The following post is by my good friend Natalie. I read it and I just wanted to share it with y'all, hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)
“The Garden of Life”
By: Natalie Hand
Every March I get the need to put my hands in the dirt and plant a garden. I have this image in my mind of plants overflowing with God’s bounty and it excites me to till up the ground, pull all the weeds and prepare the beds where that miracle we learned about in kindergarten can take root. I envision going out there with my kids and talking about how amazing God is that he can create all this from tiny seeds and bringing in baskets of beautiful fruit and vegetables that we can share at our table. I usually start my day by myself and am joined by a toddler or preschooler (I usually have one of those around) and end the day with a few more kids helping out of curiosity. Feeling quite accomplished at days end with dirt embedded in my knees and the inside my finger nails black, my need to be one with part of God’s creation is satiated. Then the fun begins.
Every evening I enjoy going out there and checking on how things are growing and what new little seedlings have popped up that day. We water and watch, water and watch. I find it so fulfilling and therapeutic to have a front row seat to a tiny part of God’s creation. However, this past summer was another story.
We started the garden like we do every year with great intentions…and then, life happened. Things were going just as we planned. My tomatoes were making their way through the cages, the cucumbers were slowly creeping up their teepee, and the peppers were adding a few more leaves to the stem when our world flipped upside down. On May 20th, instead of celebrating my husbands 38thbirthday, we were at our dear friend’s home consoling, cleaning, and entertaining children because they had just found out that they were miscarrying our 16th Godchild. The days after that were spent doing much of the same and preparing for a funeral for our sweet baby Benedict. After a time of mourning and celebrating the life around us, we buried that little angel who left us entirely too soon, taking with him a little piece of all of our hearts.
The rest of the summer was spent visiting family and participating in youth group trips and events and before we knew it, summer was almost over. When we finally had time to enjoy the garden we worked so hard planting, it was taken over by weeds and the tops of most of the plants became a nice meal to the neighborhood deer. I tried in vain to pull some of the weeds, but as most know when you pull the weeds, the plants come up with it so I eventually gave up on my garden. I didn’t water it, I didn’t check it. It just was and actually still is a mess. All I had envisioned is just now a clutter of unsightly green that I don’t care to look at because when I do, it just reminds me of something that I started out passionate about that now makes me recall all the things I am asked to do and don’t have the drive for anymore. All the things I want to do, but don’t have time for. All the things I need to do, but can’t do because of how busy I have become or just the plain fact that we don’t have the money to do.
As I sat one day just looking at the jumble it became, God revealed to me that this garden is much like parenting. We start out excited as we see this new little creation that God has entrusted us with and we spend time caring and loving them with intensity and caution. We watch their every move. Charting their growth and making sure they are getting all the nourishment they need, physically and spiritually. Teaching them to feed themselves, be independent and how to hold their little hands in prayer. But then somehow, when we are not paying attention, life happens. Work happens. Extracurricular activities become more abundant. Money becomes tight and more jobs need to be attained to make ends meet. We start living to work, not working to live. Prayers become shorter at night and sometimes the Divine Mercy is said because it’s just shorter than the rosary. (Don’t judge).
It made me stop in my tracks. What are we doing? Before I know it, my garden of life will be filled with weeds and the autumn leaves will have filled the beds choking off any life within it because faith got put on the back burner to take care of the daily grind, bills, tuition, clothes and shoes for these kids who haven’t decided yet to stop growing! How big can shoes really get? Did we teach our kids all that really mattered in life? Did we show them by example how to be Catholic or did we just tell them in passing? It made me realize how important it is to pull the weeds out while they are still small so the entire plant won’t come out with them. I pray that one day our harvest will be plentiful and we will be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor instead of trying to weed through to find the goodness and grand picture of a plentiful garden we started out with.