Harvest Comes at the End of the Season

Even though we’re back in school and everyone is looking forward to all things autumn and pumkiny, our garden is still in the height of harvest season. We planted our veggies at the end of May and spent most of the summer watering and watching our plants grow. We have volunteer spaghetti squash from last year (or from the compost – who knows?) and we have an abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes. Our squash had an ok year and our green peppers were the best we’ve ever seen.

chad-stembridge-96380-unsplash
Photo by Chad Stembridge on Unsplash

I always get antsy for our harvest in mid-July. The plants are big and leafy but we get very few vegetables. Maybe a zucchini or yellow squash, but nothing impressive. Not yet. I always have to remind myself that the harvest really happens in August and into September. In fact, by the end of September, many tomatoes wither on the vine because we’re already moving on to more wintery recipes. (I know this makes us terrible farmers but it’s true every year.)

We’re three full weeks into our second year at our walkable neighborhood school. First graders still need a parent to pick them up and, even though this sometimes conflicts with Elle’s afternoon rest, I don’t mind carrying a sleepy preschooler to pick up her sister each day. These twice-daily treks to school have become a ritual of community that I would miss if we drove or if Bea rode the bus.

The faculty knows us and always say hello. We greet parents who are new friends and wave and connect with those we knew from last year. We walk home with a group of latch-key kids I’m getting to know better and yesterday I sent a note home with one of those girls, asking her mom to text about a play date.

Women from my Family Literacy group who have moved up due to language gains stop me, saying they wish they were in the beginner class so we could still see each other. Bea’s best friend’s mom joined Family Literacy and we got together last Saturday for henna.

IMG_0605If last year was for starting small roots in new soil, this year is seeing the shoots come up from our work. I don’t think we’re even into the leafy stage yet but I’m starting to see the results of our seeds. Last year, I was so excited about our new school and all we experienced that first year. Our kindergarten teacher was incredible! I made friends through Family Literacy! It was feeling like home.

And just shy of a month in, I’m amazed at how much deeper these relationships are growing. Even our new friendships feel deeper somehow, knowing we’ve been here a year and we’re committed for the next seven or so years as our girls progress.

Someone recently said that the word season is an overused term, especially in Christian culture, but as I watch our garden flourish, even when I’m ready to wind down and move into a cozier place, I can’t think of a more apt comparison.

We have planted seeds and are watching them poke out of the soil. I’m remembering that planting takes time, that vegetables don’t ripen until the very end of summer, and that our bounty gets us ready for a new season entirely.

I’m remembering, as we transition and make space with one foot in this new community and one still firmly in our preschool community, that I most likely won’t see the actual fruits of the intentional relationships we’re making for quite some time. Friendships take time and cultivation and community doesn’t happen quickly – no matter how I wish it would.

I’m learning to enjoy this space. To look at my plants with pride and anticipation of the fruits they will bear. I know not to rush things but to walk gently through the process.

What overused metaphor do you love for your life? Are you a gardener? How do you handle waiting for your harvest? 

Finding Hope in the Messiness

Advent either started yesterday or last Sunday, depending on how you observe the season. Regardless, we’ve gotten off to a semi-rocky start. We’ve had a dinner-long meltdown during our candlelit meal because I wouldn’t turn off all the lights; I forgot to print out the Jesse Tree ornaments that go along with Unwrapping the Greatest Gift; and our first piece of candy for the calendar was dug out of the depths of our leftover Halloween candy treat basket.

My friend Debby said it best in her post about being Out of Sync with Advent:

When I thought about how out of sync we’d be with the Christian world I realized that Jesus intentionally lived his life out of sync with the world. He came to turn things upside down a bit. To remind us that he is the way to true life, not money or status.

img_2389This point of view has helped me as we start out this week of Hopeful waiting. And perhaps it’s why we begin with the hope candle. Hope itself is so expansive, so messy and sometimes rocky.

Hope can embody a deep anticipation but it can also be a bit out of sync. I often use the phrase, I hope so not to mean eager waiting but to hedge any expectation, in case things don’t work out. I use hope to water down excitement; to guard against disappointment.

This season has been one of reframing hope. I find myself using the word when talking about politics, about current events. I hope things work out; I hope it’s not as bad as it seems; I hope it’s better than I expect.

But what kind of hope is that? What I need to do is frame hope in the sense of complete trust. We are waiting in darkness, eager for the light and hope to emerge with Christmas. I put my trust in that hope; I put my trust in the small child who promises peace to our world.

