My garden…

ImageLast year, we pulled the most beautiful zucchini out of our garden.  Beautiful and huge.  And far too many for our family alone to eat.  In fact, we had so many?? … that we dubbed 2 of them the “twins” and took to carrying them around in preparation for the birth of twin cousins we were looking forward to… 

I love to watch my husband work in our garden.  

Night after wintery night, he maps out his garden.  Maps out and plans where to plant the varieties.  Ordering his chosen seeds well before he could even dream of planting them.  Then my husband starts to prep the ground.  Tilling… and tilling… then tilling it again.. Just when I think he must be bored beyond imagination… with tilling… he is finally ready to plant.  So.. he carefully paces out the rows.  He paints the row markers.  And then it begins… We follow the directions on each little packet.. 12″ apart… 1/4″ deep…. plant in rows… plant in hills… build trellis…. Each little seed gets its own specialized growing conditions… 

And then we wait for them to grow…

Water daily… plant in full sun… fertilize… water….

Then wait….

My husband is so sweet those first weeks… when he walks his carefully marked garden looking for signs of life…. The joy from those first sprouts?  Beautiful to behold….

And then the weeds start to grow… 

Weeds are unimaginably horrid things… they grow where nothing else can grow… And grow well… Soon?!?  Soon tall, healthy looking weeds tower over those tiny little sprouts struggling to grow.  

And we begin to pull them… On hand and knee, we pull each weed from the base… hoping to get the whole root system with it so that it won’t resurface.  After an hour?  After an hour.. we start to simply grab handfuls of weeds and pull… not caring about the whole root…

After weeks and weeks of fruitless weeding… Days and days of weeding ..only to see the same weeds resurface again and again…?  We buy a bottle of professional weed killing spray…. 

Then we turn our attention back to the care of our plants.. My husband makes sure they are watered when it doesn’t rain… builds supports where needed… 

Over and over… day after day… 

Until harvest…. 

Sometimes we find that no matter how much work we put into a crop.. they turn out deformed.. or small in size… And sometimes they don’t grow at all… 

Now deformed fruit.. is fruit that looks DIFFERENT from the typical crop… our curved neck squash?  It never “curved”… But most of the time.. deformed fruit tastes just as sweet… It is harder to show it off to your friends or brag it up… but it is just as enjoyable… Small fruit is the same… 

But our zucchini?  Those were something to behold… Showing pictures of a beautiful zucchini over a foot long?  That is easily brag-able.  To have such obvious evidence of ALL your hard work?  

Truly satisfying….

Sometimes I feel like parenting is like gardening… 

We carefully plan the size of our garden on cold wintery nights…. Order all the supplies we will need WELL before we will ever need them… Talking about the special instructions we think we will need to follow… 

Then we wait… Wait and see what God has given us to grow.

Sometimes we don’t get what we expect .. Boy versus a girl.. artist versus an athlete… Or TWINS…. 

Sometimes we get deformed crops.. disabilities we hadn’t planned for… disorders we have to read up on… But these crops tend to be the sweetest… but they are harder to brag up…

NOW.. I said “harder” to brag up.. not impossible… my son has Autism.. and a splash of Mood disorder… and I brag him up all the time… Just takes a different audience… And my son definitely has his own fan club…

But still you water them… you give them plenty of sunlight (praise and love)… you build a “trellis” if you need to give them extra support… and fertilize them (My son cleans me out of “fertilizer” daily)…. and then there is nothing to do but pull the weeds that spring up…. 

Those weeds?  Those weeds are everywhere… weeds grow by your “prize” kids… they grow by your “average” kids.. and they grow by the “hard to brag on” kids… Weeds grow EVERYWHERE… Honestly???  Honestly sometimes I would prefer to pull crabgrass and Canadian thistles.. when you compare them to bad attitudes, rolling eyes, bad words, exasperated sighs, bad grades, aggression, irritating habits.. or medical issues.. (or heaven help us drugs and alcohol)… But if you don’t pull those weeds?  Then pretty soon they over run your kids.. and your garden!  Just like your crops.. your kids will still continue to grow with the “weeds” stealing their sunlight… but they won’t be as strong.. and you won’t want to show them off to your friends and family.  

I know.. I know.. kids don’t actually need sunlight to grow..  But when a child’s most obvious traits are bad habits.. snotty phrases.. stubborn silence… That child may as well be covered in weeds.. It is harder to smile warmly (at least genuinely) at a child covered in bad habits… It is harder to hug a child who is stiff with resentment… It is harder to shower pride on a low achiever… So in effect?? YUP.. those weeds steal the sunlight in your child’s life..

So at the end of the day.. when I am exhausted… and my daughter shows signs of “sassafrass tree” growing on her roots… I can chose to ignore it this once.. to save my energy.. hoping it will go away.. or I can choose to pull it up by its base… and watch carefully for signs of its return… 

And I really don’t want anything to steal my daughter’s sunlight.. 

Is it Enough?

IMG_7166 (2)I have always wanted to have a lot of kids.  You will notice that I didn’t say “have a lot of babies”… Don’t get me wrong.. I love babies.. I could sit and hold my twin nephews all day if I had time.. and I long to hold my far off nieces… But my dream of a house full of kids was a little different than you could imagine…

And God’s plan for me was far different than even I imagined…

You see.. even as a child… I wanted to adopt all the children in the world who needed a family… all the children who needed love… who needed safety.. all the kids who needed a listening ear.. or a shoulder to cry on…  I knew I was going to need a BIG house..  But as a child I felt like that was my calling… and it continues to live in my heart to this day.

