Living by the Moon

Have you been up early at all this Spring? I swing back and forth, as some of you know, from rising at 4:45 A.M. and sleeping until one of the children wakes me. I greatly prefer to have the quiet of the morning to myself, but if the teeny girl has been up three or more times in the night it’s really just too hard to wake up early and to be a good person. For the last ten days or so, I have been out of my bed before the children though. Waking in the silence and the dark of my house, sitting with a cuppa and my Bible or my journal tracking all of the goodness that fills my days. I love this. I have missed it.

The early morning has brought the moon back into focus for me as well. Have you seen the moon in this present cycle? It has been so clear in the early morning that it lights up our yard, Venus always following hard after. If I end up taking a drive East I can sometimes spot Mars, low and glowing a bit red above the horizon. The predawn hours are my favorite time to stargaze and moon-watch. Never is this more true than in early Spring when it is still dark until the littles wake up, and yet not too frigid to step outside in stocking feet. This morning I went out in my bare-feet onto the deck to breathe the cold air and watch the waning moon shine out over us all. It was so peaceful, even in town.

While I have never been one of those girls who believes that the moon controls the behaviors of school children or criminals, I can’t help but feel it’s pull on me. Since I dug my first garden in 2002 my daddy has sent me an “Old Farmer’s Almanac” for my birthday. I was always thankful for the inclusion of full moon dates and the guide to planting by the lunar cycle that this publication included. I have followed lunar cycles for planting for most of my gardening years, trusting the best time to plant based on not just warmer days, but the full moon. I have looked to the night sky, tracing the path of the moon as curiously as I have done many a thing in nature, to say this is just one more thing is possibly, yet not quite entirely, true.

This year in our homeschool is an Astronomy year. While we unschool pretty exclusively I do follow the trivium model of classical education if only in concept more so than practice. Are you familiar? The trivium divides the schooling years into three segments; Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. The classical model then further breaks these groups down into four repeating themes; Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and Modern which you explore once in each of the three phases. So each year our kids are free to learn what they please, knowing that mom will bring home all of the books about whatever stage we are in. That I will insist we take part in certain activities that tie in to the phase we are focusing on and that I will plan some activities to interrupt their free time but that fit with this more classical model. (For a jumping-off-point, please take a look here; https://welltrainedmind.com/a/classical-education/ if you’d like to know more about classical education as I am by no means anywhere close to an expert on this!)

I had always thought I’d classically homeschool my kids, until I tried to school Mady that way and realized I had birthed three stubborn driven babies who have their own ideas and interests. We got stuck on Greek mythology in the Grammar stage; I mean, we were knee deep in myths for most of that year, not just the Greeks; Egyptian, Norse, Roman. I didn’t want that learning or excitement to stop simply because we “should” be moving on. We are basically lost in mythology again now that my oldest little is in the beginning of the Logic stage. My kids just love it and I love it because: the moon. Ancient history ties in with the study of the night sky and makes perfect sense in how it does. It is easier for me to get my kids to study the sky because so much of what we see up there is linked to mythology. They have heard the names for the constellations, they are familiar with how different ancient people began knowing and understanding the stars and the planets. I guess I’m just saying that it works for us. Perhaps this is one of those homeschool momma ramblings where I am merely trying to convince myself that they are learning something…

The moon in Spring is easily my favorite, how can one not love the Spring full moons with names like; Worm Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon? Even pushing into June with the Strawberry Moon! This year the Worm Moon coincided with Spring solstice and was a Super Moon just to add to the fun. All of these things were added together in our homeschool as each of my children drew and created what they believed would burn this knowledge into their brains and deeper subconscious. They seem to enjoy it and the teeny loves it most of all. Honestly she loves that she is a part of these lessons, but the moon is something in her environment that she can see and interact with from afar. Being able to tell her daddy that the moon is waning shows her that she can know “bigger” things. Seeing the Super Moon fall on her birthday last year she has remembered how bright and big the moon was as it rose and she will carry that with her for as long as she chooses.

As an aside; don’t judge my lunar photography skills too harshly friends!

