Last weekend, my mother-in-law came to visit, her car packed with luggage and her father’s old tools. She and my husband spent the weekend building a loft for my daughter, four generations intersecting on sawhorses in our driveway. Over the course of three days, hubby and his momma measured and cut, sanded and painted, drilled and assembled. When they were finished, we had a beautiful loft, painted blue to match the sky on the rainbow wall in my daughter’s room. There’s a butter-yellow platform with stairs that go halfway up, wide enough for a reading nook in the back, high enough to hide below. It’s amazing.
The bed is everything we want for our children. We’ve built something sturdy and beautiful, strong enough to support their wild moments, soft enough to catch them if they rise too high and bump their heads. It’s a safe place for the quiet, vulnerable moments, for reading and resting and dreaming. We try to parent like this, with great thought and labor. We seek plans, lay foundations in measured care, choose values that will hold firm as they grow, that will catch them softly when they fail and fall. We don’t parent perfectly, but we parent intentionally.
We are not nearly as intentional about our yard. Sometimes, when the weeds get too high next to our garage, I think I should just stick a scarecrow in the ground and call it our weed garden. When I start talking scarecrows, my husband knows it is time to pull out the weed wacker. This year, though, we’ve become accidental gardeners. First, one of my daughter’s teachers gave her a pack of flower seeds, which we planted in finger-dug holes in the front yard. Next, our neighbor offered us her gardening extras – two tomato plants and a pepper plant. (We accepted, largely due to my daughter’s recent hypothesis that green beans come from frog legs. Apparently we are in need of agricultural education.) We dug up the weeds from a sad flower bed in our backyard and planted them, along with some chives that another friend offered. We threw down a bag of mulch we found in a corner of our garage. For the next few weeks we watered our gardens, the flowers in the front, the vegetables in the back.
Then, I got pregnant. In the stomach-churning first trimester, it felt like we pushed the pause button on our lives – on play dates and museum trips and neighborhood walks. On grocery shopping, whenever I could avoid it. We were just getting by, and gardening was easily abandoned. And still, as the weeks went on, blossoms formed on our vegetable plants. Tomatoes started growing on the vines. The cutest little green peppers soon joined them. And, in our front yard, the flowers have popped up, blooming in brilliant colors on tall, leafy stems.
I believe our kids benefit from our measured parenting. I think God blesses the work parents do, the hard labor, the long, seemingly endless battles. Even at our best, though, we are limited. I’ve seen much grace in our lives in the last couple months, in my plants and my kids. The God who dresses the lilies of the field and the zinnias in my yard doesn’t stop when I’m exhausted and sick. In my just-getting-by days, in the times when intention fails, when my measurements fall short, he’s there. God is at work in the dark and overlooked places, breathing life into forgotten seeds, calling them forth to bloom.