I have been blessed to live in the home where my husband’s grandmother lived and when she passed, his mother moved in and when she decided to move to California she did not want to sell this family jewel so she asked my husband and I and our two children (we now have three) if we would consider moving in to take over this beautiful house and eventually keep it as our own. There is history in this home. Generations have lived here.
It is rich with the traditions of my husband’s family, the pictures that line the long hallway in the entrance boast of governors, Mayflower descendants and colonial dames. The highboy in the living room belonged to somebody important a very long time ago. The desk in the attic is where my husband’s great grandfather sat as a little boy to write his ABC’s from the inkwell that was once perched in the top right corner, now it is just a hole where my daughter slips her treasures
But in the backyard there is a place that I treasure, a garden was planted and it was very mature when I moved in. Years of toil and sweat hid behind the bright blue hydrangea. And the Lilly’s, like faithful friends, return year after year, to mark to borders of the expansive beds. There are dozens of flowers which after 13 years I am still slowly learning their names, the generic of course, for I am terrible in Latin much to my mother in laws dismay.
When I moved in there was the unwritten, unspoken yet loud and clear assumption that I would maintain the garden. It was understood as part of the package deal. This garden was as important to the heritage and tradition as the name that hung on the front door, it was and is part of who this family was and is.
Well I have a confession to make. I love gardens. I just don’t really like to get dirty. And I really hate weeds, so there is a problem; because gardens do not tend themselves…. But I find that purpose lies behind each problem… and there is so much that God teaches me when I listen. He orchestrates places in creation as a classroom to reveal truth to me…. If I am willing to listen, to learn, the tasks that I am called to do each day… to keep order….. speak to me in profound ways.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned from dirt:
Small weeds are easier to pick than large ones.
Weeds in my garden are like sin. I am reminded each spring as my garden emerges from slumber, it is much easier to deal with sins while they are still small- once mature, their roots grow deep, they are more difficult to pull. When I do finally get around to pulling them a huge chunk of dirt comes out disrupting the plants nearby. Sometimes if not tamed, they break off into seed, spreading more weeds. I think of the things in my life that are weeds: worry, discontent, and fear: small unsuspecting things that if left unnoticed could be, unruly and out of control.
Some weeds are covered with thorns and when I try to pull them they hurt. These are voracious weeds that boast with flower, but they will kill tender plants in their path. These weeds are the kinds that break off into three splits when I pull them and unless they are dealt with diligently…. they will rule. In order to get rid of them I have to dig deep down into the dirt to get the base of the root.
These are things that not only hurt, but they spread like a cancer in the garden, choking out the good plants. Busyness is that unsuspecting cancer in my life.
I have found the only remedy for these weeds is constant care from the gardener pulling, prodding, poking until the roots are exposed and pulled out and I sit exhausted before Him bare and exposed like the ground that is left by the gaping thorny leaves.
It is always easier to pull weeds after the rain.
Rain is like the blood of Jesus, The soil is moist and ready to let go of the stubborn root if soaked. There is a freshness, a newness, after the rain, the garden is ready to grow the plants are fed, and weeds come out easily.
The Perennial plants are like God’s grace
They come up every year and when they are shared with others in the garden they can’t help but spread.
Wisteria is like Pride in my giftedness.
If left unattended it gets way out of control, it may produce beautiful flowers but it will impede the growth of others with its voracious nature. It is best to keep it way cut back and contained.
Mulch is the faith of those in the garden before.
It provides nourishment, blankets the garden and covers a multitude of weeds, gives visual clarity, helps keep the moisture in… Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses
It helps me to view this tedious work in the light of the spiritual lessons I learn as I obey the necessities of care. I don’t like the work, but when it is done, it is beautiful. The color each season brings is both a surprise and a comfort of tradition. My memory tends to forget the little crocus that first pops on the edge of the bed or the daffodils that are comprised of over twenty varieties: yellow, gold, and white. Each season brings with it the delight of knowing it is a generational endeavor this garden, working and worked to retain this beauty called life. And when fall comes and the final mums have bloomed and the cold air of November presses down on the last vestiges of green and crimson I am reminded, and I am humbled in that reminder, that when all is said and done and the flowers and the seeds and the weeds have come and gone,
There is only dirt that remains.
But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it…… Matthew 13:23