“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~ Thomas Merton
“Betsy, you plant a garden the way you have children!”
(That was me talking to myself. Or was that God? Sometimes they are the same.)
Both are so similar – gardens and life. At least they are for me.
I never planned to have children. Barely even thought about it. But I have been gifted with nine. People always say the funniest things about that and make a lot of assumptions, too. I used to care. I wanted to be understood. But when you try to explain something that is spiritual, well, you end up with a lot of stories that aren’t really the real truth.
Planting my garden early this morning gave me new insights.
Almost a week ago, or was it two?, my oldest son brought home three flats of beautiful, mature flowers from work. It’s the end of the season and his boss gives the leftovers to whomever can use them.
At six am. this morning, battling a headache (I never get headaches and rarely get sick, so this is very distracting!), I walked outside, determined to get them planted.
There were 12 Impatiens, 24 Geraniums, and countless (I’m lazy right now. I don’t know how many) Sweet Potato vines.
I knew where the empty spaces were, so I got my shovel, spread them out, dug holes, and planted all of them, plucking weeds along the way. I got distracted a few times as I crouched half-way in the garden and on the brick walkway, straining to reach the weeds that had grown between the bricks, pulling them with everything in me. I made a big mess, but finished very quickly. I knew they’d die if they weren’t planted soon, and then I’d die of guilt because I’d been given a gift that I’d neglected to make time for. The thing is, I hadn’t asked for the plant. But there they sat, behind the fence, needing a mom.
The things (thoughts that I seriously battled!) that almost (not really) stopped me from moving forward in order to “do it right”:
- The soil isn’t really good. They might not survive the shock.
- Do these plants like sandy soil?
- Are you doing more harm than good?
- Will they survive?
- You ought to have a plan! It’ll look so much better if you design it first!
- Did you see the look on your neighbor’s face? (He left for an early morning dog-walk and scanned my work without a “Hello.” He probably didn’t hear me, as I was on my knees and out of breath.)
- Why are you even bothering to plant these when you might not have many days left to enjoy them before the frost comes?
As I finished up, everyone in the family still sleeping soundly, I looked at my hands and wondered why I hadn’t taken the time to find my gloves. I was up to my elbows and ankles ( wore flip flops) in dirt but I’d managed to keep my pants clean! That was a good thing because it’s almost time to leave for work and I don’t want to change.
I’ve been told I’m impatient. I don’t know what that means. I know what it looks like, but when I look at how I feel, the definition doesn’t match.
There was one thought that kept moving me to finish the task:
“They just want to get in the ground!”
And that’s when I got it.
So did my children! They just wanted to get here, to their life. They willingly and joyfully agreed to the imperfect conditions they’d live in.
I may have started a family while relatively young, but I had my last one, James, when I was 47. The nine of them are spread out over 21 years. No big deal to me. But it’s a big deal to those who fear age and all the things that go with it. I’m blissfully ignorant of those fears and things. I was never given a guarantee that I’d live past the end of any given day, and I live my life fully aware of that.
I was meant to be their mom, just like you were meant to be your child’s parent. We are perfectly matched.
Just like the flowers that my son brought home unexpectedly, I consider my children the most miraculous and unplanned gifts to me. I learn who they are as they grow, with no expectations except that they use every ounce of courage they can find inside of them to be true to who they are.
They were people before they got here. They’ll be people when they leave. This is just a blip in their existence, a time of forgetfulness that makes the remembering a challenge, but is necessary because of how deeply rooted they need to be to reach the source of their joy. If they follow the whispering of the Spirit and their hearts as it speaks, the world might not agree with their course, and their lives might even look messy, but they’ll feel strong and solid.
Yes, I know: gardens need to be tended. They grow weeds. They get thirsty and hungry. They can even get overcrowded, requiring some transplanting. The plants might not seem to go with the rest of the landscaping. This is especially true if yours were gifted to you like mine were.
But have you noticed how none of that matters…
…if you don’t plant them?
So that’s what I did.
I received them…
…into my garden…
…in love, and faith, and hope that who I am and what I have to offer, will not get in the way of their roots’ journey to the source of their joy.