Saturday, February 4, 2017

Everyone Should Have a Garden

            I was at a seminar during a couple years ago.  (To keep my counseling license current, I have to attend so many seminars every two years.)  And the speaker asked us to think of a word or phrase to describe how we see ourselves.  And then he asked a few people to share their phrases.  One lady stood out to me - she said, “I feel like a child full of wonder, filled with delight at God’s creation.” 
            My goodness, how long has it been since I have felt that way?  I envied her.  How wonderful it must be to go through life like that, feeling so alive and free and inspired.  On the contrary, I could only think of this phrase to describe myself:  “A third-wheel, I don’t really belong.”  (This was during a rather deep depression.)

            I’m reading Job 40 and 41 right now, where God is talking about the behemoth and leviathan.  In God’s responses to Job’s complaining, there’s a common theme of “wonder.”  God is asking Job if he can explain things that are too wonderful for him to know.  God is pointing out that there are way too many things that are beyond Job’s understanding, things that should make Job marvel and fall at God’s feet in humility.  And in order to have a proper view of and fear of God, Job needed to get this straight.
            We need to get this straight.
            I fear that we have lost this in our day and age.  We have lost the ability to wonder at things that are beyond our comprehension.  We don’t even realize how much is beyond our understanding because we have “science” and “discoveries” and “theories” and all that.  There is little that we marvel at anymore because it can all be explained somehow. 
            And the result is that we are jaded.  We’ve lost that child-like wonder and delight.  And I think when we lose the wonder, we lose the ability to be in awe of God, to marvel at Him, and to really enjoy the simple moments and delights. 
            And we need to do something to capture this again, especially as we age, and as there are more things that science “understands,” and as we develop more and more responsibilities and disappointments.  But how can we reclaim the wonder, the delight?  What kinds of things make us stand in awe of God? 

            I think if God were to give an answer to our busyness, our constant search for knowledge, and our disillusionment with life, He would say:
            “When you see a rainbow, stop your car and just watch it for a moment.   It’ll disappear so fast.” 
            “Grab a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise.” 
            “Take a walk in the evening and feel the cool breeze on your neck and listen to the birds sing.”
            “Stand outside to meet the storm head-on (as long as there’s no lightning).  Let the rain fall down your face.”
            “Watch a squirrel hide walnuts in the ground.”
            “Laugh with your child.  A really good belly laugh.”
            “And my goodness, when you are driving in the car on a beautiful day, ROLL THE WINDOW DOWN and enjoy it!”

            We need to grab hold of all the wonder that we can find.  Wherever we can find it.  In the moment.  We need to live with eyes wide-open.  To let ourselves be dwarfed by the beauty and goodness and majesty of God and His creation so that we can say, “Wow, God, You are simply amazing!”

            If I could, I would recommend that everyone plants some kind of a garden.  Because gardens are full of wonder.  A rose garden, wildflower garden, herb garden, vegetable or fruit garden, or a little container garden.  It doesn’t matter what kind, just plant one.  I think the need to grow things is built into us, from the moment mankind woke up in the Garden of Eden and God said to them, “Take care of this place.” 
            For me, gardening is about slowing down, taking my time, inhaling the moment, learning to put the extra effort in, and learning to wait for the rewards.  It also reminds me that life doesn’t always happen according to my plans.  Things will come up that confuse me (tomato plants dying overnight for no obvious reason), that make me angry (tiny bugs eating my asparagus all summer), that make me feel helpless (Japanese beetles destroying my Queen Mary rose, no matter how many I pick off every day), and that make me want to throw in the towel (deer, bunnies, and squirrels eating everything they can get to).
            And so gardening is also about perseverance, about not giving up, about trial and error.  You have to be willing to be flexible.  You have to learn to love the process, the journey, instead of placing all your hopes and sights on the end product.  Because it hardly ever goes as planned.  But there are lessons to learn for “next time” when it didn’t work out this time.  There is beauty in the unpredictable.  There are other paths to try when one doesn’t work.
            And there are so many delights that make it worth fighting through the hard times and the problems.  Delicate-looking pink cosmos floating in a sea of green, wrapping around the birdhouse.  Huge sunflower heads that greet me from a block away as I finish my walk.  The smell of mint wafting up to greet me when I brush past it.  The incomparable smell of old-fashioned roses that last only a day when I cut them and bring them in the house, but it was worth it.  The tomatoes that I get to eat fresh off the vine (until I am so sick of them that I don’t want to look at another one till next year), and that I also get to dehydrate to use in soups and stews all winter. 
            These are what keep me fighting through the hard times.  These blessings and delights are what I have to seek out and cling to when I want to scream that the deer won’t stop eating my tulips and beans and chard.  

