Wildflowers, Wifery and Wisdom

Here in Texas, we’ve had, I don’t know – 4 years? – of drought.   I lost all track of time, partly because there were no seasons by which to mark it.  Then this last winter, we were inundated with rain.   The clear sunshine that comes out between the spring storms has brought up the most resplendent display of wildflowers I’ve ever seen.

I grew up with California poppies and the now-extinct freeway oleanders.  Acacia trees lined the streets near school, and mother grew Johnny-Jump-Ups in the garden by the front door.  But entire fields of wildflowers?  Only on one of our cross-country expeditions had I experienced drifts of Black-eyed Susans or the occasional century plant spear.

So I was completely broadsided this year with not only the abundance, but diversity of color all around me.  Bluebonnets are always the first marker of spring, but this year the blood-red Indian Paintbrushes came out almost the same day, with the aptly named Indian blankets close behind.  The Paintbrushes and bluebonnets are about gone now, but the blankets have joined another, lighter yellow flower to cover every pasture that has not been grazed this month.  Coneflowers have sprung up, usually alongside another, taller, bluish-purple flower resembling a milkweed.  Cactus is another yellow bloomer which is surprisingly delicate against the hard, prickly paddles they emerge from –  they seem quite out of place.  There is such an amazing array of color, texture, and pattern everywhere I look.  And occasionally I catch the scent of something that smells like a rich, but faint, cup of honeyed vanilla water just after the rains.

Someone mentioned once that God gives us flowers, just as a gentleman will present his lady with a bouquet.  I cannot believe how generous He has been to me.  I have been ugly and selfish for  longer than just lately.  I’m reminded of that distracting boy in Wal-Mart, whining for what he needed ‘now’ and crying loudly until the second it was in his hand.  He was all smiley then, until he saw something else his heart desired. What a spoiled brat!  And yet, look at me,  pouting until I’m recognized appropriately for having dinner ready, yet again, on time, with nutritious foods.  And griping about being left with all the dishes afterward.

I think the biggest issue with being a housewife is that so much of it seems a constant dripping of needs from every direction at every hour, while still planning ahead for efficient handling of the predictable ones.  Everything could easily be done by unskilled labor, but my presence is the key to success.  I’m in the center of everything, needed by everybody, but my contributions are almost completely unnoticed.  I’m not sure that every mother experiences this, but I cannot imagine I’m completely alone. Still, I began to fret that I wasn’t doing enough to earn my keep.  Hubby was working hard already, so I tried to keep the troubling trivialities to myself.   After a few years, neither one of us could see that all the myriad little duties, worries and responsibilities, combined with my constant on-call status, left no strength for much more than absolute survival. I tried to train my mind for better efficiency so I could accomplish more, but that was just one more load I couldn’t carry.  What I realize now was that I needed nurturing, not discipline;  I needed someone to care for me.

Spring came on with a vengeance and so overwhelmed me that I couldn’t help but notice.  I came across that idea of these flowers being a gift from God.  I’ve seen all the “God loves you” bumper stickers, but I really just needed to feel his hand on my shoulder in a tangible way.  I needed something to fill my tank.  I went for a walk with my camera and took as many photos as I could.  I came home and played with the images on the computer.  The wildflowers began to bless me as I noticed each nuance of shape and texture.  They are the most delicate of plants, with no purpose or goal, and we don’t expect anything of them. They will not do as they’re told or grow where planted.   They are merely a gift, unexpected and treasured, wherever they are for as long as they last.   We have no hand in them.

