Thursday, March 30, 2006

Alethea's Birth Day

        In honor of Alethea's birthday today I finally wrote the story of her entrance into the world.

        Spring had just begun; the air was clear and the first Poppies were in bloom. For nine months now we'd been eagerly looking forward to the birth of our second child and we knew the time was drawing near. I'd been having contractions for weeks but something about them had changed in the previous days and I hoped that it meant the time would come soon. I also knew those contractions could go on for more weeks and I tried not to get too anxious. But I was ready to meet our girl, ready to give myself to the labor of bringing her to the light. Peregrine would kiss the belly that had slowly edged him out of my lap and talk to his baby, encouraging her to "open her door and come out."

      Even though my due date was still a week away I would awaken each morning thinking that "today might be the day". By mid-afternoon I hoped it wouldn't be as I could really use a good night's sleep before going into labor! (Not that anyone can get a good night's sleep when you have a very active little person dancing in your belly.) By night-time I would fall into bed, exhausted, uncomfortable, and eager to meet this baby. We prayed daily for a safe and natural delivery with no complications, a healthy baby, and, as a bonus, that she would come early!

        I'd been awake for about an hour-and-a-half the previous night having contractions, some of which were actually painful. My Mom brought us a pan of enchiladas for dinner that evening and Peregrine asked me if we could get our baby soon. Soon, my boy, we hoped it would be soon. We went to bed and Erik and I cuddled and talked as usual. I had a few contractions that felt pretty strong before drifting off to sleep in my nest of pillows. I woke up around 11:15 and was surprised to have three hard contractions just a few minutes apart. I prayed that if this wasn't "the real thing" it would stop so I could get some rest! In answer to my prayer my water broke and I found myself nudging Erik and asking him to go get me a towel! It's amazing how quickly he changed gears from sound asleep to action in a matter of seconds. We got up and called my midwife and our parents. My Mom and Dad came over within a half hour. My contractions were about three minutes apart from the time my water broke and were already quite uncomfortable. I went in to Peregrine's room and, even though he was sleeping, explained that Dada and I were going to the hospital to get his baby and that Papa would stay with him. He looked so big, sleeping soundly, and it seemed like such a short time ago that he was the tiny baby we were waiting to meet.

        We left the house about 1AM and drove through the still night to the hospital. A few clouds drifted lazily in front of the bright moon. Settled into our room at the hospital the nurse checked me and said I was only at three centimeters. I think those may be some of the most depressing words a woman in labor can hear. Even though I knew better, there was my secret hope that I'd already be at six or seven and that this baby would be born soon. Erik's Mom, Michele, and my sister Alyssa and niece Jessamyn arrived a little later. Erik and I walked slowly through the hallways, stopping for me to breathe through contractions. I would put my arms around him and rest my head on his chest; he was like my rock, always there, strong, calm, loving me through the pain, in awe of the strength that God had given me to bring forth his daughter. My dear friend Paula drove down from Washington and got there a little after 3AM and not long after that my sister Gloria came too. I was surrounded by many of the people who love me best in this life; each one offering encouragement and prayer and strength as each contraction brought us closer to the moment of birth. They took turns walking with me, rubbing my feet, my back, my arms, reading Scripture and laughing together. I had new appreciation for my Mom who went through this five times, as she said she wished she could take every other contraction from me and share the work!

        The pain was becoming more intense and I wondered how much longer it would be. I tried to stay focused on the reward that was to come, thinking of tiny fingers and toes and soft hair. I tried to remember that each contraction was doing its job of bringing her down, down, until the moment came for me to push her out. Around 4 the nurse checked me again and said I was 5-6 centimeters but she wasn't sure so she called her supervisor to come check me again. Once again I felt very discouraged, as at Peregrine's birth that was where I got stuck for hours and hours. The contractions were coming hard and one after another and I didn't think I could last for too much longer. We'd prayed that things would progress normally this time and everyone spoke words of encouragement and strength to me. The head nurse came in and said I was actually at 8 centimeters! I knew that I was in transition and that it was normal to feel unable to cope. At that point Erik and I got into the tub where I planned to give birth. The warm water enveloped me and felt so good on my weary body. My contractions began to slow down, allowing me to rest a bit in between. I felt more able to relax in the water. The room was dim with a light shining on us, my large belly glowing and magnified beneath the water. Erik faced me, and even though we were surrounded by family and friends, I felt like it was just him and I. His love was strengthening me as he held me through each pain. In between contractions we looked into each other's eyes, our foreheads touching, and whispered "I love you".

