I ...Am a Gardener
Well. It happened again. I felt sunshine on my face. Detected a hint of warmth in the breeze. Oh, that idea of spring hit me hard. And I decide for yet another year,
am a GARDENER.
I place a curbside order with our local greenhouse. It's a small collection of cold weather resistant plants while the chance of frost still remains a maybe-kinda-sorta-definite possibility-warning from the weatherman (airing his report from his living room while in quarantine). (Why is it weird to see people's pets?)
My daughter is involved in my schemes and we lovingly refer to our .4 acreage as The Homestead because it's funnier to call it that. (We're still convincing my husband that chickens are a Really Good Idea. Pray for us.) She drives with me to pick up our lettuce, herbs and a few flowers. We plan how amazing our yard will look -imagining our small garden into a lush, tropical paradise (or as tropical as a Midwestern plot can be anyway).
I - being a gardener - do gardener things. I'm excited to plant, to dig in the dirt. I weed. Husband waters. We wait for the veggies to grow. I feel all Of the Earth and Pioneer-ish as I add in fresh herbs from the back porch when I cook. I consider ordering a nametag that says Hero of Self-Sufficiency when I make a salad for lunch using fresh-from-the-garden lettuce.
I have good reason to think I could be a gardener: My dad was amazing at it. He could look at a plant and it would respond, "Yes, sir!" and grow. In the backyard plot of tilled soil, I follow along behind him, eating the snap peas. I pick up a basic garden ability from the School of Dad, Knower of All Things Daddish. I end up knowing things, without knowing that I know things. We pick rhubarb, asparagus, cucumbers. He nurtures each plant into being its best self. He consistently weeds. (Oh, wait, no, it's actually my brother and I who consistently weed when we look even the slightest bit bored.)
I am a gardener until mid-July. Then the bugs start biting me too much. The heat is gross. The weeds are a bit out of control. I forget about the garden some days. The tomatoes begin turning under-ripe orange. Peppers hold on tight as they plump up waiting for someone other than the pesky rabbits to pay attention. I'll sometimes wander out and pick what's ripe, but only when my husband ever so not-so-subtly asks, "How's that garden doing?"
My reasons sound super valid: Too hot, too weedy, too mosquito-y, too easy to buy veggies at the store, I'm not really a gardener, I don't know as much as other gardeners do.... It's too difffffiiiiiculllllt.
I carry the new plants to the backyard, setting them on the patio until we're ready to plant. I've got my usual early-season excitement, but I also have a deeper desire to be dedicated. Emptier than usual grocery store shelves might make the garden more of a need than a halfhearted hobby. What if I tended to my garden as if it mattered, as if it was a necessity?
It's mid-April as I write this. We are in the middle of a quarantine. For my future self, just a reminder: This makes normal everyday things impossible. This means our family is sequestered with each other. There are emotions in the house. There are questions about my mom's cancer, my kids' schooling, my husband is working from home, I work from home, everyone keeps wanting to eat, messes grow exponentially because we are all just HERE. We all feel "off" and while we do our best....there is a lot of feeding, watering, weeding, attention I am asked to give. It is easy to turn to impatience, selfish demands, anger, unloving words. It is too hot, too weedy.... It's too difffficulllllt....
I place the plants down, walk back into the house, and am hit with that weird, inexplicable quarantine claustrophobic feeling. But I feel a new resolve as I'm reminded that in my spiritual life,
am a gardener.
For the fruit of the Spirit to be exhibited in my life, it needs to be tended with purposeful care. I want to pay attention to their growth. Yes, patience is tough when there's people tugging, pulling, asking, demanding our attention. Love is all choice when we really are just feeling very desperate to sit on the couch and not be asked to give give give. But the fruit of the Spirit is what's promised to me (us) when we work on the weeding, the watering, the paying attention to. I am not alone in the pursuit, knowing the Holy Spirit will comfort, convict and guide me as I continue to grow. Even at my most frustrated, difficult moments, I can battle the flesh and utter a prayer: Give me wisdom to know how to respond with grace. Please help me grow love, self-control, patience, goodness. Give me joy. Prune my kindness. Weed my peace. Make me faithful so that I do not give up. Make me a gardener.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.