Those of you who have been paying attention know I am more than a little batty about flowers, especially roses. In my unhinged state, I assign them human characteristics: in my eyes an open rose is a face, the velvety soft petals are lips to caress with my own and, I sometimes murmur sweet nothings in their leafy ears. When I plant bulbs, my internal chatter insists I am burying them rather than planting them and when I cut bouquets of roses to bring into the house, the thought that always goes through my mind is “They just don’t do well in captivity”. (Since they don’t do well out in the blazing sun, either, I justify their slavery as a necessary evil.)
However, taking care of a garden, even small ones such as mine, is not all sweetness and light. As much as I adore the end result, I am not one of those gardeners who loves “puttering around the garden”. The mundane tasks of weeding, dead-heading, watering and planting aren’t things I truly enjoy. Instead, I do them because they give me a great deal of satisfaction. I have often reflected on how raising flowers is a lot like raising children but with the much to be desired quality of instant gratification (seeing as how flowers mature much more quickly than babies). Another plus: when you’re doing something wrong, flowers let you know far sooner then children, leaving you with plenty of time to fix things before long-term damage (and therapy) is unavoidable.
I have learned many other important life lessons out in the garden. For example, a little effort, hard work, time, money, etc. today pays off in big ways tomorrow--and on into the future. To illustrate this, I have included photos (to follow) I have taken over the years of my New Dawn climbing rose that was planted as a two foot starter in April of 2008 (I can’t find a picture of that—I can only assume I found it an unworthy subject for my lens) and is, today, a spectacular example of its species, if I do say so myself. Of course, this is much like raising children, as well. If we feed our infants on a daily basis, they will live long enough to be fed again and so on and so forth until, finally, you have a full-grown person (I often reflect on how kids grow like weeds but, honestly, feeding them will do that) who produce children of their own and provide you with endless progeny. Of course, there are endless examples of this very same phenomenon but it is amazing, in spite of its truthfulness, how often we can loathe putting in that initial investment.
Those who garden have learned that things are not always what they seem and sometimes one gets something one does not expect. I once pointed out to a friend, as I sat in her lovely, well-groomed backyard, that she had a rather tall weed coming up. “I know” she said (because, of course she did) “but I like to let them go once in a while. Weeds can turn out to be really pretty.” This is exactly how I feel about my Big Guy. I never expected to give birth to a brain-damaged, globally delayed, mentally/learning/physically disabled child and there were times when his wild thorniness made the term “weed” seem most appropriate. However, I watered and sunned him anyway and though he is different from my other children, he has turned out to be far more beautiful and worthwhile than early indicators predicted and is highly valued for those very differences.
I have also learned that adversity is a must. I once had a friend who rented a home that came with a garden full of roses. Because she disliked roses (despite that I still liked her) she chopped away at them every chance she got. Yet, she was always being told how gorgeous her roses were. The thing is, roses like to be chopped back on a fairly regular basis. When they are done growing for the season, they need to be cut down almost to the ground (climbers like my New Dawn being an exception) and need regular pruning and dead-heading whilst they are producing. This is to protect them from other adversities that are much more difficult for roses to overcome such as freezing, bugs, and dread diseases peculiar to roses. As human beings, we require the same. So often I have been pruned by life, circumstances and trials, sometimes rather harshly, but when I look back, I can see how these things have made me stronger and perhaps even spared me much harder trials that I might not have yet been ready to bear.
One of the things I love the most about gardening is the feeling that I am partnering with God in creating living things. Of course, children are the best example of this but I have to confess, I do like the level of control over the final result I have over flowers as compared with children (I confess, I am weak). It is wonderful to know that when I do my part—plant, water, feed, etc.—that God will do the rest. He is bound to do the rest. He is who He is and will always be exactly that. There are many things He has asked us to do in this life and when we do them He WILL absolutely, positively do His part. It’s like the sun coming up in the morning and setting at night—He is unalterable and He does not lie. In short, we can count on Him to keep His promises. Always.
