Lessons from the Garden

I’m still surprised every time a seed I have sown actually sprouts. The days leading up to their little green emergence are full of doubt and disbelief. “I guess they didn’t germinate,” I’ll think. Some of those seeds are so tiny and delicate, it’s hard to believe they stand a chance among the unpredictable elements. And every time those little green stems poke their head out of the dirt’s surface, I’m blown away. It’s a miracle. Every single time.

I clearly struggle to have hope for that which is not in front of me, which is not currently materializing before my very eyes. I look at almost every day of my life as if it were a cross-section of my whole life. If I’m not finishing graduate school or “flourishing” in my vocation now, it’s hard to believe that I ever will be. This is really quite silly because I know how much can change in the blink of an eye, how different I am now than I was a year ago, and how many of my desires have burst into fruition in ways I never would have expecteded. But even when I am planting seeds with an 80% germination rate, I still doubt a single one will sprout until I see those bitty buds.

All of this reminds me how powerfully subersive, underrated, and challenging it is to hope. To hope for redemption in broken situations, unanswered prayers, unspoken dreams, and even more so, in the healing of our fractured world. How do we hold onto hope when we are so aware of our own shortcomings and so informed of the world’s tragedies?

The garden reminds us that goodness, growth, beauty, and sustenance are available to us apart from our own striving, straining, and strategizing. Yes, in my garden, I planted the seeds, but in the larger garden of the whole earth, a bounty of wild edibles are produced without an ounce of human involvement. For me, I need this visual reminder of a larger kingdom truth: that miracles happen, in seeds, in hearts, in bodies, minds, and communities. Not always. Not in the ways we would necessarily expect. But they are happening. The redemptive work of God is active on the earth, even when we choose to not see it or take part in it. But oh, how much more beautiful and joyous when we choose to take part in it, celebrating the sprouting of every little seed,

that started out as hope.

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Mom Life Uncut, Nursing Edition

It was recently suggested to me that I craft a post cataloguing all of the most bizzare places and scenarios in which I’ve nursed my son (and believe me, there are MANY!). I hope that sharing a bit of this ridiculousness may bring a smile to your face, or even better, a hearty chuckle ;).

1. While riding on a tractor

2. While getting my hair cut

3. While mincing garlic

4. In Virabhadrasana II (he sits on my front thigh). 5. While Shaving

6. In Mermaid 7. In the tub. Just subtract the candle and wine, and add a baby to this image 😉 8. While riding in a 4-wheeler

9. Sitting on a decaying tree in the middle of the forest IMG_0778 10. In reclined spinal twist 11. On the side of the road

12. In Savasana 13. While peeing 14. While changing his diaper

15. While riding in the car (with my baby still in his car seat–this takes some flexibility/creative maneuvering and it definitely strains, well, lots of things, but it works in a pinch!).

16. While drinking a glass of wine (now before you judge, this is actually one of the safest ways to drink as a nursing mother because of the length of time it takes for alcohol to get into the blood stream, but it LOOKS quite shady!) 17. And my FAVORITE: while sleeping! This, of course, is no loner attainable, as my son is far too active of a nurser (more specfically, he sticks his butt up in the air and bounces it while he nurses…). Now, moms,  it’s YOUR turn to share. Weirdest places-go! Happy nursing!

on making/keeping/breaking plans

In the past (almost) four years of marriage, my husband and I have moved six times, occupied three different states, lived in the inner city, the suburb, the country, and the REMOTE country. We have collectively possessed nine different jobs, started one business, completed one year of seminary, owned three cars and two scooters, created/birthed/raised one 19-month-old son, and rarely had health insurance.  Money has always been tight. Our entire marriage has consisted of transition. And I’m exhausted. I’m tired of the change, the constant flux, the incessant management of crises. There was a time when it felt romantic and adventurous, like a hip indie flick. I felt sure that it was culminating to something, that one day, we would laugh at the uncertainty we once felt, knowing how essential those spaces were to getting us here, the somewhere

wecouldn’thaveimaginedbutisexactlywhatwealwayswanted.

