Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Planting a garden is so much like my journey

Owww, ohhhh, ugh: These are the words that best describe my vocabulary for the past 12 hours or so, all signs of a wonderfully productive weekend consisting of hard, manual labor of gardening. My body is telling me that I worked it harder in the past three days than I have in a very long time and the stiffness, pain, and achiness will be a reminder all week of what my body is now capable of doing. It is refreshing to be sore for a purpose as opposed to all those years that I was (and still sometimes am) in constant physical pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis, undoubtedly aggravated and compounded by the excess weight. Just like the effects of a new exercise or training routine, this will pass, and hopefully there will be a pay-off in a few weeks when the plants begin to bloom.

God certainly blessed us with perfect weather all weekend: warm and sunny for three days with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees. Absolutely gorgeous and perfect for my gardening projects. I was outside every morning before 6 a.m. and worked well into the late afternoon, but I have five of the gardens almost done, just about all of the plants in, the pond up and running, and am making progress. I still have five more little beds to do next weekend, as well as a lot of clean-up and final touches, but I’m getting there. Of course, then comes the maintenance part. Now I just have to wait for the perennials to bloom and the plants to take root. I kept telling a neighbor who stopped over yesterday that “Just wait, as soon as everything blooms it will be beautiful!” The best is yet to come; and yet, once perennials bloom and display their glory for a few weeks, it’s all over for another year. I shouldn’t be impatient and rush the season because it takes SO long to come back around next year. (Note to self: practice what you preach, Theresa….Enjoy the process! LOL)

One of the things I like best about gardening is that it provides me with an opportunity to escape into my own thoughts; to avoid the normal stressors that often occupy my mind. No matter what I do, however, I am still a deep thinker and can rarely turn off my mind. As I hauled dirt and rocks, dug and planted, pulled weeds, etc…, my thoughts were on our journey to wellness and to become better, more loving and happier people.

As I do each day, I prayed earlier that day that God would “open my eyes and ears to the ways in which He reveals himself to me.” This happens in the day-to-day things that I do, and this weekend was no exception. Planting a garden is so much like our journey and God spoke to me over and over as I escaped into the tasks at hand, surrounded by His glorious creation. Let me elaborate:

One of the first things that must be done when digging a new bed or garden is to have a plan. One of my neighbors offered to go to the recycle place in town to get me compost and dirt and kept asking, “How much do you want; where should I dump it,” etc…?  He became a bit frustrated when I said, “I don’t know yet….I’m not sure how much I need…. I haven’t decided….” These were all true statements, because I honestly didn’t know where the pond would go, what the garden would look like, where I was going to put the vegetables, until I made a plan and changed it multiple times. When I pull the “gardening stuff (wind chimes, shepherd’s hooks, statues, etc…) out of the shed each spring, I have no idea where they will end up each season. Likewise, I bring home flats of flowers and hanging baskets, and I have no idea what pot or garden will become their summer home. It takes rearranging, moving, stepping back and looking, moving again, often many times, before I’m satisfied, and then all summer long I’ll be moving and adjusting as the flowers bloom and spread out.  For three days, the entire yard is full of bags of dirt, rocks, garden tools, plants of all sorts, all kinds of “stuff”, making the place a total mess for a couple of days, but it’s important to have all the tools and things I need in order to create my masterpiece.

Our journey is just like this. Although I started my journey on a whim….no pre-planning involved….just a moment of epiphany at 6 p.m. one night in the middle of the week…. I immediately had to go out and get the “tools” needed to succeed. In my case, it was a calorie counting book and healthy food. As you go about your own journey, or contemplate starting one, either for the first time or AGAIN, you will find it is helpful to have a plan and be prepared. This means getting rid of the junk food, finding a support group or weight loss plan if you so desire, reaching out to others who share your struggles or addictions, speaking to a doctor or counselor about medication or therapy, and stocking your pantry with healthy options to make it easier to make good choices. If you start a new weight loss plan and don’t have these things at hand, or you give up smoking or drinking and still have your vices stashed away in a drawer someplace, then the temptation to eat chips or cookies at 10 p.m. when the munchies happen, or to smoke or drink at the first sign of stress will become a stumbling block. Sometimes you even have to change things up, get new friends, make new habits, or try something new if you find that what you’re doing isn’t working.  Get a plan….get all the stuff and tools you need…..and then get busy.

As I took some of the plants out of the plastic pots, once again, I thought about our journey. Some of them were a bit tattered and showed stress; some had roots that had become ‘pot bound’ and were struggling to be “free”, others had roots that barely held the dirt. Some were dried out and some were loaded with buds. A quick glance at the information label stuck in the pots revealed that each of them had different ideal growing needs. Some needed more space and sun to grow than others; some had the potential to grow tall and lanky while others were short and squatty; some needed to be planted deeper than others and each had their own expected blooming time. Some would need extra support and staking; others would grow strong roots that went deep and would stand up to the hot sun, wind, or weather.

