Michele Minehart

writing & yoga

Weeds

I spent a considerable amount of time this week among the Lamb’s Ear in the garden. Here’s what you might not know about this common plant:

  1. It has herbal remedy properties. My herbalist sister calls it “nature’s band aid” because it’s able to adhere to your cut or scrape to keep it clean.
  2. It’s prolific. It has flourished under my black thumb.
  3. It’s actually quite beautiful. It has a silvery look and is soft to the touch. The blooms are also attractive.
  4. Some would classify it as a WEED.

There’s a class of people who turn their noses at the Lamb’s Ear, and after such work of getting rid of it, I might join the club. I’m pretty certain the previous owners of the house planted the flower in a few places as part of the landscaping, yet I’ve spent hours yanking it out by the handfuls.

More than once, I’ve wondered who gets to decide whether a plant is, indeed, a weed or worthy cultivation in a flower bed. I mean, who had it in for the dandelion? Ask any 5-year-old and they would tell you that it’s a complete atrocity to believe the sun-headed flower could be such a nuisance.

I decided the line between flower and weed gets crossed when you no longer have the ability to keep it where you want it to grow. It gets out of order. It might even take over.

A plant goes from desired landscaping to pesky intruder when the gardener is no longer in charge. It might be beautiful. It’s probably helpful in some way. You might even really like it. But it gets out of control. And keeping it around means more rewardless work than beauty and enjoyment.

I have to wonder how many of us keep proverbial gardens full of weeds in our lives. It’s probably something we originally planted with purpose, but it grew uncontrollably, perhaps to the extent that it’s overgrowing a beloved rose bush. This thing in your life: it could be beautiful. It’s probably helpful. And you might even really like it. But it’s out of control.

Sometimes a plant is a flower. Sometimes it’s a weed. How do you know the difference? Check the health of the plants around it. And ensure you have space to walk – if you cannot even move about, to enjoy it’s beauty, what’s the good of keeping it around?

What good looks like

It’s Friday, which means no one wants to move very quickly. Lunches were not packed while mama was gone last night and shoes were not put away, which means that favorite footwear was unavailable for today’s wearing. The early morning scramble is not my favorite part of parenting.

As the car sped away, I watched out the window to see my youngest two fully clad in baseball attire, ready to start their day. Then out came the soccer ball and the two of them stood together pretending to get team pictures before starting a game. (I’m not even kidding. The cutest thing.)

Sometimes I wonder why we do the things we do. Sometimes “not working” can feel like a bigger burden than employment. Financially, our life would make more sense to have more than a few yoga classes and contract work for income. And, quite frankly, I’m much better with the general public than with small children. I have more patience for the shortcomings of others because I don’t have to take it home and put it to bed.

But a childhood filled with playing in the yard, picnics at a park and trips to the library just seems right. When I think about what “good” looks like – how I know if we’re living a “good life” – days together fit into the picture for our family.

For some families, their weekends together and evenings of baseball tournaments are the best part of the landscape. Others come to see their trips and places they visit as their markers of good. All of these things can be wonderful; my version of a good life need not be the standard operating definition.

However, knowing what you’re aiming for, and recognizing it when it’s happening in front of your very own eyes, might be the most important part. When we sit down to dinner together, I can say, “Yes. Here. This is why I do what I do.”

May we all find markers throughout the days to remind us why we do what we do. May we recognize the life we’re creating and choose to revel in that joy when it opens up before our very eyes.

Ordinary Magic

When I was growing up, our friend Erica had one of those big backyard trampolines. Because her parents and my parents were beyond  BFF, we spent many hours trying to conquer the butt-knees-back-up and playing add-a-trick.  It was magical.

It wasn’t until late elementary that my dad decided to get us a trampoline for our own backyard. We loved it. This set of springs got plenty of wear. Then we reached a point when the only time we played Popcorn was when our friends were over. We didn’t dislike it nor were we bored with it; the trampoline simply lost its magic. It became ordinary.

Watching my own children jump with glee the other day, I reflected on how frequently this happens. We allow the magic to dust off when we make it commonplace, which I believe to be the real reason God tells us to “be holy.”

Much of the first testament gives instruction about how to keep certain things separate: men from women, wheat from beans, cotton from polyester.* Often we read this with a cultural lens that one of those things is less than the other. Not good enough. Even, dangerous. We approach the idea of holiness as if the ordinary makes the holy dirty; hence “unclean” (literally, “polluted” in the Hebrew).

I see this change through the words of Jesus. He tells people, often through parable, to let the weeds grow among the wheat. He says God will sort the sheep and goats. This makes sense, coming from a ridiculously terrible farmer who believes good things can grow in hard places.

The common, the seemingly less-than, can do nothing to change the nature of the holy. Like a life-long islander, we get used to the scenery and forget its magic. The mountains aren’t less majestic or the waves less soothing. We’ve simply made the holy, ordinary.

The good news: we can reverse this. Actually, when you read many of God’s commands and you find this great reversal at work.

Three meals a day, every day, often made from the same thing? The people could complain of another bowl of lentils but God says to bless them. Give thanks for the rain and the sunshine, miracles outside of your own control, required to make them grow. Did you know that the most devout Jews pray a toilet prayer (my term, not theirs), thanking God that all systems work like they’re supposed to? If ever there was a place to mix the ordinary and the divine, the bathroom is a good starting point.

My cousin works in the bridal industry. Every day, she sees young women on the cusp of what they imagine to be the most amazing day of their lives. Each and every one of them are special and unique; yet she can see 5 of them in a day. The 300 dresses hang on the rack as inventory. They’re numbered.

But when a bride walks out of the dressing room, sometimes with happy tears, it’s no longer a pile of satin or lace – it’s the dress. At least, to this bride, it is. Laura’s job is no longer to take measurements and find a matching veil; it’s to honor the magic amid one of her most ordinary days.

And this is the work for most of us. Teachers may tie shoes or plan lessons on long division or recount the events of the first world war. Ordinary, everyday stuff. Or, they’re inspiring children to ask questions, to follow their curiosity and find solutions to problems. Inspiration. Literally: to breathe into. (You know who did that first, don’t you? That first, holy work of making things come to life? Oh, yes, I just compared teachers to Genesis 1.)

A dentist or a doctor might feel as if they’re diagnosing or prescribing, but to the person who finally feels relief, they’re doing the holy work of healing.

We tend to make the magical into the monotonous. It’s just another day, another school year, another student/customer/patient/client. But we can seek the divine spark in the most ordinary of all things. By the nature of creation, God’s fingerprints cling to every day, person and place. The work of holiness is to see it and honor it as such.

 

 

*I’m being funny. I know the cotton/poly blend was not an ancient stumbling block. But something was, because Deuteronomy 22:11 exists.

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