Saturday, June 29, 2013

Growth - Caring for the Whole Over a Long Haul

In the days that follow I wake up before dawn, eager for the Sun to come up so I can go and check up on my babies.  Some days I sneak out with a flashlight while it is still dark. I am afraid I will miss out on something very important... their first smile, first step, first word... first date.

The changes unfolding before my very eyes are astounding.

How is it possible that inside the tiny seed there was contained this huge growing, changing plant that bears no resemblance to the seed from which it sprung?

I feel blissfully out of my league, out of control and it's a good place to be.

Each day as the Gardener and I stand there with the gentle trickle coming out of the hose, I am rewarded anew. The Gardener assures me that that there is a lot more going on in the unseen world of the plant - the secret life of the roots buried deep in the ground, hidden from my sight, the mysterious interaction between water, air, soil and sunlight. But what I get to see makes me appreciate each stage of growth in its own merit. I remember how I used to care only about the production of fruit, and a different kind of sadness encompasses my heart.  I realize now I was not caring for the entire plant but only what it can produce for me. The revelation makes me quite disgusted with myself and I wonder if I might be doing the same thing in any other area of my life.

When I see the first pair of nursery-yellow flowers on the tomatoes, it's a time for a party. We string balloons along the fence, on the trees and bushes and invite all our neighbors to celebrate with us.  Most of them are not quite sure what the party is all about, but they all love parties, and so they come.

The Gardener has friends who run a catering business.  When they bring the food, it's an art festival for all the senses. It looks so good that nobody wants to be the first to dig in. I do the honors, my hunger urging me on, and without too much encouragement the guests follow the suit. Everyone seems to have great time.  I look at the Gardener and even though this may be my house and my back yard, it is clear to me that he is the real host.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Alignment of the Heart

I developed this pain in my hip several weeks... actually more like months ago.   It was negligible at first.  So I did what every tough Eastern European woman does when she experiences pain.  I ignore it.  It push through the pain until I am able to rest and then the rest takes the pain away.  But, every day, the pain is getting worse, the time of me feeling it decreasing even as the intensity increased. 

But, I keep clenching my teeth.

Pushing through pain.

Being tough. 

Naturally, I favor that side and overcompensate, putting extra pressure on my other hip. Until that side starts hurting - real bad. Yet, I still don't stop.  Then, I hobble through a 5K race, every step a torture, and cross the finish line practically a cripple. Don't even ask why.

The next day I can't get out of bed.  I visualize myself paralyzed, with double hip-replacement surgery bill in my hands.  I think I see heart-attack in my future. My husband makes a couple of phone calls and the next thing I know I am seeing a chiropractor. With one look, he assess the situation.

Your back is out of alignment. 

My back?  It's my hip.  That's how it all started. My back pain came only after the race.

Well, actually, it's your back. 

He makes me lie down and with a tug and a push, and another tug and a snap, Ouch! he sends me home, 

There, as good as new.

I walk out on wobbly legs, expecting the familiar pain. 


I gently swing my hips from side to side. No pain.  

I hop, first on one leg, and then the other. Buoyed by apparent success, I dance Thriller on the sidewalk in front of his office. Not even a trace of excruciating pain that has been my shadow for something like forever. 

I want to run back and hug the chiropractor and call him a miracle-worker.

On the way home, I can't stop wondering how is it possible that all that pain, searing pain in my hips and my limbs, the headache and the sleepless nights, had this one source - the out-of-alignment back?

And a question crosses my mind if it could be possible that some other pains, the searing relational pains, the heartbreaks, the bone-marrow exhaustion, the drive and the drain, the busyness and the emptiness that plague our age,  perhaps all have the same  seemingly unrelated source - an unaligned mind and heart? But we keep pushing and pushing, thinking that the location of the pain is the problem, while, all along, the source is not in the location but in the out-of-alignment heart.

Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:41-42

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Growth - Not A Solitary Journey

I don't know what to do with this new turn development.  I am overwhelmed with joy and fear at the same time.

What if I kill them?  

What if I drown them?

What if I murder them with too much fertilizer?

