I have been posting a lot of pictures of my flower "babies" online. While my actual children are even more gorgeous, this time of year I am much more likely to take pictures of my flowers than of my girls...much to the dismay of their grandparents! With the advent of Facebook in my life this year, there are many more people looking at my flower pictures and I have had several comments regarding the apparent "greenness" of my thumb. SOooooo, that got me thinking...
Is my thumb really any "greener" than anyone else's...do I have a particular "gift" or talent for gardening? Clearly, I am not creating these magnificient flowers. I am not imagining these shapes or colors, like an artist painting a picture or a sculptor fashioning her masterpiece. What is it about me that makes me a "gardener?" As I pondered this, it occurred to me that there are two primary things that I possess that contribute to the beauty of my garden. The first is a passion for flowers and the second is the willingness to get dirty.
Simply put, I love flowers. I delight in flowers. I find a tremendous amount of joy in looking at flowers, caring for flowers, and watching plants transform from ugly tubers or seedlings into works of art. My family finds it alternately endearing and/or embarrassing that I often squeal with delight (yes, out loud) when I spot a particularly colorful display along our travels or notice a new baby bloom in our yard when we arrive home. The amazing fact that some also have a heavenly scent is just too wonderful for words. I love the varieties of greens that are found in God's imagination and the extraordinary vibrancy of the colors of His blossoms. I find pleasure in perusing garden catalogues, garden books, and garden websites. I enjoy doing research to find the perfect plant for that particular spot in the ever-changing, always evolving painting that is my garden. Except for being pregnant, gardening is the closest thing to participating in a miracle that I have ever experienced.
Growing flowers, however, requires getting dirty. Flowers grow in dirt and playing in the dirt is messy. Digging, planting, pruning, weeding, mulching, feeding and watering will produce dirt, sweat, aching muscles and, eventually, hopefully, God willing, flowers. While generally fairly well groomed, I get very sweaty and very dirty when I am gardening. It isn't pretty, but it is worth it. 90% of the time, I am extremely happy while working in the garden, despite the sore muscles and dirty clothes. The other 10% of the time it is just hard work that has to be done in order to achieve the intended goal, so I grit my teeth and get it done. Sometimes, especially this time of year, I can't wait to get out in the garden and I am happy from the moment I begin. Other times, it seems a big hassle to change clothes, get my tools and gloves and set aside my other activities long enough to garden. Yet, once I get started, I lose myself in the task at hand and find the joy that I knew was waiting there all along. As the season progresses, the hard labor of the spring transitions into the maintenance tasks of summer. In the height of summer, a little weeding, a little feeding, and a little watering are mostly just good excuses to be closer to the explosion of flowers and the butterfly friends that they attract.
Passion and a willingness to get dirty is all I really bring to the equation. The transformation of ugly dirt into colorful blooms is entirely God's job. No matter how hard I work, I can't create a single flower. What I can do, however, is provide an environment where God can work His magic. Providing fertile soil, planting flowers in the appropriate aspect, making sure the weeds don't get too thick and the plants don't go too long without water are my attempts at participating in the miracle of creation. Because He loves me and He placed a creative spark within me, God allows me to get involved in the details of His masterpiece. Would daylilies look good next to the coneflowers? Which attracts more butterflies; shasta daisies or black-eyed susans? Can I possibly get away with another purple flowering plant without it just being ridiculous? Sometimes my experiments work out beautifully, other times I learn that certain plants prefer slightly different treatment and I choose to rip them out and move them to another place in my garden or dispose of them entirely. As I travel further down this gardening path, I become a little wiser, a little more experienced and a little braver about trying something new. Sometimes, despite my mistakes and neglect, something unplanned and unexpectedly beautiful blooms in the garden and I am reminded once again that I never really was in charge.
I think my walk with the Lord is a great deal like my journey as a gardener. All I really bring to the equation is a passion for Him and the willingness to do the "dirty work" in my desire to be in His presence. Any transformation that takes place, any fruit that my life bears, is entirely His doing, His creation, to His glory. I can create an environment where I am more likely to see Him work His magic, but I cannot create one single beautiful flower on my own. Somedays, just like in the garden, the weather is fine and the work is joyful. Other days, the work is just hard and messy...the weeds threaten and it is just too hot to garden. Yet occasionally, on those especially grace-filled days, in spite of my neglect, the flowers bloom and the butterflies arrive anyway.