        I remember at one point feeling like I couldn't bear another contraction. They gripped me and held me and I moaned and called on Jesus for help. I began to feel the urge to push, something that never happened in my first birth. My midwife sat at the edge of the tub, ready to help if needed, but mostly offering advice and encouraging me to push when I felt ready. I loved that about this birth: there was a privacy about being in the water, a sense that this was something I was doing, with Erik, and not something that was being done to me. My midwife suggested I change positions so I got up on my knees and leaned my arms on the edge of the tub. Another contraction, and another, and I knew my baby would soon be in my arms. I pushed with all the strength left in me. Erik was right there, ready to catch her: he said he could feel her hair and a tiny ear. Strength flooded me and I felt her little body move through and out of me, into her Daddy's waiting arms. He brought her up out of the water. She was the gift I gave to him and he gave to me as he gently handed me my daughter. Everyone began to praise God for this brand new life, this tiny person, all wet and purple and precious.

        Alethea Poppy Joy was born at 5:38 in the morning on March 30th, just six hours after my water had broken. God truly answered all our prayers; my labor was fast and normal and we had a perfectly healthy baby girl who was born six days early. Needless to say we were completely taken by this little one. Her skin was softer that anything I could imagine and smelled sweeter than honey. In the words of Peregrine she had dark "wispy wispy hair and sparkling eyes". My Dad brought him to meet her when she was just a few hours new. I heard him before he got to our room, his red rubber boots padding down the hallway. In he came, looking happy and expectant. He took one look at his baby sister, laid his head on her and said "hello!" She was pink and I called her a little Rosebud, tiny and soft and fragrant. Someone said that babies are a very nice way to start people and I'd have to agree. And if very nice babies become very nice people then we have much to look forward to.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, Anyone?

        We were over at my parents' the other day and my sister's husband Scott came in with a bag from Carl's Jr. Peregrine, being the inquisitive kid he is, went over and started asking him about it, what it was and where it was from. Fast food is a glamorous mystery to him, just like it was to me as a kid. When Scott said his sandwich was from Carl's Jr. Peregrine exclaimed "Oh, we go there for our lunch every day!" This coming from the boy who has been to a fast food restaurant maybe three times in his life and never Carl's Jr! We do drive by it often as it's in between our house and my parents' though. We were in the van this morning when he asked if we could go to "Jr. Eric Carle's" for lunch! It took me a minute to get that one!