My own past inadequacies come back to haunt me, gnawing at the fresh happiness I feel. I turn to the Gardener

I don't think I can do this.  I am afraid I'll do something and they'll end up in the same place where all my past garden experiments ended - dead in the compost pile!

I will be with you... you will learn the times and the seasons and the right measure...  You'll know what they need and when...and you will have rest...

But that's what's so baffling, I just don't understand it. It's rocket science to me. All hard fruitless work and no rest. I tried to read the books, but it's all like gibberish to me. I can't sort what's important and what's not. Then I get discouraged and give up. Throw in the towel and let them die. That pretty much sums up my sad gardening story with predictable ending. But now, I look at them, and I hate... I hate the thought that I could hurt my little babies...

I glance at the cucumbers and squash affectionately. I feel like I want to squeeze and kiss their chubby little green cheeks. They nod affectionately back at me and my heart is awash in tenderness.

But now you have your own personal Gardener to help you... and I am seeing something new sprouting in you that hasn't been there before...

His calm confidence is a powerful antidote to my fears. I am not alone.  I don't need to figure it out by myself.  I am not sure I understand what bean sprouts inside me he is talking about, but that doesn't concern me at the moment.  Somehow, I know that I'll know what I need to know when I need to know it. And the thought brings something akin to peace and rest I've never experienced before.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Great Reversal

I grab the hose out of his hand and face the vegetable plot.  What meets my eye there… well, it’s quite indescribable.

You see, in my garden, I am well accustomed to going from life to death… and more death. For years I have been perfecting the art of killing and destroying everything living within our property lines and beyond. I’ve killed by watering, I’ve killed by mowing, I’ve killed by fertilizing, I’ve killed by trying to care so hard that I stopped caring altogether. The Death Valley sprawled around our house in ever-increasing cycles of death by neglect. 

Then, there was that desperate prayer asking God to do what only He can do, namely, the impossible,

Oh God, You who created the world out of nothing, You who raise the dead, make me, even me, a gardener!

and this guy in a white truck landed on our driveway from Outer Space, and offered me this incredible deal… and a series of bizarre incidents begun to unroll in my life.

But today, something unbelievable, if I dare say, miraculous, unfolds before my eyes.  For in the small vegetable plot, where not long ago we had a burial ceremony for a bunch of cucumber, squash, cilantro and basil seeds, I am greeted with even rows of tender baby-gecko green. 

Suddenly I am at a loss as to whether I should laugh or cry.  For all my life, I've watched life killed, mutilated and destroyed. But, in this moment, with my own eyes, I can see life - vibrant green life - springing out of death. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Resting Boot Camp

Of course, as always, I have my own idea about the best approach to reaching the optimum rest in the most time/money cost effective way.

Installing an automatic sprinkling system, for example.  I can rest while the sprinkling system does all the time-consuming watering work. If I could get an app for that, my life would be perfect. I wouldn't need to stand, holding the hose, day in, day out, picking lint out of my navel. But, last time I tried to lobby for that, it didn't go too well.

The Gardener doesn't budge.  The old garden hose is a non-negotiable.

Non-negotiable????We live in the age of technology, for Pete's sake!  I protest. What's so special about the ancient, beat-up garden hose? Why can't I use the automatic sprinkling system?!!! I tend to pick my favorite fights.

For the same reason we are not going to Home Depot, he answers calmly.

I am glad you brought it up yourself.  I knew there was something else he was doing - or not doing - that was driving me crazy.  I need to understand what is so morally reprehensible about going to Home Depot?

I didn't say anything about 'morally reprehensible'... . This is just not the right time... for you. 

So, I am the problem! I am shocked how quickly our tiff escalated into an all-out war, at least from my perspective.

He chooses not to answer my implicit Declaration of War and hands me the hose.

Your garden is waiting. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Hard Work of Resting

I am not a waiter, sir. I am a DOER!

I know that… that’s why I am here… to give you rest….

Rest?!!! I humph, now seriously wondering which planet did He come from.  Last time I rested was when I broke my leg in fifth grade…

If that’s what it takes… I detect mischief in his voice and take one step back. He laughs, picking up on my precautionary motion.

I am not going to do it unless absolutely necessary.

I look at him unsure whether he is serious or just messing with me.

