Cultivating Joy

April 20, 2014 at 9:58 pm (Faith, Kids) (, , )

Last fall, Lucy and I planted 200 tulip bulbs. Tulips are my very favorite flower, and have been since at least high school, which may be the longest I’ve ever gone without changing my mind about something. It was a sunny September day with a bite in the air, and we knelt down in the mud and clay, dug 200 holes, filled them with bone meal, carefully set in the bulbs, and covered them up with earth. As the season wore on, the weather turned cold, and then very cold. The leaves changed and fell. We raked enormous piles that the kids jumped in, and we raked some more. It snowed, and we danced for the sheer joy of it. Then it snowed and snowed and snowed, and when it snowed at the beginning of April, we almost cried. It truly felt as if spring might never come. We wondered how many of the tulips would come up, if any. Would they become dinner for hungry squirrels and chipmunks? Were they frozen to death under the ground? Had we done it right? Had they survived? I think any gardener will tell you that planting something is an act of faith, and hope. I think all gardeners have to be a little bit of optimists in their hearts. So we waited. And waited and waited and waited.

And then, obstinately, defiantly, those tulips forced their way up. The snow wasn’t even gone yet, there was still ice on the lake, and we still bundled up in hats and scarves as we walked past those stubborn tulips. We checked on them every day, measuring their progress, watching them grow from green little fingers in the ground to suspiciously tulip-shaped leaves on suspiciously tulip-shaped plants. They haven’t bloomed yet, and there might not be 200 of them, but they’re there, growing and changing from something that looked dead to something that is not only alive, but beautiful.


Today is Easter. What was dead is alive. Where there was sadness, there is now great joy. It’s warm enough for me to sit on my porch with my laptop, after having gone for the very first family bike ride of the season. We went to the Easter Vigil last night, the Easter Bunny hid a nice amount of eggs in the backyard this morning which the kids found at the crack of dawn and we ate too much ham and drank too much champagne at lunch. It has been a happy day. But now we need to keep it up. As our pastor said, we need to celebrate Easter for an entire season. In fact, we Catholics are supposed to be an Easter people, a people of joy all year long. We’re supposed to be optimists and hopeful and believers, and joy-spreaders. Gardeners, so to speak. That’s hard sometimes. I think I might be better at Lent. I’m good at rules, and I’m probably a little too good at sad, and introspection, and deserts. But I did plant those tulips…I bet I can get better at cultivating joy.

A very, very happy Easter from the Belfry to wherever you are.


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April 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm (Faith, Kids) (, , , , )

Today is the last day of school before spring break. I can hear my preschooler thudding around upstairs with her pal as I write this, and the other two will be done in a couple of hours, after which we have eleven blessed days before it’s back to the daily grind. (“There’s just too much school,” my oldest sobbed to me one morning this week. “It’s every day and it’s just too much.” They’re due for a vacation, for sure.)

We don’t have any solid plans for our next week. The hubs has oodles of vacation time banked up but is too busy to use it, so there goes our brief flirtation with a last-minute trip to the land of the Mouse and all his merchandise, aka Disney. I’ll maybe take a day trip or two with another family we’re close to, (water park? big city museums?) but I don’t have any firm plans yet.

One thing I’m going to try to do is to keep tomorrow and Friday…um, holy. I was trying to explain this to my kids one night as they peppered me with suggestions about where we should spend our vacation. “There’s a lot of church this weekend,” I reminded them. “There are churches all over,” they told me. “I’m singing at three of the masses,” was my comeback. “And I don’t think Thursday and Friday count as vacation days.” They wanted to know what I meant. “Well, why don’t you have school those days?” I asked. “Because it’s Holy Thursday and Holy Friday,” my six year old said. “Good Friday,” I corrected him. “That’s right. I guess I just think we ought to do something that reflects the reason you’re not in school those days.”

Here’s my plan. Tomorrow we’re going to go to an outdoor Stations of the Cross that is nearby, and then Friday kind of takes care of itself, with that big old service right in the middle of the day. I don’t know, it just sort of seems like the least we can do.

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