My youngest is into gardening. I promise he didn’t get it from me. But he’s currently growing tomatoes, basil, cilantro, and watermelon radishes. I helped him gather pots and shovels, then marveled at how patiently and meticulously he buried tiny seeds in the soil. I would have tossed them in, shoved some dirt on top, and wiped my hands of the whole process. But that’s not how he operates. Not in this arena. Maguire gathered fertile soil from our compost and sprinkled it on top of his seeds. He gently mists his plants daily and peeks on their progress. This is what we do with things we truly desire to grow.
Maguire can’t plant everything. We don’t have enough yard, or sunlight in our yard, or enough time for that. Some things would never grow here in Ohio, like orange trees or camellias, even if he gave those seeds all of his attention. It’s also not the best time of year to plant everything. Pansies should be planted in the spring. Marigolds in the fall. What are you trying to grow? Is it the right time? Is it even yours to cultivate?
I’m not really talking about plants. Are you trying to grow your bangs, your biceps, your bank account? Maybe you’re trying to grow your understanding of a new computer code, a different culture or subculture than yours, the city you got transferred to, an aspect of your personality, someone you care about. Do you talk about wishing you were better at something, more disciplined? Me? I’m trying to grow so many things! I want to learn and discover and improve. I want to speak French better, and understand the book of Ephesians more fully (#Biblenerd) and increase my upper body strength, to name a few. But there are only so many hours in each day. Some of these things I am growing. I see little sprouts or even stalks. Others not so much.
So which things do we nurture? And which things do we decide to plant in another season? Which things do we let someone else plant all together?
I think it takes a little self-exploration and a whole lot of time with Jesus. Make a list of your wants, needs, and curiosities. Circle or highlight the things you’d really like to cultivate. Write out next to them why they’re important to you. If you can’t verbalize why they’re important, they might not actually be. Take this list to Jesus. Flat out ask Him, “What do You want me to learn? What areas of my life do You want me to fertilize, nurture, water? What do You want me to let go of or delegate? How do You want me to spend my time?”
And when you hear from Him, when He nudges you or whispers (or sometimes shouts), when Scripture keeps pointing you to the same item on your list, when a conversation with a friend (who had no idea what you were praying about) mentions how good you’d be at this thing or invites you to a class on that other thing on your list what is your response? Are you watering those seeds or leaving them to fend for themselves?
Summer is a great time to start. It is the turning of the page, a new season. Even if your work schedule stays exactly the same, the days just feel different. And with this shift, it’s a wonderful time to say, “I’m going to grow this thing!” Then find a way to do it. Order the book, take the class, download the podcasts, schedule the sessions.
If you water the seeds Jesus gives you today with His love for you, your garden will grow. Probably not at all at once. And not every seed you plant will make it. But if you do the things Jesus calls you to do, nourish those things, devote time to them, leave the things He’s designed for others to do or maybe for you to work on in a different season, and dig your roots deep down into Him, God’s love will keep you strong and enable you to flourish in the soil where He’s planted you, growing things to sustain and delight, to build the kingdom. So, let’s get planting!
In Atlanta we have the luxury of planting pansies in the fall and viewing their curious faces all winter long. That is how my grandma described their blooms -- as faces. If you look into a pansy’s velvet petals you can see its eager expression peeking out at you. It was my grandmother’s love for this flower, which drew me to Viola tricolor hortensis when I was a little girl. My favorites were the white petals with purple centers, or “faces”. They remain my favorite flowers today.
Since pansies are annuals, last years’ flowers had long since died and been pulled from the ground, never to be seen again. I hadn’t taken the time to plant even one flat of pansy seedlings this fall. Actually, I hadn’t found the time to do much of anything but work since September. My job had become especially demanding, due to a project which required me to fly weekly to Washington DC. Between airports, delayed flights, cancellations, taxi cabs, trains and countless hotel rooms, I hadn’t spent enough time with my husband, hadn’t returned phone calls from my parents, hadn’t sent birthday cards to my dearest friends, hadn’t taken the necessary time to come to terms with the death of my grandma, and certainly hadn’t made time to put pansies in the ground.
Perhaps by skipping the whole pansy planting process this autumn, I was putting off facing the reality that Grandma, the only grandparent I had ever known, had died.
My connection between her and the flowers was so strong. I told myself I was too busy for gardening enough times that I convinced myself it was true.
As I drove home from the airport one chilly November evening, I was overwhelmed by an empty pang in my heart. It had begun as a slight ache last Thursday, and had built up to a deep hollow throb after five days straight of deadlines, lists, conference calls and meetings. I hadn’t allowed any time for myself to read, to visit with friends and family or even to pray. I had tried to ignore this vacuous feeling. I had just kept going and going like a robot following programmed commands, forgetting about all of the things in life that gave me deeper meaning. The pain was especially great this particular evening due to a canceled flight, which delayed my getting home until long after my lonely husband was already in bed.
After fighting eight lanes of stop and go traffic for over an hour, caused by what appeared to be a fatal accident, I arrived frazzled and tired in my suburban neighborhood. As I pulled into my driveway, my headlights shone into the empty flowerbeds. By their beams, I glimpsed something white resting on the ground. I parked in the garage and walked around to the front yard to collect what I assumed was a piece of garbage and throw it away. But, I did not find any trash. Instead I found a lone white pansy with a purple face flourishing by itself in a barren bed of pine straw.
The determined flower had fought all odds to spring from a ripped up root, which is not bred for regrowth, and to return this year. It didn’t seem possible, and maybe it wasn’t. Yet, here was a perfect posy grinning at me and asking me from its remarkable face, why I too couldn’t break through the soil and let myself bloom.
If loved ones who have passed away can speak from the dead, I knew this was Grandma’s way of letting me know that although she had left this earth, she wasn’t really gone. Just like the pansy, which had been pulled from the dirt yet was still blossoming, my grandmother’s spirit would always flourish inside my heart.
Grandma would have never put work first. Her family and friends were the priorities in her world. She didn’t know the meaning of timetables or of deadlines. Although her life was simple, she was always happy and saw only the good in others and the beauty in the world around her.
It was time to open my heart and my eyes to the important things around me, to fill the empty hole inside me with the nourishment which only God, family and friends could give me. Work could wait. Life, as the pansy showed me, could not.
Laura L. Smith