Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Field to Grow In

My Mom wasn't there today, to walk us through her garden. She's somewhere in the middle of Tennessee, driving through cotton fields with my Dad. It's been three weeks now. The two of them drifting along together, taking in the farms, the towns, the coasts of America.

I wish she could have seen my children crunching through her grow boxes, skittering down the dirt paths, anxious to find their special pumpkin.

As we lifted leaves and snipped tendrils I thought of her - how she would have loved the light on our faces, the crisp sound of stems breaking, the ribbed feel of a pumpkin in hand.


Each summer my Mom buys seeds for her grandchildren. They dig in the earth together, help her plant and bury. Then, come August, she helps them scratch their names into small greenish bulbs that will soon become pumpkins.

The bulbs grow and so do the names.

And when October comes to stay, we cut the orange rounds and dress our doorstep.

When I returned home this afternoon, I read this post from one of my favorite writers. It was about her six-year-old daughter who has the same kind of fingers as my Eliza, the same kind of growing-up look on her face.

The sight of her photos undid me.

She wrote about pumpkins, harvests and growing - as if she knew I'd just spent the last hour in my own patch cutting pumpkins. As if she knew I needed her metaphor about growing something and growing it well.

I heard her loud and clear. What she had to say about... family.


"Family is a field to grow in. Where children grow up and parents grow patient."

Her word - patience - nagged at me. I've needed an ocean of it lately, but my wading pool always seems to tap out quickly. The lack of it makes me weary, guilty, and I long to be the mother who is not tired, who does not raise her voice, who has a soft answer, a wise answer, for every hard moment.

But I'm not.

I want to be.

But I keep stumbling.


Ann's words today gave voice to the why behind a decision I made last week. A decision to pull back, make my own cuts, step away from some commitments.

Something needs to change when you feel you are forcing life rather than flowing with it.


I have to say no to some things I really love. Things that are like air to me. For a season. The growing season.

These days when my kids are young and my home is full - they matter in big ways. I need more time to teach them joy. Fewer demands so I can feel that joy.

I need to spend those short hours after the kids are in bed talking with Doug (when he's home), or in study so I can be available, and ready to listen. Or in contemplation and prayer so I can know how to best help each child, determine their needs, and how to love them in the right ways. I need more sleep so I can give my energy to my family.

I'm hopeful that when my days open a bit wider, my children are in school, and a free space starts calling, those other loves will flow in again.


But for now, I know what I need to do.

"Aren't we all growing here together? And how can she be six already? Why is it lately that when she turns, that I can see it again, that long ago baby face, the way her eyes would look straight up?"

I hear you Ann. I see it too.

"These steps with the small, these are the giant leaps not to be lost. Saving the world, it begins with the salvation of one child."

I don't want to look back and wish I'd given my children more. More time, more energy, more love, more me. Even my own personal fulfillment, is not as important as them. As this.

"[Family]is where mothers grow in maturity and fathers grow in forgiveness, where sons grow in self-control and daughters in discernment and this is what He means - for us to stretch and dig down and reach out for family to grow us full in the faith."

Family is a field to grown in. And we are growing children. Etching their names into a reality, an eternity, tangible as the dirt smudged onto my hands.

I want to do it right.


We carefully lined up all the pumpkins on my Mother's backyard steps. Eleven of them. One for each of her grandchildren.

And coming home to Ann's words was a gift. A woman speaking my language, my thoughts. Saying what I needed to hear.

Our lives, yours and mine, they are different. Our paths, our scripts, our names, they differ too. The challenge, I think, is to listen to the whisperings, move when we are nudged, be willing to do the hard things. To change when we know change is needed.

Easy to say when we know it in our heads. But not always easy to do.

Spencer tripped while carrying his pumpkin down the hill. I picked him up, returned the pumpkin to his smalls hands, and watched him totter off to the car. Not the least unhinged. Can I learn to live like that?

"There is only a harvest when someone attends to the smallness of a seed."

And I need to attend with my whole self for a while.

Cultivate our field.

Do some growing.


