Lessons from the Garden

In every house we’ve lived in, I’ve had some kind of garden. Even when our only outdoor space was only a cement patio, I covered it with pots of trees and flowers and fruits and vegetables.

In our suburban townhome {=small} backyard, my husband Michael built several raised beds for me to grow things, and God doesn’t waste the opportunity. While He has me alone out there in the sun, with my hands busy and my mind focused, He teaches me deep truth, truth that translates to various and sundry places in my life, especially the places affected by hidden disabilities.

Lessons I’m Learning in the Garden

Take time to find your rhythm.
Gardening isn’t like cooking a meal; when growing food, having everything ready at the same time can be counterproductive. Depending on the crop, there’s an appropriate season for planting and a best time of day for harvesting. Staggering planting times provides a better chance that produce will continuously be available. Planting with intention helps the crops to last through the growing season.

With Cami, although we try valiantly, we often fail at following a schedule. Some days, our ideal schedule comes to fruition: school in the morning, lunch on time, chores accomplished, tired when it’s actually bedtime. Other days, we set aside our ideal schedule and finish reading that exciting book, spend time playing with friends, and take dinner to our pregnant neighbor. Mostly, we’ve learned to find the rhythm in our lives and to move with the wind as it blows—without becoming uprooted. We trust that Jesus is directing that rhythm, and it’s safe to dance with Him.

Pay attention.
Plants give warning signals when things are out of balance for their growth. If the beans grow tall and bushy but aren’t producing many beans, their soil probably needs more nutrients. If the cilantro and parsley leaves turn yellow, they probably are being watered too often. Once, in one evening, a single hornworm ate my one-and-only tomato plant in its entirety.  Now, I check the tomato plants daily for any signs of chewage.

As Cami moves into adolescence, her sensory integration struggles and her hormones make for some interesting combinations. As she grows taller and her limbs grow longer, her growth spurts and her vestibular challenges make walking hard for her to navigate. She stumbles a lot. She often steps on the back of my heels. When I pay close attention, I see her struggling to judge how long her arms are, how long her legs are, how far to step forward in order to walk with me and not step on me. I can’t “fix” the awkward stages in her growth, but I can help her understand them, navigate them, and learn to be patient with herself.

Spread out.
Young plants need room to spread out and grow stronger. For seeds, being lumped together is a productive place to be. There comes a time, though, when seedlings need to be thinned out so the baby plants have room to grow into strong adult plants. This might mean one row of lettuce turns into three. Let me tell you: thinning out lettuce is tedious work. Sproutlings are tender and crush easily, but giving each lettuce sprout enough room to grow will yield many more healthy heads of lettuce.

I have to let Cami go more often now, and it’s tough for this momma. Cami needs to spread out, to try more open spaces, and I need to let her. The time for my holding her close to me and being her buffer is drawing to a close. It’s time for me to let her stand out, to be different in a crowd without trying to shield her from how that feels.

Find your niche; then bloom there.
Boundaries are not only beneficial; sometimes they’re downright necessary. Each plant has needs specific to its growth and productivity. Some plants need lots of sun and not much water. Other plants need to stay cool and moist. Planting crops with differing needs in the same space impedes their growth and fruitfulness. As we establish our garden, I need to keep each plant’s needs in mind and place it in the garden accordingly if I want it to produce good fruit.

All along the way in this journey, there have been places, people, and activities that just don’t fit us as a family. I used to feel guilty about that, like I was being exclusive, or intolerant, or snobby. Now I see: we’re all made for different places and different things. God anoints my family to walk and serve in places no one else walks and serves. That isn’t less; it’s His more.

When you need more room, think up.
There’s limited growing room in our roughly 16′ x 12′ planting space. The crops we’re growing—especially the zucchini, squash, eggplant, strawberries, and beans—need room to sprawl. In order for them to bear a good crop, we need to give them room. Because our spreading room is limited, my husband and I researched different ways we can garden vertically. Not only does vertical gardening help the plants, but it makes for an interesting-looking garden.

Michael and I don’t always know how to provide enough room for Cami’s growing. In those many, many times, we stay on our knees and think up: God made her; He understands her; we ask Him to make room for her. And every time, He does. And the space He provides fits her just right. Unconventional as the growing solution often looks, it always gets the job done.

17So Isaac left there, camped in the valley of Gerar, and lived there. 18Isaac reopened the water wells that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and that the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died. He gave them the same names his father had given them. 19Moreover, Isaac’s slaves dug in the valley and found a well of spring water there. 20But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Quarrel because they quarreled with him. 21Then they dug another well and quarreled over that one also, so he named it Hostility. 22He moved from there and dug another, and they did not quarrel over it. He named it Open Spaces and said, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”  (from Genesis 26, HCSB)

Hoping your days are filled with springs of fresh water and open spaces,


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