Friday, April 29, 2011

Little Plants

Yesterday I was talking with a friend about my middle child, Israel.  I'm not sure if it's his age or his personality, or that infamous "middle-child syndrome", but I tend to have more trouble with him than I did with Malachi.  Israel has made more messes, gotten in more trouble, and been more stubborn about the simplest things.  He also makes me laugh more, is cuddly and sweet, and still sucks his thumb when he is feeling insecure. 

As I was describing some of the trouble I have had with him, I mentioned that usually if I can take a little extra time and have a little extra patience that things go better, but that there are also times when I can tell that I'm going to have to spank him and that's just all there is to it.  She told me, "That's right; he wants to know, 'Do you love me enough to enforce the boundaries?'"

For some reason, what she said struck me.  I already knew that children do bad things sometimes to get attention, and that we discipline the because we love them, but for some reason, something just clicked when she said that, and it made me see things more clearly.  So many times, I don't spank him or delay spanking because I love him and I feel like I want him to have a chance to just be a good boy and obey without that.  I don't like spanking him, so I often don't want to.  And right now, being largely pregnant as I am, sometimes I don't feel like I have the energy. 

I realized, however, that if I love him, I will spank him.  First of all, he isn't old enough to be given the responsibility of "just being a good boy because".  Secondly, he needs to know I love him enough to do what I say I'm going to do, to enforce the consequences of his actions, and to set boundaries.  As strange as it sounds, I believe those spankings sometimes say "I love you" more clearly than any words or hugs or second chances ever could.

I was talking to Aaron this morning, and he compared having children to having a garden.  Our children are like plants we have planted in a garden.  We know how to garden, we know what we need to do to keep those plants healthy and make them grow.  The question is, are we willing to get our hands dirty?  Are we willing to actually pick up the shovel or the hoe and dig in the dirt?  Are we willing to grab ahold of those weeds and pull them out? 

Many times, I feel like I am sitting by that garden in a lawnchair with my iced tea, and it's hot and the sun is beating down, and I think, "I don't feel like pulling those weeds today.  I don't feel like geting my hands dirty.  It's too much work."  I want my plants to grow.  I want them to be healthy plants, and thrive.  I want them to reach their full potential and produce big, ripe juicy tomatoes, or strawberries, or green beans, or whatever it is that God made them to produce.  But I want that to somehow just happen without my having to put effort into it.  However, as with so many things in life, that isn't possible.  Those plants need care, they need work.  Just like children.

Now I am not saying that it will always be hard or unpleasant, because there will be many days that cultivating those little "plants" will be enjoyable.  There will be many days when just seeing how they've grown and improved will be a joy.  There will be days when it's bright and breezy and the weeds are all easy to pull. 

But there will also be days when I won't feel like doing it and it will be an effort that feels like too much.  There will be days when I feel frusterated because even though I've been putting in a lot of time and energy, it looks like my little plants are not growing at all, in fact they may even look a little worse. 

There will be days when I come away with blisters and achy hands from pulling all those stubborn and deep-rooted weeds, days when I am pierced by thorns.  And there will be days when there are thunderstorms and rain, and I will worry about my little plants.  I will wonder if they are going to survive the storm, and there won't be anything I can do to help them except pray.

In the end, whether you are gardening or raising children, it comes down to trusting God.  Our efforts are important, and when we put in the work, it makes a difference.  Yet there will always be things they need that only God can provide, and we can only trust Him and pray.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wait for the Wind

Recently we bought a kite for the boys at Sam's Club.  It's this great big kite that looks like a robot, and the boys were brimming with excitement.  All we had to do was wait for the right day with some wind. 

One evening after Aaron got home we decided to go for it.  We weren't sure if the wind would be strong enough or not, but we had to try!  Malachi was especially looking forward to it.

We drove over to Bittersweet Park, where there is plenty of room for kite flying.  The flags at the monument were waving bravely in the wind, and we hoped that meant good things for our endeavour.  We warned the boys that there might not be enough wind, but that we would try.

We released the kite from its box and put it together.  Aaron tried first to see if he could get it into the air.  Time and time again, it would fly for a minute or two and then come crashing down.  There was wind, but not quite enough to keep it alfoat for a long period of time. 

After several of these tries, Aaron decided there was not enough wind and we took the boys over to the playground.  Izzy and Simeon were perfectly fine with this turn of events, but Malachi was heartbroken.  He so wanted to fly that kite!  We tried to explain that there just wsn't enough wind, but he desperately wanted to have a turn flying it.  Finally Aaron went back out in the open field with him and tried to give a few short-lived turns with the flying robot.

Before long it began to get cold and the sun began to set and we were getting hungry; it was time to go.  Even though Aaron had tried to accomodate Chi, he was still very disappointed with how things had gone.  He had been able to fly the kite a few times, but it just wasn't quite enough for him.  What's more, he blamed Aaron for all of it.  Somehow it was Daddy's fault that the kite would not fly.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, he was in tears, and nothing we said, from comforting words to telling him to just be thankful for what he got, could help.

Today Aaron and I were talking about it again, and it struck me how similarly we act with God sometimes.  We have a beautiful new kite and we want to fly it.  We want to fly it now!  So we take it to the park and we try our best, but there isn't enough wind.  And we blame God.  Nevermind that we are attempting to fly the kite in the wrong conditions, somehow it is God's fault.  We want what we want, and we want it now, and God should just make the wind happen when we want it to, we shouldn't have to wait until the right time...right? 

How often do we blame God for situations that we have gotten ourselves into?  We didn't ask Him for guidance, or if we did, we didn't wait for an answer.  Or maybe we got an answer, "There's not enough wind right now, you need to wait," and we didn't like it, so we did what we wanted anyway.

This hits home for me.  This is one of those moments when my children exasperate me with how they act and then I realize that I do the same thing.  It's rather humbling.  There have been many times when I wanted it my way and didn't care if it was the right time or not.  But if I would have waited, I might have found my kite flying high instead of crashing to the ground.  I might have found the result to be joy instead of tears and frustration. 

In the end, I'm encouraged.  I'm encouraged to trust Him, and to be thankful for what I have, even if it isn't always exactly what I want.