For the past couple of weeks, my family has been helping me prepare my gardens for summer. Truth be told, I’m not a great gardener, but having grown up on a farm, I find the well-being of my soul is tied to how much time I spend near the soil. So every year since we gave up city living, my husband and kids have been slowly helping me tame the wilderness that surrounds our home.
Even before signing the paperwork to buy our house, I’d crept out early that brisk November, before the ground froze, with cardboard boxes full of hostas and peonies and comfrey and whatever else I thought would survive the cold winter. Surprisingly, most did. Last summer, when my husband built a front porch, my young-adult sons dug up a massive azalea growing beneath our kitchen window and hacked it into four pieces. Two I gave away. Two I kept – again doubting whether they would survive. To our wonder, they all bloomed the following spring!
And when a friend from church recently offered to let us dig up an azalea in her front yard, my husband hauled it home in his truck for me to add to the horseshoe of flowering shrubs and flowers surrounding our well. After my morning walk, I often rest there on my mother’s garden bench to pray and contemplate the day. It’s a good spot to survey the progress of what is slowly morphing into a mini farm, with twenty chicks arriving in June and two piglets come fall.
Along the edge of the woods, there’s a grapevine my husband is working to untangle from the trees so that he can train it toward a yet-to-be-built trellis, and a blueberry bush so ancient and overgrown, we cut it to the ground, only to discover that it is now vigorously pushing up tender new stems and leaves. The more time I spend in nature, the more I am amazed by its resilience, like the bent and twisted apple tree outside our shed. Pushed sideways by wind and rain, the trunk grows nearly parallel to the ground before turning skyward with limbs full of delicate blossoms that flutter like butterflies in the breeze.
As I look around, I am reminded that in order to flourish, we sometimes have to cut back that which is no longer healthy and productive. When it feels like our lives have been ripped out by the roots, we can reach deep to flourish in new soil. And when the storms of life have bent and twisted us to nearly breaking, we too may turn skyward and blossom.
Transition is never easy – regardless of the season in which we are planted. And while I often make mistakes as I tinker in my garden, like accidentally snapping in half a two-foot tomato plant while carrying it inside after a day in the sun, we have a Master Gardener who has equipped us to flourish. And so, when life looks most tangled and worrisome, I repeat the words of the apostle Peter, “He cares for me” (I Peter 5:7 NLT).
God plants. And he provides. And he protects. And that broken tomato plant? I stuck it in a jar of water, and the stalk is now covered with a wealth of sturdy new roots.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the Lantern Hill Farm picture book series, celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith. All personal proceeds from these books support children in the developing world.