I bought an 8 ft x 4 ft raised garden bed kit at Sam's. I located a spot in our yard to set it up. And then I bought soil. Lots and lots of soil. Bags and bags of MiracleGro Garden Soil, top soil, and manure. It seemed that the more soil I added, the more I still needed. Multiple trips to garden centers and home improvement stores. Multiple. It got a little embarrassing.
Finally, the bed was filled and the real fun began -- planting. Reminder: I have no experience. But I did have a lot of faith in my little 8 x 4 foot raised garden bed. So much so that I planted just about every vegetable plant I could find.
I basically ignored all the instructions about distances between each plant, amount of sunlight needed, etc., etc. My theory was, "the more the merrier," or rather, "the more plants I plant, the more vegetables I'll yield." I was an optimist. Definitely NOT a gardener.
The other day I picked my last little tiny tomato and realized the growing season had come to a close. And while I didn't grow enough to lower my grocery bill even in the slightest, I did learn a great deal. And I'm hooked. In spite of everything I did wrong, I loved the experience. I saw so many incredible things and learned so many important lessons, I just have to do it again. And again. And again.
So, what did I learn? There were spiritual lessons throughout this whole endeavor. Every day there was something new to see -- something new to learn -- something new to remind me of God and His presence all around me. I just had to pay attention.
So, here are the spiritual lessons I learned in my first try at gardening. They might seem trivial. And overly obvious. Still, they were important reminders to me. In no particular order:
- Watch out for the little guy. When you put pepper plants in the middle of cucumber and zucchini, the pepper plants don't have a chance. In the midst of big guys, little guys can easily get lost -- neglected -- forgotten. There are lots of little guys in this world. They're all around us. And they're often getting lost in the midst of the big guys. We need to stop that from happening. We need to look out for them.
- Every single day there is something new to look at. Every day. In the morning, and then often again in the middle of the day, and at the end. God is always working. God is always making new things, bringing new life to the world. Miracles all around us. Don't stop looking for all the ways that God is at work in the world.
- You can have too much of a good thing. More plants do not always yield more fruit. More is not always better. It can be overwhelming. Too many plants fighting over the same resources. And in life, if you try to invest yourself in too many things, often you will do nothing with excellence.
- Stay humble. Admit what you don't know, and then ask lots of questions. Gardeners love to share their knowledge when you humbly ask their advice. There are people all around us who have incredible life experience. Ask their advice. And then listen -- really listen.
- Give things plenty of room to grow. Sometimes space is a good thing. Plants need their space, and so do people. Sometimes the best thing we can do is just give someone room to grow.
- Stop several times throughout the day just to ponder this incredible truth: we get to partner with God in His miracles. Wow.
- Watch out for things that want to eat you. There are nice bugs, and then there are plant-eating bugs. Not everything is friendly in the garden, so keep your eye out for the bad guys.
- Learn from your mistakes. Next year don't plant cucumbers 2" apart from each other. Or zucchini. Or peppers. Now you know, so just make sure you do things differently next time. Learn. That's what we're supposed to do. Mistakes will come, but be humble enough to learn from them and don't be afraid to change your behavior -- change your attitude -- change your mind.
- Be patient. Everything comes in its own time, and you can't rush it. Pick too soon and you'll lose the full potential of the vegetable -- the taste, size, texture. Watch and WAIT. Good things are almost always worth the wait.
- You can't procrastinate. The plants need watering NOW. And then they'll need watering again tomorrow. And the next day. There's no room for putting things off. Nature doesn't wait for your schedule to clear.
- Sometimes you just have to do the hard thing and pull out a plant that's not producing. Hard things. They are a part of life. Whether you like it or not, they will come. Sometimes, the best thing to do is also the hardest thing to do.
- There is a calm yet powerful rhythm to a garden. Water. Sun. Growth. Water. Sun. Growth. We were also created to live in routine and rhythm. It's healthy. It's how we grow. It's how we sustain our spiritual lives -- with a sense of routine and rhythm.