I was wondering recently if teaching the phases of the moon mattered anymore. If knowing the names of each of the full moons was even an important element for us to be considering. I’ve decided that it is. In our studies (and I use that term pretty loosely here friends) of ancient cultures we’ve seen how so many people have taken the time to label the moon and stars. How primitive societies have lived and learned by the cycles of the moon and it’s affect on the seasons and their activities. I feel like in giving my children this knowledge, it is a readying of the soil of their minds. They can add more information on top of this understanding as so many peoples have done before them, but that perhaps by skipping over this, some of the lessons we learn later won’t take root.

As the sky turns pink this morning and we begin another beautiful Spring day I will continue to lift my children’s eyes, my own eyes, to the sky. Contemplating the moon in all of it’s cycles and phases. Yearning to understand my connectedness to it, while also being grateful that I know I am connected to it at all. The final thought for this post is a reminder of sorts to myself. Once we know something we can’t un-know it. That knowledge will forever be deep inside of us. Perhaps mythology, perhaps the moon, perhaps a vague understanding of the how and why of the universe won’t inspire careers for my kids. It is enough for me to know that I have passed on some tiny piece of ancient wisdom to them. Some element that man has wondered over for millennia. That’s what schooling is for us really; the hope that we can inspire wonder.

Rum and Juice Gardening…Sort of

Several years ago I read a book called ‘The Gin and Tonic Gardener; Confessions of a Reformed Compulsive Gardener” by Janice Wells. It was a mostly silly little book that inspired me to take time to just sit in my garden. While I have forgotten much of the book, there are ideas from it that have really hung on. I’ve often thought about how great it would be to have the type of garden that just sort of managed itself, a garden a person could just go out and enjoy. The image of what that looked like was ever-present in my mind, but it’s never really been the garden I had…Until this year.

I’ve talked about how I lost my gardens with my divorce, and how I found them again first in a community garden and then later in my yard. Over the past five Summers I have abandoned the concept of a restful garden space altogether really. I have dug out huge swaths of yard turning the grass into compost and the space left behind into beds heavy with blooms, vines, and leaves. There hasn’t been a year since we’ve moved here that I haven’t added some crazy large plot of garden to my suburban yard. I’ve loved every minute of it, but let me tell you there were not a lot of cocktails sipped casually among the phlox or the roses. Sure, I rested out there, sat and admired my work, enjoyed moments of peace. I was often, if not always, thinking of the next thing I would work on.

 

This year there has been a shift in focus. I have not dreamed up a new place or way to garden, I haven’t decided to divide all of the perennials or to scour Craigslist for folks giving away plants. Obviously the time we’ve spent adventuring is a part of it. When you are gone for several days (or weeks) each month it is hard to give attention to your flowers. More than that though I have made conscious effort to not. To not get involved in any new garden planning or planting, to not move or divide or accept new plants.

I did put in a few veggies this Spring, it’s hard not to. The farmers market got me one early Saturday with thyme and tomatoes. Another day I picked up a six-pack of peppers. I started a few cantaloupe and a watermelon in a sunny sill. I felt I would miss these few things for sure once Autumn and harvest came around. I will also admit to accepting and digging in some fruit shrubs and possibly some kale from gardening friends, but honestly, these were minor additions in comparisons to what I usually get involved with. As I read back over these words I can see that perhaps I should go back to that book…my compulsiveness is showing.

 

Each time I came home from adventuring I would walk through my gardens to see what was blooming, what was spent, what was getting ready. I looked to see if berries were ripe, if anything needed watering, if some new-from-last-year plant was coming in happily. I didn’t weed. I didn’t turn soil. I didn’t cut back or deadhead. I feel a twinge of guilt just writing those things out. I suppose it comes back to the loss, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the garden that I have now. I feel like I should deeply invest in it with physical work so that the earth doesn’t forget that I’m here. That seems a teensy bit crazy I’m sure.

 

This Summer though, I have given the gardens free reign. I have allowed them to spill out over paths. I have snipped heavy blooms, that have decided their heads look best in the mulch, and brought them into my house, into my camper, and onto the deck where they have brought numerous smiles to my face. I have said, out-loud, that I’m only cutting half of the oregano, so that it can flower and the bees can enjoy it, but really it was so that I didn’t have too much to dry and chop. I have let the camper block my view of the little garden on the West side of my driveway. This allows me to not do so many garden tasks that really need to be done, simply because I don’t look at it regularly.