Final lesson (for today): When you plant roses, what you get is roses. This might seem obvious and simple but “things” can be deceiving. Long ago I bought a gorgeous and delicate pansy in an unusual mauve color. It was the closest to pink any pansy had ever come and I adored it. I planted it and when it went to seed, I harvested them for future “nearly pink” pansies the following season. Imagine my horror when the new crop of pansies came up in the usual hues of blue and purple (okay, maybe “horror” is too strong a word but it was genuinely upsetting). I couldn’t imagine what had happened. And then I realized: the pansy was a hybrid, a combination of purple and blue pansies. When the seeds were planted, what was produced was a product of their true nature.
How does this apply to my life as a human? It has everything to do with the answers to the following questions. Who planted me and what am I meant to become? What is faith and why is it essential for us to thrive? This beautiful post HERE touches on the answers. However, for those of you who are still here, I can say with no qualms or hesitation that we were planted by God the Father and we are meant to be like Him. We are His children made in His likeness. Within the seed that produced each one of us, that tiny package of perfect potential, is everything we need to become like Him. We are not meant to be failures, powerless, weak, discouraged, worthless or in any way evil. Those are not the seeds God planted so, unless we actively choose to be other than what we are meant to be, how can we be anything but what He planted? God the Father is a creator and no matter how weak and spindly and far to grow we are, so are we.
For those of you who have read Jana’s post (see link above) you have read how it requires faith to create. This is where the choosing comes in. Whether it is a painting or a book or a garden or a home or a child or a meal, it doesn’t matter—it requires faith to some degree or another. When we exercise that faith to create anything from a pot-holder to a wedding dress, we are on the path to fulfilling the measure of our creation.
When we are without faith and fill our thoughts with stories about how we are not good enough, we are not growing, we are not thriving, we are not becoming. When we feel that way, we know it is time to weed the garden, spend some time basking in the sun and fill ourselves with living waters.
I have learned a lot about creation and creating from growing flowers. I have learned more about it from people who are going about life creating rather than destroying. As it pertains to those of you I know through blogging, most of these people are women--wonderful, talented, faithful women--who are creating all sorts of worthy and worthwhile things.
There is Lisa who is raising her family in a country that is not her home and who does it willingly and so very cheerfully. In this foreign land, she is a minority in more ways than one and she stands as a beacon of light in the darkness for others who are like her and who want to be like her.
There is Jami who grows roses and children, who, from her kitchen table, fills their minds with learning and goodness, wisdom and culture, while loving and sincerely serving all in need who cross her path in spite of her own significant needs and trials.
There is Kazzy who has created a happy home for her family and who also creates a happy learning experience for classroom after classroom of special education elementary students. (I have often wished she could have been the Big Guy’s teacher for just one year—I know it would have made a life-long difference for him.)
There is Heather who works so hard at being “present” for her children and who is creating a new and joyful life as a recovering alcoholic while experiencing the coming of a baby in new and wonderful ways she had not experienced during previous pregnancies.
There is Laura, a woman so full of love it oozes from her pores and who is joyfully raising the only two children her body has created, both of whom suffer from disabilities that make having an average and much longed for experience as a parent quite impossible. Still, she loves--fiercely.
There is Kim who is constantly and consciously striving to be a better person and to juggle her role as the mother of small children with her desire to be a writer of books. She has recently completed her first novel for which she won a “first chapter” contest and has thereby created something I never could—a world in which she can raise books and small children at the same time and do both well.
There is Jenny who, in spite of the many demands on her due to her daughter’s disabilities, has with great effort and diligence, created with her bare hands an opportunity for this same daughter to have the expensive treatment she needs in order to thrive and fulfill the measure of HER creation.
There is Mona who has been through all of that and is currently reveling in the fruits of her labor/creation and who writes about it with great depth here, here and here
There is Michelle and Janelle who suffer from debilitating physical ailments whose greatest joy comes from serving their children and sharing the gospel and who take every opportunity to shine their light on, quite literally, the world.
There are so many more of you, like my Dedee, and Terresa and Rebecca and Debbie and Becky, who are doing the same things across the globe and blogdania, creating beauty and goodness in their homes, their communities and every where they go, whether it is physically or via modern technology (and usually both). As you lift, inspire, support, comfort, connect with and love one another, you are a reminder to me that when we exercise faith to create that which is lovely, praiseworthy and of good report, there is no limit to what we can do. After all, when you plant a rose, what you get . . .
. . . is roses.