Peregrine's World

        I often get up in the morning to find a hot cup of tea waiting for me, made by my ever-lovin' husband before he leaves for work. Lately he's also been making Peregrine's favorite drink, a molasses steamer. Last week Peregrine got up while I was still in bed. He came out and saw that Daddy had made him a steamer, then came back and cuddled with me for a while and told me all about what he had found: "Well, Dada said to himself this morning "Hmmm, what kind of hot drink would my boy like on this cold morning? I'll make him a steamer." Mom, Dad made me a chocolate steamer because I like chocolate steamers. Do you like chocolate steamers? We all like chocolate steamers. We're a chocolate steamer family!" A chocolate steamer does sound nice, but I'm afraid that even my deprived boy knows the difference between blackstrap molasses and chocolate! He must not have tasted it yet.
        Hot milk with molasses, by the way, was a tradition that started for us a very long time ago, when I was just about Peregrine's age. My Dad was in Bible school at the time and each day when he came home he made himself a cup of coffee and me some warm milk with molasses. I felt very grown up with such an elegant beverage. We would sit together and talk about how our day had been. My Dad was very cool by the way. He had big sideburns and when we were walking together he would say "Howdy!" to the people we met along the way. I was sure that "howdy" must be the coolest way to greet people and I practiced saying it just like my Daddy.
        Peregrine doesn't sleep anymore during the day but still has a rest time each afternoon. He listens to Bible story tapes and looks at books in his bed. Yesterday when I went to get him up he had shaped his blanket in such a way that it looked like a cave. He had a sipper cup with water and informed me that it was Jesus' car. Wow, Jesus' car! And that He was driving in it with his disciples, into the rabbit hole, which was the cave in the blanket! I love to see the things that my boy imagines and pretends. I can't keep up with al the different roles he plays and expects me to play, but it's sure fun trying! (Either fun or exasperating, depending on the minute!)
        And then there are the dreams he's been having lately. There was the "horrible dream" where there was an ant and a tiny reindeer on some ice. And then he was flying (with his body, not an airplane) and he flew to another house. He saw a lady in a rocking chair and she saw him and then he called out for me but I didn't answer him. Horrible indeed. A few nights ago I went in to cover him and he frantically asked me "Mom, Mom, is my lunch box safe?" "Huh? Your lunch box? Yes, of course it's safe. It's right here in our house." The next morning I got the whole story: He had disobeyed me with his lunch box and put it in Grandma's fan. Then he was crying and crying, Grandma turned the fan on, and his lunch box went flying through the air. There was some black stuff on the top of it and when Papa tried to get it off he started yelling "No! No, Papa!"
        Yup, that's my boy! Anyone out there who is into interpreting dreams will probably be able to psycho-analize my son and tell me all the ways that I've already messed him up. Go ahead and tell me; I need to know. He's a great boy, full of life and energy, a strong will, a great imagination and the vocabulary to share his stories and dreams with us all.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Starfish Eggshell Cake and Other Such Oddities

        Life with small children is a lot of fun, a lot of work, and totally unpredictable. Things don't usually go as planned and I'm slowly learning to hold loosely to my expectations. Poppy will turn one on Thursday and we had a little celebration for her last Saturday. Peregrine helped me mix up the cake, which was lemon poppy seed to be decorated with flowers. He likes to put his hands in the sugar, stir things, dump ingredients into the bowl, eat butter, and adjust the speed of the mixer. He also likes to crack the eggs but freaks out if he gets any egg goo on his fingers. He usually taps the egg on the edge of the counter then hands it to me to break open. When we were making Poppy's cake he cracked not one, but two eggs, a little too far open and they broke open onto the floor where little Poppy seized her opportunity to come and rub her hands in the mess! We finally finished the batter and I didn't notice until I was spooning it into the pans that there were some lovely brown eggshells in it. Poppy seeds add a nice crunch, but eggshells really add that gourmet touch, don't you think? (Just let me know if you'd like my recipe and I might lend you my assistant too!)
        Saturday morning came and I had a bit of time to myself to assemble and decorate the cake. I covered it with pale yellow frosting and then planned to pipe orange, purple, and dark pink flowers on it. I'm not very good at piping and my flowers looked just like starfish! They were even all the colors that starfish come in. My wonderful husband walked in to the kitchen at that point and commented on the nice starfish I was putting on the cake! What to do? Try to pipe some anemones and coral and turn it into an under-the-sea party? I added some yellow centers and green leaves and they ended up being recognizable as flowers after all. Whew!
        The party was a lot of fun. I'd like to say that Peregrine was on his best behavior but I'm afraid that wasn't the case. I really had hoped he would be; I planned for him to be, but it just didn't happen. That expectation thing again. The highlight of his acting up (or out, or whichever direction he was acting) came after I had consented to let him have a little root beer. He's been pretty deprived his whole life and I usually limit his drinking to milk, water, and very diluted juice. Needless to say he was a bit taken aback by the bubbles in the root beer and left it sitting on the counter "for later". I didn't think much of it until he was eating his piece of Starfish Eggshell cake and apparently decided it was later. Instead of asking nicely (I wish I would say like he usually does. We're working on that.) he began to scream at the top of his lungs "I need my beer! Where's my beer? I need my beer!" And as chagrined as I was at his rude behavior I actually had to turn around to keep him from seeing me laughing at the sight of my three year old hollering for his beer!
        All in all it was a special celebration. How could it not be when we were celebrating the life of such a wonderful little person? Peregrine's help and antics made it all the more memorable. Years from now I will remember these things because they were unexpected and made me laugh. I will remember Poppy digging in to her cupcake, lifting it up to her face, smashing and crumbling it and rubbing it in her hair. I'll remember how beautiful she looked, her big blue eyes shining as she looked at her candle, and how sweet she appeared in the poppy dress I made her. I look forward to many more celebrations in her life. I'll plan them and prepare for them with the help of my growing children. And I'll try to let go of my expectations and enjoy every moment.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sisters, Part 1: Alyssa