Then it would all make sense and nothing would be for not. Lately I have grown skeptical of my anxious attempts to weave serendipity into our life. Is there a thread of continuity? Or does it merely help me sleep at night? Am I on an “epic” journey or am I just a little bit stupid? Possessing a sprinkle too much faith in people, slightly too willing to “try things out.” While friends were charting their five-year plan and investing in retirement, we were taking chances and feeling “enlightened” by life’s impermanence. And right now, I doubt it all. Were we naive and irresponsible, resisting life’s practicalities and chasing obscure dreams out of an inflated sense of grandiosity (imbued by our “for such a time as this” evangelical undergirding)?

Was it Grace that brought us here? Or have we just been trying to make the most of the cards we were dealt? If so, why do I need to put some shiny spin on it? Can I not stoop to the ordinary grappling of inexplicable circumstances which plagues my fellow neighbor?

It all makes me wonder: how helpful is the narrative of “extraordinary destiny” that is frequently fed to my generation? The Gospel has coalesced with American individualism to engender a whole lot like me, who can’t work a job at Starbucks without some elaborate explanation for how this weaves into the “larger plan.”

But what if it doesn’t? What if they’re hiring and you just need to pay your bills? And yes, there are lessons to be learned, there are always “take-aways.” But what if that’s it? What if you are simply subjected to the same fiscal obligations as the rest of the adult population? And while that may sound like a depressing perspective on life, part of me finds it oddly liberating.

The truth is that I’m not sure about what we’re doing here. There are days when I feel convinced that this is where we need to be, but there are more days, like today, when I wonder how I got here. How, on the week I was supposed to be graduating from seminary with my friends in Atlanta, I am instead nursing a fussy 19-month-old on a 4,000 acre dairy farm in rural Missouri (you can laugh, the juxtaposition is comical!).

I have tried to hold my life loosely, to not make rigid plans. I have mostly seen this as a virtue. But tonight, I question. Virtue or vice? And while I am still mostly thankful for the adventure of our lives to date, I envy those who have made a life/career plan–any kind of plan, really–and accomplished it. It sounds seductively satisfying.

Country Livin’ Ain’t Always Easy

It’s been a weird week. I have so little motivation for anything…I’m lonely and missing variety and excitement that is not elicited by an animal escaping from the pasture. I miss my Atlanta friends and my Atlanta dishwasher. I miss going out for a drink with a girlfriend. Hell, I miss friends…and Indian food and bubble tea and graffiti and dare I say it? I almost miss traffic. I miss ACTION (again, action that does NOT revolve around a devious animal escapade!). The culture shock of our rural existence seems to be catching up with me. And yes, it’s “great” that we are teaching ourselves to play the harmonica and violin and that we have time to make gluten free pies from scratch, but sometimes, you just don’t have the energy to make your own fun and all of our entertainment out here happens to also be a lot of work.

So, while there are so many wondrous opportunities percolating in our new forested life, today I can’t really think about that. Instead I just need to say that it’s also really hard and sometimes I get tired of chasing my son outside all day as he parades around in his wagon. Don’t let his little legs fool you. He’s wicked fast.

Nature’s Caprice

Out here, I rise and fall with the sun. For the first time in my life I am becoming acquainted with the rhythms of the earth. She beckons me to know her and the fact that she is alive, living and dying, breaking and regenerating, has become inescapable to me. My son is largely responsible for this. His persistent desire to explore regardless of inclement weather has fostered in me a new level of submission to the elements. I am meeting her on her terms, in her domain. And like a lover who finds equal delight in the unseemly, varied temperaments of his beloved, I am finding myself charmed by nature’s mood swings.

The sky has much to say. Constant cloudless sunshine would be far too one-dimensional for her. She is dynamic, her incomparable beauty magnified by her countless faces. Every angle offers a different profile. Walk a bit further and look up again. Observe how she’s changed. How rarely we notice. These days I find myself periodically running out to the porch to check on her and bask in her vicissitudes, what new color combinations she’s fashioned today, weaving delicate hues of quilted cloud patterns. I’m spellbound.

