I had to take a little break from the blog for another project. That project has been sent off, and there’s a lot swirling around upstairs. The last five months–wow–it’s hard to believe it’s been almost five months since Eve came home. So much has changed, and, yet, it’s hard to remember life before the six of us were together. Her dedication was this past Sunday and our friend Stephen said he had seen a picture of our family from February. He said it looked like there was a big hole in the picture, a gap where our Eve girl wasn’t there.
At dinner last night, Peach asked Matt for a “campfire,” meaning fire in the fireplace. So, after bath times and pjs we all sat in front of the fireplace reading books. Lottie wanted to give Evie her bottle. (Yes, we still do one bottle a day for her because it’s a bonding moment, and we missed 20 months of those.) I looked over at them and thought of this time last year when our first court date was coming up in December. We walked through so much this year. But the gifts throughout this hard year have been beautiful and plentiful.
Saturday, I planted nearly 200 bulbs in our front yard. The big girls helped me while the little girls played in the dirt. The blade of the shovel cut through the dirt and I tucked in bulb after bulb, each one hidden beneath several inches of dirt to protect it through winter. There is nothing to show for my work right now, except a bit of a bruise on my right palm from all that digging. But I’m believing that come spring tulips and narcissus and later in the summer anemones and ranunculus will bloom.
Somewhere around bulb #89 the obvious metaphor hit me. This is what growth looks like. There’s digging, and it’s dirty. There’s planting, and it feels hidden. There’s growth, and it feels slow. But wait. Because the beauty is there already. And in time it will bloom into something that reflects the glory of its Creator.
There is a spider outside the window. She is probably three inches across with a beautiful yellow and black design. Of course, we named her Charlotte. Every morning we stumble (I stumble, the younger girls bounce) into the kitchen to start the day. Sippy cup of milk for Peach, OJ for Lottie, coffee for me. And we make our way over to the window to check on our spider. This morning I watched her go around and around tearing up her old web and weaving a new one. She does this often. We’ve watched her make several iterations now because we’ve been watching her for weeks. It is mesmerizing.
This morning as I watched her tear down her old work and start again, I felt solidarity. It feels a lot like sanctification. The daily taking away of what doesn’t work or edify or bring beauty. The examination of my heart and uncovering ugly places that need to be reworked. The consideration of this particular season and my particular disciples, dismantling formulas and weaving growth and grace for this new day.
Our spider does this often and never knowing she has an audience. She spins and weaves and creates masterpiece after masterpiece, so that she can capture food and protect herself certainly, but also because she made to create. She doesn’t lament the demolition, and she doesn’t begrudge the construction. But with each gossamer thread she spells out glory.
I watched her spin and thought back over my last couple weeks, the plans that had to be ditched, the messes that had to be cleaned (so. much. throw. up.), the sour attitudes (mine the sourest), all the un-glorious of it. A lot of ugly came to the surface, and I had to hand to God some things that needed to be torn down. And now I have to be patient in the rebuilding.
It isn’t ever fun to feel like God’s forgotten you, but I’m guessing we’ve all felt that from time to time or maybe for a very long season. I think it’s okay to honestly tell Him how we feel. He might not change any of our circumstances, but that honest confession might be the gateway to weaving something new. And through it all–the surrendered undoing and the merciful creation–He’ll show us His glory in woven splendor.
I’m not talking about the early-morning view when the alarm clock buzzes and you roll over to see your spouse’s bedhead staring back at you. Although I’m willing to admit I look a little–okay, a lot–like my youngest in the picture, take away the spaghetti sauce. (The expression is usually the same too.) No, I’m talking about marriage and husbands and wives and how the good, the bad and the ugly all go together. By that, I mean the qualities I love most in my husband are in tandem with the qualities that drive me crazy and vice versa. A laid-back, easy-going person usually isn’t great about remembering to take out the trash or throw dirty socks in the hamper. A type-A, highly motivated, get-it-done person tends to love checklists and high expectations. Someone who is hard-working and always goes the extra-mile might be a little late to come home most nights. And someone who is highly creative and artistic might be prone to forget minor details like paying the mortgage or the electricity bill. Our strengths go hand-in-hand with our weaknesses. The good, the bad and the ugly–it’s a package deal.
I don’t remember a ton from my undergraduate days in biology, but I do recall a lesson from my Genetics class. We were learning about genetic linkage and experiments on sweet pea plants and flies. (I also one time had to hunt crawfish out of a pond on campus and mate sea urchins. Who says biologists don’t have fun?) I will spare you the details because they would most likely bore you and, honestly, I don’t remember them, but these scientists found that some traits which are located in close proximity on a chromosome are transferred in pairs or groups. Ironically, this is referred to as coupling.
I know you’re probably wondering what flies have to do with marriage, but those traits he has that just drive me up the wall might very well be linked with the traits I love most about him. We certainly can’t wallow in our weaknesses or use them as an excuse, but when it comes to my spouse or to my friends or colleagues or anyone I value, maybe we could step back and see that everyone is a package deal with strengths and weaknesses, gifts and flaws, good and bad. And maybe instead of trying to change them–which never works anyway–we could love them for who they are and let God change the things that need changing.
No one person has it all, but every person has gifts to contribute. When we turn our focus to strengths and begin highlighting our spouse’s gifts instead of focusing on the weaknesses, we provide an environment for healthy growth in the relationship, space and grace for dirty socks and superfluous checklists. And our hearts grow more grateful. After all, when we stood on that altar and became husband and wife, I chose all of him and he chose all of me–the good, the bad and the ugly. And when Christ humbled Himself to death, He saw all of me and chose all of me–the good, the bad and the ugly–and loved me anyway.