Onward: Kindergarten, Apples, and Hope

Honeycrisp apple treeThe fall that we moved to our hobby farm, my husband planted a small orchard of Honeycrisp apple trees in the front yard. The following year, we had twin babies, an active toddler, and one of the worst winters in memory. Newscasters kept calling it a polar vortex; I called it a one-way ticket to stay-at-home-mom insanity.

In the spring, (the late, late spring that year), a few of the apple trees barely leafed out. Some developed a blackish type of rot, and others just withered. Every so often, my husband would stalk across the yard carrying an uprooted sapling and add it to the burn pile. Meanwhile, he carefully tended to the rest of the trees: pruning, fertilizing, fencing, weeding, waiting.

Last year, seemingly out of nowhere, a few small, red apples dotted the branches. Jason hid the biggest one on the top shelf of the fridge, a ruby red trophy, and we marveled at it every day for a couple of weeks, waiting for just the right moment to cut into it.

Meanwhile, apple alchemy was working its magic in the little orchard.

This year, five of our most gangly, teenage-looking trees produced an incredible show of nicely sized, bright red, juicy apples. Afraid for the young branches and the weight they were carrying, we decided to pick last week, though I’m sure it may have been a little early. (Remember, it’s amateur farm hour here. We’re learning by… experience.) The girls joined me in carefully twisting off all the apples they could reach, and I couldn’t help but remember driving past the orchard that polar vortex winter, wondering how on earth those trees were going to make it.

***

Four years ago, we were in the thick of raising babies. My eldest was two, and our twin daughters were two months. For better or for worse, our life was about small, concentric circles; we moved around the house in reliable patterns – meals, naps, laundry, baths. Taking an outing required a ridiculous amount of prep work: diapers, clean clothes, snacks, wipes, extra clothes, socks, shoes, toys, etc. and so most days we stayed home, managing best we could.

I want to say, “fast forward a few years”, the way people do when they scroll through vacation pictures and only remember the highlights (conveniently forgetting all incidents of puke, sleeplessness, and wardrobe malfunctions), but the truth of the matter is this: those early years of raising little ones did not go fast. They were full of wonder and challenge, failure and growth. And like the apple trees, there were times I wasn’t sure just how we were going to make it through.

first day of kindergartenBut two weeks ago, I watched my eldest hang her backpack in her locker and walk into her cheery kindergarten classroom. We stayed for a minute, processing her emotions and getting her settled in before turning around and navigating back down the hallway full of eager and nervous students.  The following week, I watched the twins walk confidently through the preschool entrance and line up by the door. And just like that, my minivan was overcome with silence (Griff isn’t a big talker yet).

I drove a few blocks, parked, and pulled out the baby carrier. Griff and I commenced to take on a beautiful, albeit sweaty hike through the woods in Taylors Falls. (Twenty-five pounds of baby and carrier adds a new level to any exercise these days.)

For a majority of my walk, I kept thinking back to two things – apples (namely, the giant bags in the pantry needing to be processed) and waiting, an action I’ve struggled with all my life.

You see, I had to wait for those wimpy little trees to do something, anything.

I waited through those long, wintery days when my daughters tested every ounce of patience I could muster, and it felt like we’d never be able to open the front door without a mountain of snow spilling into the entryway.

I waited while I mowed in circles around the apple fences and weed-whipped around the trees, keeping them clear of intruding vines.

I waited through seasons of discipline when I sat my eldest firmly down on the stairs over and over, talking through actions and consequences.

I waited in the smoke of bonfires, watching the dry leaves of another failed tree darken and curl into ash.

I waited through shopping trips of horror where my daughters took the liberty to climb like monkeys out of the cart, eat Chapstick, tear tags off items for sale, land us in the bathroom multiple times during one trip, and demand to be fed every eight seconds.

I waited because I had the promise of something else to come alongside me through the difficulty.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

I had hope. Firm, anchoring hope, a Hebrews 6:19 hope, that what God promised me through his recorded words was going to come true.

I wasn’t muscling my way through the daily grind without reason. I was waking up day after day, pouring bowl after bowl of cereal, mediating argument after argument, reading story after story, because I had faith that eventually my children would learn to do those things for themselves…and that my perseverance in teaching them the small things would prepare me in maturity to teach them the bigger lessons later on.