            It’s not that different with life.  The older I get, the more I realize that it’s all about the journey.  It’s about continuing on, even when you don’t feel like it.  It’s about learning from your mistakes.  It’s about being humble enough to know that you don’t know it all and that you can’t always do everything just right.  And it’s about learning to enjoy the journey, even when things aren’t going the way you want.  If we don’t learn to embrace the journey for the mess that it is sometimes, we will miss out on the here-and-now.  On the joy of just being.   
            Unfortunately, we are a microwave society, a “get it done now because time is money” society.  And I think many of us are aching to simplify, to bring it all back to what matters, and to learn to really live in the moment.  Life is flying past us and we don’t even remember to take a breath.   
            When you garden, remember that it’s not really about achieving the perfect end-product.  It’s about going with the flow, being flexible, being humble and learning from your mistakes, learning to love the imperfect (the best tomatoes are the ones that don’t look perfect), waiting and waiting for things to grow, and delighting in the surprises and the rewards.  And it’s about praising the Creator, about finding Him in the wonderful details of His creation, about finding the blessings in the midst of the messes, and about appreciating His abundant goodness to us.
            Everyone should have a garden. 


            For me, worship is not so much about singing at church.  I get overstimulated easily and too much noise bothers me.  But being in a garden, surrounded by quiet and creation and all these wonderful plant-gifts that I didn’t dream into being makes me stand in awe of God.  It reminds me how big He is and how small I am, and it makes me want to fall down at His feet and worship Him. 
            When I see the full-grown tomato plant that I grew from a seed, I go, “My goodness, God, You are brilliant!”  
            When I see the delightful mix of colors that pop up in a random scattering of cosmos seeds, I smile and say, “You are so creative!”  And then when I see the goldfinches visiting the garden all fall to eat the cosmos seeds, I smile again.  He is so good!
            When I smell the roses in my yard – Therese Bugnet, Blanc Double de Coubert, Kiss Me, Music Box, and more - I feel so blessed that God would place such a beautiful scent in such a beautiful package and allow us to grow it in our own backyards.  
            When I watch the happy faces of the sunflowers reaching to the sky, climbing higher and higher until they tower over me, my heart just breathes deeply and exhales out all the tension and concerns that I carry around all day.  It’s hard to feel anxious when you’re admiring a sunflower.
            When I harvest and dry my oregano and parsley, I get to remember and enjoy God’s goodness all winter as I crumble it into my soups and spaghetti sauces.
            There is just so much beauty and delight and blessing in a garden that it makes my heart want to burst with praise for our wonderful Creator!  In fact, whenever I daydream about what I’d love to be doing in heaven (besides worshipping around the throne, of course), I always see myself standing all alone in the middle of a huge garden (am I an introvert or what?), walking up and down the plants, gently tending to each one and breathing deep the wonderful scents and sights.  (And there’s also a little studio in the middle of the garden where I can paint.  Because I dream that in heaven I’ll actually have some skill in painting since I don’t have any now.  Even my stick figures look sad.)

            If you have any room at all, plant a garden!  (I am always amazed at how many people have wide, empty yards when there is more than enough room for a garden.  Such a loss for them!)  The rewards are amazing . . .  
            It fills your soul and surrounds you with His goodness and creativity.  It makes you feel humbled that He has blessed us with such wonderful things and that He has given us dominion over His creation, and it makes you want to do your best with it for His glory.  It reminds you that God is so much bigger than us and our problems and that if He has spoken all of this into being then He can also be trusted with your life and your concerns.  It teaches you that there are blessings to be found even when things don’t go exactly right . . . but that you have to have the eyes to see them and the heart to appreciate them.  And most importantly, it brings back that child-like wonder and delight that our souls desperately need . . . a delight for the simple treasures that we so often overlook and take for granted!
            Everyone should have a garden! 

This is a super close-up of a moss rose
(It's actually a picture of a picture I took years ago before the digital age.)

Confession:  This is a store-bought daisy.  But I've always loved this photo.  (This is also a picture of a picture I took years ago.)  But honestly, I prefer white daisies.  They're so happy.
And the following photos are from my garden several years ago.



As I said, I can't draw or paint really well.  But to help me deal with stress one day, I got the paints out and began doing this kind of painting, a liquidy blend of colors that looks like rainbow water.  I call it Water Colors.  It's relaxing to paint and I don't have to be worried about trying to make something realistic.  I can just "go with the flow."  And I love seeing what develops as the colors blend.  I think I'll work on doing more of this when I feel the need to paint. 
It really is relaxing!   

This last one is a double-canvas painting that I hung in our stairwell because I needed a large colorful painting for a huge blank space.  I can see it from our bedroom every day.

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