Life Lessons from a Wannabe Strawberry Plant

Remember my post a few weeks back (you can read it HERE) about how munchkin #2 waited 72 (I repeat, 72!) days for her strawberry plant to sprout? Here’s part 2 of this epic saga. Saga is the correct term because it means “a long story of heroic achievement”.

So thanks to a green-thumbed friend of mine who saw a photo of C’s plant on my Instagram, we learned the strawberry plant was in fact not a strawberry plant, but more likely a dandelion. When I broke the news to C, her whole body slumped as she wailed, “I’ve been growing a WEED?!”

Poor C. My disappointment was only a smidgeon of the shock and despair she was feeling. In that moment she wanted to give up. She was ready to hand over her bright green shoot of long, spiky leaves and have me take care of it. And quite honestly, I didn’t blame her.

I took a deep breath and racked my brain, trying hard to come up with something redeemable about the situation. I rubbed her back and said, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect them to. You didn’t grow a strawberry plant, but you did grow something! You did a great job watering and taking care of it every day for so long. Now you know what it takes to grow a plant.”

Her answer? “I’m growing a weed!”

Yup. Such is life, my dear. 😛

I wish things were different. I wish one strawberry seed had made it so C could have something to show for her hard work and patience (because to an 8 year old, 72 days is like an eternity!). But in the midst of all our disappointment, I appreciated the life lesson this wannabe strawberry plant reminded me of: Things doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, but that doesn’t mean these experiences were for naught. The disappointments we face, the unexpected detours and U-turns we make, the epic failures we go through—they are what make us strong and resilient and persistent. Nope, they’re not fun or pleasant, but they build something precious and desirable: they build character. And the hard times are what make success and victory sweet.

This experience taught C so much, and I can see how her perspective has changed. Just this past weekend we decided to start a small garden in the backyard. C jumped at the idea and we all went to the store to buy seeds to plant. While C was browsing, she turned to the back of the seed packets to look for the number of days it would take before the vegetable could be harvested. Several times she remarked, “52 days? 66 days? That’s so fast!” I had to keep myself from laughing at her reaction. This was the same girl who had moaned and groaned for 72 days while she waited for her strawberry/dandelion plant to grow. But now? She’s become a pro at waiting. 🙂

So, I want to say thank you to the random dandelion seed who flew into our house and found the perfect place to land. You may be a weed, but you’re a wonderful weed. Thanks for the life lessons you taught my munchkin. But whatever you do, please don’t spread your seeds into our backyard. 😉

Here’s a picture of C’s weed. Next to it is some lettuce she’s growing, too (which is super easy to do; go here for instructions)!

Here’s an oldie but goodie, Wilson Phillips’ song “Hold On”, that talks about holding on through the hard times.

How have disappointments and failures shaped you?

Disappointment & Hope at Christmastime

The family and I ventured out of sunny and warm California this week to come to the midwest. When our plane touched down, C looked out the window and exclaimed, “There’s no snow!!”

Oops. 🙁

The trip we had been planning for months so we could visit our relatives and play with snow was not turning out the way we had expected. Both E and C were (and still are) very disappointed in the sunny and warm (according to the natives here) 40 degree F weather and lack of white, fluffy stuff. Even I’m disappointed, especially since I found a great deal on snow pants (thank you Target!) and managed to squeeze four pairs of them (along with gifts and all of our other clothing) into the luggages.

Although our bubbles have been bursted by this non-white Christmas, I know our disappointment is minor compared to the unexpected circumstances of the very first Christmas. Can you imagine being pregnant and having to travel miles and miles only to reach your destination and discover there was no place for you to stay? And what about having to give birth to your first child and having nowhere to place him but in a feeding trough for animals?

Talk about disappointments.

You’ve gotta hand it to Mary and Joseph for persevering through the obstacles and setbacks they faced. I can only imagine how surprised and frustrated and exhausted they must have felt as newlyweds and soon-to-be new parents. But through it all, something kept them going. I think that something was hope.

Hope that what the angel Gabriel told them would come true. Hope that the baby in Mary’s womb was the long-awaited Savior of the world.