Alyssa, Gloria, and Rebeca at Gloria's Wedding

    Alyssa is a wonderful sister, friend, wife, and mom to her three kids. I've been blessed to be her baby sister all my life, and I think, for the most part, it's been a good thing for both of us. Our relationship started when our Dad snuck her and my brother into the hospital to see me. I was tiny and she said I squeaked like a mouse. I know she loved me, but I was also the bratty kid sister who was very annoying at times. For the record, we have a cassette tape of her making some radio show when I was just a few years old. I came into the room and she told me she was making a surprise for me so I had to leave. After my departure she admitted to her audience that it was merely a ploy to get rid of me. Such cunning! I think she's always been a bit jealous that I'm the favorite daughter and taken it out on me.
    When we were kids we used to fight over whose name the roosters were crowing: listen closely and you will hear "Re-Re-Becaaaa!" She just insisted, though, that they were saying "Aaaaa-Ly-Saaaaaa!" Only as an adult did she finally admit that they were really saying my name all along. I guess she couldn't deceive herself any longer. We used to lay in our bunk beds at night and after it had been quiet for a while one of us would bark. Yes, like a dog. Then, we would adamently deny it and insist it was our dog outside. Since I was the more obnoxious of the two I probably carried the barking on way longer than she did, but she humored me none-the-less.
    Being five years older than I am I always looked up to her as pretty accomplished and very cool. She took guitar lessons and had a really groovy quilted bag to carry her guitar in. She had such an elegant flower-power name: Alyssa Mintflower. I was stuck with Rebeca Kathryn. She could make her naturally curly hair so big in the eighties and she got to spend the summer working away from home at a camp where I could only dream of going someday. On her sixteenth birthday my Mom made her spaghetti and cheesecake. Her friends came over and they got to eat all by themselves by candlelight. All the younger siblings were banished to our rooms and I was so jealous.  
      The first time I remember seeing my Dad cry was when some boy came and drove off to take her to town. She had him in a real emotional crisis when she up and got herself married when she was only 19, paving the way for her sisters who came after her. All the men in the wedding had mullets and someone sang a love song that was originally done by Stryper. It was very, very cool. My Dad, though, was so traumatized by giving his eldest daughter away that my brother and I didn't dare get married for a full 11 years after that. (Just to be fair, Alyssa married with my parents' blessing and it had nothing to do with my brother and I waiting so long.) Daddy has now given all three of his daughters in marriage and I must say that he only held up slightly better the third time around at my younger sister's recent wedding.
    I have always loved and admired Alyssa, and not just because of her big hair. She used to write me the best letters when I was off doing mission work. She had a set of dolphin stamps which, as a teenager I had turned my nose up at thinking they were too dorky for me. She used to stamp them all over the page and then write the most hilarious captions coming out of their mouths. When I went to Mexico on an outreach she gave me well-seasoned advice, like learn to say no in Spanish, never drink Sangria, and don't swim in the ocean in Mazatlan. (Her husband almost drowned there.) On top of the funny and encouraging letters I know she prayed often for me, and still does.
    I think she's such a good mom and I really admire the relationships she has with her kids. She's always homeschooled them and I'm able to learn a lot from the things she's done. When I'm frustrated with Peregrine she's always so encouraging; she had toddlers not so long ago and has come through with most of her sanity intact. More important than sanity, she still has a great sense of humor and a lot of wisdom to share.  She is loyal and honest and  caring and a lot of fun. I 'm incredibly blessed to have her as my sister and my friend.

