FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE

Life Lessons From My Garden

           

Photo by Paulette J.  Buchanan

Creating and tending flower and vegetable gardens are labors of love.  For me and others I know, gardening offers a therapeutic distraction from various stresses, including — perhaps especially — personal traumas. 

I first started gardening when I was a teenager.  I have always found it fascinating that a little tiny seed contains within it all the DNA needed to grow a strong, healthy plant.  From my teenage years up to my present age in my sixties, nurturing a garden continues to be the healthy distraction I need to offset the stresses and traumas I’ve experienced.  The labor put into gardening pays off big far more times than there are failures, which seems like just the opposite with many things we strive to improve in other aspects of life.

Every time I plant a seed or place in the soil a plant I’ve bought or grown myself, I ask for a blessing.  For my part I provide good soil, water, and sunlight (or a growth light) to give the seed or the plant all that is needed for thriving.  In the garden beds I clear all the weeds, safely exterminate pests, add more soil, and till as needed.  As my plants expand their roots and branches I provide watering in times of no rain and continue feeding, weeding, and pest control so that my plants have optimal growing conditions.

Photos by Paulette J.  Buchanan

In life, as in a garden, I have endeavored to nurture not only my own body, mind, and soul — especially during the droughts of adverse conditions — but to do the same for others.  As an educator, this mindset was especially important.  Too many of my students came from unstable, even destructive families.  My experience of the abuse from my brothers, my witnessing the effects of my father’s PTSD from his POW years during WWII as well as the damage he incurred from the pathological behavior of his father, and feeling the distress from my mother’s all too often bouts with depression gave me first-hand insights into what many of my students experienced in their own unstable families.  How we make our sufferings redemptive is by learning empathy for others traveling difficult roads in life.  In my flower and vegetable gardens I have often had to place two weak plants near each other so that their combined branches and roots could intertwine to give each other the support they needed.  We have to give more time and attention to plants struggling to survive, just as we have to do with ourselves in our struggles and with others trying to get through their own set of difficulties.  In our gardens sometimes we may have to transplant these struggling life forms from bad environments.  We have to be diligent to feed our plants the right nutrients, get rid of any destructive pests, prune off unhealthy parts, and uproot any nutrition-sucking and water-stealing weeds from around those struggling plants.  We have to do the same with ourselves and help others do the same for themselves.  We may need to uproot ourselves from bad environments.  And always we must nourish ourselves with those beliefs, thoughts, and actions that ensure our own growth and positively influence other people’s growth.  We have to prune away and uproot bad habits, and stay away from destructive people that can suck us dry.  Only then can we produce good blooms and good fruit that benefit ourselves and others.  It can take a tremendous amount of effort, and more likely than not some set backs, but the end result can be gloriously rewarding.  In our gardens, not only do healthy plants give us joy and abundant harvests to share with others, but their blossoms nourish our friends the bees, the birds, and the butterflies — important pollinators who labor with us to benefit us all.  It’s a wonderful, meaningful symbiosis.  And a life lesson to apply to ourselves and to our interactions with others.

      

Photos by Paulette J.  Buchanan

As a Christian, I have an appreciation for the many agricultural references and figures of speech found throughout Scripture.  The creation account itself in the first book of the Bible includes a garden, and the last book of the Bible describes a renewed paradise, far surpassing the first one.  I think of the beauty of my gardens, especially my flower gardens, as a glimpse of heaven.  Many credible near death experience (NDE) accounts describe heaven having astoundingly beautiful gardens in a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors that far exceed even what the best of gardens on earth can offer.  The Scriptures’ description of God’s paradise and the accounts of people who have been gifted to see these parts of heaven resonate with my deepest desires for the beauty, peace, and order found in God’s presence.  They speak of a loving God who cares tremendously and intricately for every aspect of His creation, that if God clothes the fields with lilies that He will care for me too.  My gardens help me to realize that the struggles, the stresses, the traumas of this life are temporal and that even my best days are only a shadow of an indescribably beautiful eternity.

Many counselors advise people suffering from traumas to find a hobby, such as gardening, because studies and first-hand experiences demonstrate that doing something creative is crucial in the healing process.  The beauty of a garden helps me practice gratitude and teaches me that our good labors in this life may not bear fruit as quickly as we’d like in the immediate sense, but with patience and endurance those labors will definitely reward us in the next life (and sometimes in this life).  As the Apostle Paul wrote, using gardening imagery, “the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:8b-9).  So, then, with God’s help, let’s not give up tending the gardens of our souls and the souls of others. 

Photo by Paulette J.  Buchanan

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