I've never met anybody so dead serious about this resting business.

Yep, I learned that from my dad. It’s a very high value to him.

So, what’s so important about being a couch potato?

He again shakes his head in that now familiar even-though-she-gives-every-evidence-about-being-a-hopeless-case-I-know-she-is-not way.

It’s not about being a couch potato, or a slug, or a lazy bum, or whatever else you might label it… Rest is so much more than absence of activity, especially physical activity. You can sit on your bottom all day long and still have no rest in your mind and no rest for your soul…

O, I know exactly what you mean!

The rest... the rest I am talking about…he continues softly,  it fills your mind, and washes over your heart and soul... and refreshes your body.

Oh, sir – I WANT that rest!

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Friday, June 21, 2013

Abs of Steel - When a Coincidence Becomes a Providence

I would much rather learn what’s God’s favorite flavor of ice-cream, or His favorite movie, or book… wait, I think I already know the answer to the last question!  But His favorite way of...  suffering?!!! This cuts deep – deeper even than our most profound sense of justice and rightness, fairness and equity.  In fact, it seems to go right smack against it. And that’s why it hurts so much, why it kills to suffer unjustly and do nothing about it, and watch God do nothing about it. It seems to tolerate, condone, even encourage and perpetuate the very injustice, the wrong everything inside us revolts against.

But, there is that little phrase… if for the sake of conscience toward God… This is not between the wrong or the wrongdoer and me.  This is between me – my conscience – and God.  Do I trust God be God, let God be God or do I decide He needs my help, take things into my own hands and execute justice according to my insufficient at best, crooked at worst measuring rod. 

If I choose to respond rather than react, fueled not by my justice-instinct but by Jesus Christ Himself and His Living Word… if I surrender to His good, and acceptable and perfect will – and embrace patience over impatience, endurance over quitting… something awesome might come out of something awful, and I may even get the loggia seat on it.

So I begin wonder if this freak toll-booth malfunction could be, instead of a sheer coincidence, a hiccup on the Sunpass flawless toll-collection system, in fact a carefully choreographed opportunity which I can choose to take or ignore, embrace or rationalize away. An opportunity to listen and obey the Voice.  An invitation to a celestial gym to work out my flabby faith muscles into solid abs of steel of patient endurance…

And what if this word about favored suffering is only a seed… a tiny seed which, if received and nurtured, loved and cared for, would one day produce an abundant harvest of love instead of hate, grace and mercy instead of retribution, forgiveness instead of retaliation, humility rather than pride…joy instead of ...suffering? 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From Awful to Awe-full in 6 seconds

According to the sign, Mom, the toll violation penalty is $100.  

By now I am on the verge of tears. 

This is just plain wrong, so not fair... sooo.... Before I am finished, I hear it crystal clear inside my head. 

…This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly



finds favor...  

with God...

if ...

for the sake of conscience toward God... 

a person bears up under sorrows... 

when suffering ... 

I know. I heard it.  It’s the stuff from the Pete’s Feed Store.  I write about stuff like that all the time. It doesn't apply.  Not in this situation. It’s the toll we are talking about. What he really meant when he said that… I can argue and rationalize with the best...

…This finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly

The steady, quiet persistence is getting to be unnerving.

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 

I take a deep breath, realizing now I am arguing with the better than the best.

And I have a choice to make. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Happy Father's Day from Sunpass - Part Two

Curiously enough, in that very moment every thankful thought – that we’d found the parking space – free of charge, that our car didn’t get impounded, and we didn’t get a ticket; that we were not eaten by the sharks, or stung by jellyfish, or pooped on by the fleet of the overfed seagulls; that we neither drowned nor were we sun-burnt -  every single thankful, grateful thought was instantly obliterated from my mind.  And in the blank space left, all I was seeing was the damn red light with it’s immutable message:

Pay Tolls!

I already paid the stupid %4#?@ toll!  I slam the door open and step outside. Something must have gotten stuck inside the cone. I grab it and shake it violently, and notice a million dollars worth of dimes, nickels, quarters and some foreign money that never made it inside the bucket.  I remember the shovel in our trunk and start scooping the coins into the collection cone.