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My fascination with the sky’s caprice is rivaled only by the trees.  Lately I am mesmerized by the stark silhouettes of gnarled, crusty branches as they climb their way to heaven. I have always been bewitched by the brilliant blooms of Spring and the magical color conversion of Fall, but Oh! the branches… the twisting, exploratory branches creating mosaics in the sky, connecting firmament and humus, embodying the ancient wisdom of roots buried miles underground and the plight of man to reach, reach, reach the gods. To ground and reach, to be firmly planted, but still reach. They have such to teach us.

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We cannot all live on 4,000 acres, but the next time you walk out your front door and onto the glorious dirt, I invite you to pause

to notice

to wonder.

And give thanks. Thanks that we get to inhabit this living, breathing, enigmatic space–earth.

The Beginning of You, Part 2

[You can read the first part of this series here: https://totouchtheearth.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/the-beginning-of-you/ ]

You were our blank slate. Starting from scratch, we eschewed all assumptions, temporarily ignoring even our practical constraints. In this fertile in-between, two essential commitments emerged: to live off the land and to birth you at home.

My dear, I stared fear in the face when my body relinquished your body. Conceptually, birth has always horrified me. I can still vividly recall the alien-like contortionist act I was forced to witness in seventh grade health class (a birth video). I did not find it beautiful or inspirational, just nauseating. As I grew and friends began to reproduce, I found excuses to avoid hearing the gory details of their birth stories. Try as I might to evade the subject altogether, words and phrases found their way in, only magnifying my trepidation: felt like I was going to die, hardest thing I’ve ever done, popped blood vessels in my eye, tore from my vagina to my rectum, pooped a little when I pushed. And then there was the petrifying terminology: mucus plug, for instance. It was all so bodily, carnal, animalistic. Heaving, panting bodies expelling tender, shell-shocked bodies. The decision to birth you at home, therefore, felt like a lapse of sanity. I shirked the idea, stonewalled it, denied and hid from it as it persistently poked, prodded and wrestled with my brain. I could not shake free of it.

This was my dilemma. I do not like hospitals, never have. I am a proponent of natural health. I cherished the idea of giving birth in the comforts of my home, surrounded only by those I loved and trusted. But could I do it? Could I bear the pain? Did I have it in me? Was I strong enough? That’s never how I’ve seen myself.

S T R O N G.

All of this was further complicated by the inescapable violation I sensed when my body was reluctantly surveyed by authoritarian hands. It was all just too similar, too reminiscent of past wrongs. I couldn’t escape the familiar sentiment: Spread open your legs, let us do the work. We’ll take it from here. It’s as if each visit conditioned my body to surrender control to the man in the white coat standing up. I knew my comfort was integral if I had any chance at a natural birth and I simply could not conceive of relaxation in the sterile, medicated corridors of the hospital. Rushed along by doctors who knew my name only by glancing at a chart, who rolled their eyes when I requested a female practitioner and sensitivity as they inserted their hands into my vagina, whose expertise was apparently indispensable in sampling my pee, determining my blood pressure and gauging my weight…paying ten dollars for parking, waiting forty minutes for a fifteen minute appointment. This in addition to the atrocious bedside manner we received at our 20-week ultrasound scare.*

So we chose home birth. Home. Birth. To relocate the messy bodily functions of life’s beginnings in the messiness of our daily inhabitance. To not extract or isolate the start from the middle. Rather to invite it all into our home.

Home. A vital component of the home birth.


Hot and sticky Georgia JULY. I was six months pregnant. Time was encroaching upon us; our apartment lease up at the end of the Summer. But now we had dreams and visions to deal with: our “dirt and seed home,” wilderness for our son to explore, land-based ethics. We conspired to house-sit for a friend through August, subletting to save money for a down payment while we scavenged the globe (rural Georgia) for our idyllic home birth home.

Then,

            IT

               found

                 us.

Renovated antique farmhouse on 2.5 acres. Original hardwood flooring, multiple fireplaces, a turquoise kitchen!!! A pantry big enough to sleep in, a vintage bathtub (with FEET), and, as it was in the middle of nowhere, dirt cheap to boot.

It would be a stretch. We’d have to relocate our business, build new clientele. But we decided to take the plunge. It was all so fortuitous. We negotiated; our unstable self-employed income not lending itself to home ownership, we persuaded the owner into a rent-to-own arrangement. We would travel to sign the papers in a week and move in the following week. The timing was sublime. End of August.