My hope for this Advent season is that we take the time to recognize and sit with the rockiness that is life. Jesus didn’t come to give us an easy life or a beautiful Christmas memory. He came to turn this world upside down; to stir up the status quo; to cast out fear. Perhaps that’s not what we see in the small baby in the manger but it’s what is to come. I find that messy, a bit scary, but ultimately so very hopeful.

How has your Advent started? How do you find hope in the midst of real life messiness?

Taking Time to Nest

Well, we are officially overdue. Bea was nine days late, so apparently we make babies who are content to bake as long as possible. Philosophically, I’m all about letting babies decide on their own when to enter the world. Emotionally, during a hot week at the end of July? I cannot wait to not be pregnant. (And, of course, to meet this new member of our family!)

Since there’s no baby, I thought I’d continue blogging. After a false alarm hospital visit, where I had a brief quandary over whether or not our little girl counts as a “living child,” I thought about writing a post on the importance of language in light of the Planned Parenthood controversy, but that seemed beyond my mental capabilities at the moment.

Exploring the Botanic Gardens
Exploring the Botanic Gardens

Then, I thought about writing about our recent six year anniversary. We spent the day changing a dead car battery, making scones, and having a family adventure at the Botanic Gardens. It was not a fancy day, and perhaps didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary, but it was a good reflection of our life now and this quiet, nesting phase that we’re in. The reality right now is that I don’t have much energy to write posts that make connections to life and greater ideas.

So, I thought I’d write a little slice of life of where we’re at in this moment. Frank took the week off in the hopes of spending a week with our new baby. While it didn’t happen as planned, it’s been a perfect week of connecting as a family and relaxing at home – no projects or home improvements, just walks to the park and the store and special treats. I think it was a necessary week of connection before our lives change with this new baby.

A week filled with special treats.
A week filled with special treats.

I also needed a week of full-time two parent attention for Bea. Because we’ve been anxious and there have been a couple false alarms, we’ve been on edge and so she’s been on edge. Emotions have been running especially high and I am so thankful Frank was able to be here to carry some of the weight with breakfast dates, snuggle and swim time, and the novelty of having him home all day long. My parents stepped in, as well, giving Frank and I time to walk, to nap, to take a break from our sweet but high strung daughter.

Especially with an overdue baby, this period of nesting has dragged a bit and taken on different incarnations. From the traditional painting the room and arranging furniture at the beginning of the month to chores and baking and tying up loose ends in the middle to this time of waiting. Our nesting now has looked like reading books and having leisurely breakfasts on the patio. It’s looked like spending time together in ways that will be difficult in the coming weeks.

It’s a reminder that, no matter how prepared I am, sometimes preparation looks less like doing and more like being. Like listening to the needs of myself, of my three year old, even of our dog and recognizing we are all waiting and we all need to process in our own way.

What does your life look like at this moment?

Waiting in Anticipation

A few months ago, we were at Costco. Usually I avoid this chore like the plague – it’s crowded, I’m not a fan of grazing the samples, and I always leave wondering about the state of humanity. Bea counts Costco as one of her top “date” places with Frank, just after Menchie’s. I think she knows how much I dislike it because she always uninvites me when Frank wants to plan a family shopping date. (Frank’s hope springs eternal in thinking I’ll one day enjoy this time…)

Bea's reaction to finding out I was tagging along.
Bea’s reaction to finding out I was tagging along.
On this particular Saturday, I was by the deli, waiting for Frank and Bea to do one more snack lap before we moved onto the next section. It was raining that day and my non-maternity coat was stretched over my big-but-not-enormous-yet baby bump. A woman came up behind me and declared, “Seven fourteen!”

Excuse me? “Seven fourteen! I’m never wrong,” she said, eyeing my bump. Ah! July fourteenth! She was estimating my due date. I laughed and said something about it being earlier than the doctor’s prediction, so I’d take it.

Her words burrowed into my mind, and as July 14 approached, I began longing for a Bastille Day baby. I organized nesting and last minute chores around the fourteenth, wondering if she really was never wrong. When contractions started a few days before, I thought, Maybe this is it!

Well. The fourteenth passed and the contractions died down and our baby is still baking. Which is a good thing – the longer she’s in there, the better. But, the experience got me thinking about waiting.

Normally, there seem to be two types of waiting: One with an actual date or deadline and a more nebulous, idea-filled waiting. The first one is easy waiting – we wait for birthdays, for start or end dates, for events. Once the date approaches or passes, our waiting is finished.