I will insert here that this past weekend I did have super high hopes of doing some actual gardening. My husband was supposed to be away and I was going to move plants, to create a sitting area for when our camper is in the driveway. I worked super hard on this project for about three hours while my teeny and my sick little guy napped away the afternoon. But that was it, my husband ended up coming home later that same day, my sick child became sicker, and there were many normal needs to be tended on top of that. I’ve gone out to look at the half finished space several times this past week as the heat has spiked close to 90 and I’m reminded of the crazy gardener that I am to move plants in mid-July.

 

While I have had that lingering guilt, I have also really, really loved it. I have had time to look for tons of caterpillars with my tiny. I have sat on the deck with my man in the middle of the afternoon and drank a beer, or possibly two. I have let my dog drink from the pond, roll in the wild lilies, and sleep in the shade of the tall-flower beds  It has been so good to just be in the garden, to pick berries and admire lilies and watch how the different colors of peonies all open on a slightly different date. I’ve quite enjoyed simply enjoying my garden.

 

I’ll have to get back over there, to that side garden, the work needs to be done so that the neighbors at least don’t have to look at the mess that the space is for too much longer. Someone gave me some iris recently, they’ll finish filling the space nicely I think, or perhaps I’ll move some evening primrose, or more day lilies. For today, with rain in the forecast, I am happy to pour coffee and cream into a cup, and walk through the yard to see what flowers will open today, if my orange lilies have all fallen and if there are any new blooms on the white rose bush.

 

When I think about that little book and how I found myself lucky enough to have a garden to sip rum in, I just have to smile. It has been a twisting path, and has taken a ton of hard work, to get to this place where I can just sit in the grass and admire the effort. I’m grateful to be here, in this Summer, in this yard, with a drink in my hand instead of a shovel.

 

For Everything There is a Season

As you may have guessed, Summer is my season. I thrive in the heat and sunshine that pour down on me for these few months each year. I was looking at the forecast this morning and there are 90’s in it y’all! I can not believe that we actually made it! As I have been walking in my garden lately, it has become apparent that there really is a time for each plant and that I definitely can’t rush anything into bloom or even growth. The peonies in my yard bloom every year in early June, without fail. Last year we had an early Spring. Weeks and weeks of cool crisp mornings and warm afternoons, I had anticipated the big, double blooms for so long! When they finally opened, the plants were massive, taller than normal and spilling out onto too narrow garden pathways, but the buds swelled open that first week of June like clockwork, they didn’t come earlier due to warmer spring temps.

This year the Winter hung on with icy claws for nearly all of Spring and allowed us only a short week or two of mild weather. It would appear that those peonies will bloom in about ten days though, putting us right in the same week as last year. How is that possible? The plants had such a short Spring to develop, yet they have done just that. Taken the time that was given and done exactly what they needed to do.

There is a lesson here for me, something like; “grow as much as you can in whatever time you’re given”. It seems kind of simple, doesn’t it? Keep learning, keep playing, keep doing. You might have a slow, easy Spring to grow and develop and spread your roots…but you might not. For some, the season is long, and cold, and hard, or it ends before we are ready. I don’t know what season you’re in as we get the quick shove into Summer. I don’t know if you’re prepared for it. As I gather joy and bask in the sunshine, maybe you’re in more of a hurting place, an uncertain place, an aching place. I feel like that’s an okay place to be. The Summer is good for contemplation, there are glasses of lemonade to sip on warm afternoons. There are extra hours of sunshine early in the quiet before people wake and start needing things from us.

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There is time.

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This writing has been good for me. Taking the time to put down on paper the thoughts that swirl around my brain at three A.M. has helped me better understand myself and where I am emotionally. Over the last month though, with Summer sunlight filling all of my waking moments I have let the laptop sit. We had some other projects working, things that I hope to share here as the season progresses. These things kept me from writing but more so, kept me from needing to write. I have felt better, calmer, safer, quieter in spirit. Part of that is simply the Summer, but when you’re doing the things that you feel will lend your soul peace, the peace just sort of comes. Even in the work, while you’re not there yet, knowing that you’re on the right path causes you to be at ease.

