Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Man Plans, God Laughs

This morning, I was thinking about the Yiddish proverb, "Man plans, God laughs."

You see, it's my youngest son, Camden's second birthday today -- the son that I didn't plan on having. The son that caused the little blue positive line on the pregnancy test that rocked my world two years and nine (really more like eight) months ago.

I'm a planner. I freely admit it. I spend a good amount of time creating and reviewing our family calendar to keep all our appointments and activities running smoothly. And, although I'm not a huge fan of accounting, I find a lot of satisfaction in planning our monthly budget and allocating money to here and there. Although it's only May, I enjoy thinking about what we're going to be doing this summer, booking vacations or hotel rooms and even thinking about the Fall when school starts up again.

My motto is that things run smoother with a plan in place.

However, don't get me wrong. I really like the idea of change and the idea of being okay with and even embracing different. There's a part of me that loves being flexible and off the beaten path. Some of the most amazing adventures in my life have come about completely unplanned -- and even have fought against my original plan.

However, I am usually quick to plan the unplanned event, so, I guess that leads me back to square one.

I am so much of a planner that I made sure to find out the gender of each of our babies so that I could appropriately plan everything from baby showers to the baby's room to baby names. I know I'm not alone in that regard. However, one of my good friends refuses to find out the gender of her babies beforehand. That is completely incomprehensible to me. She holds firm to the traditionalist view that she'll find out when the baby is born and doesn't need to know about it beforehand. I think that's crazy talk.

I offer all that information up so that you can understand a bit better how much that unexpected pregnancy threw me for a loop.

I should also insert here that this is not the first time this happened to us. Camden's older brother, Declan, was an unforeseen surprise. We had definitely planned to have a third child. However, we were planning for another year out from when he was actually born. We were "taking care of business," but apparently that 2% or so of birth control failure applied.

So, you'd think that this surprise would have been a bit easier to take. But, since we had already had one unexpected gift, I guess I thought that would be the one and only. Also, although we love Camden fiercely and dearly, we were really done after three. My husband was definitely done after Declan was born. I wasn't initially. But gradually, I came around to his way of thinking. I started running. I started losing the rest of the baby weight and beyond. I booked a trip to Africa. I started to look forward to days without diapers and nights of unbroken sleep.

But then came that little blue line.

I planned.
God laughed.
And, I laughed too...although that came a bit later.

I was a bit devastated at first. It's hard to admit to that without throwing a shadow over the existence of such a beautiful and amazing little boy. But, it's true. I planned not to have any more children. But, God thought otherwise.

And how can I explain how grateful I am for God's "laughter" over my life and my tunnel-visioned plans. Camden brings something to our family that is entirely different. We didn't realize how much it would mean to Declan to have a younger brother. And I can freely admit that the planner part of me was thrilled that I didn't have to change any crib bedding or try to find baby girl clothes. We had everything we would need.

I know that this quote might not be everyone's favorite. You can definitely read it a certain way where it seems like God is up in heaven lazily watching the human race with detachment and having a laugh at our expense over the dumb and unwise things we decide to do. However, I don't read it that way. To me, God is a loving Father. I can no more picture him smirking and rolling his eyes at my sincere actions, then I can picture myself doing that to my own children.

Rather I tend to think that it is more along the lines of what happens when we parents see our children try to do something that we know won't work out well due to our years of experience in life. It's kind of like seeing the confusion and then dawning realization on your child's face when they mop themselves into a corner and figure out that they will either have to step on the wet floor or stand there until it dries. Experience has already taught us to start at the dead end and work back. We can get a light-hearted chuckle out of seeing them learn that same lesson. But, it's a fond sort of laughter....not the derisive kind.

Ultimately, I just like the mental picture of God laughing. That's the kind of God I serve. One that cries. One that laughs. One that feels what I feel.

But what happens when we invert that quote?

God plans, Man laughs.

I think this one is a bit more common. How often does God whisper something that seems virtually impossibly into our heart -- something so unbelievable that all we can do is laugh at the absurdity of it all?

One of my favorite examples of this is found in Genesis 18:1-15 when three men (one which scholars believe to be God himself) visit Abraham and Sarah who have been childless for years and are well-past the "child-bearing" age.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.

12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
I wish I could have been a "locust on the tent" and seen this exchange go down. I can almost picture Sarah stifling a good guffaw that came out despite her best attempts to behave in front of company. I'm guessing she was far enough away that no one heard her breach of etiquette. No one heard her, but the One who made her, and knew what was in her heart. I can just picture him as I can my own father from my younger days -- fixing her with a stern look in his eyes asking why she would laugh -- yet, the twinkle in his eyes betraying his amusement.

He knew what Sarah did not. He could give her what she longed for most.

And, two years ago, that same God gave me something that I didn't even know I needed.

So, why shouldn't He laugh? It actually makes ME want to laugh -- the idea that my paltry plans would somehow work out better than what God would want for my life. That He can and does intervene to create and make a way -- even when we've actively or passively opposed it.

That's why He is God. He knows better than I do. He does amazing things despite me.

If that isn't cause for a good belly laugh, I'm not sure what is!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Garden state

I don't know what came over me, but I planted a real live garden yesterday. Maybe the mild success I've had with sewing went to my head. Or maybe it was seeing posts of some of my good friends who were literally enjoying the fruits of their gardening labor. But, I really do think that there is a part of me that does long for that simple grounded connection of the pioneer woman spirit. And plus, it appears that now it's even my patriotic duty according to Uncle Sam.

