A wait and see God11 Feb 2020
Beauty doesn’t come in perfection but with love, time and connection, says Clare Deignan in a letter to her daughters Charlotte and Ella.
I thought it was a good plan. Gardening is supposed to be fun. I’m not a seasoned gardener and neither is your father, but I imagined working in the yard together would be a great bonding experience for our family. In my mind, I envisioned us with our hands dirty, laughing and making our backyard a bit more charming.
Children’s author, Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius gave me the idea. It’s a book from my childhood and one your Mimi and I love to read to you. The story is about a little girl whose grandfather inspires her to travel to faraway places and live by the sea. He also makes her promise that no matter what she does when she grows up she will try and make the world more beautiful.
When Miss Rumphius becomes a mature lady, although she’s travelled to many countries and lives at the beach, she’s still not sure how to fulfill the promise she made to her grandfather. Then one day, Miss Rumphius decides she will simply scatter lupin seeds all around the countryside near her home. She waits and sees. Soon, there are lupin blossoms everywhere. Over the years, the village children call Miss Rumphius the Lupin Lady, but most importantly she fulfills her promise to her grandfather.
I thought of Ms Rumphius and her lupins after surveying the patches of dirt and overgrown weeds on the hill behind our house. I often look out our kitchen window gloomily, knowing that at this point, it would be too expensive to landscape. I thought, ‘Why don’t we scatter seeds on our back hill and like Ms Rumphius wait and see?’ We also have some forgotten planter boxes that could use some attention, so I headed to our local nursery and came home with seeds, annuals, perennials and lots of dirt.
How long could it take to scatter seeds and plant some flowers? I figured we would have plenty of time, although we did have a family dinner to get to in an hour. When time managing as a parent, it’s crucial to remember to budget an extra hour into every activity and never squeeze… but I was squeezing.
After we scattered the seeds, we’d watered the hill to help our efforts along. It was quick and easy. The planting couldn’t take that long. I figured we’d just need to change our clothes, brush our hair and wash our hands. How naïve I can be.
Instructions? What instructions?
Holding my breath, I began planting faster and faster. I neatly had laid out how I wanted the flowers planted but none of you were following my instructions. Ella, you squealed while fumbling with a spade, digging one of the annuals out of the planter box. I checked the flower, unsure if it would survive. You dumped the excess soil in my lap. I took a deep breath and reminded myself this is supposed to be fun. Your Mimi always says, ‘Remember, you are making memories’. So, I smiled while checking the time again.
Charlotte, your father and I hadn’t been paying attention while you decided to plop the annuals in any order in the planter box. I was getting stressed and your father wasn’t going fast enough for me. I pointed this out and he looked at me with an irritated glare. Daddy doesn’t need to say a word; his eyebrows say it all. A few minutes later I noticed he’d stopped working. He was supervising from a few feet back with his hands on his hips.
The two of you didn’t notice mummy’s angry words and daddy’s frustrated silence. Ella was still decapitating annuals and Charlotte continued to plop the survivors in any old place and covered them tidily with dirt. Then fresh soil smacked my face and hair – reality had hit. This is real life; not some filtered photo on Instagram. Parenting is hard, unpredictable and messy.
Remembering the goal
You both were so proud of yourselves, I started to laugh. I wanted to bring the joy of Miss Rumphius to our backyard instead, I only contributed controlling grumpiness. This wasn’t my hope for the day. The goal was connection, not perfection. I had lost sight of this somewhere between the garden nursery and the planter box.
Then I looked at our statue of St Francis which lives on our patio and remembered his prayer of peace. In my mind I recalled its words, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love’.
Sowing love… whoops… I was sowing pressure, panic and perfectionism. St Francis’ words remind me that God’s beauty doesn’t often grow in neat and tidy rows.
As Christian writer Wendy Pope explores in her book Wait and See, walking with God is a wait and see process. I often forget this. I want everything to be linear.
In our society, we are taught to work and expect results. But God knows better. God’s wildflowers garnishing a hillside or field, whether appreciated or not, reveal his mystery and majesty. He smiles at our neatly cared for planter boxes the way I smile at you two sweet girls’ gardening efforts on our patio.
His beauty is one of no timeline, no deadline, no rush. I guess we have a wait and see God.
As you two stare out the kitchen window at our hillside waiting for a sign of sprouting seeds, I think of Miss Rumphius spreading lupin seeds and waiting to see what spring would bring.
I remind you that we did our part and it’s time to let God do the rest. We’ll wait and see.
Love, your Mum
This article first appeared in Madonna magazine summer 2019/20 edition.