As I write this, the weather is finally starting to get consistently warm in our neck of the woods. So this week, it was time to get started on our little family garden.
My husband grew up in farm country. Each year, he would spend many an hour helping to tend the family’s large garden. With twelve mouths to feed, this garden played an important role in providing for the family’s needs. My childhood gardening experience, on the other hand, was a bit more limited. That is to say, it pretty much consisted of me transplanting a few wild-growing strawberry plants into a little area I cleared out for them in our back yard. They were scrawny little plants, but I was proud of them. And they did produce a few strawberries! …Which were almost all pilfered by rabbits just as they got ripe. Sigh.
Anyway, suffice it to say that I am no gardening expert. But it does make me happy to see pretty, tasty green things grow under my care. As I got to work outside the other day, however, it dawned on me that I’m not sure I’ve ever planted rows of seeds myself (except in planters). I think my husband has done that for me in previous years. I guess I didn’t realize how long it would take me to prepare all those tiny rows for the greens and herbs! And that wasn’t even the hard part… My husband had spent the previous afternoon prepping the soil, including uprooting a small tree in a corner of one of the beds.
So by the time I was done planting that afternoon, there had already been several hours of labor put into that little garden, and I knew we were just getting started. But as I brushed off my hands and knees, I thought to myself, There, that’s done. Now for the results. I’m ready to start watching all the little shoots of green arrive! I paused briefly, realizing. Well… that is… in a week or two.
See, that’s the troublesome part of growing anything. You put in hard work to get everything ready, but there’s so much waiting involved before you start seeing the results. First are the early weeks of waiting for the sprouts to appear. It can be exciting to watch as the tiny leaves first poke up their heads and then as their growth really starts to take off, but this excitement can wear off a bit as you realize it may still be months before you can taste the fruits of your labor. In some cases, in fact, it may be years before the harvest.
As I pondered this reality, I was reminded of how much gardening can be like parenting. From getting a newborn to sleep at night, to potty-training, to teaching a child to read, each step can take a lot of time and patience. At times it can feel like you’ve been stuck in a stage forever. When Sweet Pea was little, we went through a stage of terrible separation anxiety, during parts of which I literally could not leave her sight without causing her to panic. Then there was the potty-training stage with more than one child where I thought I would never see the end of puddles on the floor. And then there was teaching Daisy to read. Though from preschool age she knew all her letters and could work out each individual sound in a word, she struggled to put them together. It seemed an eternity before reading finally “clicked” with her.
As we approach challenges like these, it can be helpful to remember that God’s creations tend to grow at different rates. Some of the seeds I planted the other day are expected to sprout in as little as a week; others may take almost three. Likewise, some children take to a subject quickly, while others need more time. Reading came much more easily to Ginger than to Daisy, for example. And while of course we want to be vigilant for legitimate learning disorders, I think many times we just need to be a bit more patient as we wait for the results to show.
In addition to these naturally occurring variances, the results of our efforts may look different due to circumstances beyond our control. A few years ago, our summer squash plants produced like crazy. The following year, they were a complete flop. I still don’t know why. Perhaps we didn’t take all the steps we could to help these plants flourish. But failures like these can often be caused by environmental factors we can’t help, such as lower temperatures or inadequate sunlight. Other more insidious things, like a hail or *cough* rabbits, can also cause trouble. We simply have to live with the reality that some things are beyond our control.
Likewise, there are times in our parenting and schooling when things just don’t go as we’ve hoped or planned. We want to give our children the best environment possible, but there is a point at which we must realize that many things are out of our hands. Ultimately, the results are up to God. As difficult as it is, I think the sooner we can surrender the outcomes to Him, the better.
And at the proper time, we may indeed see the fruit of our labors and of God’s grace. Those “seeds” that my husband and I planted and watered and nurtured for many moons eventually did come to fruition. Sweet Pea is now quite an independent little girl. We no longer have multiple children in diapers. Daisy reads with ease. That period of growing passed, and those things we once struggled so hard to bring forth from the stubborn soil now flourish and blossom effortlessly. And y’know, while I don’t regret most of the time and energy we put in to these areas, I think there were times when we could have relaxed a bit more. Sometimes we fret over an empty garden when all we need is a little more patience… There may be more going on under the surface than we realize.
As this school year draws to a close, I am trying to keep Galatians 6:9 in mind: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Hang in there, friends. And don’t let those rabbits get you down!
Photo Credit: All photos taken by Jessica Cole, edited by Charity Klicka; captions: 1) Tiny kale sprouts!, 2) Seeds for one of my favorite things to grow, 3) Baby tomato plants in one area of our little garden.