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This morning as I sit with a toddler sipping milk on the sofa, and my man getting ready to head out for the day, I listen to the sounds of Summer. I feel like I am trying to rush the writing today, to force the lazy daisy-chain of my thoughts out into this post. To fill up the page with both lovely images and flowery words. It’s a stretch though. Like a crocus pushed up through the snow in late Winter, the meaning I’m trying to get across is shivering out there. Not yet ready to fill a page, still growing toward the light.

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There is this corner of my yard where the sun shines a little brighter. The heat bounces off the house and the little pond that’s situated there and the plants grow a little bigger, and bloom a little sooner. It is one of my favorite places in the garden. On this corner the Japanese Iris have been blooming for a full week now and my first peony opened there  just yesterday. The lilacs and creeping phlox have already passed their prime and I am anxiously awaiting the first wild roses buds. This corner reminds me that it only takes a slightly different micro-climate to draw out growth. The season in this patch of my garden is ever so slightly ahead of the rest of my yard. Maybe that’s true for me more than the crocus that wakes too early in Spring and has to huddle under a blanket of fresh snow.

I think I might be just the teensiest smidge ahead of the words I’d like to pour out onto this page. I need to slow a little, not rushing the Summer along, but sitting in it. Waiting for the words to come and the time for them to be just right. I hope you will wait too, if that’s where you’re at. A waiting place is a good one, especially when you have a garden to do the waiting in.

 

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The End of Summer

 

I love August.

I hate August.

There is no time for this post today as I rush to fit in one more summer task.

No time to sit on the deck with a lemonade in hand because the deck needs to be stained before the snow flies.

No time to sniff the flowers because there are wood chips to cover the earth with before the first frost.

No time to splash in the pool with the children because we must attend every planning meeting for every activity they will be a part of this Autumn.

No time to dig in the sand, no time to watch caterpillars, no time to sit in parks with friends…

I make it worse for myself by trying to accomplish every project under the sun before we fall back into our homeschooling routine which includes so many activities and so much running from place to place. Examples? I currently have a sofa in my kitchen because I’m staining the living room floor. My teenage daughter cannot park in our driveway because I have a 6×4 foot pile of mulch sitting at the end of it (which I can’t move yet because I need to divide and organize the garden on the East side of my house first.). I have raspberry bushes growing five feet outside of their bed because I had the crazy idea that I really would have time to create a living fence out of them between our yard and our neighbors property.

When I get to August this irrational fear of “the end” takes me over, like being within a hundred pages of the end of a beloved book I just cannot stop. I rush to cram in every single last summer-fun thing that I can before the crush of Autumn’s responsibility takes over. If Summer is childhood, August is my early twenties, before the adulthood of Autumn arrives. I attempt to do all of the crazy things now, before I’m tied down by my commitments. As I said, this fear is not rational. I did plenty of crazy things in my thirties and I can certainly break the schedule and go for a hike in the woods on a warm day in October. But much like the frequency of those wild times has drastically decreased with each passing year, with each passing day so will my opportunity to go exploring and to soak the sun deep into my very soul.

As the sunrise comes a few minutes later each morning I try to rise a bit earlier to sit in the silence of cricket chirps, to await the first song of birds for the day. To ensure there is time in my day to just be. Instead of running full tilt toward Autumn, I will slam on the brakes at every turn. Savor every bit of produce from the garden, wonder over every bee and butterfly. I will make full stops, not rolling through my summertime garden on the way to the next thing that must be done, rather enjoying each blossom and moment completely. I hope you will too.

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**stop**

                                                  (no really, the end is right here.)

 

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Teacher Bees

Bees are some of my favorite creatures. They bumble around my Russian sage this time of year with lavender colored dust floating all around them, clinging to their bodies and making them look like they were dipped in frosting sugar. It is beautiful. The other day as my kids were splashing in the pool my attention was drawn over to the still uncut oregano. I was internally chastising myself for not getting to that summer task yet and reminding myself how much better baked-ziti-in-January will taste if I get the herbs drying now. So, logically, I walked over, sat down, and watched the bees.

They were uncaring of my presence in their garden and so they continued on in their required task without even a glance in my direction. As they went about their work I was able to notice how lovely their wings are, how fuzzy they are, how quickly they buzz between flowers. A person can think deep thoughts in her garden if she is able to block out the joyous noise that is her children. I found myself wondering how little the bees care for the beauty of the flowers. Yes, there are several different types of bees gathering pollen in my front garden at any given moment in early August, but is it because of its beauty? There were equally as many bees clambering around my oregano, whose flowers are not showy in any way. If beauty is not important to the bees, do I place too much emphasis on it in my own life?

