Hope Finds the Garden

Working in the garden always seems to trigger a sense of spirituality. An idea for a devotion, a poem, a story or as in this case — a blog post.

Perhaps it is my connection with nature as a form of worshipping God. Or maybe it is the opportunity to reflect when doing nothing more than pulling weeds.

The first idea came as I prepped for some gardening time: the mud-packed shoes, the protective gloves, the spade — all packed into my gardening tote.

Then I noticed on the kitchen table how many dried petals had fallen from my garden roses. Dried, wrinkled, seemingly useless petals no longer clinging to their source.

At first, fresh from releasing my newest devotions for senior adults, I thought of how we often describe ourselves in the final act of life. No longer useful. No longer vital. Dried up and wrinkled.

Yet even when the petals have fallen, they still maintain a presence. Retain their color and end up splayed across my table in a natural design.

Never worthless or useless. All of nature, even in the driest periods, displays the creative energy of its Source, the beauty of eternal life infused within cells and texture.

I breathed deeply, grateful God can still use me in this final act, no matter where or how I might land.

So out I plodded to the garden to discover an error in my planting plan. One entire plot needed to be emptied, its contents pulled to create life for its main purpose.

A year ago, I transplanted a vinca vine into my cemetery plot — the area where beloved cats are buried. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. A rim of tulips and hyacinths that signal spring, then a planting of the vinca as a ground cover to provide a protective cap over the graves.

In early spring, the vinca presented a lovely lavender flower. Contrasted with its dark green leafage, it seemed the perfect backdrop for my garden cemetery.

But soon, the rains of spring and the hope-filled sunshine nurtured the vinca toward massive growth. Its invasive nature spread it over the entire plot, choking out the tulips, the hyacinths and the lone Hosta.

It took over an hour of multiple sore muscles for me to pull out that stubborn vine. And I will have to continue watching it or it will invade again.

How like so many tempters we face! The fancy house we would love to own until we open the mortgage summary. The giant dessert that looks so good, yet with too much encouragement, can become an artery-clogging sweet. The porn picture that is really a trafficked child made to look older soon wraps its addictive evil through the brain, choking the soul.

How many pretties can easily turn invasive if we ignore them or remain deceived by their initial beauty? Then it takes a lifetime of jerking them out and away, freeing the more subtle beauties that we were originally made to be. In the places God has planted us.

Ah-h — the lessons of the garden. And the ways those lessons point us toward a more hope-filled existence.

May we all keep our eyes and our desires on the One Source who offers life. And may we know God has gifted us with the power to love, to be disciplined and to nurture a sound mind.

©2022 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

For daily meditations focused on the needs of senior adults, check out Day by Day: Hope for Senior Wisdom.

Finding Hope When the Dream Dies

country-cabinEvery year since – forever – seed catalogs have arrived in my mailbox during the last of the winter weeks. They are a harbinger of hope because nothing spells faith like planting seeds and believing perennials, green beans and marigolds will indeed sprout and come to life.

But this year, I am throwing the catalogs into the recycling bin. I cannot even bear to look at pictures of purple lobelia or happy-faced pansies.

This year, I have finally realized I can no longer maintain my gardens.

Reality began to set in during last year’s season when I tried to dig weeds and spread mulch. Within minutes, grass allergies kicked in, and I ran to the house for my meds. Even so, the next day – dark circles rimmed my eyes and the fatigue of immune system warfare affected my energy levels.

I ignored the symptoms because gardening has been so important to me. Just the therapy of digging in fresh soil, following my farming ancestors’ passion to coax the sprouting of life has brought me annual joy.

Gardening has nurtured my dream – to own a cottage in the country surrounded by flowers and produce where bees drink nectar and butterflies land for a respite during their annual migration.

But reality clarifies the cost of mulch and new plants, plus the hours required to make such gardens appear. Reality also underscores that my body and its accompanying allergens now betray me.

I can no longer hang on to a dream I cannot produce.

My dilemma reminds me of my mother’s situation – the woman who worked hard to pay off her house only to be forced to leave it. The realities of Alzheimer’s care betrayed her. Staying in her home mirrors my dream of a garden home.

Now both of us must delete what we wished for.

This year, I will woefully allow the native grasses to engulf my garden spaces. I may move the blueberries and golden raspberries to pots that require little care. I may plant a small row of green beans, enough for a skillet full of nutritious flavor.

But I will no longer drool over the pictures in seed catalogs or plan new plots for hybrid clematis.

This year I will step back and let nature rule. Perhaps my garden dream will morph into an eternal garden where the price my physical body pays no longer affects me.

Instead of  working on my dream, I will stroll through local nurseries to touch leaves, stroke petals and remember the gardens I once nurtured.

To reach toward hope, I will remind myself that the giving up of the dream still yields results albeit a different type of fruit:

  • Saving money
  • Giving away tools to someone who needs them
  • Finding more time to write and read
  • Preserving my health

And when the twinges of grief remind me what is lost, I can always counter with the truth of what will someday be.

Reality forces us to change, but hope answers that the changes may point toward something better.

©2017 RJ Thesman, Author of “Sometimes They Forget” and the Reverend G Trilogy