keeping things small

Keeping Things Small |TheHeartMagAll the things I was taught were wild about me were all the things I was taught were wrong about me.  [ezcol_1quarter]

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Olive Hebert | Heart
Olive Hebert

Olive is a social strategist, content manager and copywriter based in Athens, GA.  She’s easily jazzed by iced chai lattes, kitchen dance parties and pure, real connection.  Through Dearest Olive Studio, she helps small brands and non-profits transform their client bases into dear, thriving communities through custom content creation and social media management.

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I was raised in the Church of Tidying Up.  I spent my childhood in Sunday School and my adolescence in youth rooms and on Spring Break Beach Retreats.  I learned how to live a tidy, pleasing life for a God that held the key to my freedom.  A God that offered grace to cover my wild.

Wild things like... Laughing too loudly.  Sitting with my legs uncrossed.  Wanting to wear jeans when I was supposed to wear dresses on Sundays.  Sharing too much of my heart with people, because it might expose my mess.  Exploring sexuality before marriage.

So, to appear Tidy, I tamed my wild.  I crossed my legs and talked quietly.  I broke up with boyfriends because they weren't Tidy enough.  At 22, I got pregnant and so, we got married in order to keep up with the Tidy.  For years, I had a deep sense of envy for people who lived wildly and didn't leave the key to their freedom in someone else's hands.  I stopped writing and I stopped singing so I could stuff my wild in a little square box.

When I was nine years old my parents took me to Hawaii to witness one of their friends get married on this gorgeous, cratered rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Strangely, we spent the rest of the week on their honeymoon, with them.  But don't worry, it's wasn't what you think.  ;)  During that week, I experienced wild things that I didn't even know existed.  I stood on a volcano, ate macadamia nuts just after their harvest and saw more geckos than I could ever count.  We walked through forests with birds that could've come straight out of a Pixar movie.  I danced at a pig roast with ladies in grass skirts and, prematurely, I wore my very first (and last) coconut bra.  But the one thing that held my attention more than any other was a Bonsai tree.  I was still picking pieces of smooth, creamy macadamia nuts out of my teeth (and still wearing my coconut bra) when I saw, in a square foot box, a tree that looked as if it should have been a mile high and two wide.  I asked my dad how in the world a tree could be so big and, yet, so small.  And he told me all about the art of Bonsai - how Bonsai artists carefully prune the roots to keep the tree small, tidy and beautiful.  He told me it looked like some kind of White Pine tree (and I thought,I've never seen a pine tree that was white, Dad!).  What he meant was that this neat, tidy tree was meant to be 80 feet tall and 80 feet wide.  That it it would really be wide as twenty 3rd grade Olive's lying on the ground.  And I thought,What a weeeeiiirdddd thing for a tree!

Ten years later, I was sitting around a campfire with some of my friends from my college ministry at Auburn.  My friend, John*, was getting ready to graduate with his degree in Forestry.  Somehow, we started talking about the art of Bonsai and I cringed a little.  Bonsais had bothered me ever since I was nine.  I heard John say he was fascinated.  Not by the trees but by the concept.  That we could take these big, wild beings and keep them so neat and tidy.  He said it was a lot like the art of our faith.  And, I said, "Or the art of keeping things small."  And, in that moment, around a fire with my friends, I realized that it wasn't the Bonsai that bothered me.  It was me.  It was my own root pruning and my own art of keeping myself neat, tidy and small.

Today, as an adult, I'm still tempted to prune my roots and show you a neat & tidy life in little square boxes that fit in your hand.  To say that I'm okay when I'm not.  To shave my legs when I just don't want to.  To post a photo of the one tidy square foot of my house while the rest looks like a Chuck E Cheese play place.  To say the thing that's popular instead of the thing that's real.

When I stop pruning my roots and I let them grow deep into the earth and my branches grow up and out, I realize that I'm a part of a complete ecosystem of connected, wild things. Today, that looks like some hairy ass legs under these jeans.  It looks like spending weekends in the woods with people who barely know me but love my deeply for who I am.  It looks like using tiny square boxes of light to tell people that I'm not okay but it will all BE okay.  It looks like dating a very UnTidy, though handsome man who I love and who brings out my wild.  And it looks a lot like parenting with my heart and not with my head.

Maybe I don't need grace to cover the wild in me; maybe my wild is the grace that sets me free.

(And maybe yours is, too.)