Monday, September 23, 2013

Onions and Weeds

As harvest season is finally upon us--can I tell you how excited I am for cooler weather?--my thoughts have turned back to last fall as we harvested our own garden.

Last year was the first year that we were able to have a garden.  My husband and I went from being college students to a military family and are now back to college students, therefore we have always lived in rentals or base housing, none of which allowed us to toil in the dirt.  This past summer, however, we were fortunate to live in a house where a raised bed was already in the backyard.  So it was that last May (late in the season in Texas, I came to find out), the kids and I set about preparing the soil with the help of my green-thumbed mother-in-law.

It was thrilling, the dirt beneath our fingernails, the unearthed worms, the pleasure of a dark black, de-weeded bed ready for planting.  The kids were hard to contain at Lowe's as we picked out the plants for our garden.  Tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, eggplant, onions, zucchini, squash.  Well, they may not have been ecstatic for the squash, but... They were anxious to help and even fought over who got to plant what.

Then the real work began.  The daily labor of maintenance, weeding.

The kids enthusiasm quickly turned into roller-coaster like waves.  They'd trudge out the garden in the Texas heat to pull weeds, their entire bodies groaning and grumbling.  Then they'd notice the changes in our garden, how their peppers had grown and the small blossoms appearing on the tomatoes, and their faces would light up with that special joy that only new life can bring.  Weeding turned truly problematic, however, when the onions began to sprout.

The biggest issue we had in our garden was grass.  The raised bed was full of it and try as we might, more and more kept growing.  Every day we'd find dozens of new shoots of grass among our tidy rows of love.  And wouldn't you know, they looked very much the same as new onion shoots.  There in lied the problem.  We'd be weeding away and until the moment the onion bulb surfaced, the sprouts looked so akin to the grass that the poor onions were getting pulled up at least once a day if not more.  In the end, they all ended up dying, never being able to take root and fully develop.  We were all heartbroken.  How would we make homemade salsa without our own homegrown onions to go with our tomatoes and peppers?  Sure we could substitute, but it just wouldn't be the same.

doesn't that look like a small blade of grass?

One day, when I had yet again pulled out an onion by mistake, and I was watching my dear Baby Girl diligently pull weeds across from me, I thought occurred to me: in my quest as a diligent mom to pull all the bad habits from my children, how often do I mistakenly pull out onions--those behaviors that look akin to bad habits, but that in the end will had such a flavor to their life that they could end up missing some key ingredient for their success?  Tears welled up in my eyes that had nothing and everything to do with the vulnerable onion in my hand.

My dear daughter is quite possibly the most head-strong female I have ever met.  Seriously.  This child has the most determined soul.  Nearly from the minute she was born, she was calculating, watching, daring to do what everyone else could do.  She learned how to walk and talk with next to no prompting from mom and dad.  She was determined to do things like dress, feed and bath herself from (in my eyes) an unnaturally early age.  She has never let any barrier or obstacle get in her way... including mom and dad.

She is argumentative, combative and fierce when she has her mind set to something.  I'm sure you can imagine how well that goes at home.

I've had to learn to let this possible weed grow in the hopes that it is, in truth, an onion, rich with purpose.  Over the years, I've had to learn which battles to fight with her and in which ones to let her reign victorious.  And she has had to learn too.  She has learned that I will concede to her choice of wardrobe as long as it meets the family standard of modesty... I've learned to let go of whether or not it matches or is seasonally appropriate.  She has learned that I will not concede on chores or homework... I have learned to let her be creative and add her own touches to her work, to allow for her doodling in the margins and putting the toilet paper on the holder however she prefers.  And together we have learned about this labor called family life, harvesting the best out of one another.

Have you ever seen an onion blossom?  They are quite striking, are they not?

It has taken me years, but I have finally realized that this fiery determination is actually quite a vital part of who she is and her life's mission.  This onion serves my daughter well.  It has allowed her to catch up with her peers in school.  After being home-schooled for three years (and due to her determination not to learn to read from mama), she was placed in first grade close to Christmas time as a non-reader.  By the end of the school year, she was reading on a third grade level and surpassed many of her peers.

This onion allows her to hold her own in a house full of atypical boys.  This onion allows her to have a voice in a world where children's and women's voices are not always heard.  It allows her to follow her passions.  It allows her to never tire in her quest for self-discovery.  It's allowing her to become a remarkable woman.

I've learned to keep in mind that even the Lord allows the wheat and the tares to grow together until the time of reaping.  And that there is much more going on under the surface that I cannot see.

I remember when I was six we moved to a new home out in the country.  Next to the front door was an overgrown planter box that appeared to be full of grass and weeds.  My mother wanted to pull it all out and plant flowers.  As we set to work we were excited to find that the bulk of it was actually onions and not grass at all.  They had been left, for who knows how long, to grow and flourish to their hearts' content.  They were some of the best onions I have ever tasted.

I've learned that sometimes the weeding needs to be left to better hands, to the One with all-seeing eyes,  the Master Gardener.  Heavenly Father knows my children, He knows where the weeds and the onions are in their hearts.  And my children are coming to know the Lord.  They are learning to trust in Him, to turn to Him.  In time, when they are ready, they will, with the help of the Lord, pull out their own weeds.  And my hope is that they will be happy knowing mama left at least some of their onions alone, giving the space and time needed for them to fully take root and develop to their full potential.

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