The End of Summer

 

I love August.

I hate August.

There is no time for this post today as I rush to fit in one more summer task.

No time to sit on the deck with a lemonade in hand because the deck needs to be stained before the snow flies.

No time to sniff the flowers because there are wood chips to cover the earth with before the first frost.

No time to splash in the pool with the children because we must attend every planning meeting for every activity they will be a part of this Autumn.

No time to dig in the sand, no time to watch caterpillars, no time to sit in parks with friends…

I make it worse for myself by trying to accomplish every project under the sun before we fall back into our homeschooling routine which includes so many activities and so much running from place to place. Examples? I currently have a sofa in my kitchen because I’m staining the living room floor. My teenage daughter cannot park in our driveway because I have a 6×4 foot pile of mulch sitting at the end of it (which I can’t move yet because I need to divide and organize the garden on the East side of my house first.). I have raspberry bushes growing five feet outside of their bed because I had the crazy idea that I really would have time to create a living fence out of them between our yard and our neighbors property.

When I get to August this irrational fear of “the end” takes me over, like being within a hundred pages of the end of a beloved book I just cannot stop. I rush to cram in every single last summer-fun thing that I can before the crush of Autumn’s responsibility takes over. If Summer is childhood, August is my early twenties, before the adulthood of Autumn arrives. I attempt to do all of the crazy things now, before I’m tied down by my commitments. As I said, this fear is not rational. I did plenty of crazy things in my thirties and I can certainly break the schedule and go for a hike in the woods on a warm day in October. But much like the frequency of those wild times has drastically decreased with each passing year, with each passing day so will my opportunity to go exploring and to soak the sun deep into my very soul.

As the sunrise comes a few minutes later each morning I try to rise a bit earlier to sit in the silence of cricket chirps, to await the first song of birds for the day. To ensure there is time in my day to just be. Instead of running full tilt toward Autumn, I will slam on the brakes at every turn. Savor every bit of produce from the garden, wonder over every bee and butterfly. I will make full stops, not rolling through my summertime garden on the way to the next thing that must be done, rather enjoying each blossom and moment completely. I hope you will too.

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**stop**

                                                  (no really, the end is right here.)

 

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Teacher Bees

Bees are some of my favorite creatures. They bumble around my Russian sage this time of year with lavender colored dust floating all around them, clinging to their bodies and making them look like they were dipped in frosting sugar. It is beautiful. The other day as my kids were splashing in the pool my attention was drawn over to the still uncut oregano. I was internally chastising myself for not getting to that summer task yet and reminding myself how much better baked-ziti-in-January will taste if I get the herbs drying now. So, logically, I walked over, sat down, and watched the bees.

They were uncaring of my presence in their garden and so they continued on in their required task without even a glance in my direction. As they went about their work I was able to notice how lovely their wings are, how fuzzy they are, how quickly they buzz between flowers. A person can think deep thoughts in her garden if she is able to block out the joyous noise that is her children. I found myself wondering how little the bees care for the beauty of the flowers. Yes, there are several different types of bees gathering pollen in my front garden at any given moment in early August, but is it because of its beauty? There were equally as many bees clambering around my oregano, whose flowers are not showy in any way. If beauty is not important to the bees, do I place too much emphasis on it in my own life?

I wonder what draws the bees to a particular spot, to a particular type of blossom. I know the basics of bee-related science. That they work to ensure survival of the queen who will replace each bee as they die from the exhaustion of working for her, which ensures the survival of the colony. At least for one more season. There is no care for singular well-being, rather only for the health of the hive. We also have carpenter bees in our yard, a solitary species. Their drive is not the good of the hive. No, their motivation is simply in the hope they will mate and allow the continuation of their own species. In my deep thinking I decided that if my life was simply selfless work, work that I would likely not see come to fruition, that I would seek out the beautiful as much as possible too.

It continually amazes me how all of my life lessons seem to be either learned or reinforced in my garden. One of the first verses that comes to mind when I think of bees is Proverbs 16:24; Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. I’ve helped my kids memorize this verse and I use it as an internal reminder that when I speak kind words to them I am speaking healing instead of hurt. I often think of plants as God’s words to me. He speaks to me in the color of cosmos, in the scent of lilies, sends notes of His love in small fields of daisies, reminders of His faithful care for me in early spring lilacs. He is gracious to me. And if Gracious words are a honeycomb, I easily receive His grace in my garden. I am sure that the lessons have been behavior corrections that have come in the gentlest way possible. If the flowers are the words of God, then I can believe the bees to be His messengers. They grab my attention, cause me to be still and sit in His presence, they remind me to slow down and focus on Him. Bees have one aim; continuation of the species, shouldn’t I have a similar drive? Or rather;

Shouldn’t I have a singular focus I mean. There should be one thing that causes me to do all things, or that I do all things in the name of. As the drones of bees work solely for their queen shouldn’t my motivation be my King? I believe that it should be. As I go about my daily tasks I am reminded that even though laundry, dishes, and sweeping are menial tasks they are made good in that I do them for Christ. That I do them to model a servant heart for my children and to actually be a servant to my God is what matters. You’ve probably heard that you should “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”(Eph. 6:7), that verse never really made sense to me until I understood the bees. I could’t see how scrubbing toilets, making dinner, grocery shopping could be done for the Lord when these tasks were so clearly just drudgery.

The bees never see it as such of course, they fly from flower to flower spreading pollen, providing for their community, and ultimately ensuring the continuation of not only themselves, but of endless variety of plants, and the creatures who rely on those plants. Do I have that kind of power? If I tend my children with this type of care they can flourish and grow into the people they are meant to be. If I serve my family well and provide for their needs I am allowing them to have a safe place to explore the world and find their place in it. They needn’t worry about where their next meal will come from because they trust me. If I live my life in service to God my people will learn by example that a life of service is fulfilling. Like the bees, I may not see how the way I live will affect my children. The affect of one person is seldom felt in their lifetime, but if I am going to have an impact I want it to be for the kingdom and for good.

