Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Month: March 2016

Begin at the Beginning

I had one of those moments last week. A time where I could hear the kids screaming from two rooms away. Dinner needed cleaning up, the bigs needed help with their homework but refused to be helped, and the youngest wanted to take another bath. I remember laying (okay, hiding) on the bed, thinking, “Never would I have imagined that this would be my life.”

Then, I thought, “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

It’s not perfect. Far from it. Put aside the constant messes, which ticks up my anxiety pretty quickly. Our voices are constantly  rising, though not nearly often enough in song. The kids sometimes don’t get along, with one particular child constantly sneaking into rooms and stealing candy, legos or drawing on private notebooks. And did I mention how LOUD it is around here?

Here’s the thing: it’s good. I have a good life. I have good kids. I have a good husband and a good marriage. I’m not alone. Lots of us have some good things going for us. Good jobs, good friends, good retirement plans, whatever’s in your bag.

For us go-getters, this can cause problems. We say, “what will make it better?” I’m all for that.  While I applaud a striving for betterment, it can take us down a dangerous path, toward the idea that only when it is “better” – usually envisioned as perfect – then it will be good enough.  And do you know when that will be? A day short of never. This leads to constant dissatisfaction and an inability to see the goodness in some of the most simple and beautiful of things.

It’s fine to improve. You’re reading words by a girl who keeps a Life Plan. I goal set. I consider the most time-efficient way to shower. (Seriously.) So these words don’t come from some lazy, “oh, it’s fine” sit-around-and-watch-COPS deadbeat. Don’t think I’ll dismiss striving for excellence as futile.

In the Christian tradition, we tell the story of a long, long time ago (think, the beginning) where there was a guy, a girl, a snake and two trees. Short story made even shorter, some bad choices were made and now we know why the world is filled with suffering.

Here’s what we forget: in chapters one and two of the book of beginnings, God creates everything and calls it – what? say it with me now – good. He calls it good. Water, plants, sky, sun, bugs, animals, fish… good, good, good, good, good, good, good. When he gets to his finale, the human, he says it’s very good.

Not perfect.

In our current state, we’re aware that we live with hardships and challenges, personal shortcomings and collective failure. On the tough days, when you know you messed it up or screwed someone over, we’re hyper-aware of this secondary way of being.

In our modern life, we need not look far to be told how imperfect we are, how we’re getting it all wrong. Advertisers capitalize on our awareness of imperfections all the time – that’s why wrinkle creams and flashy cars exist. They want to sell us something to cover up the not-so-great.  There’s no need to convince us of our un-goodness. We’re totally aware, thank you.

As we long for something better, we turn our eyes to what we think we ought to be. That first story; the beginning. We want to be good again.

But we think good means perfect.  So we don’t find the good. We don’t know what good looks like anymore because we’ve been told it needs to be skinnier, shinier, faster, sleeker and with toddlers that don’t throw fits. Also, it’s supposed to be easier, and if you’re doing the work, and it’s hard, you must be doing it wrong, because a good life should appear effortless.

Let’s return to our real beginnings, the one where God looked us up and down, in all our naked glory and said, “that’s some of my best work yet.” In the beginning, God made us in the image of God, an image we still reflect.

We’re not perfect. But we’re good.

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I nearly forgot

For over 5 years, I slept in three-hour increments, waking for hungry babies, lost pacifiers or wet sheets. Now that “the baby” is nearly 3, my nights have grown longer. But then the dog turned diabetic and we hosted a round of sickness, I relived my newborn years and realized I had forgotten the feeling of Mama Exhaustion.

That bone-tired, bleary-eyed attempt of making breakfast. The deep breath of attempted compassion before approaching a child, instead of with frustration. The sense of being needed, right. now. The inability to fix anything, but offering a touch, a kiss, a few words of “I know” and “me too” and “I’m right here.”

Our kids always need us, that is evident. I’m 35 and call my own parents when I need something. A child never outgrows the peace that comes with a parent knowing your stress, your pain, your needs. The first time I was sick while away at college, I called my mom immediately. Of course, I didn’t expect her to show up with soup – growing up, I would regularly heat up my own can of Campbell’s – but I needed her to know.

As my own children grow, they need me in different ways. They need me less to get them dressed, but rather to make sure a favorite sweater is clean. I don’t have to entertain them, but they need me to throw a ball around for practice, to buy ballet shoes or take goofy pictures. Now I don’t physically  feed them by breast or spoon, but they need me to teach them about food and how to care for our bodies. Sometimes, they need me to bring their forgotten lunchbox to school.

In the thick of it, I never believed the fatigue of teeny-tinies would ever end. More than once, in the early hours of the day I wept of exhaustion. And then, nearly suddenly, I slept. Every night. And the season of tinies was over.