It is a bit unsettling to realize that we're actually not too many decades away from most everyone in rural cities having some sort of garden. And, even city dwellers had community gardens or were closer to where their local produce came from. I really do think that gardening and growing is in our genetic make-up in some manner.

I also have to admit to really liking the idea of saving some money by supplying our own produce rather than paying for it at the store.

So, with all that on my mind, I took the plunge on Tuesday and went out and bought a bunch of stuff. The Orchard Supply guy didn't know what hit him. I pretty much said, "Hi. I'm a garden novice. I don't know anything about anything. Please help me." And he did.

An hour and $80 later, I walked out with several plants and herbs, a "sweat" hose and timer, a shovel (ours was misplaced), gardening soil, plant food and tomato cages. I put them all in the backyard on the perfect plot of land for a garden in our backyard -- a tiny stip of unused dirt on the north side of our house. It was like it was meant to be. By now, it was dark, but I still enthusiastically watered them with flashlight in hand and thought about what I would do with them the next day.

Wednesday dawned and I got nervous about my planting ability and whether I could pull it off. So, I called in the big guns -- a.k.a, my friend Stephanie, whom I call "garden guru." She came over and confirmed what I started perfect plot of land didn't get enough sun.

Ahhh...the perfect plot of land until it wasn't
 We walked over to the south side of the house where things are sunnier. She recommended I plant my garden there. Thankfully, last fall, I had removed all the river rock that had filled both sides of the sidewalk, so it was open and ready to go. My only hesitation was that it's where most of the traffic from the front comes (gardener, trash cans, etc.) So, I had to do a bit of moving things around.

Before I really got to work moving things and "tilling the ground."

After I removed the landscaping bricks on both sides of the sidewalk, I moved the trash cans to the other side by the house and then got busy turning over the soil next to the fence. Stephanie showed me how to really dig my shovel down deep and then turn over a heaping shovel full. I did this for the entire bed.

Tilled up ground and my eldest looking on
Then I spread a huge bad of Miracle-Gro gardening soil over the entire thing and raked it up nicely. (I actually had to go buy more soil since I went a bit bigger with the garden...not surprising, I know. Why go small and try it out if you can go huge and kill yourself in the process?)

With the Miracle Gro and raked up nicely

Then it was planting time.

Ready to get in the ground

With some advice from Steph on where to potentially plant the tomatoes, I started them at the far end of the bed so I could move around them to harvest. And then basically I just started planting things as it made sense logistically and as the directions dictated on the plastic stake in the plant.

My kids helped some. They enjoyed the shoveling and helping put the plant in the holes I dug. They really like putting the seeds in the ground and covering them up. There were some times I had to shoo them off so that I could get something done and not worry about them trampling it. And about 3.5 hours after I started (stopping for various things, not continuous), I was done.'s all in!
After I got everything planted, I got the "sweat hose" in position and then turned it on with the timer. It worked well, but seemed to make some pools of water in undesirable places. I was able to build up some of the bed so that plants didn't get waterlogged. On Stephanie's advice, I may dig some trenches to allow the water to sit and then seep down deeper.

I also ended up planting the strawberries on the opposite side of the sidewalk to get the full sun. I found that when I turned on the hose, a lot of water pooled on this side. So, I dug a trench from the facet down to the strawberry plants and now they will get water when I turn on the house for the other side. Genius, if I do say so myself. Time will tell, though.

My strawberry plants. I think I might get one or two more.

I am also going to plant some potatoes. Stephanie told me that her grandfather plants them buy cutting out the eyes of potatoes that are starting to turn (with some chunk of potato underneath). You let them dry out for a few weeks and then you plant them eye side up.

So, I'm excited to see what will come up and how much it will all yield. I am super excited for the first tomato since I loooove garden fresh tomatoes. Add a little oil oil and some fresh oregano or rosemary...mmmm!

Mmmm...tomato love...I made sure to add the cages early as I have been told by many.
I'm hoping I'm up for the added responsibility though. With four kiddos, I have a lot on my plate already. I woke up to the rain early this a.m. worried my baby garden would get waterlogged. As if I need more to worry about.

I'm also a little concerned that my garden will make it with a handsy 2-year-old who greatly enjoyed stepping in the water trenches yesterday. The trick will be to make him understand he shouldn't step on anything in the middle...or better yet, maybe I should chickenwire off the entire area. (as if)  I also have a 5-year-old who is desperate for things to grow to pick. She has asked me about 10 times since 5 p.m. yesterday when everything was planted. if it was ready yet. I have the feeling she will be bringing me some green strawberries some day soon.

But, if it all makes it, here's what I can expect to see:

Tomatoes (3 varieties)
Lettuce (2 varieties)
Small Green Onion
Red Onion
Yellow Onion
Cucumbers (2 varieties)
Red Bell Perpper

Mmm...I'm already salivating thinking about eating all of that....and yes, the money we can save!

So, the next step is to continue watering and watching and then do some fertilizing. My friend, Deborah, offered up some bunny poop (they have one). She swears it's the best fertilizer. So, I'm going to be working with bunny poop soon (he he!). I also want to start composting but need to figure out how to do that properly. I know this is great for gardens as well.

So, as I learn, here's what I'm going to be checking out:  and this one - how to compost - helpful hints on what to plant, when and how. - there's plenty of gardening blogs, but I am starting here with my friend, Deborah's sister.

I am also getting lots of advice from gardening friends. And actually, we just started a "Gardening Gals" Group on Facebook. Please feel free to share any tips or suggestions!