The Spiritual Practice of Gardening
by Jody L. Collins
“The seed catalogues are a further promise of warm days to come. I class them as fiction and love to read them. Oh, the beautiful roses and tall spikes of delphinium and the flowering bushes-not to mention the carrots as big as telephone poles and the peas that practically shell themselves… We get some pretty fine vegetables and some nice flowers, but they definitely do not resemble the champion parade in the catalogues.” Gladys Taber, ‘Stillmeadow Seasons’
* * * * * * * *
I am a Southern California girl, born and raised, transplanted 25 years ago to the Pacific Northwest near Seattle. The weather is starkly different than my old Orange County clime. There are no, ahem, seasons in Southern California, only a variation on the words ‘sunny’, ‘partially sunny’, ‘mostly sunny’, ‘warm’ and ‘cool’. Flowers bloom year ’round, vegetables can be picked at any time and trees never drop their leaves.
I’ve grown to love the weather changes here in this Northwest corner of the world where there are definitely seasons –fulsome Springs, rich, green Summers, colorful Autumns and the bare bones gray of Winter.
Of course, this particular location on the globe precludes a lot of extra care in gardening and upkeep. My husband and I spent a few hours outside the other day in unseasonably warm March weather to tackle the pruning of our trees. There are no buds yet on the empty, gray branches of our maples and magnolia, so the timing is right for this necessary husbandry. In the backyard, buds are just surfacing on the lilacs and the forsythia are threatening to burst into yellow like an invisible promise. We need to hurry–blooming is in their botanical blood and the flowers will come whether we prune or not.
Inside where it was warm I pondered the view to my back yard and the bare spot of my vegetable garden. I’m in more of a pondering stage about that space right now–do I REALLY want to invest in the time it takes to get that spinach in this year? If I do, should I add carrots and beets like last time? The lettuce worked well, the potatoes took off, there’s even leftover garlic and the Mint that Will Not Die.
The thing about seeds is, given soil, scattering, sunshine and water they’ll pretty much grow without looking. That’s always a startling miracle to me—that I would plant a zucchini or lemon cucumber seed and 2 weeks later, up comes that lime green curl, sprouts pushing through the dirt and why, look at that! Overnight it’s a vine.
(And then of course, you have more zucchini and cucumbers than you know what to do with, which is how you meet your neighbors. But that’s another post….)
I was thinking about my life and growth in Jesus being like that. When He plants the bare shell of a seed with an idea or a dream, I really have to trust He will do what he says. There is life in the seed.
Regardless of the weather, regardless of the bleak, bare soil, there is hope. There is life. Besides the hope, there is power for growth in the seeds; I can’t do anything about making them grow. Nothing. Just rest and trust it will happen. In God’s time, by His power.
Likewise, when God plants something in our lives, a dream, a desire, a gift, He intends for it to grow. I have despaired often that the changes and growth I want to see in my life often bring me back to repetitive prayers and the question of whether what God has said will ever come to pass. But its clear, his promises come in their own time. We really can’t force them, we can only make room, let God water the seed, and live in the light of His Son while God brings the miracle.
What gift or promise has God planted in your life? What dreams are you living into right now? If it is God, it will grow.
* * * * * * * * * *
“It is all very well to keep other men’s vineyards, but we must not neglect our own spiritual growth and ripening. Why should it always be winter time in our hearts? We must have our seed time, it true, but O for a spring time–yea, a summer season, which shall give promise of an early harvest. If we would ripen in grace, we must live near to Jesus –in his presence-ripened by the sunshine of his smiles.”
CH Spurgeon, Morning by Morning
Jody Collins is a blatant philologist and poetry lover living in the Pacific Northwest with her very patient husband. She uses both gardening and writing as therapy, often featuring her 6 grandchildren, whom she thanks God for daily. Jody’s been penning words since Smith-Corona typewriters graced the desks of her middle school, but nowadays you can find her thoughts at www.jodyleecollins.com. Twitter: @JodyLeeCollins2 Instagram: @jody_lee_collins