Growing a garden reminds me of raising a family

“They’ll need a miracle to survive,” I thought that spring day, while struggling to plant my bedding plants.

“Oh, I’ll need potting soil too,” I had told the nursery cashier on the day I’d made my final plant purchase – flowers mostly, and a few herbs. “The dirt in my pots is too tired to use another year.”

She grimaced. “We’re right out of dirt. Unless you want to buy a bale.”

“For how much?”

“Thirty seven dollars.”

Rich soil or poor wallet? I left without dirt and called our son, Anthony, an avid gardener, for advice on how to revive my depleted soil. “Throw in anything you’ve got that’s organic, Mom,” he said. “Compost, peat moss…”

“I have some alfalfa pellets in the shed,” I told him.

“Yeah,” he said, “that’s good.” I added the pellets, peat moss and compost and stirred it all together, extracting the old roots and squashing a few centipedes with my gloves as I worked. Nevertheless, I wondered. What if I got it wrong? Would anything grow?

The weather concerned me too. My baby plants started life in the calm of a greenhouse. I’d started gardening late in the season and hadn’t conditioned them gradually to outdoor weather. A brutal wind roared that entire day. It vacuumed my breath and lined my throat with dust. When I ground my teeth, I tasted grit. Once I had to brace myself against something sturdy to stay upright – and I’m no lightweight.

I tamped the fragile tomato seedlings into the earth and watched them bow and twist. Until evening, I plodded from plot to plot and pot to pot, setting my young plants in their new homes and dipping into my wheelbarrow for the renewed soil. But as the hours blew past I cared less about proper planting procedure. “In you go,” I muttered, slamming each root ball into place and watering it.

By day’s end, the unceasing wind had stripped me of any sense of accomplishment or expectancy. I hobbled into the house like a very old woman, barely able to stand upright. I didn’t care much whether or not the plants would survive at that point. I worried more about myself.

Over the months that followed, a few plants withered and died, but only a few. The rest matured well, bouncing back after each storm and rising after each wind. All summer they delighted us with their exquisite beauty, fragrance and taste.

Gardening is somewhat like child-rearing, I think. So many things lurk that could stunt the spiritual growth of those tender little ones, bowl them over morally, or undermine the loving care and instruction of their family. And to be a parent is to be intimate with weariness.

If you’re raising children, remember this: Lean on God, his Word, and others who do the same. Tender young life is stronger than it seems. God is more present than he feels. And Jesus cares more than you know.

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