Category Archives: The Garden of My Heart

Tend to Your Garden – Part 2

If you missed the confessional on my sad first attempt at gardening in last week’s post, you can check it out here.

I realize as autumn begins and the remnants of my garden are now uprooted with the soil sitting dormant, I had even less of an idea of what I was doing than I thought when I started this little plot in my backyard a few months ago.

The day that my dad came with the tools to put the foundation together, I frantically  went to the greenhouse to pick out something to put inside of it. There was no plan. I just wanted a garden. So I returned home with five different vegetables to nurture and harvest, and little to no idea of what I needed to do to make that happen. I knew nothing about the spinach, broccoli, or carrots, but I figured it couldn’t be that difficult. I’d give them soil, sun, and water. What more did I need to know?

It turns out I needed to know a little more than what they looked like in the produce section of the grocery store to help them grow properly. I learned through trial and error some key things about each plant’s personality. Give spinach the proper amount of space to grow and to avoid choking each other out; be able to identify the difference between a carrot leaf and a weed; do not let broccoli go too long before harvesting or it will turn into a wild mess.

My naive belief system about gardening in the early days was as foolish as believing that all a mother must do to successfully raise a child is to eat, clothe, and provide shelter for her young one. There is so much more to it if the child is to grow into his or her full potential. In the short two and a half years I’ve been a mother I’ve figured out a couple of things: there is so much that books, givers of advice, and life experience just can’t tell me about how to raise my child.

For starters, I have to love my son. I do my best to lovingly provide for his needs, but then I work to go beyond that by spending time with him. If I see an area where he’s struggling, I support him and educate him on how to improve. When he’s ready to take on a new milestone, I encourage him to accomplish his goal and then help him reach for the next one.

When I look at love this way, I acknowledge that I didn’t do a great job of loving my garden. I know that my son is infinitely more important than my garden, but I believe that God is using both in my life to teach me some truths about my own spiritual condition. I must cherish my relationship with God and love the bond that He and I share so much that I give it the time and encouragement it needs. I cannot leave it be, but I must observe it’s strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to tend to it as it grows. Otherwise, weeds can sneak in and soak up some nutrients I need; lack of care could cause growing knowledge to go wild and not only be useless, but embarrassingly messy looking.

Feeling love towards my garden is not enough. I have to put that love into action. Another truth I’ve learned in parenting is that I must know and accept my child for the unique person that he is. While how-to books may open my eyes to a fresh perspective when I’m stumped on how to teach him, feed him, or discipline him, I have to remember that none of those authors know my child’s personality and particular set of circumstances.

I watched my garden die as I skimmed gardening books and tutorials on how to tend to specific plants in my garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t always allow for the situations that were exclusive to where my garden is located. While my neighbor’s gardens seemed to be thriving, nothing about their methods seemed to work on my garden.

How often do women attempt to function by the compare and copy method? “She gets up and reads her Bible at 4:00 A.M., so that means I must do that to be right with Jesus.”     “Her kids always eat healthy food, so I have to throw away all of my kid’s treats.”   “I can’t begin to look as gorgeous as she does, but if I go on the same diet that she did, I might start to match up a little.”

In reality, compare and copy does not work in situations of personal growth because we each have a unique, intimate relationship with God. It’s important to learn from others, but to allow that to become the focus rather than growing a stronger relationship with Christ is an exhausting, futile attempt at something that is missing the mark entirely.

How is your garden? Do you know the characteristics and causes that brought you to your garden’s current state? The beautiful truth of the matter is even if you do not have all of the answers to raising a bountiful spiritual garden, you can start with what you know, give it to God, and ask Him to grant you wisdom to start doing it the right way.

My son, if you receive my words,
      And treasure my commands within you,
       2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
      And apply your heart to understanding;
       3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
      And lift up your voice for understanding,
       4 If you seek her as silver,
      And search for her as for hidden treasures;
       5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
      And find the knowledge of God.
       6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
      From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
       7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
      He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
       8 He guards the paths of justice,
      And preserves the way of His saints.

~Proverbs 2:1-8

I linked up at

Tend to Your Garden

Since I neglected to mention it anywhere else, I just wanted to inform you that I’m planning to post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. If you want to receive notifications about new posts, I’m working to get the Email Subscription box to function. Meanwhile, you can like the Exceptionally Average page on facebook, and I’ll be sure to post on there when a new post is up and ready.

I tried my hand at gardening for the first time this summer, and it was a learning experience to say the least. Thanks to an insane over-population of squirrels (and maybe forgetting to water regularly in the beginning of the intense heat wave we experienced), I’m sad to say I didn’t harvest much from my meager little cinder block-encased garden. Thankfully, I can learn from my failures, though, and I did reap a multitude of spiritual lessons (and maybe a dozen radishes) from the experience.

In the beginning, everything went beautifully. My dad and husband worked to create one of the trendy little raised beds that are popping up all over the place. Two of my neighbors have their own flourishing raised bed gardens, and over the past couple of years, I’ve observed and admired theirs. This year, I decided it was my turn to grow my own tomatoes and bask in the sun warming my skin while I raked my fingers through the soil. It was a beautiful picture in my head. Additionally, my son would be right along beside me, learning all about vegetables, while I harvested broccoli from our back yard to go with dinner.

A couple of weeks into it, I noticed the sweet beginnings of the seedlings had pushed their way through the soil. I went out with my cute little gardening set, complete with a kneeling pad, and worked the soil while removing weeds.The mental picture of bliss I had painted was coming true! I was seeing growth, and knowing that I’d played a part in raising those little spinach plants made my heart sing.

Then I went out of town for a week. Things in the garden went a little crazy in that short time away, and my broccoli crop never really recovered. (I never before knew that broccoli will flower if it’s not harvested in time.) Shortly after the first struggle, the temperatures rose to unbearable levels for those poor little plants. I forgot to water them daily now that the rain was no longer coming. Thankfully, all but my little spinach plants somehow bounced back after I mended my wrongs. Then the predators came and wreaked havoc on those happy little tomatoes and peppers. The two plants whose harvest I was most anticipating bore fruit and helplessly yielded it to squirrels and rabbits. And now I had nothing prospering or even giving me a glimmer of hope.

One fence built by my sweet husband, an angry gardener, and at least a half dozen uprooted and/or stripped plants later I have reached the end of harvest season. There was no fruit this year, but oh so many lessons learned. Here’s what my garden looked like today. A sad-looking mess, isn’t it?

I haven’t been able to bring myself to ripping up everything quite yet. It stands as a sort of memorial to me to take time to tend to my garden. Here’s the checklist I’m working to apply to my own spiritual garden since I witnessed how vital each step is to keeping the right plants growing.

  1. Learn about your plants.
  2. Don’t take a vacation without a plan for upkeep.
  3. Plan for seasons of drought.
  4. Keep an eye out for the weeds and vigilantly remove them by the root.
  5. Beware of predators and be prepared to fight them off.

Join me next week for a closer look at how to successfully complete the first item on the checklist.