Friday, March 17, 2006

One Step Behind

        I can't keep up with my kids. There's only one of me and two of them, and even if I am more than twice as big I never feel like anything is quite done. Don't get me wrong; I do a lot, it just seems I don't finish much. Take laundry, for example. I try to limit my laundry to two days a week, Monday and Thursday. My goal is to do all the laundry, fold it and put it away by nightfall. Sometimes this happens, which is semi-satisfying until I glance into the dirty laundry basket and see that it's already half-full. Often though, all I get done is the washing and drying and am left with a huge pile of clothes on the couch to fold the next day- or the one after that. Or I'll get them all folded, only to have Alethea the Wrecker gleefully pull them all down from the coffee table. It makes me wonder if I should skip the folding step and just stuff them into everyone's drawers. Peregrine often puts his own clothes away which means that by the time they make it back to his room they've usually been dropped or have otherwise been unfolded. Maybe I should skip the folding and the putting away and we could all just pull our clothes out of the pile on the couch as we need them. It's not like we need that extra couch anyway.
        Dishes are in the same category as laundry. It seems that they get dirty faster than I can clean them, and I even have a dishwasher. And then there are the kids toys. I have all their sets of toys in clear bins and we only get out one set at a time. But somehow pieces get left out and then they begin to migrate all over the house. I don't know how many times I've nearly tripped over toys in the kitchen. Or every other room of the house for that matter. I should mention the huge pile of mail that is sitting in the corner waiting for me to go through it. I've intended to do it every day this week, but it's Friday afternoon and the pile has only grown. Maybe this weekend.
        On top of all the regular chores and housework are the things I always forget to factor in to my time management (or lack thereof). Like Peregrine getting ahold of a bag of polyester stuffing and taking it all out, one handful at a time. By the time I glanced his way the bag was empty and the floor and his sister were covered with wisps of stuffing. I'm sure he had fun doing it, and I really shouldn't have left it on the table where he could get into it. Later that morning I was on the phone for less than ten minutes when I looked over and he was merrily pulling the last few books off his shelf. He's known since he was tiny not to pull books off like that, and I can't remember the last time he did it. But he'd apparently noticed a similarity between the bookshelf and a set of bunk beds and decided he's like to use his shelf as a bed. Creative, I guess.
        Alethea is really keeping me busy these days too. She has graduated from two naps a day to only one, and in her waking hours is exploring everything with great excitement. She pulls herself up on everything now and then starts yelling when she tires of standing. Sometimes she sits herself down but usually she just wants to be rescued. And she's learning to climb- up, that is. Then she yells when she realizes she doesn't know how to get down again. She wants desperately to be involved with whatever her brother is doing, and in between helping her learn to get down I'm already playing the mediator between these two. I feel like I run around, tidying, rescuing the baby, cooking, cleaning, reading stories, changing diapers, etc.
         Being a homemaker is not for the person who needs instant gratification. It may not be apparent to the casual observer, but I'm constantly tidying the house. Believe it or not, my kids really do start the day with clean clothes and clean faces. By the time breakfast is done you can't tell, but there was half an hour there when they looked fresh and tidy and, well, cared for. Someday the house will stay clean for more than three minutes and my kids will wipe their own faces and have more interesting things to do than scatter stuffing all over the place. But for now I'll enjoy the patter of little feet and wiping sweet little faces: I'll help Poppy down from the laundry basket one more time and refold those clothes. I'll continue to clean up after them and to clean them up. And I'll give up on trying to stay a step ahead of my busy children; I'll settle for being only be one step behind.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hiding the Word