I wonder what draws the bees to a particular spot, to a particular type of blossom. I know the basics of bee-related science. That they work to ensure survival of the queen who will replace each bee as they die from the exhaustion of working for her, which ensures the survival of the colony. At least for one more season. There is no care for singular well-being, rather only for the health of the hive. We also have carpenter bees in our yard, a solitary species. Their drive is not the good of the hive. No, their motivation is simply in the hope they will mate and allow the continuation of their own species. In my deep thinking I decided that if my life was simply selfless work, work that I would likely not see come to fruition, that I would seek out the beautiful as much as possible too.

It continually amazes me how all of my life lessons seem to be either learned or reinforced in my garden. One of the first verses that comes to mind when I think of bees is Proverbs 16:24; Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. I’ve helped my kids memorize this verse and I use it as an internal reminder that when I speak kind words to them I am speaking healing instead of hurt. I often think of plants as God’s words to me. He speaks to me in the color of cosmos, in the scent of lilies, sends notes of His love in small fields of daisies, reminders of His faithful care for me in early spring lilacs. He is gracious to me. And if Gracious words are a honeycomb, I easily receive His grace in my garden. I am sure that the lessons have been behavior corrections that have come in the gentlest way possible. If the flowers are the words of God, then I can believe the bees to be His messengers. They grab my attention, cause me to be still and sit in His presence, they remind me to slow down and focus on Him. Bees have one aim; continuation of the species, shouldn’t I have a similar drive? Or rather;

Shouldn’t I have a singular focus I mean. There should be one thing that causes me to do all things, or that I do all things in the name of. As the drones of bees work solely for their queen shouldn’t my motivation be my King? I believe that it should be. As I go about my daily tasks I am reminded that even though laundry, dishes, and sweeping are menial tasks they are made good in that I do them for Christ. That I do them to model a servant heart for my children and to actually be a servant to my God is what matters. You’ve probably heard that you should “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”(Eph. 6:7), that verse never really made sense to me until I understood the bees. I could’t see how scrubbing toilets, making dinner, grocery shopping could be done for the Lord when these tasks were so clearly just drudgery.

The bees never see it as such of course, they fly from flower to flower spreading pollen, providing for their community, and ultimately ensuring the continuation of not only themselves, but of endless variety of plants, and the creatures who rely on those plants. Do I have that kind of power? If I tend my children with this type of care they can flourish and grow into the people they are meant to be. If I serve my family well and provide for their needs I am allowing them to have a safe place to explore the world and find their place in it. They needn’t worry about where their next meal will come from because they trust me. If I live my life in service to God my people will learn by example that a life of service is fulfilling. Like the bees, I may not see how the way I live will affect my children. The affect of one person is seldom felt in their lifetime, but if I am going to have an impact I want it to be for the kingdom and for good.

As the bees continue to buzz from flower to flower I watch. I sit in the chaos that is my day-to-day and wonder at the chaos that is a working bee hive. Each bee knows its place in service to the queen. As I am still learning my place and position in service to the King of kings, the bees are a good model for me. This is why I will always sit still in my garden on hot July afternoons listening to the buzz of bees and the splashing of children, being reminded that both care nothing for the higher order of the world, they simply trust that there is order. This is why the oregano is still uncut several days later and I count jars of dried herbs on my shelf trying to decide if I can just let the bees have the flowers this year. This is why when I am feeling spent or overwhelmed or too exhausted to do more, I am able to remember (sometimes) that God asks me to do only this task, this work of motherhood. That in His strength I will be able to carry on and that in His wisdom I can discern what must be done next and what can wait.

It is a constant learning and relearning of why I was put here in this place. It would be easier if I could retain these lessons on the first try. I’m very glad though, that if I have to be told multiple times, I have the bees as my teachers, the plants as my textbook and the garden as my school house.