And then it struck me that here, in this season, some of the things I’ve been waiting FOR just climbed into the passenger seat next to me like it was no big deal. It’s like when you see your child make their own toast and pour their own milk and you feel like THE WORLD has opened wide up with progress.

We survived that first awful winter, and the ones after it, with a little bit of pluck and gumption. The toddlers that tried my patience are now talking about helping others on the playground and raising their hands in class. The apple trees are thickening their limbs, digging down deep to produce the richness they were meant to.

Our daily life, which used to feel so small, is now moving forward, not at breakneck speed, but with a steady, constant pace that I have grown to appreciate as I deepen my understanding of things like faithfulness, and patience, and hope.

Onward.

Advertisements

Dodging the details and waiting for change

On the second level of our farm house is an unfinished room, all honey-colored studs and rough edged planks. It smells like wood and quiet air that doesn’t move, and when we first moved in, we spent hours talking about what it could become.

The empty room is the upper level A-frame to a kitchen/bathroom/laundry addition that was put on the original farmhouse years ago, but never quite made it onto anyone’s list of priorities. It’s a big space, relatively speaking, and an uncommon find in a house its age.

After we found out baby number four would be joining our family, we did a few calculations. We currently have three bedrooms, only one of which accommodates our average-sized adult bedroom furniture. The other two are modestly minimal. (That’s a nice way of saying TINY. My eldest’s room won’t even hold a queen size bed and allow the door to shut.)

Bear with me. I know this is a privileged problem, and that numerous configurations of brothers and sisters have shared bedrooms since the beginning of time. But the empty room across the hall seemed like such a simple, obvious solution.

IMG_20160609_094344111_HDR (889x1280)

Decision by decision, things came together. Our architect’s original plan to include a bathroom, play room, and bedroom (a roof bump out would be necessary) was pared down to a bedroom and a walled off space for a bathroom… a few years down the road.

Tradesmen walked across the spongy wooden floor and pulled our their measuring tapes, plotting light fixtures and heaters, support beams and closets. My belly began rounding out, and I started pinning nursery and A-frame bedroom ideas. Financing came through, bids were agreed on, and helpful family members assisted us in carrying the miscellany out of my handy, hoarding-prone space.

But, as with any project, there are variables. Schedules. Quiet times. Dreams that can only flesh themselves out by waiting the way this fourth baby waits, suspended in the strange in-between space of darkness and light, emptiness and existence.

That’s how it goes these days. We dangle our toes off the edge of change, my husband and I, bantering about life with four and how our daughters will adjust. We peek in our empty space and try to imagine what it will look like, what will go where. Meanwhile the baby traces his feet in wild patterns against my stomach, as though he too is tired of running in place below my ribs.

Transition is never easy. Waiting requires a certain release, a letting go of when, and how, and what finished will look like. It demands that I have no answer to the question “how is this going to work” when I think about the next year of our lives and the logistics of preschool and shopping carts  and navigating months of sleeplessness.

Change demands that we adjust what we’ve become comfortable with, gulping faith and air alike in the face of the unknown.

It demands trust in a Father God working for our good. 

It asks for belief that even when we feel hard-pressed on every side, we are not crushed. Confused, but not abandoned. Thrown down, but not broken.

Baby boy is due in 25 days. Both his being and bedroom remain unfinished – each in their own stage of becoming – and it’s hard, some days, to let that truth hang in the air. I want to know when. I want to see how.

I want to plan and prepare and paint. I want to lay on my stomach and say yes to jumping on the trampoline in the sprinkler with my giggling wet tribe. I want to hold a baby with my arms instead of my hips. In true Scandinavian fashion, I want to get on with it.

But today, there’s no getting on with anything. Today there’s a floor covered in toys and laundry that’s been haphazardly stacked on the dryer for days. Today there must be something made for family supper. Dishes. Bedtime. An evening meet-up with a friend. None of which has anything to do with having a baby or finishing a bedroom.

And maybe that’s the answer. Because when change comes, it asks us to simply do what needs to be done, until it no longer feels like anything has changed. Maybe this waiting period, this plodding of one foot in front of the other, provides the momentum we need to keep moving once change arrives.

Maybe there’s grace to be found as we release the details and simply wait for our hands to be filled with what comes next.