  1. I love that quote "there is only a harvest when one attends to the smallness of a seed." I just finished rereading Pres. Uchtdorf's conference address and thought about my boys and their individuality. I need to remember that they are not the same seeds, each different and each wonderful in it's own way, and I need to try and see with eternal eyes what seed I am suppose to harvest. Beautiful pictures!

  2. no doubt about it...
    you are doing it right. xox

  3. Amen and Amen. Thank you so much for writing Catherine

  4. Cath, I feel like you wrote this for me today. I just blogged [again] this week about feeling so stretched lately. And feeling like I'm not doing right or well by my family. Thank you for giving me even more perspective. Just what the doctor ordered.

    Can't believe it's been a year since our POM NH Retreat; definitely time for a refresher, I think.

  5. Thank you for your words today. Thank you for the link to Ann's blog. Your wisdom plus hers...what a treat for my heart. "These steps with the small, these are the giant leaps not to be lost." How I love that idea.

    It sounds like you are being so careful and deliberate with whatever changes you are making right now. It is such a hard thing to give up something(s) we love. This sounds like a really good choice for you and your family right now. I think one of the hardest challenges of our day is learning to slow down and choose what will fill our minds and days. I have at many points found that one part of my life has spun out of control and needs to be reigned in. It's a continual process for me, going along and then finding I yet again need to purge or trim back a habit or hobby.

    Cath, your pictures are so lovely. I think your sons have matured even since the last time you posted. Wishing you well. xoxo

  6. Don't be too hard on yourself, Cath. You are in a hard time of child-rearing where patience is needed, but also tested beyond belief! Now that my baby is six, I find myself so much more patient, loving, and able to enjoy the moment talking to my kids. I think back a lot to the time where I loved their little baby faces, but felt so worn out that I was grumpier than I would have liked to have been. It's gets easier and even better! Love you!

  7. Cath, I have been thinking about my comment this afternoon, feeling like it is really not what I wish I had written....anyway...just know that I think you're amazing. I echo Jill's sentiment completely. What you are doing right now requires so much energy. Whew! I recently read some stuff I had written when my twinners were 2 and 3 years old, and my breath was taken away by the incessant pace of it all. And, my other two kids were older at the time. I cannot imagine how much is required of you when you're raising TWO sets of twins together. That is amazing. Hope you'll get some time to relax and catch up with your husband when things slow down (after the 15th, right?). xo

  8. [Ronda] How fun to read of your experience of picking the pumpkins! I would have loved to have been there. Your pictures are wonderful, and I like that you lined up the pumpkins on the stairs--one for each grandchild--perfect. You're a good mom, creating many wonderful memories with your children. Love you!

  9. Becca - a wonderful insight. Our "seeds" aren't the same, won't grow up to be the same plant or flower. And it's our job to help them grow into the best version of themselves. You're doing such a great job. I have a cute picture of you with Gus from our hike. I will post it soon. xo

    Cristie - trying. trying. love you.

    Kristen - I hope you're well. When do I get my demo cd? ;) I am serious.

    Suzanne - truly. I can't believe it's been a year. I assume you are going to the retreat?? I wish I could make it. I will miss seeing you and all the lovely ladies from Wentworth. Would you mind me sending me a link to your blog?

    Anne Marie - I loved your first comment. It was encouraging and helpful. You always have the right things to say. But I loved your second comment as well! You make me feel "normal" and I can't thank you enough. The pace is incessant, but I already seem to be breathing deeper, moving slower, having stepped away from some things. More about that later - maybe in an email. I know you understand. And sadly, it's looking like we won't have Doug until after the 25th now. Still counting days... I love you. And want to comment about some of your posts. It's been delightful reading your thoughts.

    Jill - I like your perspective. And thanks for the message - duly noted. ;) love you.

    Mom - We are missing you. It's time to come home! Get in Earnest and head west. xo

  10. Love you Cath!! Hard decisions, but you always do the right thing. You really do!

    P.S. I absolutely love those photos. You are such a great Mom...I continually learn from you!

  11. I have had zero patience today. Well, for the last couple of weeks actually. I need to remember to cherish the sweet little seeds in my house.


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