There! Now you have it.  Satisfied?

I stomp back into the car, ready to go, for now I know that the beast must be happy since it swallowed enough money to instantly solve both European debt and American budget deficit crisis.

The red light remains on.

Mom, let’s just go.  We can hire a lawyer and we will be your witnesses that you indeed have paid tolls.

Yep, that’s what I am going to do.  I am going to hire lawyer to get my two quarters, a million dollars I've just shoveled in and all my crucified nerves back.

I finally decide to blaze through the red light, thinking everything is just a joke.  The toll-booth is broken, the red light is broken, and there, in the bushes, crouches a Hidden Camera guy laughing uproariously, ready to pull me over pretending to be a cop.
With the corner of my eye, as I pass the light, it blinks black and a new message appears.

No Sunpass.

A deep guttural roar escapes my throat. 

I can imagine the face of my husband getting a Happy Father's Day card from Sunpass.  Just what he is looking forward to coming home jet-lagged from an overseas trip.

Suddenly I wish I was pooped on by a fleet of overstuffed seagulls. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Awfulize the Father's Day Celebration - Part One

We decided to celebrate Father’s Day at the beach. Along with 1.6 million of other beach lovers. By the time we finally arrived, not only were all the free parking spots taken, but also all the metered ones.  We drove around for a while, eventually making it back to always dependable Ron Jon’s where we know we can park when everything else fails.

‘2 hour parking for paying customers only’ and ‘absolutely no beach goer parking’ signs greeted us at the entrance of the garage. I’ve never seen ‘no beach goer parking’ at Ron Jon’s before! It must be their Father's Day special. 

We eventually found a spot about 500 km inland, opted to leave the cooler, the shovel, the chairs and the beach umbrella in the trunk. We brought along the absolute essentials – three towels, two boogie boards, a Subway sandwich and a bottle of water.

I hope our car doesn’t get towed,  moaned Child Optimist #1.

… and if it doesn’t get towed, that we don’t get the ticket, accessorized Child Optimist #2. I grand-finalize their litany with select cheer-leading phrases of my own...

... and we don't get eaten by the sharks, stung by jelly-fish, drowned and sun-burnt at the same time, and then pooped on by those obnoxious, overfed seagulls.  

Eeee-ewww, Mom!! 

I smile and commend them for their encouraging glass-half-empty perspective and successfully awfulizing further our already awful Father's Day celebration. If Daddy was with us, he would be so proud.

At the beach, a yellow flag greets us announcing rough surf, dangerous currents and undertows. The mother's and the swimmer’s hell is, of course, the children's and the surfer’s heaven. Four hours of wild ocean happiness - colliding into people and objects, being pounded, skinned, bruised, tossed around like a rag doll and battered as well as catching some unbelievably awesome rides - later, we crawl back the 500 km where we left our car.

It was all worth it, Mom … A pause. ... as long as our car didn’t get towed and impounded…

and we don’t get the ticket. 

The car didn’t get towed and there was no ticket. At least not yet.  

Feeling buoyed by our little adventure – we made it alive after all - against my better judgment I follow the GPS directions and take an exit before the one we normally do.  Down the exit ramp there is a small unmanned toll plaza collecting 50-cent toll.  I throw two quarters into the bucket and inch slowly forward, waiting for the red "pay toll" light to turn "paid toll[' green.

Well, it doesn't.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Want Patience and I want it Right Now

We sit down on the edge of the vegetable plot. I bury my bare feet into the soft, warm, wet dirt between the rows.

Why did you do this?  I ask, staring intently at my disappearing toes.  Why wouldn't you let me go to Home Depot and get some already blooming flowers?!!

What I am doing you don’t understand now… but you will understand it later, he says with calm assurance.

I don’t feel so sure.  I feel uncomfortably squeezed between the “now” and the “later”, the elusive understand slipping from my grasp like the soil between my toes. What is there to understand? And why can’t I understand it now?

What do we do now? I ask, standing up, brushing the dirt off the bottom of my jeans.  He remains seated.

We wait.

