Container Garden Week 4

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Look at those plants! I can’t tell you how in love with them I am. It’s like parenting but without the back-talk. What a joy!

I had to dig up the petunias; they were attracting slugs, the little hussies. And the Zucchini and Pepper plants seem to be much happier with the pots to themselves.

We have lots of flower buds right now. Here are future tomatoes:

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And future Zucchini:

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Pernicious mint:

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And more baby Cilantro!

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I used some of my rosemary and thyme on baked chicken this week and it was incredible. Herbs are probably the greatest investment right now because they are usable every day without impeding their growth.

The organic pesticidal soap and removal of the petunias seems to have helped the pest problem but if it goes on another week, I will try something stronger. The pepper flower of last week disappeared, which might have happened in a storm but… I’m not growing veggies for the bugs!

Sigh. So much love for those plants.

Happy Thursday, all!

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10 Things I Learned This Weekend

Eva and I got to spend the weekend visiting some of our closest friends in Northern Virginia and celebrating their son’s third birthday. We had a wonderful time despite bad traffic and a complete lack of nap time TWO DAYS IN A ROW (shudders to think what COULD have happened). We got to see Eva’s great-grandparents and great-uncle, eat cake, watch fireworks, snuggle babies, and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

It’s amazing what two days of travel can teach you. Here’s what I learned this weekend:

Lessons Learned:

1. I-95 is a parking lot on Saturdays. Abandon hope after Fredericksburg and go to IKEA at Potomac Mills if you were stupid and kept trying anyway. Next time, leave on Friday.

2. There is something magical about a barely traveled, tree-lined I-85 at twilight. A purple sky and a full moon make up for multiple near-death experiences on I-95.

3. My daughter has two personas. One for people she knows and another for people she doesn’t. The other moms at the party Saturday all commented on how sweet and timid Eva was and I thought (but did not say), “Yeah, that’s not really her at all. She was just taking her time evaluating the situation. There’s no timidity in discernment.” Note to self: always give Eva time to acclimate to her situation.

4. Real friends are incredibly precious. I am so lucky to have had that wonderful woman in my life for nearly a decade. Five hours of driving really shouldn’t stop me from seeing her and her sweet family more often. There are some things time cannot tarnish; a true friendship is one of them.

5. I could hold a sleeping baby forever.

6. Austrian men look good in party hats.

7. Hearing my grandfather tell my daughter how her great-great-grandfather played the organ at York Minster is now one of my sweetest memories. I can only pray Eva remembers, too.

8. Children are simultaneously direct reflections of their parents and wholly independent. It’s truly fascinating to see yourself in your daughter and your best friend in her son, but also know without a doubt that your children are going to make their own decisions, but they’ll be decisions you made once upon a time and it won’t matter that you already lived it. They will feel their own emotions, reactions, and pain and respond exactly the way you would but it doesn’t have anything to do with you. Maybe we take parenting too personally. Maybe it’s ok if Eva makes all the same mistakes I did. It will still be her life, not mine.

9. Birthday cake, fireworks, and complete disregard for appropriate bedtime does not stop 3 and 4 year olds from sleeping like the dead afterwards. Indulging your kids with good things every once in awhile doesn’t hurt.

10. Travel is good for the soul. (Ok, I knew that already but it was nice to be reminded.)

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Enough

I’ve clicked through a lot of blog links on Twitter in the past few weeks. Especially the ones that seem geared towards feeling overwhelmed, making big decisions, or being a single parent. I’ve been struggling with writing and just wanted some direction, a filter to make all this nonsense in my mind coalesce into a cohesive post. A flint stone to throw myself at until I spark. I have 8 unfinished drafts in my queue. Not joking. This is the ninth attempt at saying what I’ve been agonizing over for two weeks.

The most significant issue in the mix is my career. One day, driving on the highway, I was so struck with an achingly painful certitude that God made me a writer, I started weeping. Not the pretty, romantic kind of weeping, but the ugly hyperventilating, pull-off-the-side-of-the-road kind of weeping. And as much as I know that’s what I was made to do, I am equally struck by the weight of my responsibilities to provide for Eva. I’m not exactly in a position to drop everything and make it happen. It’s not an impossibility, it just can’t happen today. But I desperately wish it could happen today.

So I kept reading other posts, hoping that maybe someone has said something that will help. Lots of people have said things, good things, but none were the words I needed.

Sunday I arrived at church starved for hope and comfort. I was relatively confident I could find a bit of each while there. Mark, our pastor, passed out a stone to each person before he began his sermon. They were small, smooth black stones, probably something you’d normally use in a decorative water fountain or floral display. He gave no explanation except that we needed to hold on to them. I chose a triangular stone with a little crevice on one side. I held it in my left hand, calmly nestled in my palm through the whole service, as I listened to Mark and tried to sift through everything on my heart.

I’d really hoped that the sermon would be an easy answer to my problems–some variation on “Do what God made you to do” or “Go where the Holy Spirit calls you,” something I could latch on to and run with. But it wasn’t. It was about love. God is love, not just that he loves us, not just that we love him but that everything about love is God and everything about God is love. So my job as someone that follows God is to love. (Yes, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack did just start playing in your head–“The greatest thing you’ll ever know is to love and be loved in return.”)

At first I thought, “God, this is not helpful, this is not an answer.” But then I realized it was an answer that made my question obsolete. To some degree, it doesn’t matter what I do, I am still able to love on people–Eva, my family, my friends, you readers. It doesn’t matter what I do to provide financially, I can still be a writer.

I am already exactly the woman God made me to be.

I’m not perfect, I have so much learning to do, so much faith to grow into, but I am just as capable of living a life set apart for Him now in a job I hate, without a home of my own, with Atlas’ burden on my shoulders, as I would be if I had my dream life. In fact, I might even be better off this way because I am reminded of my desperate need for God every single day. If I had a cushy job, a house, a dog and the stability I crave, would I crave God’s grace so much? Probably not.

So if I am who I need to be, if I have everything I need to love and fulfill that purpose, what is stopping me from feeling fulfilled?

Mark finally told us what the stones were for as the service ended. Each stone represented a fear, just a single fear, and we were supposed to place the fear on the altar and let God deal with it. (Yes, some objects lessons are simplistic but no less meaningful in action.)

And with a rush of clarity as strong as the day I wept in the car, I knew that the only thing holding me back is my fear of not being enough. Not good enough to succeed, not smart enough to make the right decisions, not in tune enough with God’s plan to go the right way, not woman enough to ever be a wife, just simply not enough.

I know exactly where those feelings of inadequacy originate. I know that even though they resulted from real situations and feel like legitimate worries in my mind–they are not legitimate. They are damaging and debilitating. They prevent me from loving myself and loving others because I am too scared to try. They stop me from feeling fulfilled.

I laid the stone of that fear on the altar; I didn’t fully relinquish my fear to God. I acknowledged it. I said to God, “I know this is getting in the way of…everything, help me give it to you. Help me see the opportunities you give me to heal.”

I will struggle to place that fear before God every day. To truly be free to believe I am enough requires a daily overhaul of how I think about myself, but I am going to try. I’ll probably fail more often than not, but I am going to try.