        We have a book called My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts. There is a verse for each letter of the alphabet and a story that illustrates it. Yesterday I read a few of the stories to Peregrine we worked on learning some verses. One of them was "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God." He really latched on to that one and asked God to help him be a peacemaker and not a troublemaker. Later in the day when he was in trouble, he was so upset and said "But I didn't want to be a troublemaker, I want to be a peacemaker!" And another time when he was on the verge of throwing a fit we were able to remind him of the verses he'd learned and God used it to help change his attitude to one of thankfulness instead of fussing. It was exciting to see him express a real desire to do what is right and to see him hiding God's word in his heart where the Holy Spirit can use it in his life.
Children have such an amazing capacity to retain information. We need to be sure that they are putting God's Word into those little minds and hearts. 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness". There is an excellent chapter in Ginger Plowman's book Don't Make Me Count to Three on using scripture to correct our children and to train them in righteousness. She has also complied a handy flip chart to assist us in finding verses appropriate for addressing our children's hearts (and our own) in many situations.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) When we are faithful to deposit God's Word in our children's hearts then the Holy Spirit can use it to convict and teach them. Let us be diligent as we train them up in righteousness.

Monday, March 13, 2006


        On Friday it snowed, the first, and probably only snow of the year that will stick for more than a few minutes. It was pretty exciting for this prairie girl to see a couple inches of real snow in my very own yard! Alethea slept in until nine that day so I was able to go out and build a snowman with Peregrine and run in the cul-de-sac with him. He was so happy to be playing in the snow and get to learn how to roll a snow-ball and use some of his sticks to make arms for our snow man. He was convinced it was Christmas! Who needs presents when you have snow on the ground? Our snow man, by the way, was pretty cool: he stood as tall as Peregrine and wore a red plastic fire hat on his icy head. I kept glancing out the window and wondering who was in our front yard!
        Have I mentioned how wonderful my husband is? Marrying him was really a super-smart thing to do. Week mornings he leaves for work before I get up but he almost always makes me a cup of tea before he goes. I get up to find it still hot in the insulated mug he gave me for Christmas. And then on the weekends he gets up with the kids and lets me sleep in. I got to sleep until nine two days in a row this weekend! Not only that, but Saturday morning he made waffles (from scratch) and scrambled eggs for breakfast. And they were really good too. Yep, he takes good care of me. Not to mention that we make really cute babies.
        And speaking of babies, Alethea is going to turn one in just a couple of weeks. I can hardly believe it. Probably because I have a three-and-a-half year old to compare her to, and partly because she's so small, but she still seems like such a baby. A baby though, who is pulling herself up on everything and has more of a daring streak than her brother ever did. She desperately wants to be where Peregrine is and do whatever he's doing. Sometimes he loves that and other times he doesn't. They keep me busy, these little ones. But I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Monday, March 06, 2006

On Poop, Projects, and Becoming a Man

        Peregrine is showing evidence of having a strong will to rival his Mama's. This can be pretty infuriating at times. Thankfully God made him pretty sweet and he keeps me laughing when I'm not pulling my hair out wondering what to do with him. Here are just a few of the things he's said in the last while that have kept me from getting too serious about things:
        -Upon finishing up on the toilet, and with great enthusiasm: "I did LOTS and LOTS of poo-poo! Grandma will be SO proud of me!" (She was, and even brought him a treat to prove it.)
        -After he closed a cupboard door on Alethea's little hand and I told him I was at the end of my rope he informed Erik that "Mom's rope is the end."
        -Once in a while I lose my calm with him and get angry. When this happens I apologize and ask him to forgive me. Yesterday he was unrolling toilet paper down the hallway and when Erik corrected him his immediate response, in perfect sweetness, was "I forgive you for being so angry, Dad."
        -He was talking about someone having a boy and a girl baby in their tummy. I asked him if he knew what it was called when a Mama had two babies in there and he said "A project"! That would be a project all right!
        - If anyone doesn't have any plans for the Fourth of July we have enough to go around. Anything that Peregrine wants to do but is unable to do now he says "Maybe we can do it on Fourf July". So far we're going to be in at least two different states and have a pretty extensive menu plan in the works for "Fourf July" this year!
        -And if we can't do it on the Fourth of July, then it will be "when I'm a man".
        Yes, my boy, someday you will be a man, and you will drive and do all the things that you think a man should do. But for now, I'm sure glad to have you as my little boy.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