We wait?!!! I groan. Sir, I must inform you that patience is not my thing. I’ve never been good at waiting.  It makes me feel so… so out of control… so powerless and useless and wasteful. And I don’t like that.  Not one bit. I am a DOER, not a waiter! 

Oh, I know that… He smiles, still seated, looking up at me. That’s why I am here…

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Only Way to a Miracle

Die? I gasp, suddenly transported back to reality.

 he sighs, no other way. Sometimes I wish there were… From the way he sounds, I wonder if he is talking about something other than zucchini and tomatoes. Unless the little seed is willing to lay down in the ground and die...the miracle won't happen.  He suddenly interrupts himself, and motions with his hand,

Let’s get to work.

I follow him slowly in a funeral procession for the bunch of little seeds. He turns my vegetable garden into a small burial plot for broccoli, squash, basil and cilantro and proceeds with the flowers. My face is so long it drags along the grass as I drag my feet behind. We make small signs and put them next to the neatly sown rows. For some reason, I feel like crying. 

How can something that's supposed to be happy and festive turn into something so depressing and sad?!!!

What’s up?
 He lifts his head and looks at my morose body parts sprawled all across the lawn. I am a dirge incarnate. He shakes his head and bursts into laughter,

Cheer up, you silly goose, this is not about death… This is about LIFE, real life, more life than you could ever imagine. This death is just a passage into life … that is Life indeed.

He could have given me a lecture on quantum physics with more success of actually getting through. But this... this talk about life through death?!!! How can something dead become alive again?!!! 

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jn 12:24

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. Luke 9:23-25

Thursday, June 13, 2013

If You Want a Miracle Be a Miracle

I squint, still firmly planted in the passenger seat of his white truck, half-expecting to see the blooming perennials in his front pocket.

I roll out of the truck hitting the pavement like a cannon ball. In the palm of his hand there are several individually labeled small plastic bags, each one containing seeds of a different kind.

You gotta be kidding me…
 I groan. This is going to take FOR-E-VER! I don't even hear the whining tone I am so quick to point out whenever I detect it in my children. Why can’t we just go to Home Depot and get some of their ready-to-go, instantly blooming perennials…?  He seems deaf to both whining and negotiation, apparently lost in a world all of his own.

He picks up a seed and looks at me,

You want a miracle…? Here’s a miracle, right in front of your nose.

That's not a miracle, I object. That's just a seed…

Yes, that’s what you see… but inside this seed… hidden… inside this tiny, lonely, easily ignored and trampled upon, seemingly insignificant seed, there is packed away an entire universe bursting with life, and energy, fruits and flowers and more seeds… ready to explode, creating more universes all around ...

For a few moments I forget to breathe… Just listening to him talk, I feel like I am transported into the front row seat featuring the Creation of the Universe… 

But, before any of this can happen, he pauses as if remembering something, the little seed must fall into the ground… and die.

The seed is the Word of God. Luke 8:11

For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. I Peter 1:23

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Where Miracles Happen Every Day

One day he taps on the window and announces,

National Planting Day!

I jump out of bed and bolt through the front door, enough juice running through my body to need my usual two cups of java. 

The day I’ve been waiting for all along, and now it's here! I savor the moment - the pinnacle, the culmination of all things gardening, the simple transformative act which can turn any wasteland into Eden. 

I hop onto the passenger seat of his white truck and wait for him to fire up the engine. Field-trip to my favorite place on earth – our neighborhood Home Depot!

Where do you think you are going? he asks as he unloads the tools from the back of the truck. 

I look at him through the rolled-down window, thoroughly confused.
What do you mean, ‘where do you think you are going’? You said it’s the National Planting Day…


Well, we need things to plant
I enunciate the last word, getting a little impatient. When I want to plant something, I go to the place where miracles happen every day… Home Depot!

He shakes his head and if I didn’t know him, I would think he thinks I am hopeless.

We don’t need to go to Home Depot. We already have everything we need to make your garden a place ‘where miracles happen every day’ – I can’t tell whether he is mocking me or not - right here. 

With that, he taps his denim shirt pocket.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

From 60 mph to 0.06 in 6 Seconds

By my former supersonic standards, it feels as if my life has slowed down to a snail’s crawl. The rest of the world is still breaking the sound barrier, but its frantic pace, its self-important, grandiose ways are slowly losing their grip on me. 