As the bees continue to buzz from flower to flower I watch. I sit in the chaos that is my day-to-day and wonder at the chaos that is a working bee hive. Each bee knows its place in service to the queen. As I am still learning my place and position in service to the King of kings, the bees are a good model for me. This is why I will always sit still in my garden on hot July afternoons listening to the buzz of bees and the splashing of children, being reminded that both care nothing for the higher order of the world, they simply trust that there is order. This is why the oregano is still uncut several days later and I count jars of dried herbs on my shelf trying to decide if I can just let the bees have the flowers this year. This is why when I am feeling spent or overwhelmed or too exhausted to do more, I am able to remember (sometimes) that God asks me to do only this task, this work of motherhood. That in His strength I will be able to carry on and that in His wisdom I can discern what must be done next and what can wait.

It is a constant learning and relearning of why I was put here in this place. It would be easier if I could retain these lessons on the first try. I’m very glad though, that if I have to be told multiple times, I have the bees as my teachers, the plants as my textbook and the garden as my school house.

Growing a Garden and a Faithful Heart

 

I LOVE gardening. Before the birth of any of my children I would spend entire days in the yard. I went through a season where, because of my choices for happiness, I couldn’t garden. While those two years held some of my darkest moments all on their own, not being able to dig in the dirt made me sink into a sadness that I didn’t know was inside of me. My sweet husband built me garden boxes to put in front of our townhouse and I filled them with Belles of Ireland, Nasturtiums, Shasta Daisies, Sweet Peas…more. Everyday they made me smile.

Then we spent $30 that we didn’t have on a community garden plot for the good of my soul as much as the good of our grocery budget. I was in gardening heaven! I had a 25×25 foot plot and I filled it. As in; there was barely room to put your feet between the plants. I gardened here for three summers and I have to say the intentionality with which I gardened rebuilt the gardener inside of me. I grew tomatoes and basil, watermelon, onions, and friendships. I learned patience and peacefulness from the old men who came to the plot early in the mornings to water and weed in the quiet (little did they know my 5 and 2 year old children were already there running in the wet grass and squealing with excitement if they found a caterpillar!). I learned from the moms who drug their toddlers into the gardens mid-morning, that I am not alone in this mothering journey, that if I were bold enough I could (gasp) speak to them and possibly make a friend. I learned persistence from the people who came to harvest at the end of their work day, pulling muck boots on with suits and skirts. These people were dedicated to their piece of land, even if it meant squeezing the time in between work and the dinner table.

I’ve gardened a few other places, but really came into my own five summers ago when we bought our current home. See, I left a house that I didn’t necessarily love, but a yard that I had filled with part of my soul. I was excited to have the yard I have now, but I was nearly heartbroken to leave my plants…it sounds lame, I know. We moved in February with no idea what our new yard would look like. I sat in my van in front of the plants I was leaving and I cried. Then I prayed and I continued my prayer for months. I had recently decided that God was actually in charge of my life and that I was done ummm, lets go with messing it up. So I told God that I trusted Him to provide plants for me in my new yard. I silently begged for garden beds brimming with blooms. I humbly asked for even a few flowering plants to nurture. I even prayed that if the yard had no plants, the craigslist ads for free flowers would abound when the time was right.

Over the next four months I cleaned and painted and ripped cabinets off walls. There was a lot of work to be done on our new-to-us house. God met needs I didn’t really even know that I had over that time. I have a vivid memory of my husband being amazed at some thing that I found. He said, “I know God loves us all, but He must REALLY, REALLY love you!” I grinned from ear to ear knowing in the saddest part of my heart that this was true. Then spring came…

Months of asking for any matter of growing things and trusting that there would be something were about to prove fruitful. Plants began showing up in the shady back yard. All over the back yard actually. I took my shovel and began to dig out beds in the sunny front yard. I hauled turf to the back where it could break down, then I built hills in the beds that I was creating, then I built up a big garden bed by a tree with more sod from the front. I moved a lot of earth because there were SO many plants. I was absolutely overwhelmed with Gods kindness toward me. I dug out daisies, wild ditch lilies, lilacs, an insane number of peonies, though I didn’t even know that’s what they were until they flowered. My neighbor from down the road gave me a clump of comfrey, primroses, and tomatoes. I dug a vegetable patch in the back yard. My neighbors next door absolutely thought I was insane. They came over and laughed, actually laughed at me. They told me years ago there had been roses, Asiatic lilies, dogwood…So I looked.

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The second summer I found the roses, moved the lilies, and literally tripped over the dogwood. I continued to trust that God was in control of all of my life. That He cared deeply about my day to day. I know that Gods goal is not just my happiness, He wants me to search after Him with all of my heart and soul. He doesn’t need to lavish His love on me, but I believe that He wants to. He wanted to remind me that there was good for me still. That even though I had been lost and I had made bad choices, there was nothing that I could do to remove myself from His love. Each summer since we moved in I have found new plants, something that was not growing the year before. I have had to work for these gifts. The number of hours I spent with a shovel underfoot can not be counted. In this garden I have built the soil, built muscles, and built my faith and trust in God.

Looking back I can see that these years of trust, love, and flower blossoms are Gods love letter to me. Gardening has been the way God has lured my heart back to His. The way He has kept me close by His side. The way He keeps me looking to Him for provision and the care I will need. While the sea calls to a place deep inside of me, in the earth is where I am at peace with Christ and I know that in the garden is the place I belong.