Again, so much like us. Each of us are unique in our requirements to bloom and reach our potential... Some of us, like me, need a lot of personal space and time alone to reflect, pray, and think; others desire to be surrounded by others or live in a house full of people. Some of us need extra “support” and join a weight loss, addiction recovery, or church group to help us be strong when life issues threaten our growth. Others have deep roots and are determined from the get-go to succeed and are able to withstand all that life throws at them. Some reach their potential earlier than others and some require more care than others. In the same way, some of us come “out of the pots” a bit more bruised, tattered, or damaged by the wear-and-tear of life’s hurts and have an uphill battle to reach our potential. Regardless of the individual needs of each plant, and our individual needs to succeed, when we all bloom and blossom together, it will create a masterpiece of breath-taking beauty…..but IT TAKES TIME!

I spent a lot of time this weekend pulling weeds. This will be something that I need to do almost daily throughout the season. Gosh, they grow everywhere and are very difficult to control. It’s amazing how deep their roots are and how easily they grow in even the harshest conditions. Sure, I could have just planted my vegetables and flowers in the midst of them, but in order to give the plants the best chance at survival, not to mention to make the beds look better, I had to get rid of the weeds that would rob the new plants of nutrients and water, crowd out their roots, or threaten to overtake them. Again….just like our journey. Sometimes we have no control over our “garden’ and we are surrounded by “weeds” every day. We may not have the ability to get rid of those “annoyances….that irritating co-worker or neighbor, critical in-law or spouse, or anyone else who frustrates, aggravates, or threatens to sabotage or success,” and we have no choice but to dwell in the same area together, doing our best to grow and blossom. Other times, however, those weeds come in the form of our own thought and attitudes. Things like doubt, despair, hopelessness, unworthiness, and shame can run very deep and be hard to remove. Likely we will have to keep at it EVERY DAY because negativity grows easier than positivity and can stand up to even the harshest elements. Those thoughts and attitudes, however, are the very things that will rob us of what we need to grow.

At the end of the day yesterday, I sat on my swing and just looked at the two gardens that are about done. I told my neighbor, “Just wait until July when it is in full bloom, it will be beautiful!” I immediately followed that with, “Yeah, but I guess it is such a short-lived season, that I should enjoy it at all stages of growth.”  Hmmm…..again…..just like our journey. Certainly, we all want to reach our goal and we think that life will be so much better when we do, but what about the process of getting there?  What about the joy and excitement I will get each day when I go out and see that one of the plants are producing buds or another is just about ready to bloom?  What about the thrill of seeing a battered, bruised up plant that I never expected to grow take root and send off new growth?  What about the ever-changing signs of new life that will be on display each day? 

Sigh…..Thank you, God, for the reminder to enjoy the process of changing my life. We all become impatient at times and would like to wake up ‘at goal,” but what will we miss in the process?  How about the joy of being able to zip up a pair of pants this week that didn’t fit last month?  What about the thrill of seeing the scale drop below 250…or 200….pounds for the first time in years?  What about the victorious feeling of being able to discover that you can do something that you couldn’t do last summer?  Getting to be where we want to be is a long process….and trust me…once you get where you want to be, it is a LOT OF HARD WORK to stay there!  No matter what stage we are at the journey, it takes daily maintenance to keep it looking beautiful. Enjoy the joy and anticipation of each new day.

So…..as you can see, God continually speaks to me through nature and He will likely continue to use my garden and the world around me to teach me/remind me/reveal Himself to me throughout the summer. Bottom line:  My hard work this past weekend…and in the coming weeks as I tackle the remaining five gardens…are completely in vain without the grace of God. Try as I may, I cannot make a vegetable grow or a flower bloom. It is all dependent on God….His light shining down on the plants; His blessings falling from the heavens in the form of rain to quench the dry soil; His mercy in providing favorable growing conditions. I must cooperate and do my part by making the soil as fertile as possible; pulling weeds, watering, staking, and pruning in order to help my plants reach their fullest potential.  Mostly, I will sit back and marvel in God’s handiwork and be grateful for the beauty that surrounds me.  Likewise… I cannot succeed in my own journey without the Grace of God. Not one single thing about this journey is my own doing; it is only by His mercy and spirit because I am completely powerless, but WITHOUT MY COOPERATION and WILLINGESS to daily work at it….I would not bloom, grow, or succeed. Gardening, like life, is a partnership.  As I’ve said before many times, I believe in miracles. I believe that God can move mountains, but I need to pick up the shovel and start digging!  Are you willing to endure the aches and pains, the time and energy, the hard work to cooperate with God to create a masterpiece in your life that will exceed your wildest dreams?  Are you willing to pick up the shovel and get busy?  I hope so!

Make it a great day today, my friends!