Every year in May when the rains stop and the soil warms I race to plant my tiny seeds in the ground. There’s something exhilarating about spring and the promise of new life, right at our fingertips.
But every year fall comes, and the garden’s early days of hope and life turn brown and wither. Cold nights darken the leaves. Plants overgrow their spaces and weeds take over the soil. The beautiful idea of what could be materializes, and quickly turns into the reality of yet another task to complete.
This weekend I tore out the garden. Those tiny seedlings that I watched grow over the summer into mature plants finally overstayed their welcome. Giant stalks of overgrown vegetables stood nearly as tall as me and took my whole strength to uproot, stack, and wheel to the compost pile.
I remember growing up watching my parents and my grandparents tend their own gardens. Watching them as a girl I saw nothing but dirt and weeds and a whole lot of work. I swore I would never have a garden of my own. Fast-forward thirty-something years and I couldn’t imagine life without a garden. Go figure. Gardening has taught me so much about faith. Hope. Really, about life. Sowing and reaping, pruning and uprooting, and the power and importance of the frost.
I stood there looking at the garden this weekend, not thinking I would be doing this again this year. Our house is for sale and as I planted those tiny seeds in the spring I fully anticipated someone else would reap the harvest. But God gave us one more season. We have loved this place so much. The garden and its quiet backyard home have offered a respite not only for our kids and our family, but for our souls. I can’t count how many summer days my boys have run through the sprinklers or slid down a slip and slide picking carrots or peas or beans for a snack. Strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries in season. We’ve planted nearly everything together in that garden and watched it grow.
Working in the garden revitalizes my spirit. It helps me to see the very nature and rhythm of life and understand my own journey through it. That what is planted in faith will eventually bear fruit. And that what once grew, will likely need to be uprooted. We’re not meant to grow in the same place over long seasons of time. We grow where we’re planted, and few are strong enough to sustain the frost. How much I see that in my own broken story. Waiting on God, or when the harvest won’t come, or through the painful and ever-present process of pruning. But I’m grateful.
I took this photo of one of the plants in our yard. Every fall at least one of them turns every single color of the rainbow all at once. Isn’t it spectacular? When we first moved here the dirt in the back yard was as hard as rock. But after years of digging, picking and amending, the soil is good.
If we’re still here in the spring the garden is going to need some new soil. I noticed what grew well last year didn’t have the right nutrients to do well again this year. Funny how that happens in our lives too. Just as the plant’s needs can deplete the soil and require amending, so too can we. Do you ever feel like you’ve stopped growing? Perhaps the groups and people that once challenged you to grow now feel like they’re holding you back?
Often we think staying in the same groups with the same people doing the same things bonds us deeper, but we’re not meant to stay the same. We’re meant to grow. And to do that sometimes we need new soil. New experiences. New people. New opportunities and friendships. It’s not just the nature of us, but the nature of life.
I love that we serve a God who loves us just as we are, and He plants us in the soil we need to grow, and yet He will not leave us there. He desires that we grow. In my life I’ve seen His work, every year as the gardener. One warm autumn day when fruit is hanging on the vine, He cuts back; He uproots; and He amends the soil. So many times I’ve felt like I was harvested only to be thrown back on the compost pile. Some lessons I needed a few seasons to see through. Colder nights and deeper frosts.
I’m so grateful for every single person who has traveled down this life with me. Some of them have lasted a lifetime and some, looking back, were just barely passing through. But every one of them mattered. Every one of them left a deposit in the soil that made it dark and rich and so, so good. He is an artist. He is a gardener. And He is a good, good Father.