I began using PowerSheets (which is essentially a goal setting book) at the beginning of this year, and haven’t done much with them recently, but part of the process is to find your word for the year. When I began, I didn’t feel any one word resonate with me, to sum up my goals or theme of my year. So I didn’t claim a word, but I'm beginning to think a word claimed me.
The bits of encouragement I’ve discovered recently and over the past year - on the internet or in books and devotions I am reading or songs I’m listening to - are all centered around ‘waiting’. In fact, much of what I am trying to teach my children lately is about waiting and patience... but it’s something that I want to them to grasp without having to model it myself.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day (she recently shared a quote by Jamie Wright on Instagram that summed up our conversation perfectly) about how we all want to talk about things in past tense - that something was ‘fixed’ and we are better now. How we want to push people towards healing and want them to be ‘over it’ instead of being messy and in the middle of it. We do this to others and we do this to ourselves. The quote acknowledges that the writer is in the middle of the mess and doesn’t have (as she says) "a redemptive conclusion" for her readers. Waiting, in my opinion, is both messy and without a redemptive conclusion. Yet.
One of the things I’m learning about/in grief is that there is a lot of waiting. And I’m learning that in waiting, there is a lot of grief. Waiting on something you want SO BADLY is hard and there comes a point where I’ve found myself having to acknowledge that perhaps my preferred outcome may not happen - at all or in the way I'd like it. I continue to cling to hope, but I recognize the importance of mourning that loss in my life - that death of a dream or perceived future, that unmet expectation I naively thought was a guarantee. Perhaps that thing in my life is simply delayed. Or perhaps it’s not and I’m waiting for something that will not come.
Almost a year ago, I submitted an essay to a blog I follow that I titled “Growing Grief”. I had spent some time in my garden that summer, and more time ignoring it if I’m honest, which prompted reflection on the similarities between the plants and areas of my life thriving or suffering. At the time, friendships had ebbed more than flowed, babies had been born to others (or were still in utero but announcements had been made), and I felt overwhelmed in so many areas of my life. Touching everything on top of that, was my grief – for all that I will not have with my mom and for my own perceived failures as a woman, a mom, and a creative.
I marvelled at the plants that grew in spite of my lack of care that summer, at the plants that grew as a result of tilling the plants from the previous year into the soil. There were areas that I had put effort into that didn’t produce a thing. And there were weeds - in abundance there were weeds and other invasive (but not necessarily ‘bad’) plants that I couldn’t keep from overtaking my plot of dirt. In my essay, I reflected on how unqualified I felt when compared to the lineage of crop and garden growers I come from. I lamented that despite growing up as a farmer’s daughter and now being married to a farmer, I wasn’t very good at growing. At the time, growth and growing were the focus of that written work. Now, however, I see wait as the over-arching theme, throughout the essay and my life since I wrote those words.
The basic premise in farming (or gardening) is to put a seed in the ground and wait for days, weeks, months or years before it turns into something that is either beautiful or provides nourishment to our bodies. Sometimes it amounts to something and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, weather hinders or prevents growth and sometimes it facilitates a bountiful harvest. Through it all – through what we can control and what we cannot in the growing process – we must wait and we must be patient.
There is a song by Hillsong Worship called ‘Seasons’ that I’ve had on repeat for long stretches of time. As I listen, I’ve had tears stream down my cheeks or I’ve sung along passionately. I’ve found myself being able to do nothing but sit still as I’ve absorbed the words and, alternatively, I can’t help but move to the music at times. Without fail, every time the song reaches the bridge, I feel these words profoundly:
The thing about planting something from a seed is that the seed must die before anything can grow. And then you wait. And wait some more. Until you see those first tiny green bits protruding from the dirt. Until you see the growth.
Sometimes, waiting hurts and feels a little like experiencing a death. Sometimes the dreams we hang on to have to die and change shape. In fact, as someone whose life is saturated with growers, I know that any growth we see in our garden beds, our fields and our lives is because something died and changed and it took time for that process to happen. What is produced always takes on a different shape than what we sowed, in hope and with moisture from the sky or our tears. And it always requires waiting for the harvest.
Grieve. Wait. Grow.
These are the lessons, the words that I’m learning to live.