From time to time, especially when I wander off into a far weedy corner of the yard, I still struggle with a thought that it is a lot more noble and praise-worthy, more exotic and exciting, or at least easier to change the world out there than transform my own back yard. But those thoughts dissipate like morning mist when the Gardener is near.

With him next to me, it’s as if the blinders have fallen off my eyes and I am beginning to see – really see – for the very first time. As these new worlds unfold I am becoming more aware of my noise-making ways that drown out the voice of the wind and the song of the rain. I feel a strange mixture of unspeakable gratitude and deep shame for overlooking the obvious for so long...I have so much to learn!

Each day I am getting more and more used to his pace – he is always working, and yet never rushing and somehow always resting. Even though he doesn’t wear a watch, he just knows the right time… for everything. 

At first it’s really hard to wake up each morning not knowing every dot, ampersand and underscore of my day. But I am learning to wait on his cue. Sometimes they are as subtle as the truckload of manure dumped on my driveway. Other times it’s as loud as the pitter-patter of tiny feet of a gecko on the St. Augustine grass.

But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. Psalm 73:28

Monday, June 10, 2013

Joining the Party One Taste Bud at a Time

I am completely blindsided by his statement about insipid gardening and insipid worship. I never thought that one could put growing tomatoes, a pile of manure and worshiping God in the same paragraph… much less the same sentence.  Now I am scratching my head, wondering what he really meant when he'd offered me that 'all-inclusive' landscaping deal. All I wanted him to do is fix my yard, simple as that.  But, in the process, I am finding out that there is more – a LOT more - that needs fixing than my weed-infested lawn. 

I expect a long to-do list, a strategic plan and frontal attack, but he sidesteps all that and invites me into the kind of life I didn't know could exist on the Pembroke Drive. 

What stands out to me is that he wastes inordinate amounts of time on stuff like... lunch breaks!  In my former life, I never used to take lunch breaks  since it seemed like such a colossal waste of the prime hour of the day on something so inconsequential as eating food. 

My seven-year long manure fast, however, has had incredible effect on my taste buds - all ten thousand of them! They are wide awake now and eager to celebrate food in all its flavors, textures and delightful varieties.  

It feels like there is a party inside my mouth three times a day and I am just a learning to dance!

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Insipid Tomatoes Insipid Worship

Gardening, my dear, is a messy business. He slowly takes the shovel from my hand and puts it away. Dung and dirt are a part of the deal - you'd better get used to it. Even embrace it. If you try to disinfect, sanitize, deodorize everything in life, watch out lest you scrub the very life out of it.

The germaphobe in me cringes at his words.  I like things nice and clean, smooth and easy! I might be able to tolerate small, carefully contained areas of mess for a short period of time. The thought of embracing the dirt, the mess goes against everything my mother has been instilling in me all these years. I can’t extract my mother out of me! She'd kill me!

He continues on, undeterred by the internal panic clearly spelled out on my tormented face.

If you try to keep everything sterilized and mess-free all the time, at all cost... soon enough your life turns into a bland concoction of nutritionally empty words and actions... much like the tasteless, washed-out veggies you grow in your garden where one can’t tell the difference between a tomato and a squash, cilantro and St. Augustine grass. 

I blink unsure I see the connection he seems to be making between my pathetic vegetable garden and my life.  Before I am able to clarify the misunderstanding,  he concludes,

What comes out of your anesthetized, manure-free garden - tomatoes and all - becomes as insipid as what you call 'worship' on Sunday morning.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Moving the Mountain One Shovel At a Time

It feels like we will be shoveling manure for the rest of my life, but I begin to notice that the pile does appear to shrink. Then, one day I hear a sound of our shovels scraping against the concrete and it’s the most exquisite Chopin to my ears. After spending eternity with my nose in the manure, I look up and the mountain is - 


All that is left are a few scraps of dirt that we hose down, leaving the driveway sparkly clean. It's the most beautiful sight my eyes have ever seen.

I look at the Space Gardener and he smiles back at me. 