        It's (almost) officially spring here in the Pacific Northwest. Winter is dreary but the good thing is that it doesn't really last long. Bulbs are blooming and trees are budding and the neighbors we hardly see all winter are out of hibernation and working in their yards. Erik just built me a six-foot round terraced planter for strawberries. I bought 75 bare-root everbearing plants for a grand total of $13.50 at a local garden center. I could almost taste the sweet juicy fruit as I dug holes and planted my little plants this afternoon.
        It seems that gardening is almost a form of meditation, or at least inspiration. It correlates to so many areas of life; I guess that's why planting and reaping was such a common theme in the Bible, both with the Old Testament prophets and with Jesus Himself. As Peregrine and I worked in the dirt this afternoon I began to look forward to our harvest, but having done this before I'm very aware of all the things that will transpire between now and then. Bare root plants don't look like much, mostly just a tangle of sandy brown roots and very few if any leaves at the crown of the plant. With good soil, a bit of sunlight, adequate water, and some time, I know that foliage will begin to appear and not long after that the baby plants will being to send out runners and put forth blossoms. Even my son knows that berries follow blossoms, but I know that if we get too excited about these first blossoms the plant will put all of its energy into producing fruit and the roots will never grow deep. They may produce for a while but in the end they will not be strong or healthy. And so the patient gardener will carefully pinch off the blossoms and runners for the first month or two, knowing that beneath the soil the roots are growing long and strong and deep. At this time the plants will have lots of glossy green leaves and we'll know that they have developed strong roots; only then will we let those eager buds blossom and begin to form fruit. The sun will be hot and we will soon be enjoying the first-fruits of our strawberry harvest. This variety, Tri-Stars, will give us sweet little berries all the way through October. Good plants will bear for a few years and produce many runners that will root and become baby plants, eventually replacing their parent plants, and the cycle will begin again.
        As I thought about all of these things today I realized that growing strawberries is a lot like raising children. I've never had a store-bought strawberry that can compare with a fresh homegrown one. Most of the berries from the store look pretty and conform to one another in size, shape, and texture, but are often bland and disappointing. Our garden strawberries are smaller and of varying sizes but the flavor doesn't compare! Likewise, If I wanted "store-bought" kids I'd send them to public school and let them be taught and conformed to this world, but that's not the kind I want. It's easy to envision what sort of fruit we want their lives to bear, but it can be hard to be patient as we water and prune and nurture our little ones. If we are too eager to see fruit, I think we can easily cause them to comply to outward standards of good behavior and forget that our real goal is that their roots will grow deep and that their hearts will be pure. Only then will they bear the true, sweet fruit of the Spirit. We don't want children who merely obey for a few years and then run wild, but ones who will be strong and healthy to bear good fruit for many seasons, not just while they are under our roofs. Someday they will be grown and we want them to still be bearing good fruit, rooted and grounded firmly in the love and knowledge of God. We want them to grow up and be mature and raise their own children to be lovers of God whose roots run deep. This will require on our part many seasons of patient and tender nurturing: our children start out like little bare-root plants, ready to put down roots and flourish. We need to give them a happy, healthy, safe environment where they can begin to grow, providing them with physical and spiritual nourishment. We need to be careful to tend their hearts and encourage strong growth there, and not merely a good show of behavior. Above all, we need to trust in our Perfect Heavenly Father, knowing that "He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." (2 Corinthians 9:10) and that godly discipline "produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11)
        As I tend my strawberries, and my children, this season, I will do what I can to provide the right conditions I know they need to grow. And then I will trust the Giver of Life and the Author and Finisher of Faith to do His work. I'm already looking forward to a sweet harvest.