Monday, December 15, 2014

Patience and a Birthday Request

It's warm today. Mid-December and 69 degrees but a breeze with a bite is blowing through reminding me that we've got a long way to go until spring.  

This morning an underforecasted storm blew in and I woke up before the sun hearing Jeremiah wrangling boots out of the dark closet and muttering something exasperatedly about the weatherman and something about tools in the trailer and something about the darn rain. I went back to sleep.  

The older boys are at their dad's house along with a backpack full of their homeschool books. The baby boys are napping and Jeremiah has preoccupied himself with one of his projects now that the sky is blue again. The floor is in disarray and the dishes fill the sink, but I think I'll ignore it all and call this time mine. I think I'll sit here at my desk and listen to the wind howl by and feel the warm sun shining through the window and just write a while.   

Tomorrow is my birthday. 29. Still barely an adult by many standards, but somehow in my world as a young mother, these moments of solitude are so rare I don't remember my last one. It's funny how birthdays make us reflective, how warm days make us look ahead in anticipation, how quiet times make the loudness of everyday seem so much less overwhelming.   

I used to read a lot, back when I still had time for things like that.  When my grandmother passed, years ago now, I ended up with boxes of her books. I read all the time. Novels on top of novels. But then the third child came and then the fourth, and I'm happy to get 15 minutes alone with my Bible now. Occasionally, a title will call out to me from the shelf though. And I'll pick it up and forgo my stolen trips to Pinterest and Facebook for a few days and devour a book instead. Sneaking chapters the way mothers have to hide in the pantry if they hope to eat half a cupcake. Silly, the things motherhood brings us to.   

Yesterday I picked up a book I've read before. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver.  Its just a story of a family, forerunners in the locavore food movement, that moved across the country to take up the call of homesteading. In hand with this passion, they challenged themselves to an entire year of eating locally. And so the story goes. Barbara (when I get attached to authors we gain first-name-basis status, in my head at least) is an author I love anyway. She's written multiple books that have moved me, back in my reading days that is. But this book....this manifesto towards food and a lifestyle I crave does something different. I'm halfway through it now, hence my cluttered floor and piled up dishes, and I feel this passion welling up.   

Maybe its just the timing. The birthday, the unseasonal warmth, the hours of unexpected peace today. But I like to believe nothing is wasted. I like to think everything is divine.   

I remember the last time I read this book. It was years ago, in a suburban neighborhood, in a house I was happy to call home. The idea of some level of food-sustainability was romantic at best. I fancied the idea of exclusively shopping at farmers markets and lining the porch with a container garden that would surely flourish. The next year my containers flopped. My tomato plants grew leggy and my squash blossomed and then wilted due to a lack of pollinators.   

Now though, as I write this, I hear a rooster crowing over the sound of the wind and the squeak of the whirlybird on the roof. He's my rooster. His name is Bob, dubbed by the kind stranger who gave him to me. He oversees a flock of laying hens that were my hearts desire for nearly a decade. And now I have them.   Hens may seem a silly thing to dream of. And it may be due to pregnancy hormones, but I wanted them so badly that I have now cried over more eggs than I'd like to admit.   

This summer was a whirlwind. At the start of it I found myself surrounded by boxes, with a flooded basement, in mourning after a tornado in a new-to-me house in the middle of rural nowhere. But at the end of it, I found myself at home, committed to homeschool with my husband alongside me, committed to homestead. It's a slow going process, but the 5-year-plan is so exciting and the 10-year-plan is enough to make my mind reel.   

There are setbacks, sure. There is never enough money and there is debt to be handled. There are unforecasted rainy mornings that breed lazy afternoons. But then there are also crowing roosters. There are glossy heirloom seed catalogs with somewhere to actually plant the seeds. There is rich dirt, freshly planted apple trees, wild blackberries, and surprise pecans. There are persimmons...everywhere. There is a squeaky whirlybird. Even when it's ugly and discouraging, it's what I prayed for.   

One point that Barbara touches on in her book is that the quality experience is worth waiting for. I teach this. I teach it in the form of abstinence to the young people I have worked with. I teach it to my children as they save their money for the toys they want. I repeat it to myself when faced with all the things I want to do RIGHT NOW. But I don't implement it how I should. Like I said, we have debt that came from not waiting. We have baggage that came from not waiting. And we have a pantry full of food that is bad for us that comes from not waiting. It strikes me now, on this reflective afternoon, how much we could benefit from just learning to practice patience. 

And I mean, really practice it.   

1 Corinthians 13 tells us, after all, that the very first defining trait of love is patience. We are bankrupt without love. We accept this as a truth, but then live in this impatient world conforming to it's habits and let its ways bankrupt us. Why is it so hard to just make do with what we have? Why is it so hard to just wait on God to provide, to heal, to implement His plan instead of ours. My name is Jessica. And I am terribly impatient. 

Like really, seriously impatient.   

So how do I get better? I'd like to say I could make some year long commitment to eating only local food or some fabulous plan to serve in a grandiose and sacrificial way. I have ideas and hopes to implement a very strict budget and a crack of dawn schedule that never leaves dishes in the sink at noon.   

But that is all based on what I can do. I've tried these big acts of self-restraint before and fallen short. Given up. Because I've always relied on my power. My strength. And my power is nil, my strength is worse. So I think I'll start with prayer. Which brings me to the point. Will you pray with me? A sweet friend asked me yesterday how to pray, and my first response was for energy and motivation to DO more, BE more efficient. Still about me.  

God has showed me my purpose and I have seen what holds me back: this mildly manic woman's tendency to run headlong into a dream and then fall flat at a lack of progress. Impatience, in short, to let hard work run its course.   

So pray for me to have a new heart. To be content. To be fulfilled by what God has provided NOW. To see His fingerprints even when I can't see the fullness of His plan. Would you pray for me, please, that I might not strive for my idea of perfection, but simply for a life that pleases God? Because I've read the Word. And really, when I read of the imperfect people after God's heart, they are exactly who I want to be; Esther with her boldness, Peter with his passion, Paul with his tunnel vision for Christ, Ruth with her faithfulness and even the unnamed Proverbs 31 woman and her steadfast hand in raising her home.   

And I, for now, am going to go check in on my chickens. And then do the dishes, by which time naptime will be over and it will be time to start practicing patience. And so the story goes...