The second type is more difficult – waiting for something in general or a dream. We’re waiting for the day when work settles down, when we can travel again without a thousand items to pack, when our kids are more independent and I’ll have time to pursue ideas that are impractical at this stage. All these dreams will most likely happen – in some incarnation or another – but I have no idea what sort of timeline is involved. I keep them on the back burner, simmering away but not worried about them at the moment.

The last weeks of pregnancy don’t fit into either category. Yes, we have a date and I can’t be pregnant forever, but really, we wait for this independent little girl. It’s all up to her and her own timeline. Nothing we can do will make this happen faster or on an exact date. It’s a lesson in letting go, in being ready without obsessing, and in living in this moment.

It reminds me of that verse in Romans:

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Romans 8:22-23, NLT)

I’m no theologian, but I always thought Paul was talking about active labor – that hard, difficult push but the end is in sight. Now, I wonder if he’s really talking about this pre-labor waiting – this time of anticipation, of knowing the end is near, but having no idea when or how it’s going to look. We prepare, but there’s really only so much we can do.

I think about the groaning of injustice, both worldwide and right here at home. I think about how impatient I get that things aren’t moving fast enough. This experience reminds me that all I can do is prepare and ready myself while simultaneously letting go of all control.

I believe in the restoration of this earth – that we are part of bringing the Kingdom to earth. I can easily get overwhelmed and wonder what my part in all this really is. And, I remember – just as I need to remember while waiting on this baby – that my part is to be ready, to be open, to be an active participant, but to know that it is out of my hands.

What are your views on waiting? How do you actively let go of control?

Ready

We woke up to the heat going on today. The high is going to be something in the mid-50’s, which seems too cold for September 12. This is just a snap – next week will be pleasant again. I love autumn and the coziness of winter, but am not quite ready to put away the water table and sandals.

Too cold!
Too cold!

Last night I wrapped our tomato plants with sheets, preparing for the worst forecast of snow, though we woke up to drizzle. It made me think about other areas of my life right now. I may not be ready to make certain decisions, to let go of ideas or hopes, to move on just yet, but it’s important to be ready, to prepare myself for the inevitable.

Wrapped tomatoes
Wrapped tomatoes

On the flipside, I am very ready for some things to start happening, to move to the next stage of a journey, to start new routines. I need to prepare for those, too. Now, it’s by waiting and resting in the moment. Sometimes it’s a more active waiting, but often it feels too passive. I’m trying to embrace the stage of waiting so that, when the times comes to get going, I’m ready.

As a natural planner, this small season has been a good challenge for me: The tension of being prepared, being ready, and letting things happen naturally in their own time.

Are you a planner? How do you prepare?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Nothing

“When you are waiting you are not doing nothing. You’re doing something. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.”

Sue Monk Kidd

When I first read this quote, in my early-twenties, I thought about waiting and how intentional I had to be to allow my “soul to grow up.” Now, more of a grownup in my early-thirties, I read this quote with much more excitement and anticipation.

In the midst of being a grownup, I still struggle with waiting and being content in waiting. But, I also have enough hindsight to be amazed with what a gift waiting can be. When I allow myself to wait, I see experiences, relationships, and opportunities arise that I would have never imagined. When I allow myself to wait, I am able to see the process and appreciate the time it takes for those unexpected gifts. When I allow myself to wait, I realize that things happen I never would have risked or dreamed of on my own.

Whenever I feel discontentment, discouragement, or fear of the unknown creep in, I need to remember to intentionally wait and be present in this moment of waiting.

Are you waiting for something?

Linked with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Preparation

My friend, Alexandra Kuykendall is doing a series on Advent reflections. I am honored to offer some thoughts on today’s reading:

At our house, we are preparing for Christmas. The outside lights are up (though not yet plugged in); tinsel and dollar-store ornaments decorate our two baby blue spruce in front. Our tree this year looks a bit different – ornaments hang from the top third, out of the reach of small, curious hands. In some ways, only decorating the top part of the tree is perfect. When we first got married, we decided to buy a souvenir ornament from each of our travels. We have the Liberty Bell, a thistle-snowflake representing the West Highland Way, a moose from Yellowstone, the Golden Gate Bridge, a carved nut from Botswana. Because we aren’t covering the entire tree, these ornaments are enough. Little did we realize that we had been preparing for this day…..    Read the rest over at Alex’s.