Friday, April 8, 2011

last year, I had a garden... first. It was wonderful. And suddenly, today, it is garden-season again, the brief 6-8 weeks this climate grudgingly gives for planting. All of a sudden, overnight, the snow melts, ground gives up warm, sweet breaths, weeks hang suspended in just the right weather for getting ready.

And instead of being outside in it, I’m inside writing about it.

We don’t have a home past June. This land just. does. not. belong. to us. Nowhere in the world do we own a bit of earth. And up until today, this exact spring day, I haven’t cared much. I’ve reveled in the free-wheeling, footloose, un-tied-down-ness of not owning property. Most days I have lived happily as a borrower; today I am full of ache.

Window gardens. That’s the answer, I think. Portability. And I fill plastic cups with earth and fertilizer and plant flower seeds to germinate in the dark. But I’m not fooling myself-- I’ve no green thumb, and half of them probably won’t sprout anyway. My one house-plant geranium has bloomed one solitary flower in the year it’s lived with me. The house is dark and cool; outside is where the life is. But I don’t own this outside. Past June, a scant eight weeks away, I have no more claim to this particular bit of earth.

I stumble outside, into the blinding 3:30 sun, tell my woes to a sweet neighbor just dropped by, discuss possibilities, options, other homes we could move to, feel the ache in my throat tighten, swell into a lump. She smiles and hugs me and says we can move in with them (not the first time she’s offered), says they’d love having small kids in the house, and I kiss her cheek and thank her, the lump brimming.

She’s pruning her trees and wants to borrow our heavy-duty secateurs, wants to get some outside work done, says her husband will be happy when he gets home. I open the garage, dig through dusty gardening tools… and I ache some more. I’m suspended, like the weather, between hot and cold, between knowing and unknowing, home and no-home.

But there is my son, for want of wind, making his own way to fly a kite. Spinning around, arms outstretched, a rainbow of color… “Mommy, look!” And then, standing stock-still with glazed eyes, “Oooh… I’m spinning around!” Spinning color and living in the moment and not worrying about anything at all. No wind for my kite? I’ll find another way to fly!

And suddenly I spin too, into the kitchen to grab my herb seeds, to the bedroom for my stack of new flower pots languishing empty, to the shed again for the spade… the lock won’t open, though it just did moments before. William, beside me, still spinning colors of faith: “Mommy, Jesus will help you!” And the next second, the key turns.

Rush to change my clothes (revive the old leopard-print gardening costume from last spring!), rush out to last year’s waiting earth. I vacillate: hopeless, hopeful. I dig panicked spadefuls of earth, filling pots with fists of dirt, a handful of fertilizer, another fistful of dirt. Sprinkle tiny herb seeds. Basil, oregano. Rosemary in one pot, cilantro in another. And even as I brush a bit of dirt over, dribble water, I sink down in despair. Will they really grow? I’m so ignorant, such a novice with no green thumb. Can I really grow anything from these tiny seeds inside my house? Can I really grow anything in this heart-garden of mine?


There is the real question, the gnawing. It’s not until this moment, while typing those questions, that I realize my mistake. The question I’ve been asking is, Can I really grow anything? Am I really capable of changing myself? And the answer, of course, is: no.


I cannot grow one single thing myself. It’s impossible! I am not the Author of growth, I have no power, I am helpless. I can do nothing on my own strength. Is that why I’m feeling so hopeless? Because I’m trying to make this gift-counting magic work myself? To force growth faster than the Great Gardener intended? Have I been trying to do the impossible?

Ben toddles around looking for worms. Will involves himself with my process; I’d nearly forgotten he’s there, occupied with my own dramas. My innovative kite-flyer faithfully pushes seeds down with little fingers, spreads dirt over, sprinkles water, carefully carefully. Full of faith that the same Jesus who helped Mommy open the garage lock in seconds will of course make these seeds grow. The thought never crosses his mind that they won’t sprout green and hopeful. He picks up on my discontent though, looking up, worried, watering can in hand.

I’m robbing my son of joy in our seed-planting because I’ve got my fist tight-closed around my own joy. Can’t I keep this particular gift-- this house, this bit of earth-- a little longer, Lord? Clench. Control. Grit teeth. And my son suffers, watching me.

I carry filled pots into my house, “my” house, despairing of a sunny spot to put them, full of doom and gloom. When will I learn to just let go? Just give up and let Him take over? Why do I have to control everything all the time? I preach to myself. So what if we don’t have a house past June? We have a house today. So what if I don’t know whether I can plant a garden outside? I can plant a garden in pots. So what if I don’t understand my own soul? The One who made me does. He understands me perfectly. He is also growing me, and I can not, absolutely not, grow myself. It’s impossible.

It’s while I’m chopping chicken for dinner that it hits me. This. This is the hard eucharisteo. That hard word I’ve just learned how to say and need a lifetime to learn to live. This is my chance to give thanks. To choose to thank for even the hard gifts.

I leave the chicken sizzling in the wok and race back to the computer, catch thoughts, words flooding my mind:

I choose to say thank you... for the uncertainty itself.

Thank You for how uncertainty keeps me supple, flexible. Reminds me I’m a sojourner.

Thank You for the two years we’ve enjoyed this house, and all the - [tears brim] - precious people we’ve enjoyed here, the memories we’ve made.

Thank You for the how possibility of losing something heightens its sweetness, makes me thankful for each moment.

Thank You for William’s circular kite-flying, living out of the box, faith-filled spinning of colors.

Thank You for dirt, for seasons, for seeds, for little boys looking for worms.

Thank You for heart-dirt softening, for soul-seeds being planted, watered.

Thank You for those who’ve gone before, for Ann calling back instructions on how to live out this hard eucharisteo, this joy-offering, this love-sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Thank You for the humbling, for the realizing, for the prying open of this clenched fist of mine that destroys joy by clinging so desperately, hungering for control.

Thank You for grace, for growth.

Thank You for the grace to grow slowly, gradually, into new bloom.

This week I devoured Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. I read it too fast-- it felt like gulping down a roast beef dinner with chocolate mousse for dessert. It was delicious. So now I'm going right back to the beginning, to digest it slowly, learn how to live it. If you're interested in learning how to live out eucharisteo with Ann and I and so many others, or just interested in finding out what eucharisteo means (!), you're welcome to visit:

1 comment:

  1. Oh, sister, we are the SAME! I saved her book til we arrived over here and devoured it (at least I made myself only read a chapter a day). And then I read it again, and again, and again, and I pick it up once every 2 days or so because I need to hear it again. The hard eucharisteo...I know it's true, but I still haven't found a way to give thanks for the screaming demanding toddler! Any help?