My wake-up call didn’t make me miss the season of sleeplessness. It did, however, give me a moment to pause and recognize our progress. To see where we’ve come and remember how we got there. And for certain, this too shall pass. We’ll move on to new struggles one day, probably right as we find ways to live harmoniously within the old ones. Parenting is a beautiful lesson in the myth of certainty. Surely when you come to know something, you realize you know nothing. It keeps us humble and curious. And, on some days, exhausted.

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From Seed

We’ve always had at least a small patch of dirt to grow our tomatoes, our peppers, maybe a green bean or two. Last year we added cucumbers because JJ was determined to make a good clausen pickle – and he got very close. We’ve experimented with greens and broccoli, here and there. So, we’re not garden newbies.

Our new-to-us, for-nearly-one-year house came with a massive garden space. The plot had already been dug a few years ago, though when we moved in, it remained vacant. Last year we had to rely on farmer’s markets for anything fresh, and it would be an understatement to say that JJ’s disappointment in BLT season was massive.

So, this year we’re upping our game. Not only are we filling that vacant spot in the backyard, we’re starting it ourselves. That’s right. We’re growing from seed. And not just any ol’ seed packet from 3 years ago. We ordered heirloom packets from Baker Creek. We don’t mess around, no, we don’t mess around, nuh-uh. We purchased a few starter pots and a grow light, because we lack a good western-facing window.

JJ's garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

JJ’s garden mapping. He even researched which plants grow best together.

We had the kids fill the little pots with the fluffy organic soil and I carefully doled out a few seeds per pot, and marked them with painters tape on the cup, because we lacked foresight to buy those little stick-things, and – let’s face it – the odds of those being removed and used as a weapon runs pretty high in this house.

And then, we waited. And waited. Finally our onions (yes, onions! He thought he was getting starts, but no) gave us tiny slivers of green poking through the dirt. And then the tomatoes! We moved from the hotpad-prepped table to the light table. We even have alarms going off each morning and evening to remind us to water and move the pots around.

This growing stuff is serious business. We’re leaving overnight and have a little bit of concern about our sprouts. We check them regularly, and every time we see a new little stem, we celebrate. Right now, it’s a tad unfathomable what it will be like to pick a tomato that came from a plant that started as this teeny-tiny seed. There’s a certain amount of miracle, not only in our ability to keep these things alive, but in their inherit ability to grow and produce and to feed.

JJ said last night, “and just think about next year, after we collect the seeds from our own harvest and save them, and then start them again next year.” I think it’s akin what grandparenting might be like – watching this thing you grew, produce again and again.  You’re not at all in control, yet, without you, this life would cease to exist as we know it. We’re not the source. We can’t even “make” anything grow. Yet we’re vital to the entire process.

Of course, someone else, somewhere else, is growing perfectly “fine” little cherry tomatoes and banana peppers. We could always just let them do it. We can continue to go to the store and buy our imported romas, twice the size of the normal (because we Americans like everything “bigger and better”) and be on our merry little way.  Leaving it to the professionals is always an option.

When we continue to outsource, we don’t have to rearrange our lives. We don’t have to water and weed and pluck. And, for sure, you’re able to steer clear of the heartache of a bad season, a diseased favorite purple pepper, or the frustrations of a bug infestation. We can absolutely bypass the work of growth by buying it ready made. This is always an option.

So why do it?  And, as with gardening, so with life. Marriage, children, starting – or even working – a business. Why toil, strain and love?

I. Don’t. Know.

Except to say that in the process of growing something else, we reap a new kind of nourishment, one reserved for those who dig in wholeheartedly. This cannot be described with words, only by eating a tomato fresh from your garden. Or watching your child hit his first home run. Or standing beside your spouse as she accepts her Citizen of the Year award. Or hearing from a customer how you made her wedding the most beautiful day of her life. Or delivering yet another healthy baby. Or finding a donor to fund a cause that will change lives. Or helping someone find a home that will keep their family safe and warm, a respite from the world. Or helping a child write their first “book.”

There’s no reason to put in the hard work, other than the fact that hard work – whether it be with plants or people – blossoms and feeds you. It’s beautiful.

Obviously, I’m not mandating that every single person in the world must buy packets of seeds and set watering timers. This is simply our most recent peek into blessings of putting in the hard work. It helps me to answer the “why.” Why we don’t watch a ton of TV. Why we opt to bake bread instead of letting McDonalds fry it for us. Why we rearrange schedules so we can be with friends. Why we move to a small town for a lesser-paying job in exchange for nearby family.

We do hard things because they are good. Perhaps even better than easy things. Hard things give us a new sense of life and the enjoyment of it. There’s a certain beauty at discovering the connection between your soul and the rest of the universe. With a little love and attention, we can be a part of the process of creation, not just the consumption.

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

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