it’s never too late to plant seeds

Sometimes lessons are late and awkward, but we teach them anyway because better late than never is more serious with life than with sweet peas.

I went ahead and planted seeds on Monday. Even though it’s nearly the end of April.

Corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, cantaloupe, peppers, sugar snap peas . . . and sweet peas (I know . . . sweet peas from seed + right now = just a waste of a container. But warmth comes late to my house in the woods . . . so it could happen). I only spent about $8 on potting soil and seed packets — I’ve had the empty pots forever. If anything grows at all, it was totally worth it.

Also, I just had to test out my forgotten “green house.” Better late than never? Maybe?

Ah well, sometimes things are late.

But then again, you never know about gardens. So much isn’t up to you.

* * * * *

Our house is surrounded by Pacific Northwest jungle: thimble berries, black berries, rhododendrons, maples and some sort of unidentifiable saplings taller than the house.

White blossoms flit wildly from two too-tall cherry trees in my yard. I wonder what they’d be like today if we’d pruned them five years ago when we moved into this house. Maybe the next tenant will be willing to pay someone to venture up into the web of power lines and trim back the branches to bring the fruit into reach. And maybe they’ll get to them before the birds do . . .

We had a peach tree . . . discovered it after our first summer, enveloped by blackberry tendrils. The fruit was sweet and juicy — with cling free stones. We thought we’d help it by freeing it from the grasp of the thorny berries. But glorious freedom killed it. Not a leaf on that sad tree since.

I can see it from the trampoline, bare and accusing among the sea of green.

I tell my youngest son the three nameless trees on the edge of our yard may very well be overgrown weeds.

Really? He asks, jumping a little harder on the trampoline, bouncing me uncomfortably high.

No, probably not.  Also, be gentle with the mother.

But I don’t really know. They could be.

So — different subject — what does rude mean? I ask him.

He says a few silly words about gas and noises, and we laugh. I have a house full of boys. It’s just how it is.

But I am actually serious, and curious, The Scriptures say ‘Love is not rude.’ What do you think love should be then, if it isn’t supposed to be rude? What’s the opposite?

Respect, he says on the bounce.

Ah, I say. Just what I was thinking.

* * * * *

It’s an ominous task, raising children.

Sometimes lessons are late and awkward, but we teach them anyway because better late than never is more serious with life than with sweet peas.

So we pray. And teach and ask and listen.

Respect is an ongoing lesson. We’re a house full of teasers and jokers so crossing the line and appropriate words are phrases we use often. Respect is about manners and authority, yes. But it’s also about dignity. And worth. And honor.

Maybe that’s why it has a place here, in the definition of love by St. Paul.

Love is not rude, also translated: Love does not dishonor others. Love does not force itself on others. Love does not behave itself unseemly. Love does not act unbecomingly. Love does not behave inappropriately.

Respect is an expression of God’s sort of love. It’s more than manners, it’s how we treat people.

Don’t take what isn’t yours and call it love.

Don’t promise more than you can give just so you can get and call it love.

Don’t belittle and humiliate and call it love.

Value virtue, don’t violate it.

* * * * *

Sometimes, the best time for lessons has passed. Maybe the weeds grew into trees while you were barely clinging to life. Maybe you were left alone to manage the jungle yourself. And now cultivating respect seems impossible.

My friend, I am convinced that it is ALWAYS better late than never.

Lessons give way to letting go and take the form of prayers and divine moments. But there is always hope good and beautiful things will grow. Even from late-planted seeds.

The garden may not look exactly like we’d hoped or planned.

But you never know with gardens. So much isn’t up to you.

PicsArt_1398558071118

because people do change

34 year old me is desperately jealous of 44 year old me.

Spring is trying hard this year to be my friend . . . but it’s failing miserably.

From hermetically-sealed enclosed spaces, I stare out at blue sky and sunshine. We’ve had a lovely Northwest spring tease. But so very, very polleny.

Someday, I will remember I get allergies every spring when the trees begin to blossom and start taking allergy meds the moment I see the tiniest bit of green.

