laughs!

This high silliness started after I had my c-section and I could not lift Lillian to the changing table. I made her lay on the floor to change her diaper. The moment the little body hit the floor this unquenchable silliness would erupt and I’d find myself frowning and exhausted. I took the whole thing as disobedience, a little girl’s plan to make my life more difficult than it needed to be. A diaper change was war, and I was a general. I was concerned with tactics and results. I spoke harshly to her. I held her body still with my leg as I dressed her. I resorted to bribery. With jelly beans.

To just be still.

But I needed to be still. I needed to look at my daughter and love her fun-loving, silly toddler self and cherish these moments of alone time with my darling. My sweetheart. I don’t want to change her spirit and laughter, I want to nurture those beautiful qualities in her personality.

I’ve started thinking about my relationship with my daughters in gardening terms. They are my little flowers and I want them to grow big, beautiful and thriving. I plan to water my plants generously love and encouragement, and occasionally prune back the branches which are heading in the wrong direction.

So now I approach diaper changes with more gentleness. Sometimes I would still rather get the thing over quickly, but I try to at least smile at her and kiss her little head when I feel impatient. I usually follow the task with an enthusiastic tickle.

I’m also trying to forget that I typically shower the real-life plants in my yard with nothing but parched neglect. Ahem.