Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's in Your Garden?

Springtime reminds me of when I was a kid and my Mom started a garden. I remember being excited about it, but I didn't know anything about gardening. I was about to learn. Our house sat on almost an acre of land in a little town called Hadlock, Washington. The back yard was big and filled with lots of trees and bushes. The garden couldn't be started without the help of my Dad first. The process seemed long and I wasn't very patient, but I slowly learned that you can't really have a good garden without patience. I watched as my Dad began preparing the space in the back yard. He cleared out all the weeds and set the boundaries for the garden and placed a wooden frame around it. It looked huge to me. You know how everything looks bigger, as a kid, than it does as an adult?  I began to get more eager to start planting, but the ground still wasn't ready. My Dad had lots of work to do before we could plant anything. The hard labor was always my Dad's job. He spent hours out there. He had to break up the old, hard ground, dig out all the bad dirt and then replace it with a special soil that was soft and filled with nutrients.  If he didn't do this first, the hard ground would not allow anything to take root and grow. Then he began dividing up sections and forming rows, tilling the soil deep, so that it was fully mixed in. Each row would be labeled for identification of the different kinds of produce. There were areas that required shade from the heat and other areas that sat in full sun. I couldn't believe all the planning and preparation involved.

Finally, after all the hard work was out of the way, we could begin the planting of seeds. My Mom had a seed for everything. Carrots, squash, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, peas, strawberries, melons, etc.  In each row, we planted a seed and spaced out just enough distance between each one until the row was filled and then stuck the label in the ground, so we'd know what we planted. When we were all done, we watered it. I thought to myself, "it's done…now we wait". I was wrong. Each day we had to give it attention. There was always work to be done. We had to give it a steady and consistent amount of water everyday so it wouldn't dry out. We had to pull any weeds that would pop up, so they wouldn't deplete the nutrients from the soil or take over the garden. We had to keep an eye out for insects or snails that would come and devour any growth. And then wait as the Sun would shine, proving the warmth it needed. It was a daily task that seemed to take forever before any real progress began. There were days I got tired of waiting, but I always knew the crop would eventually come. And it did! It was amazing. I could go pick carrots and strawberries and eat them straight from the ground. Anytime I was hungry, there was something ripe and ready to eat There was nothing better tasting than the food from that garden. Everything had more flavor and was sweeter than store-bought stuff. Anyone that's ever had a garden knows that difference. It was rewarding year after year to watch the fruit of our labor grow. We lived there 5 years and then moved back to California. I have never had another garden since, mostly because I'm just too busy or the space never allowed for it. I miss it though and the memories and lessons learned from that garden are irreplacable. 

As I get older and begin to look back at the years I've lived and all the years, hopefully, still left in me, I'm reminded of this garden and what it has taught me. Our lives are our own personal yard. The garden we grow becomes the food we eat and feed our children with. What we grow is determined by the seeds we plant and how much attention we give it. We can plant aimlessly  and sporadically, without any perimeters, planning or commitments and just see how it all turns out. But more than likely, it'll end up a big mess and no crop worthy enough to eat.

Or, we can look to our Father in Heaven who lays out the foundation of our garden and ask Him to dig out the hardness of our heart, the guilt of our past and the doubts of our future and replace it with His Holy Spirit, giving us a new soft heart, removing the dirt from our past by His grace and forgiveness and giving  us shade, warmth and hope for a promising and fruitful future…an eternal garden of Eden. That's the hardest part, that only God can do. We cannot begin to sow any seeds or grow anything good until he does all those things. And after that, we can't just sit back and do nothing. We still have work to do, too. We have to section off areas of our lives, put God first and decide what to plant. Then label each row by setting aside time each day to read the Bible, pray,  fellowship and accountability with a church body and good teaching. We have to give our garden the daily attention that it needs, water it with the Word of God and let it take root in our mind and heart so we don't dry out. We must always be aware of, and pull out, the little weeds of old habits that sneak in and deplete us or try to take over. We need to protect it from the distractions, business and excuses that come in to devour our faith and commitments, so we become fruitless. Lastly, we must be patient, trusting that His Son is watching over us, providing the warmth and shade we need and the promise of a sweet & fruitful crop in the end. 

I've had many gardens in my life. Some, I would never want to eat from again and others that grew for a while, but I got lazy and failed to work hard at it, causing it to wither and die. I desire a life that is fruitful and always growing. I want to feed my children with the knowledge and truth that will nourish their souls so they'll never be hungry. And it would be sweeter than any other garden, keeping them from eating the weeds of this fruitless generation that lacks God. I don't ever want to be too busy or lack space in my life to grow a garden with God. Without God, It's just a life full of weeds.

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