I ran across this little teddy while cleaning this week, and remembered the sweet little girl who gave it to us.  She appeared at my side just before a Bible study, back in the days when my husband was traveling a lot with work.  I was lonely.  She showed me the book she’d been struggling to read, and offered to read it to me.  She did beautifully, and really didn’t want more than a listening ear.  She thanked me sweetly when she finished, and then gave the baby in my lap her gently used teddy bear to play with.  “She can have that, because I don’t play with it anymore,” she smiled.  I tried to gently give it back to her mother, but her mother smiled just as sweetly and assured me the little girl would be offended if I did not accept her gift.  I will never forget her as long as I live, even though I don’t remember her name.  That little girl blessed me with a pure smile and a gift for no other reason than her cup overflowed with love.  I went to the Bible study to find God – He wasn’t there.  He was in the little girl beforehand that I almost shooed away.

When I realized that these wildflowers and the thoughts they elicited from me were a similar unexpected gift, I looked around for what else He’d given me.  I noticed some cheerful people reaching out to me.  Wildflower people?  How else can I explain all those coincidences in life of people and sights and sounds that seem to have been placed just here, just now, for me.  There is only One who truly understands and knows what I need, because He made me.  But I must notice what He gives in order to  accept it, and then take it home.   Just like that teddy bear.  And my photos of the wildflowers.   It wasn’t until I published the photos that most of my family ever saw the wildflowers.  Somehow, the glory around us had been missed.  But once I noticed those tender little faces, loved them just for who they were with no expectation of return,  I received so much more than I ever dreamed.  They gave the same to all of us – but only I accepted it.  I must give some away; I have too much for only me.

Funny –  these last few years, I just wanted to be noticed and enjoyed for my presence.  I wanted someone to realize that I had more to offer than another baby to the world, and  that there might actually be a hint of intelligence inside these motherly clothes and forgotten, frizzy hair.  But it wasn’t until I asked God to provide, with no limitations on what that might be, that I found the flowers, which brought a smile to my face, however fleeting.  Those I shared them with smiled in return.   I unwittingly carried happiness with me the rest of the day, I was so thrilled.  Another smile and a pleasant comment came my way when I stopped at the store.  Pretty soon, enough joy had accumulated that my face didn’t fade the minute I returned to my duties.  I have new energy to do my tasks.

And maybe that’s the purpose of flowers after all – to smile up at us, offering us their fragile beauty and praying you won’t trample them underfoot.   It is God’s hand on our wounded soul, in the most delicate touch imaginable.  And as we smile back – or I photograph their happy little faces – I pray that your smile would be encouraged to come – or stay out a little longer.

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4 thoughts on “Wildflowers, Wifery and Wisdom

  1. I guess I’ve been blessed in that, for the most part, I’ve always been aware of the world around me. I’ve spent large portions of my life in the quest for understanding of myself and my spot in the world. The one thing I enjoyed about my job as a truck driver was the solitude and time to do my own personal therapy. My wife accuses me of not being worried about anything, but the truth is, I worked out my own personal issues as I worked.

    That said, it seems that you are handling your new conciousness very well. I’ve greatly enjoyed your stories and their descriptons of your awakening view of the world. I’ve always espoused that happiness is not one great big event, but just the little things that most people take for granted. Please continue with the stories because for me, they are a success story.

    • I am so thrilled that you see yourself in a lot of my writing. That is the highest compliment to me. It’s what I strive to do – relate to those around me. And I will tell you right now – I do not mean to single you out, Aaron. I have no idea what your life is like, much less your wife’s. But I do know a bit about my life and some of those around me. You have provided me a wonderful launch point to say what I so badly want to say to so many.

      Part of why I wrote this particular piece was that I wanted husbands to see their homes from a different perspective. To set their frustrations aside for a moment and look through my eyes. This is about was what a wife goes through while hubby is gone during the day. What she especially feels if he travels for any extended length of time. I know what it’s like to have an infant in arms, a toddler crying in the next room, and a hubby three states away. I know what it’s like to have him gone for three days, three weeks, or three months at a stretch. I wrote this piece so that husbands would look at their wives and say – “Oh. I so never realized what you were feeling.” The first response I got on this article was offline, but it said, “This should be required reading for every husband.”

