Jacelya Jones shares a story about how healthy personal growth happens little by little. Now you can find the Kindred Mom book, Strong, Brave, and Beautiful: Stories of Hope for Moms in the Weeds, wherever books are sold. Subscribe to the Kindred Mom newsletter and receive a preview of the book today! Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash
The question for Contrary Mary, “How does your garden grow?” has the same answer as the question, “Does God answer prayer?”—little by little.
It was late at night when my daughter asked me to let her have four friends (two boys and two girls) come over to the house. I was trying to stuff my work and fun into the cracks of the day, and she asked me to curl her hair. I’ve prayed for strength and wisdom to be the kind of parent our kids need, yet continued to see myself falling short. I know that responding to my children’s distress strengthens our bond, but their stories and requests exhaust me.
But earlier that day, I had a conversation with my friend about these struggles. She’s a little way ahead of me on her parenting journey. She told me to go against my hermit instincts, to push through my natural resistance to some of the things my teenager wants from me.
She told me to pick up a take-and-bake pizza and snacks when my daughter asks me to let her have her friends over. She told me to say “Yes,” when she asks me to do her hair. She told me to see my chauffeur responsibilities as a blessing—an opportunity to spend priceless time with her in an enclosed space. She told me to keep my bedroom door open late at night so my oldest daughter can pop in to talk.
“You’ll be glad you made room for the late-night stories she’ll share,” she said.
So, I put cheese pizzas and a couple bags of Original Lays into my Shipt cart that night and told Sammie to bring me the curling iron. Taking my friend’s advice, I did not let my eyes grow wide in the face of any story she told me as I turned the barrel around the lengths of her hair.
The growth I see in response to prayer is not in my complete success; it lives in my willingness to learn and communicate better than I did the day before. I am reminded of God’s words in Exodus 23 when He says in verses 27-30: “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.”
When Sammie was three years old, Hubby and I attempted our first garden. We didn’t know about growing zones or the difference between perennials and annuals. We couldn’t recognize flowers by looking at the blooms or by the leaves. Our first big garden bed was full of clay soil and rocks someone had previously used (probably to keep down weeds). We bought trees…and got rid of them because we didn’t know they took years to produce edible fruit. We planted biennials and threw our hands up when they came up one season and then appeared to us to have died. We blamed ourselves…and then celebrated through confusion when the biennials seemed to resurrect themselves after a season of absence.
Slowly, we learned to understand what we were reading in catalogs and on plant tags. We started to recognize plants on our own and learned how to make our flowers…then bushes…and, finally, trees prosper: sunlight, water, shade, sand, fertilizer, mulch, compost, wind breaks, to be grown in pots or in the ground…
It’s taken years of research, experimentation, creativity, boldness, and failure to begin to scale the mountain of our garden dreams with any semblance of “mastery.”
When I have a dream, I want to see it happen now. Nothing is wrong with my urgency—as long as my diligent pushing forward has the enduring fuel of patience and flexibility behind it.
I’ve asked God for lots of things, and before I grew in my understanding of Him (and myself), truthfully, I often felt like my prayers were just meaningless breath headed to a black hole—a place where things went in, but nothing came out. No answers. No response. No help from God.
I wanted to stop being angry without growing enough to understand and face the source of my rage. I wanted to be a successful writer without having grown in skill or the courage to submit my work and face failure. I wanted to have friends before my ability to trust others with authenticity had grown. I wanted lots of things and asked for them without the maturity to understand what I really need and what’s good for me.
In the same way, I’ve wanted to be a better parent—responsive to each child’s unique needs. It’s taken research and gradually picking up the tools to see growth in our connections. I’ve learned to listen when I’m tired. To say, “I’m tired,” or “I’m in a bad mood, but I care about what you’re saying.” I’ve learned to push Hubby and me out of our comfort zone by looking at the big picture—the seeds planted by deciding that what’s important to the kids is also important to us. Over time, experience gives me tools for my toolbox. Little by little, God uses all of it to prepare me to achieve my dreams and participate in His good plan for my life.
I think He does answer prayer—always. That’s not the same as a genie granting wishes. It’s like our own model of parenting: We listen to our children’s requests and use wisdom to say, “Yes,” “No,” or “You’re not ready for that…yet. Let’s figure out how we can get you physically and mentally prepared.”
Healthy growth is little by little so that when His answer comes, I’m ready—even when the answer is as simple as a take-and-bake pizza.
Jay Jones is a writer, a mama, and an audio editor. Self-taught in many ways, she is always looking to make connections and find ways to improve her brain, her blog, and her brood (ages 2 to 14 years). Married since 2004 to her husband, Taylor, she’s been tied to her college sweetheart for nearly a quarter-century. Together, they raise their 4 children in the Chicago suburbs, where they enjoy pursuing creativity in the midst of the daily grind. Her blog, Writing all My Life is the place where she can share all the words, projects, and ideas about challenges and connections as she sees them in the role of Mom and in her identity as a child of God. You can read some of Jay’s poetry and travel cover-to-cover with her through the Bible with her IGTV series on Instagram @jacelya_jones. You can also journey along with her during her Treadmill Talks on YouTube.