We did it!!  I am sore all over but so relieved and as happy as if I just scaled the summit of K-2. It occurs to me that I need to clarify one issue, though, for I must ensure that I never ever have to deal with this mountain again.

Next time you want to provide some food for my garden, would you mind finding some less olfactory offensive alternative?  I suggest to the Gardener. Somehow the irony of my giving him advice on gardening seems to escape my notice. He appears neither perturbed nor swayed by my suggestion.

Maybe next time you plant tomatoes, they might actually surprise you and smell and taste like the tomatoes are supposed to. Last time they were so insipid even the pinworms refused to eat them.

I peer at him suspiciously, wondering how in the world he knows about my tomato-growing fiasco.  The deep sense of humiliation returns as I visualize my blotchy beefsteaks which even bugs, not to mention my own family, refused to eat.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Companions in Crud

Every square inch of our entire front and back yard is covered out evenly with three feet of cow manure. I eat, sleep, dream and wear the cow manure. The sun rises and the sun sets on the Dung Mountain in our driveway. Everywhere I turn, that’s all I see.

The sheer energy required for shoveling takes most of the feistiness out of me. That, in itself, is a miracle. Even though I can’t help but resent the one who orchestrated this truck delivery, I also can’t help but appreciate the fact that he is right there with me, day in, day out, shovel in hand.

When it starts to rain, I break down and begin to weep.  After awhile, I realize I am not really helping by adding to the water flow. I wipe my tears with the soaked elbow and resume my post next to the Gardener. Both of us are drenched, both knee-deep in the river of doo that flows off the sides of the mountain.  I know he must be exhausted since he always works at least twice as hard as I do and finishes all the cleanup at the end of each day.

Suddenly it crosses my mind that he doesn’t have to be here – it’s my driveway, after all, and yet, he never fails to show up. I wonder why?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Tearful Transitions

Transitions.  The season of letting go of what one had to learn to embrace. Big or small, all transitions are significant to the one going through them. Today,  I am an emotional basket case!  

For on this last day of elementary school for our son, I vividly remember how six years ago I drilled an unsuspecting sweet old Kindergarten teacher of our neighborhood public school as if she was taking her graduate final!

I, as his mom, felt that I needed to do everything humanly possible to ensure I could entrust my precious firstborn to these strangers. Allow them to influence his mind and woo his heart during the most formative, tender years of his young life. 

It was a step of faith for our family, a seemingly unsafe choice of apparently irresponsible parents.  But, for us, it was a torn-up, responsive yes to the nagging, gentle, patient, persistent sense that this is where we are supposed to be.  

Where Jesus invited us to join Him in the place where He was already at work. Regardless of what everybody else did or what anybody thought of us for the choice we were making.

As I reflect on these more than a thousand school days, writing thank-you letters to his teachers, I am profoundly humbled by the discovery of the numerous ways I am inclined to squeeze God into my tiny religious box, my containers too small and insufficient for His grand Presence and unfathomable ways.

I marvel at the surprises He orchestrates along our path, to help us realize we never ever outgrow learning, and in the school of life, the older we are, the more we realize how much further we still need to go.

And while we follow Him along the road He chose for us, the road we learn to embrace for ourselves, we discover that those strangers have become dear friends. And somehow what we struggled so much to embrace has become difficult to let go of.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to give birth and a time to die;... a time to weep and a time to laugh. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

When Life Delivers a Truckload of Manure onto Your Driveway

It takes him only about seventeen seconds to unload the truck onto my driveway. We spend the next seven and a half years shoveling and spreading it all around our property. 

I am too mad to speak, so we spend the rest of that day shoveling in silence. That night I take three consecutive showers, rubbing the epidermis off my body in futile attempt to remove the stench. I smother myself with Channel 5 perfumed body lotion trying to cover it up and collapse in bed, too tired to read. My husband grabs his pillow and blanket and torpedoes out of the bedroom, choosing to sleep on the couch in the library. I don’t blame him. I would do the same thing if I had a skunk sleeping in the same bed. He swears it’s the perfume that bothers him more than the manure.

Even though we peck at the mountain all next day, we hardly put a dent in it. 