Which reminds me . . . I forgot to plant sweet peas. Again. Actually, I’ve forgotten to plant anything. Because one day it’s winter and the next day it’s spring and there really is no difference between the two because below 40 might as well be 40 below to me.

So here I sit, head full of allergies, exhausted from binge catching up on to-do lists of things that must be done NOW. I always wait till the last minute, and then I bury myself until its done.

Oh, and I also forgot I have a bookshelf style greenhouse. I got it for my birthday last year, and I forgot about it — of course — because it sits on the back porch and is entirely visible through my kitchen window. I think I even told the kids to set it there because otherwise, I’d forget.

Once upon a time, I had gardens. We even planted seeds — in the ground in California, indoors in little soil pods in Washington.

34-year-old me, frustrated with trying to grow tomatoes in Tacoma, is jealous of 44 year-old me in Poulsbo. And she’s slightly mad because she would have had all sorts of seedlings in that green house right now, ready to put in the dirt.

Well, she has one more night to be jealous of 44 year old me. Then she gets to be jealous of 45. And she is desperately jealous. Believe me, I know. She wrote her life in journals. And I’ve been reading them again, writing our story.

If 34 year old me had known it would be ten years before she was flooded and amazed with the realization of how much her life had changed, she wouldn’t have been able to put one foot in front of the other. Ten years is terribly long, long time went you’re waiting for things to be better.

Twelve years ago, we moved to Washington for Dave to go to seminary to become a pastor . . . which happened this year, on January 1.

Two devastating job losses, two stints in rehab, six major relapses, food stamps, homelessness and six years of painstakingly rebuilding life from messy ruins is what 34 year old me has to look forward to.

Best to let her have her garden . . . a tiny piece of serenity in a world spinning violently out of control. 44 year old me does not envy her.

* * * * *

44-year-old-for-one-more-day me has been waking up this week full of gratitude for a husband who takes such good care of me, even when I’m a miserable chore of a hacking crone . . . which sums up how I sound and look today.

Most mornings now, I wake up to fresh coffee and the rattle of keys  . . . Dave, going to drive our oldest boy into town for zero hour. When he returns, we talk about the day and he makes himself eggs for breakfast, makes himself lunch, irons his own clothes (he’s always done that), and prays over me and for all our life and loves before he walks out the door, early — as usual — for work.

After work, he does more driving kids when I can’t — and sometimes even when I can, but he’s just very kind — and an hour at the Y (his only “me” time as far as I can tell). His reward in all this is a great relationship with his daughter and three sons, 45 pounds lost, and the love and trust of his wife.

None of this happened overnight. For six years and five months, he’s taken one step at a time in the right direction — rebuilding our home brick by brick. Faithful in little to faithful in much. And he loves people and often says and does things that are hard but right to say and do, and I am startled at how he is the man 34 year old me wanted so, so badly for him to be.

Oh, and he leaves the boys chore lists.

So I don’t have to think about cleaning today. So I can write.

* * * * *

And so I write hope today instead of being mad at myself for who I was supposed to be when I woke up tomorrow: 20 pounds lighter and at least last year’s “Do it all in 2012 2013″ to-do list-of-things-that-should-have-been-done-a-decade-ago done.

I write this hope for 45 year old me who can take a step each day in the right direction, too.

 

 

pride, part two . . . or, a sampler of thoughts on arrogance

Sometimes, my “better than” comes from wounds. Maybe yours does, too.

I’ve written this post no less than six ways. By now it is a chapter for a book, the beginnings of a dissertation.

And since no one wants to read all of that, I’ve settled on a bit of a sampler instead.

* * * * *

Love is not proud.

The word pride in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is also translated puffed up or arrogant. I can readily see how a bloated sense of self leaves no room in a relationship for love. It is entirely consumed by self-image and self-importance and superiority of mind and position.

But arrogance in real-life relationships rarely looks like Gaston stomping around in boots singing his own praises. It’s more subtle, I think . . . and without a chorus. Well, at least not one others can hear.

