Everyone’s journey is different. No two people are the same. No combination of events the same. And while that is true, there are also many ways we can relate, sympathize, even empathize with one another. We are not alone. My life experiences may not be the same as yours but with some of you reading this, maybe you can relate. Relate to loss. To waiting. To longing. To the frustrations that come with the answer “no” or “not yet”.
When I first decided to start a blog I was hesitant. To be completely honest, I still am. I wanted to give a place where people felt a little less alone, although I’m sure a large part of that was me needing to remember that I am not alone. I am not alone in loss or grief. I am not alone waiting or longing. This specific post has taken many shapes and forms over the last few weeks as I have stewed over the significance of today, March 4th, and of what I am feeling and how I might want to convey that. It has gone from being a post about learning how to communicate through sadness and grief to how to respond in kindness when people say stupid things (because, let’s be honest, we all say stupid things sometimes) to seasons of waiting to not wanting anyone to feel alone and somehow morphed into this: the lessons I learn from my little gardens. At some point you will probably see another post about the things mentioned above but for today, for some reason, I have decided to process by writing down my thoughts on the plants I have that hold meaning and significance to me and by the end of the post who knows, maybe it will have morphed again. I am not sure why this is what is in my heart today but my prayer is that, by revealing another glimpse into my life and the way I am processing today, you might feel a little less alone and be encouraged to find little garden lessons of your own.
I am going with my dump truck method (mostly because I am learning I over-think things too much if I don’t. Perfect example: the many different visions for this post that have almost made it an impossibility to publish). I will probably jump around here a bit and likely give you more information than you really want or need. If you choose not to read any farther, I won’t hold it against you, this post got crazy long. If you do choose to read more I want to thank you for walking with me as I process.
Today I want to share with you my little gardens that have come out of loss. I want to share with you the way plants have helped me grow and remind me of beautiful life lessons that can be learned as long as I choose not to allow my circumstances to consume me.
I am reminded by a little bamboo that a “no” can sometimes actually be a “not yet” and to never let the “no” make me bitter.
I am reminded by Grandma Anita’s strawberries (seen in the image above) to continue to fight and grow, even in difficult circumstances.
And I am reminded by a backyard oasis of immense love and rest and peace and grace.
~ My Little Bamboo ~
A few years ago when we took our first negative pregnancy test I experienced the struggle with the answer “no”. It was in the first few months of trying and we had known it wouldn’t be easy for us to get pregnant so I thought I had guarded my heart well, rationally anticipating a negative. I took the test in the morning, saw the negative and went off to school, telling myself it was like any other day. I made it through the day, putting it as far from my mind as possible so I could be present for my students. What I didn’t realize was just how deeply my heart hurt at the answer “no”. (Anybody else have a hard time with the word “no”?) My sweet husband, on the other hand, knew that while it may take a while for me to process emotions, eventually the sadness would seep in. Before even receiving a text from me about needing to bail on our plans with friends for that night because I just couldn’t “people” anymore that day, he went out to Trader Joe’s and purchased my favorite cheese, crackers, a bottle of wine, chocolate coconut covered almonds, and a small, beautiful bamboo shoot. That bamboo shoot was the start of my little garden of growth. He brought home the grocery bag, full of reminders things he had chosen with care, and I was overwhelmed by the love he has for me. In a day that started with the answer “no”, my husband turned it into a “not yet”. He took something that to me, felt so harsh and final, and reminded me that it was simply “not yet”. He filled it with hope, hope of growth and life in the future, and I was reminded not to let my heart become bitter just because it was not the answer I had wanted.
I still have the bamboo shoot (it’s one of the few things I have managed to keep alive. Yes, I have even killed succulents) and each time I see it I am reminded of the love my husband has for me. I am reminded to have hope, hope of life and of joy, and to never allow bitterness to consume me. I am reminded of how far we have come and how far we still have to go. I am reminded that I have grown and am continuing to grow, molded and shaped by life experiences, and that “no” can sometimes be seen instead as a “not yet”.
~ Grandma Anita’s Strawberries ~
Two years ago today, March 4th, the world lost a beautiful woman, Grandma Anita. The family did not see it coming. The loss was shocking and felt by the family and throughout the small church community she had been so greatly a part of. After losing my grandmother my senior year of high school, my friend’s grandmother adopted me. Anytime Grandma Anita saw me she greeted me with a smile and a, “Hey, grandfriend,” always asking me how I was doing. She was a woman full of life and vigor, who loved her family and invested in those around her. As her family got ready to sell her house, I was asked if there was anything I might want from the garden she cultivated with such love and care. She was well known for her beautiful garden! I brought home with me strawberry plants, now lovingly referred to as “Grandma Anita’s Strawberries”, and planted them along the barrier wall in our new backyard.
