Spring is upon us at the Ranchito and it is my favorite! The pasture is popping with wildflowers, the hens are laying a dozen eggs a day (still in the same box, you know), the vegetable garden is planted (crooked rows and all). We have even added fruit trees this year! I am planting pots of flowers, replacing herbs that didn’t make it through the winter, and watching to see if my lantana and hydrangea come back. The tiny Mexican Hat plants of last year are bushes full of bright blooms this year and the roses promise to be stellar! I love all the things. Obviously, all projects are focused outside as the constant West Texas wind blows in the warmer weather. A light bulb is out in your closet? We’ll get to that in October. The puppy ate the blinds again? It’ll be fine until Fall! Your potty doesn’t flush? Ummm….. ok, but spring is here!
Here is how most conversations go around here on a springtime Saturday morning:
Hubs: “What are you thinking you want to get accomplished this weekend? What are you going to work on?”
Me: “Well, I need to hoe the garden, buy the veggies, and get them in the ground. We need to get the fig tree planted next to the others. I want the kids to clean the pool and scoop the poop. I’ll clean out the coop. I’m going to get some flowers for the hanging baskets and transplant some into the wheelbarrow. I want to get the sweet potato vine going in the courtyard too so it’ll be awesome and everywhere sooner! What about you?”
Hubs: “I need to go to Lowes and get stuff to fix the sprinklers.”
It is always a sprinkler project. There always seem to be one or two zones acting up. With four kids and four dogs running around, there is always at least one sprinkler head that is broken. And all of my pretty flower beds, my veggie garden, my apple and pear trees would die very quickly without a working sprinkler system. I know. But no matter what I need done around here, it must get in line behind the sprinklers. It’s like GO on the Monopoly board. You have to pass it to get anywhere else. Sitting here at my computer on a quiet Tuesday morning I’m not mad about it…. But sometimes on a Saturday afternoon? Yeah.
We have a few “sprinkler projects” in our marriage too. Do you know what I mean? There are a few areas that I know will always need attending to. There are a few zones that may never work perfectly. There are a few heads that seem to get knocked loose often and easily. I can see it coming from a mile away. I know the conversations that will do it. I know the subjects that will cause the gusher. I know the places that we have never seen eye to eye on. I know the things that we have always stood at opposite corners on. Maybe it is because of the families we grew up in, maybe it’s the Florida/Texas culture chasm, maybe it’s a Mars and Venus thing , maybe it’s our unique personalities, maybe it’s just our own sin and junk, It’s probably all of those things.
My hubby always says, “We’ll never have an immaculate 7 acres.” We concentrate on the front and back yards. We tend to the flower beds. We water and weed the garden. But, he is right. Way out here in the high desert we will never have all 7 acres landscaped and groomed. It will never look like an English countryside (my secret dream.) It will also never look like my parents’ lush land on a lake in Florida where it rains every afternoon at 3pm sharp. If you were to come to the Ranchito today you would be greeted by blooming white geraniums by the sidewalk and a cute little bench with a pillow that reads “home” on it. There is a wreath straight from Magnolia Market on the front door. If you were a tribe-member you would know that the front door is locked and no one has come in or out of it in a week and you would come through the courtyard to the sunset porch and in the kitchen door. There you would see the herb garden, hanging baskets, tiny hydrangea making their spring debut, and friendly blue rockers.
I blow the leaves off of that porch every single day. I keep it pretty. If the wind died down enough and we decided to have a meal outside I would lead you to the backyard, past the rose bushes, to a long white table under a pool-side pergola. If you left at night you would drive out of the gate with trees full of year-round lights in your rear-view mirror. Here’s the deal, I wouldn’t invite you to sit and have a glass of wine with me behind the shop where we haul dead branches and debris. We’re not chatting it up in the school-room closet next to the litter box and papers strewn everywhere. I’m not asking your kids to play way out in the pasture where there are stickers and cactus and possibly rattlesnakes. But, just because those are real places doesn’t mean that all I just described isn’t beautiful. We will never have an immaculate 7 acres.
