“Tending is about continued progress, not perfection.”
I don’t know about you…but I often find myself going through the motions. Our little family gets in a rhythm with our routine and it’s quite easy for me to just keep doing the next thing because it’s “what I’m supposed to do” or I’m just idly checking things off of my to-do list. Although on the surface it may seem like everything is great and growing fruitfully…there are definitely dry seasons and seasons where there is little growth truly happening.
I recently started reading this incredible book called Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life by Lara Casey. I’ve only been reading it in my free time for the last week, but I’m over halfway done and it has been life-changing. She writes about what a cultivated life looks like and challenges believers to evaluate areas of their lives that need to be tended to more intentionally. She uses really relatable analogies and metaphors of her garden and how it relates to growing our faith and our relationships. I feel kindred with her as a fellow wife and mama that is seeking to tend to the little people in my life, all while also trying to keep up with a house, friends and have a full-time job.
In chapter 7, she challenges you to think about the things that matter most. She says that if it matters, make a “tending list” and tend to those things purposefully. Cultivating is a choice. It sounds so silly to have to think about what matters most or to write it out to remind yourself. But for me, at least, I found great excitement, focus, challenge, and purpose in making my tending list. There are a lot of good things in my life. There are a lot of important things, too. But, not everything demands my everyday or every hour attention. I easily get distracted with other tasks, with my phone, and by the end of the day, I’ve poured so much of myself into my job, my friends, my kids, my household, and my phone, that I’ve forgotten about one of the most important relationships God has given me–my husband.
I’m not a bad wife and my husband is not a bad husband. But if we are honest? We spend a lot of time tending to other things and co-habitating instead of cultivating our marriage and putting it as a priority. We often get so caught up in kissing boo-boos, cooking dinner, playing trains, giving baths, putting babies to bed, grading papers, writing lesson plans, watching Netflix, and then spend maybe 5-10 minutes talking about things that actually matter.
It’s not that we don’t care.
It’s not that we don’t love each other deeply.
It’s not even that we even realize it majority of the time.
But, life is so busy in this season we are in. Our small kids and our jobs as teachers is exhausting. The same could be said about most seasons we are in though. I’ve found that it’s when you’re in the thick of it–in the middle of the hard–when it’s easiest to lose sight of or make time because you’re just so plum tired and you develop a survivor mindset. Anyone else?? Man, I’m so thankful for the grace my husband shows me daily. I’m even more thankful for God’s grace.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
So, last night, I was scrolling through Instagram and I saw a post by one of my favorite Christian authors, Jess Connolly. She posted about her friend that’s an 8 on the Enneagram test. At first I was so lost because I had no idea what an Enneagram test was. In short, it’s a personality test. So, I was curious as to what I was and took a free test online to find out. It turns out I’m a 2 (the helper), a 6 (the loyalist), and a 3 (the achiever). My jaw literally hit the floor as I read the descriptions about “How to get along with me”, “In intimate relationships”, “What I like about being a ____” and “What’s hard about being a ____”. It was like I finally had a card I could hold up to show people, “Hey, this is me, this is what’s great about me, and this is what’s really hard, so, please love me anyway!”
I shared my results with Dylan immediately. He is my most intimate relationship and while nothing shocked him in my results, it really helped him understand deeper how he could be more intentional at cultivating a relationship with me.
Some of the things to note about a type 2, 3, and 6 person: Reassure me that I am interesting to you. Reassure me often that you love me. If we are in an intimate relationship, tell me I’m attractive and that you’re glad to be seen with me. I have low self-esteem. I feel drained from overdoing for others. I don’t do a lot of things for myself for fear of being selfish. I get upset when others don’t tune into me as much as I tune into them. Listen to me carefully. Don’t judge me for my anxiety. Gently push me toward new experiences.
That is just a few.
I made Dylan take the test too. We sat and talked for almost an hour about our results and how it’s easy to focus on the negatives of our personalities, but that there is so much beauty and power in the things that we like about our personalities. We are so different because we make up for and fill in the gaps where the other struggles or lacks. Marriage is beautiful and messy. When two become one, big things can grow.
In my last post, I opened up about how hard this season of life has been. Our little family seems to constantly be sick or broken in some way. We spend most Sundays sleeping, resting, laying low, and keeping our germs to ourselves, instead of going to church or being out and about. This morning was the first time since Easter that we got up and got to church because everyone was well (5 minutes early, might I add)! When we got home, we ate lunch and miraculously, both kids went down for naps at the same time (a rare occurrence lately). During nap time, Dylan invited me to come outside with him so that we could replant our garden…together. He took what we had talked about last night and put it into action..inviting me into his world, his element, his domain, because he knew it would mean a lot to me. He didn’t need my help. I probably just slowed him down asking all of my questions and making him take the time to teach me about what each plant needed. But you know what? He didn’t mind at all. He was inviting me into something bigger than just planting mint, basil, beans, and tomatoes…he was inviting me into deeper relationship and joy with him.
Side note: Dylan loves to garden. He spent almost six months a few years ago before we got engaged up in Woodstock, NY living with his Uncle Matt and Aunt Kim on their farm. He learned so much about how to grow all kinds of things. He learned patience, endurance, the potential of growth that can come from trusting to plant small things. He was saving for an engagement ring, but he was learning practical skills and life lessons in the process. A lot of the things he learned in that season have made him the incredible, patient, loving, tender husband that he is today.
After hearing me gush all week about this book I’m reading, sharing the things I’m learning about how to tend to our family better, it spurred him on to restart our garden. Some of the things we planted today were already sprouted, baby, or slightly mature plants. Others are seeds that have not even begun to grow yet. As I look at our little garden in our backyard from the couch where I sit typing this post, my heart is so full and happy.
This garden is like my marriage with Dylan. Just like the established plants in our garden, our relationship has been growing for some time now. There is fruit and fullness from the almost nine years that we have been growing our relationship. Like the baby plants in our garden, we are tending to real babies in our home. They need lots of care to make sure they flourish and thrive. We don’t want to over-water them or neglect them. We want to give them all the good things they need, but also take the time to stand back and trust that God is growing them in the roots that we cannot see from the surface. Likewise, with the new seeds we planted today, I’m encouraged and hopeful for the new things God is trusting us with. Things we don’t even really know about yet or understand what they will grow into.
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for;
it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
Our garden does not have to be perfect. Our garden will go through seasons of dryness and neglect, perhaps becoming too saturated or overgrown. But it will also see many seasons of growth, life, and beautiful fruit. It’s about the continued progress. It’s about trusting that the Lord is at work in the dirt. In the middle of the messy and muddy parts. He is making sure that our faith in these plants grow roots that spread deep and wide.
My tending list is simple, yet profound for me:
- My marriage with Dylan
- Raising Blake & Nora
- Saturating my day in prayer all day long
- Reading God’s Word daily
If I do these things…I trust that everything else is going to fall into place. I’m going to focus on taking small steps forward, making little-by-little progress. I want to slowly cut away the weeds that distract me and try to take root in my life, distracting me from the things that are the most important.
It’s okay to grow slowly. All good things do.
What’s on your tending list? How are you working towards cultivating a life that matters?
Today, we took small steps towards cultivating our marriage deeper. We made time for each other, did an activity together, laughed and felt great joy from being alone and intentional with each other.