Consider . . .

I.

There were times when I saw myself as so very superior to my husband: I was not an addict. I was responsible with money. I could get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t tell him lies.

Oh, I knew I had flaws, but they were nothing compared to his.

In earthly terms, I was right. He was wrong.

He didn’t deserve forgiveness, and I was not in need of it.

But that’s the very thing Jesus kept hammering home to the teachers who knew all the things and kept all the rules. None of us is perfect. Not one. And though it was hard, so hard, for me to imagine how it could possibly be, I came to understand that my sin of superiority and pride was every bit as bad as Dave’s addiction. Every bit. And, dare I say this? Even more so. He knew he was wrong. Confessed it regularly to God. I didn’t.

I’ve seen the grace that overflows from someone who has been forgiven much. And the tight-fistedness of one who has been forgiven little. Verses like Luke 15:7 are hard to grasp: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God loves a repentant sinner, whether we like it or not.

Tight-fisted grace is arrogance, thinly disguised.

II.

Arrogance comes from knowing things. From the top of our column of study, we look down on those who have not yet arrived at our level, or our view.

We fling about superiority of mind, painting opposing viewpoints with broad brush strokes, ceremoniously shaking the dust of a community off our sandals. Claiming to speak the truth in love. Clamoring for seats at a table. Arguing among ourselves over who is the betrayer of grace . . . while Jesus kneels and gently washes our feet asking, Who is greater? The one at the table or the one who serves?*

Knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1), eclipses love and devolves into decisive division. Like bickering brothers in a family. If you like this, then I will hate it. If you call this good, then I will call it bad. If you criticize it, I will praise it.

We are wise in our own eyes. So reactionary.

Our truth-in-love-speak resembles nothing of the gentle, humble kindness of our Lord.

 

III.

Sometimes, arrogance is a cover.

Sometimes, my better than comes from wounds. Maybe yours does, too.

Wounds made by comment, culture, criticism . . . making us self-conscious of appearance, ability, size, personality . . . leaving us with feelings of less than.

Wounds made by trusted friends that were not accompanied by love but rejection. You have done this and therefore we are done.

Wounds made by grown-ups, even now, putting on a face of friendship but gossiping and stirring up trouble behind your back.

Some wounds are so deep they take longer to heal than anyone would dream. Heal to the point of walking again, let alone loving . . .

. . . sometimes, I still cling to the thing that makes me feel better than. I reach for it when I’m hurt or afraid of being hurt. I use it as a weapon.

How is it that we so easily slip into treating others the way we’ve been treated?

IV.

I believe this: there is grace for even the worst offender.

And after years of having the truth ground into my soul, arrogant thoughts of better than quickly dissipate from my mind the moment I recall my own weakness.

But sometimes, knowing my weakness too well is part of the problem . . .

I don’t know when I became such a perfectionist.

Paralyzing perfectionism: the urge to rip it all up and start over and never let it see the light of day: my living room, my writing, my body, my personality, my words, my gifts.

Somewhere, deep in the recesses, my perfectionism becomes a barrier to love.

Can there be an arrogance toward self? Is an arrogance toward self a fear of being seen as less than who we think we are or should be? Is it really, in the end, an insidious sort of pride masquerading as not good enough?

I don’t know.

But I believe God is painting his love over the wounds of my life. The better thans, the less thans, the know-it-alls, and the places where I just can’t yet. Even my procrastinating perfectionism.*

And I believe He does that for you, too.

It’s sort of the point of grace, isn’t it? Arrogance is just another reason we need Jesus.

* * * *

But God is so rich in mercy loved us so much
that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins,
He gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead . . .
And now God can always point to us as examples of how very, very rich his kindness is,
as shown in all he has done for us through Jesus Christ.
Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ.
And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God.
Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.
It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus . . .
St. Paul, Ephesians 2:4-10

* * * * *

* Luke 22:20-27 and John 13:14

* Procrastinating perfectionist — a term borrowed from Jon Acuff, Quitter