Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Maturity Takes Time

Today my oldest son and I were talking about planting trees. He seemed interested in the idea of planting an apple tree in our yard, and I told him perhaps we could. Of course, I added, it will take several years before we can get any apples from it.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because it takes a long time for a tree to grow mature enough to produce fruit."

The words were not even fully out of my mouth before my heart felt the deeper implications of what I had just said.

Because for me, the significance of that truth goes much deeper than just talking about trees.

Let me explain...

My boys are 1.5, 4.5, and (almost) 11. I would say they are all going through challenging stages, but if 11 years of parenting have taught me anything, it's that every stage is challenging in its own way. So really, they are simply kids at various stages of development-- and shockingly, not one of them is at the adult stage. ;) That means that despite my best efforts, wishes, and occasional despair-- they act like kids who are 1.5, 4.5, and 11.

Curious hands and bodies eager to figure out the world around them sometimes make messes and get into things they shouldn't. Developing vocabularies and cognitive abilities lead to constant chatter and questions, and a developing-but-not-yet-mature ability to express one's feelings without screaming. Increased logical reasoning and awareness of one's own opinions lead to debate.

Sometimes I feel frazzled, pulled in so many directions at once... preventing messes, teaching how to clean up messes, enforcing boundaries... answering questions, teaching an angry child to take deep breaths and use words, enforcing boundaries... explaining why things are the way they are, explaining others' perspectives, enforcing more boundaries.

And I get frustrated. I do my very best to teach, guide, and model... and yet, they are still acting like kids.

Well, of course they are. 

Because children, like apple trees, take a long time to grow mature enough to produce fruit. 

So I renew my commitment to "water" them and provide a rich environment for optimal growth-- patience, understanding, boundaries, love, grace. I cannot force them to mature any faster than they are developmentally capable of at any given time. All I can do is keep teaching, guiding, and modeling, all the while believing that in the end, fruit will be produced. And it will, but it takes time. Already, if I look, I can see areas where they each are beginning to produce fruit in their own ways. I look forward to the days when they are fully mature; I think my sons will grow up to be amazing men.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9

This photo was taken when my now 4.5 year old was only about 17 months old and we were planting a garden. He wanted to be planted, too. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coming Out of Hiding

For a long time, I haven't been able to bring myself to blog. Of course I'm busy with school and parenting, but that isn't the real reason I haven't been writing. The truth is, I've been feeling self-conscious about sharing my thoughts with other people.

I have been reluctant to share because I fear how I'll be perceived or that I'll unintentionally hurt someone. Some examples... If I post something about parenting, what if people feel like I'm judging them or stepping on their toes? If I post about faith, what if I say something that is unintentionally wrong and therefore misleading? If I am vulnerable about my feelings and struggles, what if that comes back to bite me somehow? And really, isn't it kind of arrogant and self-centered to assume that I have things to say that will help or encourage other people anyway?

So I have become quiet. I've written some things for myself, but I haven't been sharing them with other people.

It bothers me, though. I have always loved to write, and my writing has rarely been something I have kept private. It is cathartic for me to write about my thoughts, feelings, struggles, and successes, and I have always enjoyed hearing input from other people on these things.

I have read two blog posts recently that have really inspired me to want to start blogging again. The first one is about surviving as a sensitive person, one who absorbs the emotions, beauty, and pain around them. (I am such a person; it is both a blessing and a curse at times.) One of the tips the author gives is to create:
Sensitive types and creativity go hand in hand, because their rawness and innate ability to pick up on information and energy that others don't feel can easily be translated into art and passionate expression. So rescue that fleeting gorgeous moment, then recycle it through your chosen medium. Perhaps you can make your guitar cry, or weave beautiful cloth into wearable clothing or drip powerful words like blood on a page, or capture that perfect light with your camera before you. Just create, create, then create some more so other people can see through your eyes, sensitive person.

This is so beautiful to me. I do not feel wholly myself when I absorb all these things around me and never let them flow back out of me. I am not a musician or an artist, but I am a writer, and I have always used the written word to process beauty, pain, tension, faith, and love. My fears of being misunderstood, judged, or taken advantage of by others should not stop me from engaging in something I love.

Which leads me to the second post that has inspired me, a post I read today by my friend Jaime. (Who is an awesome artist, by the way-- you should check out her website!) Lately she has been setting up her art at various markets and art shows, and she has written about the vulnerability that comes with sharing one's art with the world. This quote really spoke to me:
I remembered why I love this.  Paintings weren't meant to be hidden away.  Instead they are supposed to be shared with the world.  Art connects us.  And, I love that feeling of connection. When I sell a painting or a print it is like sharing a part of my heart.
That is what writing is to me. I can write just for myself and hide it away, and I do still get some of the benefits that come with processing through the written word. But when I share it with others, when I have the chance to inspire someone or to connect with someone who can relate-- that means so much more to me.

So I will try to start venturing out into the blogging world again. Not because I think that what I have to say is earth-shatteringly important, but because I feel more like myself when I share my writing with others, and because I am tired of shying away from it out of fear. I hope you will come along with me.