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix/freedigitalphotos.net

It was that hope that inspired Mary to sing this song (from Luke 1:47-55):

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. 

From now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Yes, in this world we will face many disappointments of all shapes and sizes and throughout each season of life, even at Christmastime. But we also, like Mary, have so many reasons to persevere and to hope.

Hope that each new morning brings with it new opportunities. Hope that we can make each day more meaningful than the last. Hope in the love of family and friends to sustain us. Most of all, hope in God’s promise to give everlasting hope to each one of us through Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

That certainly makes up for a snowless day any day. 🙂

So here’s wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas! Take a listen to this beautifully sung song, “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

What are you hopeful about on this Christmas day?

Closed Doors, Open Windows

Whoever came up with the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window” likely meant well. I mean the phrase certainly touches on the ideas of hope and potential and conjures up positive vibes. You could add to the saying another chipper phrase, such as …

– “There’s something better out there!” or “It’s all going to work out!” –

and you’ll have placed whatever opportunity that had screamed “NO!” in your face into a nice box, wrapped it up with shiny paper, and tied a ribbon around it.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net

If only overcoming disappointments was that easy. 😉

The reality is that when things don’t work out the way we had hoped they would, we get stuck. Sitting on the couch with a bag of chips or a tub of ice cream seems like the best option at the moment. We lose faith in God and in ourselves. We lack the desire and motivation to get up, shake off the dust (or potato chip crumbs), and try again.

I’m sure we’ve all had a door (or two or twenty) closed in our lives. I’ve had my share in the areas of relationships, school and work. At the time I just wanted to wallow in self-pity because I didn’t believe there was something better out there for me. But thankfully, I was wrong. I’ll say it again – I was wrong! Because life did go on after the DTR that left me with a fractured heart. Life did go on after I received a rejection letter from the graduate school I had applied to. Life did go on after I had my firstborn and realized I wouldn’t be able to return to work as soon as I had planned, leaving me with no choice but to toss the first 1,000 internship hours (out of 3,000) that I had acquired for my counseling license.

This last closed door was a tough one for me to accept. I had had my education and career path all planned out (finish grad school before age 30 and get my license by age 35) and things were going my way until mamahood pulled me back by my unwashed hair and plopped me down on my behind to nurse, diaper, carry and bounce my high need son 24/7. Switching gears from an overachieving and goal-oriented person to one who literally could not get out of the house at times drove me crazy. Giving up the timeline I had set and accepting my new full-time “job” took a lot of grumbling, time, more grumbling and letting go. (I think I’ve blogged about this whole process so many times!) Looking back, I had spent so much time sitting in front of that closed door and trying to get it open, twisting and yanking on the doorknob as hard as I could—without any progress. It wasn’t until two years ago that I was finally willing to take my hand off the knob and step back from the door.

What made me step away? Well, it was that window.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/freedigitalphotos.net

You know, the window from that saying up above. For me, God had through a series of events opened up the opportunity for me to write. When I turned my head from the closed door and glimpsed the great view from the window, I became energized again. There was hope and so much potential outside beckoning for me to come (and maybe a few palm trees, too). The closer I walked to the window, the more fulfilled I felt. I was also so grateful to have had that door close on me eight years ago. Because if it hadn’t, I might not ever have gone down the path I did and experienced all the heart-changing things I have been blessed to go through as a mom, and now as a writer.

So maybe the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window” is really all it’s cut out to be. It just takes time, trust and patience to move past a disappointment and regain hope. But once you do, you just might find yourself saying and believing those other phrases that “There’s something better out there!” and “It’s all going to work out!” 🙂

I picked OneRepublic’s song, “Stop and Stare” for this post. The lyrics reflect the uncomfortable process of moving from the closed door to the open window.

What windows have been opened in your life that have been the result of closed doors?

P.S. I can also say without a doubt that I’m glad that those doors mentioned above closed on me in the relationship and school areas as well. The windows that opened after (meeting and marrying hubby and the grad school I did get accepted into) were way beyond what I could have hoped for. 🙂