Growing a Garden and a Faithful Heart

 

I LOVE gardening. Before the birth of any of my children I would spend entire days in the yard. I went through a season where, because of my choices for happiness, I couldn’t garden. While those two years held some of my darkest moments all on their own, not being able to dig in the dirt made me sink into a sadness that I didn’t know was inside of me. My sweet husband built me garden boxes to put in front of our townhouse and I filled them with Belles of Ireland, Nasturtiums, Shasta Daisies, Sweet Peas…more. Everyday they made me smile.

Then we spent $30 that we didn’t have on a community garden plot for the good of my soul as much as the good of our grocery budget. I was in gardening heaven! I had a 25×25 foot plot and I filled it. As in; there was barely room to put your feet between the plants. I gardened here for three summers and I have to say the intentionality with which I gardened rebuilt the gardener inside of me. I grew tomatoes and basil, watermelon, onions, and friendships. I learned patience and peacefulness from the old men who came to the plot early in the mornings to water and weed in the quiet (little did they know my 5 and 2 year old children were already there running in the wet grass and squealing with excitement if they found a caterpillar!). I learned from the moms who drug their toddlers into the gardens mid-morning, that I am not alone in this mothering journey, that if I were bold enough I could (gasp) speak to them and possibly make a friend. I learned persistence from the people who came to harvest at the end of their work day, pulling muck boots on with suits and skirts. These people were dedicated to their piece of land, even if it meant squeezing the time in between work and the dinner table.

I’ve gardened a few other places, but really came into my own five summers ago when we bought our current home. See, I left a house that I didn’t necessarily love, but a yard that I had filled with part of my soul. I was excited to have the yard I have now, but I was nearly heartbroken to leave my plants…it sounds lame, I know. We moved in February with no idea what our new yard would look like. I sat in my van in front of the plants I was leaving and I cried. Then I prayed and I continued my prayer for months. I had recently decided that God was actually in charge of my life and that I was done ummm, lets go with messing it up. So I told God that I trusted Him to provide plants for me in my new yard. I silently begged for garden beds brimming with blooms. I humbly asked for even a few flowering plants to nurture. I even prayed that if the yard had no plants, the craigslist ads for free flowers would abound when the time was right.

Over the next four months I cleaned and painted and ripped cabinets off walls. There was a lot of work to be done on our new-to-us house. God met needs I didn’t really even know that I had over that time. I have a vivid memory of my husband being amazed at some thing that I found. He said, “I know God loves us all, but He must REALLY, REALLY love you!” I grinned from ear to ear knowing in the saddest part of my heart that this was true. Then spring came…

Months of asking for any matter of growing things and trusting that there would be something were about to prove fruitful. Plants began showing up in the shady back yard. All over the back yard actually. I took my shovel and began to dig out beds in the sunny front yard. I hauled turf to the back where it could break down, then I built hills in the beds that I was creating, then I built up a big garden bed by a tree with more sod from the front. I moved a lot of earth because there were SO many plants. I was absolutely overwhelmed with Gods kindness toward me. I dug out daisies, wild ditch lilies, lilacs, an insane number of peonies, though I didn’t even know that’s what they were until they flowered. My neighbor from down the road gave me a clump of comfrey, primroses, and tomatoes. I dug a vegetable patch in the back yard. My neighbors next door absolutely thought I was insane. They came over and laughed, actually laughed at me. They told me years ago there had been roses, Asiatic lilies, dogwood…So I looked.

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The second summer I found the roses, moved the lilies, and literally tripped over the dogwood. I continued to trust that God was in control of all of my life. That He cared deeply about my day to day. I know that Gods goal is not just my happiness, He wants me to search after Him with all of my heart and soul. He doesn’t need to lavish His love on me, but I believe that He wants to. He wanted to remind me that there was good for me still. That even though I had been lost and I had made bad choices, there was nothing that I could do to remove myself from His love. Each summer since we moved in I have found new plants, something that was not growing the year before. I have had to work for these gifts. The number of hours I spent with a shovel underfoot can not be counted. In this garden I have built the soil, built muscles, and built my faith and trust in God.

Looking back I can see that these years of trust, love, and flower blossoms are Gods love letter to me. Gardening has been the way God has lured my heart back to His. The way He has kept me close by His side. The way He keeps me looking to Him for provision and the care I will need. While the sea calls to a place deep inside of me, in the earth is where I am at peace with Christ and I know that in the garden is the place I belong.