Michele Minehart

words & yoga

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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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Where’s Terri?

Terri saved me more than once already. We’ve been in our new/old town for just over a month, but the number of times I’ve left her office full of gratitude is greater than the number of times I’ve went to Walmart. (I think both Terri and I can all consider this an all-around success.)

The most recent occasion for my visit to Terri’s corner office was my upcoming mortgage payment. These new houses – well, they need paid for. Which required me knowing the amount of my monthly payment, along with finding a way to get money into and out of the checking account that would pay it. And if we could make all this happen in a way that repeated itself without so much effort, double word score. So I slumped into Terri’s office to admit I had indeed lost the passwords to make my online banking come alive AND I couldn’t find the payment books the bank had just sent. (Banking is hard. And so is moving.)

And then, she fixed it. Zim, zam, zoom, everything worked. I signed my name. She picked up the phone. Magically, all things banking-related worked again. How do real people do this? I wondered aloud.

How do real adults keep passwords and mortgages and school registrations and apply to see new doctors and salvage hearing aids left in the rain and read aloud to their children and potty train? And some of them – they even WORK. ALL YEAR ‘ROUND. How do they do this and not loose their ever-loving minds? 

It turns out that not just banking is hard. Or moving. Adulting, my friends, is terrible. Terrible! I’m not sure why this is a thing. Who decided we all needed to “become responsible” and “take care of ourselves” and “become productive members of society”? I’d like to talk to that person. I’d like to hire them to keep my calendar straight. And also, potty train the baby. This is going terribly as well.

Sometimes I look around and try to find the Terri’s of the rest of my life. Who around here is going to make this easier for me? People like Terri have spoiled me. Now I’m put off by people who aren’t trying to make my life easier. Like the woman at our former doctor’s office who wouldn’t let me email a form to the office but instead insisted I mail the hard copy with a stamp. (Add “buying stamps” to the list of hard things adults do. This task derails me every time.) And don’t tell me the office “doesn’t use email.” They do all their doctoring on ipads and laptops.

And where is The Terri at the school? If I suddenly go missing – after checking the laundry room – it would be best to look under the pile of 37 pink and green forms that the school requires. Per child. I could be buried alive. One person was so kind to point out that this is going to be my August activity for the next 14 years of my life. Times four. Can we please get a Terri in this office who will make things work electronically, so that all 62 people who need my cell phone number “in case of emergency” can simply pull it off the database?

I need a Terri everywhere. Someone who makes the day work just an eensy bit better. People who love their job, no matter what it is, enough – or so much – that it makes life better for others: these are my people. Like last week: I drove through Starbucks. The barista cheered for me when I made my selection. This. This needs to happen more. Cheers and helpfulness. Not forms and stamps.

Go, my friends. Be a Terri. Make some magic happen for someone. Make life a little better. Cheer, help and encourage.

(And just so you know that I practice what I preach, I just woke up my husband so HE could go be an adult. I didn’t even wake him with loud noises or a smack on the leg. We can do this, friends! We can be helpful to one another! And kind! It’s not as hard as we might think!)

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The easy thing to do

Wheels touched down on Dayton soil last night late, thus now it’s time I leave behind my palm trees, fruity drinks and the effort of trying to finish a novel before the end of the trip. Now we hit the ground running. We walked in at 1 am last night to half packed boxes, zero groceries and a list of questions for a realtor the size of my arm. My head hit the pillow as I was thinking, “shit just got REAL.”

We returned to frustration. Stress. Change. Goodbyes and hello-agains. And do you know what the easiest thing to do is? Doubt.

Did we make the right decision? Will we be as happy? Is this what we’re “supposed” to do?

Our culture simply doesn’t embrace the fact that hard things can be good things and walking against that current takes more energy than I imagined possible.

The fact of the matter is, the easiest thing you can do in the world is nothing at all. Of course it’s easier for us to stay than go. Of course it’s easier for us to remain in our house than move to a new one. But by staying the same, we’re never afforded the opportunity for growth that change brings about.

On the cusp of change, bracing for the fall, our minds crave sameness. Homeostasis. Doubt is our mind’s way of returning us to what is known.

Yet we’re not called to live based on what we know, but rather that for which we hope. And not the “gee, it’d be nice” hope. The Hebrew word for hope carries a connotation of “waiting.” Something that is not, yet will be. Yet we will never arrive at hope revealed when we keep returning to what we know – that is a thread in the story of the people of God time after time after time.

Someone much smarter than me said* the opposite of faith is not doubt – it’s certainty. Knowing. The thing that keeps us from walking into our hope-full reality is what we already know to be true and our fear of leaving it. Our fear that this new thing won’t be as good as our current thing.

Perhaps this is why God’s repeated message – over and over and over, beyond any other commandment, warning or promise – is “do not fear.” He knows our limited minds, our troubled hearts and reminds us that living with hope isn’t always knowing, it’s trusting.

It’s easy to doubt. It’s easy to stay. It’s easy to avoid change. But I suppose that if I had to choose between an easy life and a life filled with daily hope in a future that surpasses my understanding, even at the risk of disappointment, I’d choose a life of hopefulness any day.

May we each choose a life of hope over ease today.

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