Our marriage is the same. Maybe there are some zones we should just leave alone. There may be some areas that are never going to be blooming and beautiful. After 16 years and a lot of redemption and work I can tell you that those areas are less and less, but there are still a few. But, we don’t have to live in the stickery, snake-filled pasture. We have cultivated so many lovely areas that bring life and joy. Just because there is a pile of debris out there doesn’t mean that there can’t be beauty right here. We are two sinners, living together everyday, raising 4 little sinners, all under one loud, chaotic roof. I once heard Beth Moore talk about her marriage and she said something like, “Does it really always have to be great? Can’t it just be good?” At the time this offended my 20 something, romantic sensibilities as I was sitting in a hot mess of a marriage. Now, 16 years later, sliding into 40, I say, “Yes, Bethy (that’s my pet-name for her. I’m sure she loves it)! Yes, it can be good. It can be really good. Please don’t hear me say you should not work on things. By all means, read a book, go to a retreat, get away together, don’t be afraid to have the hard conversations, pray. But at the end of the day know that no one has an immaculate 7 acres. The areas in your marriage that have a perpetually busted sprinkler head may look perfect in someone else’ but they have their pile of dead branches too. Does your hubby have a temper? Do y’all go round and round about budget? Are in-laws a source of constant strife? OK…. but is he a good provider, a hard worker, a hands-on dad that is doing the best he can? Maybe he is a huge help around the house but is terrible at community. Or maybe he has jumped head-first into your tribe but he never pursues you spiritually. I get it. But does it all have to be great? Can we let it still be good?
We had a big “sprinkler project” issue this week. We tip-toed around the leaky head for awhile. We knew it had potential to be a mess. We could have headed on over to a pretty, manicured spot in our relationship…. We didn’t. I finally just reared back and kicked the thing as hard as I could. It was a gusher. My husband came to me a little while later and wisely said, “this is just one of those areas where we will have to agree to disagree. We’ve come so far, let’s not do this.” I wish I could tell you that I was gracious and mature in that moment. Confesh… in the gushing emotions I wasn’t. But he was right. We will never have an immaculate 7 acres but we have so many beautiful spots in our marriage. That is real. That is good.
Marriage isn’t the only place we can apply the “sprinkle project principle” (so scientific, don’t you think?). Do you do it with your kids? Guess what your kids will never be good at? EVERYTHING. They will be really good at lots of things. If you are a wise parent you will find their giftings and give them ample opportunity to soar. But every single thing they try? Everything that is ever asked of them? Nope. There will be some stickery patches and places that will never look neat and tidy. Do you have a child that is super smart and goes through school with flying colors but will never get picked first for the baseball team? What about a super talented artist who can’t seem to pass a math test? Maybe you have a star athlete that has a hard time with relationships. Maybe you just have some normal kids that are ok in a lot of areas and less ok in others. No one’s child is perfect. No one has an immaculate 7 acres.
What about yourself? Do you do it to you? Are you a great housekeeper and cook but you are a less “fun” wife and mom? Are you the always willing “room mom” but can’t seem to get the laundry put away? Do you and your husband have great communication and intimacy but you can’t stop looking at all your imperfections in the mirror? Can you throw a Pinterest-worthy party but have a hard time engaging other women in real community? Are you a leader in some areas and a failure in others. We all have busted sprinkler heads, but look how beautiful that sunny patch is right there.
I think there is some peace and freedom in recognizing all of this. I’m certainly not trying to hide our rough spots, or hide from them. I just acknowledge they are there, work on them when we can, and focus on the areas that are life-giving. That is really what it is about, isn’t it? Focus? If we are always looking at the weeds, at the debris, at the problems, we will never notice the wildflowers. So, why don’t we all take a deep breath…. let’s grab a glass (I have plenty, you know), and go sit in the rocker on the courtyard instead of stomping around in the same ‘ole stickers. Yes, there is a sprinkler head that is broken but it is lovely over here by the roses. We will never have an immaculate 7 acres. You will never have a perfect marriage, a perfect husband, a perfect child. Guess what? They will never have a perfect wife or mom either. There is always a sprinkler project… But it can be so very good.