by Candice Watters
I’ve always loved the thought of having a garden. More accurately, I’ve loved the idea of organic, fresh produce just a few steps away from my cutting board and salad bowl. Every spring when warm breezes return and the grass starts greening, I think wistfully of sowing seeds in loamy soil, of donning a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of rubber clogs, and of beginning a long summer of growing. I head to the gardening stores and walk dreamily up and down aisles stocked with seed packets, tender shoots, and gardening gloves to imagine what might be.
But every year, reality sets when I head to the back yard to plot out a plan. The worms wiggling beneath toys and tools left out by the kids remind me of my aversion to all things creepy-crawly. Then there are the rocks that hide beneath the surface, ready to clash with every stroke of the garden hoe. Finally, I touch the soil itself–a red and clay-dense mass of defiance. For all the benefits of a garden, the sheer scope of what a real-life garden will require overwhelms me.
In Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, Gloria Furman talks about how her kids’ commitment to follow through is her secret weapon for imposing self-discipline. She writes,
If you want to have consistent accountability for something, then just tell a preschooler what you’re planning to do and make sure it contains the word “always.” For example, I can’t stand to see a bowl of cookie dough tossed into the sink to be washed unless it is already “cleaned.” To combat my cookie dough self-discipline problem, I enlisted my daughter.
“Mom, you said you weren’t going to eat any more cookie dough because you were always going to give the bowl to us!”
I decided to put that same tendency in our kids to work for a garden. Before I could talk myself out of it, I told our kids the plan. “Hey kids, this spring, let’s plant a garden.” They were making lists of what we’d plant within minutes of my announcement. There’s a lot to be said for the accountability of children! It helps that they’re getting old enough to pitch in and even lead the effort. I also asked a friend who grew up with parents who gardened, to show us what she knows. She’s helping us along the way, creating opportunities for us to learn, as well as time to be together as friends.
Thorns and thistles are easy to grow. But gardening is a lot of work, as are all things worth doing. Beets, broccoli, and bok choy take effort. But it’s an effort that’s already bearing fruit, just days into the process.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to work together as a family on a seasons-long project; to have a reason to be daily in the yard, watering, weeding, and talking; to be sharing in the joy of a good result, as well as the challenge of pressing through when we’d rather rest; and hopefully, to reap a harvest. Whether we’ll have more zucchini than we can give away, time will tell. For now, I’m enjoying the lessons of our seeds and seedlings, and I’m thankful for the ability to be fruitful, one shovelful of dirt at a time.
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