      I don’t want to imply that husbands are not busy multi-tasking with diverse responsibilities. But we both see things differently. Wife is thinking, wow – I would just like to get out of the house for a short time and not feel the responsibility of yet another bumped knee. Meanwhile, hubby is thinking, I am so sick of doing all this crud for these people – I can’t wait to go home and enjoy my family. Wife does enjoy her family – but she needs to feel appreciated for something other than her ability to pop a warm one when the baby cries. And hubby is invigorated by his work – but he does need some quiet place to unwind. The problem, as I see it, is that somehow wifey gets saddled with all the home stuff which appears menial to hubby – he doesn’t see anything hard about it. He’s worn down by important tasks that require thinking and sometimes – probably inadvertently – downplays what she truly does. And because so much of her job is orchestration and crisis management, her stress level is high while her accomplishment list may be slim. In order for her to provide that quiet place for you to unwind, she has to work overtime. You are a fire dept. captain – you, I’m sure, understand what it means to be Incident Commander of a complicated scene. This is your wife’s life.

      Somehow, in saying all this, I also wanted to encourage wives – that they are not alone, that what they’re doing is important and has eternal significance, and that someone else has walked this path. Stop and look at your wife today. Look her in the eye and let her know you appreciate her and all she does for your family. She already knows how much you do – you bring home a paycheck to prove it. But sometimes she just needs to know that she is pulling her weight in the house and that her work is appreciated. But housewifery is like volunteer firefighting; the hours are unending, the pay is nonexistent, and the complaints far outnumber the attaboys.

      Loneliness is an amazing thing. It can clarify your thought – but only if you have the freedom to think. It can also sequester you off in the wilderness of abandonment if you’re buried in busy-work and interruptions and have no one to help or understand. While you were figuring out yourself on the road, what was your wife doing?

  2. Wow, this is a great post Brenda. I can SO relate in many, many way– needless dripping of needs and all. I am pretty sure that I started my blog and photo taking for the very same reasons but maybe didn’t know it at the time. I really enjoyed reading everything thing you shared !

  3. My wife and I have a little different relationship than most. She has always had a more demanding job and we have (until recently) made about the same amount. We have always seen each other as equals and share fairly equally in the child rearing and household duties. We are each others best friend and would rather spend time with each other than with anyone else. By no means is our relationship perfect. I am and will always be a bit distant and withdrawn and Denise has unrealistic expectations of emotional support. But the trick is that we talk to each other and have learned to put aside our own expectations to see the others point of view. We have built a mutual respect and trust for each other through a long and sometimes painful process of building communication. There were a lot of bumps along the way and the fact that we’re still married and talk to each other is testament to our stubbornness.

    We have built our relationship with the idea that one day the children will be gone and neither one of us wanted to be sitting across from the other in 20 years and wonder who the other person is. We have made sure that our relationship was just as important as the kids. This wasn’t the way it was at the beginnig, but has evolved throughout our relationship. My wife is a tough, smart woman and is the major reason we’re where we are at now.

    This is what I have learned about relationships in the last 12 years and is in no way meant to be a guide. Communication is essential. Don’t be afraid to say what you feel needs to be said but don’t expect to be heard every time. Listen to what the other person has to say and don’t jump to conclusions. Put your ego aside. There are much bigger things at stake than your desire to be right. Don’t expect to be recognized for what you do but don’t be afraid of recognizing what the other person does. What goes around will come back. Make time for yourself. If you don’t, resent will creep in and make itself at home. These seem like pretty simple things, but just try to put them into practice and you will see how hard they can be.

    For anyone out there thinking that I seem like a great guy, I have gotten where I am because my wife dragged me here kicking and screaming. When we first got together she wondered why I was single. I told her to wait. She would find out. A couple years later, she gave me the nickname the slow painful death due to my being emotionally cut off and very introverted. A relationship requires effort by all parties involved every day. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort, don’t get into the game.

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