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Finding God in the Garden (repost)

This post was originally published in May 2020.  A year later, Ursala's words are still wisdom for our souls.  As we emerge into a springtime of regathering, we have the opportunity to take with us the lessons of our safer-at-home winter.
The first image of paradise we see in scripture is in the garden of Eden.  Eden was a place where there was an abundance of nourishment both for the body and the soul.  I often imagine what it would be like to "walk with God in the cool of the evening", like Adam.  What a delightful thing it must have been to walk and talk with God in such a lovely place! It was in a garden that God connected with man, it was in a garden where man's heart was quieted, and it was in a garden that God created a life companion for Adam.  The intimacy and message of being in the garden with God didn't stop in Eden; I believe that this is still a special place that God speaks to us if we listen.  

Now obviously God can speak to us anywhere, and we find evidence of that in scripture, but there are so many spiritual principles we can learn as we plant and grow a garden.  Gardening is something that I have learned to love over time.  My husband, Jason, has always wanted a small home garden. Each spring would spur him along to plant new things in the garden and, in the early days, each summer was fraught with the disappointment of dead plants.  I would jokingly tell people that, instead a green thumb, I had a black thumb because it seemed like everything that I tried to grow would die.  Facing failure in a garden is not private, anyone walking by can see all my failed attempts.  It's all fun and games until things start to die.  Because of all these failed attempts, it was hard to share my husband's enthusiasm to keep trying.  I would reluctantly agree while thinking, "when is he going to give this up already?"

I did not know it then, but even in the early stages of our endeavor, God was teaching me a lesson in the garden.  In life we fail,  but what if we look at each failure as a lesson instead of as defeat?  In those dozens of attempts, I have learned what grows here in this desert and what does not. I have also learned how important the seasons are in the garden.  The ground needs to sleep in the winter, it needs to rest just like us.  

In the garden, it is very easy for the soil to become exhausted.  When I first learned this Jason and I were living in a little house with 3 kids, and I was exhausted.  Everything I planted in the ground that year died.  I was out in the garden one morning while my neighbor was walking her dog.  Of course, this is the neighbor with the most beautiful garden on the block. The mere thought of her even looking at my failure made me want to run for the hills. As she passed by that morning she smiled at me and said, "it looks like you may have a soil problem."  I looked up with shame on my face and told her, "I just don’t have a green thumb."  To which she replied, "no, I think it's your soil, it's been depleted."  I remember my ears perking up when she said that, I wanted to hug her and say, "you mean it's not my fault?"

In the garden of our lives we often plant things expecting a positive result only to become frustrated when nothing comes from it.  We make petition after petition to God wondering why he doesn't hear us, or worse we think that he's punishing us for something we have done.  Neither of these is true, sometimes it is just that the soil in our gardens has been depleted. I think David knew something about this depletion in Psalms 63:1 when he says, "Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water."  I love that David says, "oh God"; his desperation is so clear.  I read this passage and I think of my soil having nothing to give my plants, no nourishment, no minerals. I could have put the healthiest plants in my depleted soil and they would have died; those poor little plants were fainting like our souls faint for God.  

Just because you put a seed into the ground doesn't mean it will grow.  Good soil is so very important.  What Jason and I learned about our soil was that it lacked the vitamins and minerals required to grow the things we were planting.  In order to grow those good things, we had to amend our soil, to add things to it to improve its physical or chemical properties.  Wait, isn't that what God does to us when we surrender to him?  Doesn't he add richness and substance to our souls?  And there it is, lesson two from this simple home garden.  

 After Jay and I amended our soil we got better results.  I would like to say that overnight we became Monty Don, but there was still the process of learning what would and would not grow in this desert.  Just like any good lesson, we slowly but surely got better and better results. In our current garden, we have excellent soil.  Last summer we had many successful plantings and even one success we didn't plant.  This leads me to the next lesson this simple garden has taught me.  When your soil is rich and healthy, sometimes things you haven’t planted will ‘volunteer’ to grow.

Last summer this happened to my husband and me for the first time.  We had planted tomatoes, radishes, and some other things.  After those had finished fruiting this strange vine appeared. I immediately thought that it was a weed, so I told Jason we needed to remedy it. His solution was that we wait and see what it was (I'm sure there is a lesson in there somewhere).  So we patiently waited for this 'thing' to grow.  Over the next few weeks we watched our mystery plant grow. We thought maybe we had cucumbers, then we thought it was watermelon, and of course, in the back of my mind, I still thought it was a weed (lol)!  Eventually, little melons began to grow, and we realized that we had cantaloupe.  What?  I didn't plant cantaloupe!  Somewhere in our mulch must have lied some cantaloupe seeds and, because the soil was so healthy, those little seeds said, "I'll grow here!"

I have often argued the validity of the #blessed movement. How it has become trendy to 'humble brag' about the things we have earned in our lives by giving a social media "thanks" to God is beyond me. In the garden of life, God's true blessings simply appear, just like our cantaloupe.  It is an unexpected surprise, but one that we welcome gladly. It can not be quantified, we are not expecting it, it just appears. Blessings 'volunteer' in our lives when we allow God to amend our soil and we are careful not to pluck out the unexpected good when it appears.   In light of the garden, the logical question, "can we earn a blessing" carries the obvious answer, "no, we cannot." This lesson goes against my Baptist roots, so I must admit that it is one I am still learning.

Over the years there have been so many lessons I've learned listening to God in the garden, these are just a few.  In our current place of being safe-at-home, my garden has become a treasured daily place of serenity and grounding.  Even as it is springtime for those plants, they provide the kind of winter rest I need in my soul.  And so, I encourage you to put a few seeds in the ground this spring and listen to hear what God may be speaking to you in the garden.

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