That first fall in our new home included quite the wind storm, knocking down three panels of our fence and crushing a section of strawberry plants. After being transplanted I wasn’t sure the plants would survive and my heart ached. Not only did I want to have a little reminder of Grandma Anita for myself but I also wanted my friends to be able to come over in the summers and eat strawberries from the same plants their grandmother had loved and tended to. The fence was fixed, Spring came, and low and behold, not only did Grandma Anita’s strawberries survive, they have actually grown and spread farther along the barrier wall! Those beautiful plants have grown and shaped our new house, providing us with delicious strawberries for the past two years. From those strawberries I have learned what it is to fight and grow, even in circumstances that seem impossible. Those plants were uprooted, replanted, and then crushed and still they survived. Not only did they survive, they became stronger, growing and spreading and producing delicious fruit. Each time I look out at those strawberries I am reminded not to let my circumstances overwhelm me, but instead I choose to fight and to grow.
~ My Backyard Oasis ~
And now, I finally get to the reason today has been on my heart for the last few weeks. I finally get around to telling you why I need to process today through writing. Now I get to the part I have wanted to avoid, but still cleared my schedule this weekend knowing I may need space to process and grieve.
One year ago today, March 4th, 2017, after negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test and seeing the answer “no” what felt like a million times, I finally saw those two, beautiful pink lines.
We were pregnant! We were finally pregnant! It somehow seemed so fitting that on the anniversary of losing Grandma Anita, the day would feel a little bit redeemed with so much hope and joy. And so I rejoiced! I had chosen to fight and grow. I had chosen not to allow myself to become bitter but to instead hope and finally my “not yet” had turned into a “yes”!
One year ago today I finally started to allow myself to dream and imagine our future with the little life that was finally growing inside me. The little life that had been so hoped for and prayed for. I started to plan out the nursery and what color schemes I might like. I would finally get to celebrate Mother’s Day and experience all of the joys of pregnancy! By now, if you have read any of my earlier posts, you know how this story ends. I experienced 22 beautiful weeks with our little girl. Weeks full of joy and hope and immeasurable love before we had to say goodbye. And now, as I look back on March 4th, 2017, I long for that moment of utter elation, not yet tainted by sorrow and loss.
If we are able to get pregnant again it will not be the same as before. We will look at those two beautiful lines and be excited, yes, but it will also be different than before. We cannot go back to the moment of pure and utter joy but that does not mean we can’t choose day-by-day, moment-by-moment, second-by-second if we must, to have faith and hope over fear. My prayer is that when that day comes, if that day comes, we will choose to continue to cherish each moment and not be consumed by the endless possibilities of what could go wrong.
Back to my little backyard oasis. The week we said goodbye to Verity Grace my parents came over on a mission, what mission they wouldn’t say. We were told to stay inside and let them work, they would fetch us when they were ready. Ben was working from home that week, I was on summer break, so he went back to working upstairs and I popped in the copy of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (extended edition) that my parents had brought with them. That’s right, when I am sad or sick I like to watch Lord of the Rings and the second one happens to be my favorite. I’m weird. I know.
Hours went by before we were finally allowed to go into our backyard to see what they had done. Our little backyard had been transformed into our own, personal oasis. My parents had graciously dedicated their day to transforming our backyard into a space where we could rest and find peace and comfort. In the empty space along the back of the house they had planted three blueberry bushes and two Russian Sage plants and even had a small potted mint plant to be added to iced tea or coffee. They used the tall shepherd’s hooks from Ben and my wedding to create a little square around our back patio and hung a strand of large outdoor lights from it. And, last but not least, they set up two comfortable reclining lawn chairs so that we could sit back there, in the peacefulness they had created just for us, and enjoy out little oasis.
My parents knew we would need a place where we could remember just how much we are loved and cherished. A place full of life and the promise of a better tomorrow. A place full of peace and rest and grace. A place of beauty amidst the struggles and hardships of life. They blessed us with a place where every time I enjoy the fruit grown by those blueberry plants I can think of my daughter and the immense love surrounding her little life.
My little gardens have taught me much. They have taught me that it is okay to feel sorrow and pain and sadness but to not become bitter at the answer “no” or “not yet”. They have taught me to continue to fight and grow, even when I feel overwhelmed by the fences that come crashing down on me. They have taught me to make time for rest, for peace and for grace. And they have reminded me of the immensity of love.
Today, March 4th, 2018, is also the day one of my friends is marrying her best friend in beautiful, sunny San Diego. As I sit here processing, I am receiving pictures from her stunning wedding and I am reminded of the many emotions of numbers and of dates. Todays date in history has held many, many emotions from the sadness of death, to the joy of new life, to the beauty and excitement of a marriage just begun. And I remember words spoken by Graham Cooke, “There are no good days or bad days, only days of grace. The grace to enjoy or the grace to endure.”
Today my prayer is that your day would be full of grace and that you would be able to find life lessons in your own little gardens.