Seedlings in April

We planted our little seedlings this week. In about six or seven weeks, we’ll transplant them outside and see which ones make it to the end of the season. I haven’t had much luck starting things indoors, but gardening at our house is always an adventure!

You’d think after a decade of trying to grow things in our particular yard with our particular set of growing conditions I’d have learned a few things. And I suppose I have. But with four other little minds whirring and spinning about what kinds of things they want to plant and grow, I’ve let go of my dreams of urban farming and embraced the life of experimental gardening. Like many things in my life, I hold my garden with an open hand. Well, mostly. I sure do love my roses and front containers, but the backyard is a free space for the kids to exercise their creativity and responsibility in our containers and beds. This year, the girls have their hearts set on pumpkins, watermelons, daisies, zinnias, violas, mint, peas, spinach and carrots. Only four of those were started inside this week and we’ll sow the rest in containers and into the ground sometime after May long weekend. It’s the safest bet since our spring weather is so dramatic, always flinging itself from full-on summer temperatures to below freezing in just a few short hours. Earlier this week we were in shorts and t-shirts. This morning, tiny snowflakes float gracefully to the ground out my window, watering the lawn in place of a good soaking April shower.

So our seedlings stay warm and cosy inside, drinking up the water we give them, sitting in the soft light and slowly working their way up to break the surface of the soil. We’re watching in anticipation, eager to see which is which since the small initial I wrote on each pot to distinguish them from one another has washed away.

On top of the challenges of dramatic weather, we contend with a very short growing season. Once the seeds are in the ground, it’s go-time. In just a few short weeks, we’re seeing the fruit of our labour, and every single year it takes me by surprise. When the first pea pod is ready for picking, we rejoice together and everyone gets a bite. I know we followed the process of good soil, water and sunshine, but it still feels like a miracle when we see the small harvest from the seeds we planted weeks before.

My hopes are high, as they always are at the beginning of a gardening season, that we will see some good things growing this year – not just in the soil, but in us too. Life lessons on what happens if you don’t water your plants in the heat of the summer. The satisfaction of hard work, the feel of the soil in our hands, the beauty of watching plants grow. Experience has taught me that regardless of the final harvest of the year, the work in the garden builds my character, reminds me of the mysteries and goodness of God, and gently pushes me to keep tending the things that need tending in my heart and life.

When our oldest daughter was a baby, she didn’t want to sleep. Ever. I read the books, I tried the tricks, I prayed and cried and she simply stuck to her half-hour daytime naps and very early mornings like glue. One day a wise mama told me, “You can’t make a baby sleep, but you can create an environment conducive to sleep.”

Gardening and parenting have something in common. You can’t make those little seedlings grow up into big beautiful fruit-bearing plants, but you can cultivate nourishing soil, quench their thirst and bathe them in sunshine. You can plant good seeds of truth, shower them in prayer and shine the light of unconditional love all over them. Their growth is ultimately up to the Master Gardener, but as the temporary caretaker of my children, I can look to Him for wisdom and trust that He is taking care of them through me and sometimes in spite of me.

In John 15:1-5 (NIV) Jesus says,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 

Growing things from seed.

Hidden Treasure

My dad texted me a photo this week of a little piece of paper he found in one of his boxes. In a jumbled mix of classic kid printing-style uppercase and lowercase letters, though remarkably neat, I had written:

“ThE LORD iS MY HELPER.”

The note underneath said “Hebrews 13:6, by Stephy, Age 4 1/2”.

It’s not a distinct childhood memory for me so it was amazing to see that little piece of paper still intact so many years later. A memory verse from Sunday School, I’m sure. This morning I turned to the reference in my Bible to see the words in print.

So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. 
What can mere mortals do to me?”

A small note next to the last line directed me to Psalm 118:6-7. Not even five years old, writing ancient truths on something ripped from a notepad printed for children, with a picture of two little girls playing tennis in the bottom corner. At the time I couldn’t comprehend the treasure these words held, but they are words that have continually point me to the true Source of Life through every valley, on every mountain, regardless of my circumstances.

The seeds of truth planted in childhood have pressed their roots deep into the soil of my heart and I can see the fruit of the faithfulness of God’s people as I now encourage my own children to commit Scripture to memory. I know I’m giving them one of the greatest gifts that was ever given to me – the opportunity to fill their hearts with this very same life-giving truth. God is the ultimate Gardener. He not only prepares the soil but plants the seeds, takes care of the weeding and pruning, and brings forth gentle, breathtaking growth in willing hearts.

I may not see what God is doing. I may not know how He is working. But I recall the words of Isaiah 55:8-11 and the walls of my heart are fortified against the daily battering ram of fear and discouragement.

“ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.

‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.’ ”

Don’t give up hope – it’s not the end. The Lord is our helper, we will not be afraid.

Beautiful words.