You may think that once I gave birth to my own two beautiful babies… That once I looked into their precious faces… I would change my mind… That once I had 1 girl and 1 boy of my own I would be quite content with my own family… You would be wrong.  My children ARE beautiful.. inside and out… They are everything a parent could wish for… but I still feel God has called on me to have a lot of children.

God has a plan for me… and it has involved a number of children .. but God did NOT plan for those children to be of my own flesh and blood.  God even used my husband to guide me to the right path.  For my husband?  2 pregnancies were quite enough… Why?!?  THAT my friends is a tale for another day… What I will say?  Sometimes God whispers His plans in a still small voice… sometimes He uses a megaphone…  My husband heard God’s voice loud and clear…

Today I have over 40 kids who live in my heart.  Over 40 kids whom I pray for.. 40 kids whose pictures Bless my shelves.  40 kids who are scattered all over these United States…

17 of those kids are my nieces and nephews… 17 kids with bits and pieces of my siblings… a few with bits and pieces of myself.. 17 Blessings whom I love to see when ever time allows… 17 kids who range from newborn to age 21…

Over the last 16 years, I have accepted children into my home on a daily basis.  I have lost track of the exact count of children shared with me through the years…   but I could give you every child’s name and age.. Every child I cared for while their parents had to work.  Every child I cared for while their parents took a much needed break.  Every child I cared for while their parents mourned a loss… while they needed to be somewhere else.  And then I returned these children to their parents at the end of the day.. the end of the week.. and once .. I returned a child at the end of an extended stay.  When I moved home to Michigan?  It broke my heart to say good-bye to those pieces of my heart.  I go to visit them when ever time and money allow.. but I frequently miss them… So?  So.. I follow each child in pictures (internet is a Blessing to me).. and I pray for each child in turn..

Today?  On this exact moment in time?  I have 2 daughters…. (and a son)…. Two daughters who are 16 years old.  Two daughters who are reluctant to go to sleep at night… who hate to get up in the morning.. two daughters who beg for a pop (different flavors of course..)… two daughters who eat chocolate… two daughters who love ice cream… love to sing at the top of their lungs… who love to laugh… Two daughters who love life…

The difference between them?  One was born here in Michigan… the other was born Egypt…

YUP.. my second daughter is borrowed.  My Egyptian daughter is part of an exchange program.  A program designed to promote understanding of other cultures and religions from around the world.  A program designed to help promote peaceful relations around the world.  Through this program I have come to realize .. that teenagers around the world are pretty much the same.  They all love to laugh… they all love to LOVE.. they all love to have fun… they love to sing  (I have heard the song “Let it Go” in a number of languages)!!!   They all think their country is the best at times.. and the worst at others… The teenagers in this program are the bravest kids I have met.. strong kids with hopes and dreams all their own.. but each one still needed a safe and loving environment for the year that they are here in the US..

We were Blessed to be chosen to Host our Egyptian daughter for half of this school year… Parts of the year were tougher than others… Struggling to master a tough language… Struggling to fit into a different culture… Struggling to learn (and pass) hard school classes…. but those struggles are not what I will remember.  I remember the first time our second daughter held a chicken.. I remember the squeals when she saw her Easter basket… the first time she caught a fish… I will remember the excitement of prom dresses.. the laughter through the cracks of a door… and I will remember the duets sung at loud volumes.. at all hours of the day.

This daughter born into another family?  She has firmly planted herself in my heart… Her strength.. her love… her smiles.. her desire to become the best person possible.. through any tough circumstance…  I am so happy that I was Blessed with the opportunity to allow her into our home.. the opportunity to drive her back and forth to school.. the opportunity to cheer her on at games… to sew a dress for her… to make sure she had enough to eat… and the opportunity to give her a hug when she needed it.

Through out the month of June.. small pieces of my heart will scatter around the world.  As the students from this exchange program go home .. to finally see their families again after almost a year.. many of these students will take a piece of my heart with them.  Brazil, Germany, Mexico.. Pakistan, Indonesia, Japan… Belgium… and a good sized piece to India too.  And a large chunk of my heart with travel to Egypt next week….

You may think I feel good because I am making a difference in so many lives…

It does feel good.  It feels good to see smiles instead of tears… It feels good to hear laughter in any language..

But I don’t think that is what God’s plan is for me.. You see every time I take a child into my heart … It changes me… It changes the way I see the world.. It changes the way I think… and sometimes it changes the way I breathe…

Next Wednesday, when I take my Egyptian daughter to the airport… when I struggle to get her through check-ins and security checks.. when I struggle to breathe… While I am struggling to NOT cry until after she is safely on the plane home to her family… I will not regret one moment … not one tear.. I will not regret taking this child into my home .. or letting her into my heart.  Because the hurt of saying “Good-bye.. for now,”  is nothing compared to the Blessings I have received…

You may ask… Is it enough?  Is it ENOUGH of a Blessing to suffer through the pain?

Yes… I think it is..

Is it enough?  Enough kids in my heart?  Enough chunks of my heart scattered around the world?  Am I now content?

I would have to say No… I feel that God has more planned for me… more to Bless me with…

And who am I … to deny myself a Blessing?