a little and a lot

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

In honor of the EIGHTH anniversary of this blog, I am resolving to pick it back up and dust it off.  For real.

On one hand, I find it impossible to believe that there are nearly a decade of posts on this site.  My blog is mere days away from being a gangly, sweaty/stinky, front-teeth-missing, carefree eight-year-old!  How did she get so old??!  

On the other hand, I just went back and read my first two posts from May of 2005 in which I sound like a b.a.b.y.  Ahhh, the perspective of passage of time. 

Speaking of the passage of time, I have a tough time blogging about it lately because it seems to be happening at warp speed at my house.  Somehow I was sitting at Rhet's 3rd birthday dinner (which seems like yesterday, but was actually a couple of months ago in February) and burst into tears watching her birthday video with the realization that she is...GROWING UP!  In theory, I have no problem with Rhet growing up...I resist the "stay little" mantra of pop-motherhood...I want to cherish my child in all seasons of her life, and I want to look forward to the new joys of the next stage.  But...

But...these people are not messing with us when they say the time flies by.  They are not exaggerating by any means when they say "the days are long, but the years are short."  Boy, does it, and man oh man, are they.  

Rhet came home on the day she turned 17 months old.  It wasn't even two years ago, and somehow she's already 3, and I've been catapulted into the world of preschool registration and swimming lessons and "whywhywhywhywhy" slash "Rhet do that Rhet-self!"  The rapid change that occurs between 1.5 & 3 years old is breathtaking.  Literally.  

So that's what I've been doing...trying to catch my breath after finally packing away the tiny 18-24 month-sized dresses and bloomers and coaxing myself into deciding whether or not Rhet will do preschool/PDO next year.  

I'm trying to give myself grace with the whole parenting-learning-cuve, but preschool world requires a whole new skill set than was required of me in toddlerhood.  Planning things 6-9 months in advance.  Extracurricular options.  Some translation skills still required, but beyond that, knowledge regarding the answers to any number of "why" questions from personal to extraneous in subject.  The struggle of child with parent (me!) for autonomy and independence: this main theme running through my college major (Human Development & Family Studies) has officially happened to ME.  I don't know why, but I did not prepare for this new stage.  It snuck up on me.  I read a couple shelves of books on adoption, attachment, transracial adoption, international adoption, "What to Expect the First Year," "What to Expect the Toddler Years," but now?  Now I am scrambling like that HDFS college kid pulling an all-nighter, only it doesn't go down on paper anymore--it goes down in real life!

When Rhet was 1 and then 2, she was developmentally catching up.  She was a happy kid.  And I was a happy parent.  I was happy to let her explore and try things on her own.  For awhile, she was still so much like a baby to me--because she was "newborn" into my family, I guess.  Toddlerhood clung to her for awhile.  But it was like someone flipped the Preschooler switch about 6 months ago, and for some reason, I am morphing into control freak parent.  The stakes are higher, and she is aware of her behavior, and she is pushing, pushing, pushing.  Something about that just makes me pull, pull, pull back.  It's like a law of motherhood gravity.

I'm reading a really good book this week: Tim Keller's "Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work."  I wasn't sure if I'd connect with this book because my "work" is unpaid, untimed...essentially unmeasured.  I've been (naively) surprised how much I identify with the struggle of being a stay-at-home mom--I told Nick the first year that I felt like a huge cliche.  I am careful in the words I choose when discussing work with Rhet.  ("Daddy goes to work at his office.  Mommy works at home." Or, "Daddy's job is to help people at the hospital.  Mommy's job is to take care of you.")  I feel justifiably (though predictably) defensive of my right to call what I do "work."  

Luckily, Tim Keller calls my stay-at-home parenting work, and he writes that God acknowledges it as my work, too.  

I'm only about a third of the way in, but I've been struck in the first portion of the book of the mention of "work as cultivation."  Keller writes, 
"If we are to be God's image-bearers with regard to creation, then we will carry on his pattern of work.  His world is not hostile, so that it needs to be beaten down like an enemy.  Rather, its potential is undeveloped, so it needs to be cultivated like a garden... We are to be gardeners who take an active stance toward their charge.  They do not leave the land as it is.  They rearrange it in order to make it most fruitful, to draw the potentialities for growth and development out of the soil.  They dig up the ground and rearrange it with a goal in mind: to rearrange the raw material of the garden so that it produces food, flowers, and beauty.  And that is the pattern for all work... It is rearranging the raw material of God's creation in such a way that it helps the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish."
This blessed me.  It was just what I needed to hear this week in the push, push, push, pull, pull, pull rhythm we've fallen into in my house.  I have this desire to tap into my former (perceived) Zen toddlerhood mommyness that seemed so much more joy-filled and patient.  This is how:

I am a gardener.  I am not a sculpter.  (GOD is a sculpter.  But I am not God, and that is a different analogy.)  I am not pushing around a piece of clay, reshaping it into what I want it to be...master of the finished product.  No, I am a gardener in God's garden with God's seed.  There are many elements out of my control.  If I TRY to control them, I will only frustrate myself.  My job as the gardener is to make sure my seedling is planted in good soil.  I can weed around her.  I can add more water if needed, or move her to a sunnier spot.  I can provide for her needs, but I can not make her grow.  I can not determine what kind of plant she is.  I can not control her.  My job is to help her "thrive and flourish."  I think I can attempt that.  And I'm pretty sure it won't be accomplished by pull, pull, pulling...

There is a song by Christy Nockels (2nd shoutout this year--thanks for the good music, Christy!) that was in Rhet's annual birthday video this year, and it was what was playing when I burst into tears at her party...
Sometimes it's hard to grow when everybody's watching
To have your heart pruned by the One who knows best
Although I'm bare and cold, I know my season's coming
And I will spring up in...in this faithfulness 
With my roots deep in you
I will grow the branch that bears the fruit
And though I'm small I still will be standing in the storm
Cause I am planted by the river
By your streams of living water
And I'll grow up strong and beautiful...all for your splendor, Lord
Nockel's song is taken from some favorite verses of mine--one in Psalm 1 that talks about a blessed person meditating on God's law being like a "tree that is planted by streams of water."  The other verse (below) is framed on our living room mantel.  After taking Rhet to Auburn for the last rolling of the Toomer's oaks a couple weeks ago (they were removed three days later due to being poisoned at the roots by an uncharacteristically mean rival fan), these verses have taken on new meaning.  What a sacred role I have, cultivating the soil of young roots...
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
A planting of the Lord
for the display of His splendor.
{Isaiah 61:3}


Kristy said...

Love this post--all of it--but especially the gardening metaphor. And some of your specific word choices. :)

I have the hardest time giving up control, but I am learning--sometimes the hard way (being Addison's teacher this year)--that I simply cannot control my children or their wills. I am going to think and pray on this gardening thing a lot.

Adopting Rhet: Click on the timeline above to read more