Days before papers were to be signed and less than a week before our move-in date, we received a call from the property manager. An offer had been made on our home. The owner accepted it.

In five days our friend would return from her trip and we would be homeless. One month before my due date, before our home birth.

Homebirth–without a home.

We had many generous offers to stay with friends. We were not destitute, but our uprooting was taking an emotional toll on me and my nesting instincts railed against our migration. We were

Displaced.

While friends in their first trimester were posting pictures of freshly decorated nurseries, I, at 9-months pregnant, slept in an extended stay hotel. I clung to the knowledge that women give birth in all kinds of circumstances every day around the world: in refugee camps, cars and ambulances, while incarcerated, in extreme poverty, and without the support of a spouse or loved ones. I didn’t need a nursery. A huge room for a little baby was an American idea. Not a need. I tried to remember how little we actually needed. I looked to my Burundi friends as my role models, my guides. These women gave birth in refugee camps and in route to the hospital. They mothered countless children in one bedroom apartments. They were fierce, tender, grounded; the kind of mother I wanted to be.

I was being stripped down, undone. Brought to a place of trust and surrender. Confronted with all I could not control, I could only let go.

And in the midst of this, I was fortified, sustained, kept sane by your father. You cannot know, love, how tirelessly he toiled to make arrangements for your arrival, to make money for your birth, to strategically load and unload all of our belongings into our borrowed vehicle, moving truck, temporary storage, friend’s home, extended stay hotel. How he reassured me night after night that it would be okay, all would be well, we would figure it out. And how we reminded one another over and over again that we already had all we needed: we had it all in each other and you. These were the essential makings of home. And we’d whisper to each other in our fear and uncertainty: “Home is wherever I’m with you.”

You see, son, you were all kinds of miracle. The amount of rearranging, shaping, shifting, carving, releasing, forming, that had to take place… all to make space in this world for you. To create your home, inside and all around us.

You were so grandly contrived.

*I am not making a statement for or against hospital birth, merely speaking from my experience. I know many women who have had very pleasant hospital births. I am an advocate of women-centered birth, meaning the woman should choose how and where she feels most comfortable giving birth, knowing all of her options.

Hope Materialized

Staring at our tiny home in utter disarray, I feel so pleased with the life we have made. The way we have ordered our priorities. We don’t have very much money. We cannot buy many toys for our son. But we have strived to give him open space to roam free, a whole wilderness to explore. We created a life where he gets to see and work with his mom and dad daily: family rides in “the Ranger” to feed the animals, playing with the door of the chicken coop while we collect the eggs, opening the gates for us as we drive into the cow pastures (he has a thing for gates and doors), and driving his wagon vigorously around daddy while he labours in the garden. All of this brings me such joy, in part at least because of the intentionality this life has required. It requires imagination and determination to live differently than what one has seen and been taught, to creatively reorder the landscape of one’s life. We chose this, hoped for this, and didn’t know if we could ever have this. And while I in no way can attribute what we have to anything but Grace, I know that it started with choice. To  choose to want, to dream, to hope. Then hope serendipitously materialized to opportunity. And though we had dreamily discussed the simple life for years, we didn’t know for sure, couldn’t have known for sure, how we would feel once we had the occasion to enact these ideals. What if we had build it all up in our heads? What if it really wasn’t enough? What if you actually do need more stuff and the entertainment of the city to be happy? 

All we could do was try.

And while it has only been three months, and I am sure there will be many challenges still to come, we are gleefully discovering that the life we had envisioned was in fact what we’d been longing for all along.  IMG_0767 IMG_0768 IMG_0752IMG_0183 IMG_0751 IMG_0722 IMG_0714  IMG_0704 IMG_0709 IMG_0610 IMG_0682IMG_0526  IMG_0635 IMG_0651 IMG_0448  IMG_0571 IMG_0445 IMG_0419 IMG_0450 IMG_0449 IMG_0374 IMG_0854IMG_0367 IMG_0357 IMG_0333 IMG_0384 IMG_0266 IMG_0269  IMG_0307 IMG_0274-1 IMG_0254 FullSizeRender-2 IMG_0191  IMG_0205 IMG_0671   IMG_0799 IMG_0769IMG_0800

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