I love watching things spring up and grow in my garden under my care. There is something uniquely pleasurable about seeing basil flourishing, searching for tomatoes beginning to blush red, and watching transplanted irises take root and spread.
But sometimes my plants don’t do as well. I’ve learned a lot in my past two years of gardening, and there is still a lot more to learn. This year, I got a little carried away with starting tomatoes from seed and planted more than a hundred in plastic cups, thinking I’d give them away or sell some of them. But since I started them so late in the season, they weren’t able to produce as many tomatoes. And I couldn’t quite find enough people to take them off my hands, so many of them are still stunted and languishing in my yard.
I learned, after I’d already planted it in full sun, that azaleas prefer shade and very moist soil. Oops. I learned that it’s smarter to put tall plants at the back of your garden and short ones at the front, where you can see them. Well, I had already planted a short “Pink Ecstasy” flower behind some towering irises. And my zeal for getting a good deal on new plants has often exceeded my zeal for actually planting them in the ground, which has led to some unhappy root-bound flowers and occasionally, some brown, dead stumps.
But sometimes my garden has shown a wonderful knack for surviving and flourishing, despite my bumbling. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the bachelor’s buttons I’d planted last year had re-seeded themselves, punctuating my little plot with bursts of blue, pink, and purple. I couldn’t figure out why my potted basil plants were so big until I looked closer and saw that those wily little things had grown roots that sneaked out of holes in the bottom of the pots so that they could drink up the nutrients from the soil underneath.
I bought little swiss chard starters on a whim this spring, and when I told a fellow gardener friend, she said, “They do very well in cold weather, but they also don’t mind the summer heat. And they’re a cut-and-grow-again kind of plant, so that when you harvest some of their leaves, they take it as pruning. That was very clever of you to buy those.”
Hmm, I’m not sure it counts as clever if I did it without realizing what I was doing. But in any case, my swiss chard is quite happy, and it has supplied me with its dark green leaves and beautiful gold, crimson, and orange stems throughout the summer.
I’ve been thinking about how other areas of life are like this, too. We start a project, a friendship, or a ministry, and halfway into it, we realize we made some mistakes. But sometimes, with the help of God’s grace, these things manage to thrive despite our blunders. We discover how we can do things more prudently the next time. And we get to enjoy the thrill of green, growing things.
I think this blog will probably follow a similar pattern. I’ll be using it to try out new ideas, share my thoughts, and practice my writing skills, and I’ll inflict my attempts on you, my dear readers. I hope that, from time to time, you’ll find a gem of truth, a whisper of beauty, a reflection of the goodness and glory of God that “will flame out, like shining from shook foil.” May all our lives serve as this shook foil, catching “the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God,” and reflecting it into a world thirsty for illumination.