The Space Gardener runs to Subway and brings pastrami and pepper-jack cheese on Italian Parmesan for lunch, but my appetite is gone. I shake my head, No, to a piece of key lime pie and to a strawberry cheesecake the following day. I can tell by his look that he is getting concerned. I never say no to key lime pie, and I would kill for a slice of strawberry cheesecake. 

I don’t understand how he can eat leaning against the side of a cow-dung mountain.

I try to pawn out some of the manure to the neighbors, but they tell me they have enough crap of their own to deal with and politely refuse.

After the sunset, I throw several shovelfuls across the backyard fence, but a little later hear the neighbor yelling at his dog for rolling in it.

I wonder if my life will ever return to normal... And what is normal? I ask myself.  I am not sure I know the answer to that question any more.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. Psalm 119:67

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statues. Psalm 119:71

Monday, June 03, 2013

Special Delivery

Suddenly I feel bone-tired of learning everything the hard way.

If there is an easier way to learn, I am all for it. Even at the price of needing to pay attention to some owner’s manual. And who’s this owner anyway?, I wonder. And what else does this manual have to say? Can it help me turn this weedy wasteland into - if not Better Homes and Gardens showcase - at least a mediocre, pass-the-HOA-mustard yard that doesn't necessitate threatening letters from the president on monthly basis? Can it make something out of ... nothing...? Make… me, even me… a brown-thumb-city-girl, the destroyer of all things green... into.. .a gardener?

I shake my head as if to dismiss the impossibly ridiculous notions swirling about my head. But before I can ask anything, the Outer Space Gardener takes the microscope and the pie from my hands and replaces them with a pair of rubber gloves and pepto-bismol galoshes.

What are these? 

Galoshes - I picked them out especially for you.  Like them? He grins clearly satisfied with himself.

I cringe at the fashion statement he is trying to make.

They are just lovely, I squeeze between my teeth. I don't really need them, though.

Oh, yes you do, he yells over his shoulder, placing the pie inside the garage refrigerator.

Need them for what???

Shoveling... Cow manure. Premium grade. He proudly points to the reeking mountain inside the trailer. I got a great deal on it and since your yard hasn’t eaten anything in years, thought you could use a little extra… but you’ll need these before we jump in.  

He grabs a couple of shovels and looks at me as if he just invited me to a picnic in the park.

I look at the mountain of cow dung towering over our house and know that in an instant I have become the one neighbor in our subdivision everyone loves to hate.

He (Abraham) dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, he believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. Romans 4:17,18

Saturday, June 01, 2013

The Humble Pie and the Owner's Manual From Outer Space

Even the promise of Bob’s award-winning chocolate pie seems to be a small consolation for the humble pie I’ve just swallowed in one huge gulp.  The bitter taste still in my mouth, I spot the familiar white truck rolling around the corner, a trailer hitched to its back hauling a medium-size mountain. Within seconds the overpowering smell catches up and settles over the entire residential district.

The sight of the truck makes me realize that none of my morning woes would have happened if the Space Cowboy hadn't been late. 

You are late!
 I glower, happy to have somebody to blame. He ignores the bark, looking quite amused as he takes in the entire scene - the dogs, my slober-dripping face, microscope in my hand and pie in Bob’s. I take the pie from Bob, mumble an apologetic ‘thank you’ and watch him walk back to his house, trailed by the puppies.

What just happened?

I try to describe my morning and find the words pathetically deficient. Eventually, he is able to piece together the story and bursts into laughter.

So, you think that’s funny…I see nothing to laugh about.

Some people just have to learn the hard way… you could have spared yourself some embarrassment and grief if you’d read the owner’s manual…

The owner’s manual? What manual are you talking about?!!! It must be from outer space for I can't imagine a manual on earth that includes instructions on the use of  microscopes on your neighbor’s weeds?

He nods a silent ‘yep’ still looking sickeningly amused. Now I am positively rabid.

Why didn’t you tell me?!!? You were withholding information from me which could have spared me so much grief and embarrassment!!!
Would it make any difference if I had?

I pause, weighing in the question. I hate to agree with him, but I must admit I've never been much into reading the manuals.

Probably not.  

Well, after today, I think you may be reconsidering that. 

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:16,17