One of the highlights during the growing season happens when I transplant my seedlings to the garden. A few years ago, I decided to start using seeds rather than plants. My reasoning was simple – large quantities of plants can get expensive. I called my Gardening and Canning Jedi-master, Brenda, who recommended a reputable company with organic and conventional seeds. I made my first purchase before thinking through the entire process. You see, seedlings require a lot of “accessories.” I mean, what girl doesn’t like accessories? I needed containers, grow lights, heating pads, moisture domes, potting soil and the list goes on. At one point, Jeremiah sarcastically looked at me and said, “Cheaper, huh?” Brenda laughed and reassured me that once the initial investment was made, it was not only more affordable, but much more rewarding. She was right.
From March to mid-April, everyone in my family understands that momma is starting and caring for “the babies.” By babies, I mean my plants have been seeded indoors and the process it takes to get them ready for the garden. Go ahead and laugh, but you need to know that any good farmer would take you to the woodshed if they heard you. The process usually starts with the seed germination on a heating pad, followed by several weeks under grow lights. A week or two before they make their way to the garden, I work to “harden” these little plants by introducing them to the elements. A combination of wind, water, and sun help the steams grow stronger. Some people will use a “cold frame” to help ease the transition. The first year I started seedlings, I skipped the hardening process in my excitement, and rushed them into nature’s vicious elements losing half of them in a day. There’s nothing more frustration than working hard for 6 weeks caring for seedlings only to lose them in the scorching sun. Lesson learned: be more careful with “the babies.”
With that backstory, you’ll understand the biggest dilemma I face each year: over-planting. You see, after growing so attached to “the babies,” I hate to see any of them not planted in the garden. It’s become a joke when I tell my husband that I won’t use them all. He knows that despite my good intentions, I will find ANY extra space and shove in a few more. Now I’m going to tell you a little gardening secret - Plants grow. They grow a lot. And in some cases, they become HUGE. My tomato plants are no exception. People are always shocked by how tall they get. This year, several of them are over 7 feet tall. The problem with over planting is that it leads to overcrowding. When plants don’t have enough space, they lack proper air circulation and sun exposure to keep them dry. This is one of reason why gardeners shape and prune certain plants (another topic for another day). Too much moisture, from rain or watering, can make a plant become more susceptible to disease and fungus. Once that starts, it can spread to other plants and slowly contaminate the garden, reducing the harvest.
This next heart lesson is one God continues to remind me about. Just like the garden, I can allow passion and excitement to lead my heart rather than God. As a result, I can easily overcrowd my life leaving little room to tend to my soul. If there’s one thing I can tell you for certain, an overcommitted life leaves no room to cultivate what truly matters. Even things that seem good can leave little room for the Holy Spirit to blow and bring inspiration and refreshing. If we don’t create space in our walk with God, we are in danger of being overtaken by issues of the soul or the warfare around us.
John Eldredge talks about this concept brilliantly in his talk entitled, “The Spirit of the Age.” To sum it up, the world around us has become consumed with busyness. We are constantly on the go and eager to fill it with more. Multi-tasking is celebrated. Working long hours is rewarded. And having your kids engaged in every school activity, church activity, or community sporting event has become the norm. How sad is it when we respond to questions about our life with, “I’ve been so… busy.” I know I’m guilty of it. How does one combat a world that celebrates an overcrowded life? And let’s be honest, it’s even crept into the church. I remember hearing a pastor celebrate one of his parishioners from the pulpit: “Billy is so faithful. He’s here every time the doors are open!” In that church, it meant that he dragged his family out to every worship service, revival meeting, bibles study, and prayer meeting 5 or more nights a week. Is that what spiritual maturity is?
Recently, my husband introduced me to Dallas Willard. In his book called, “The Divine Conspiracy,” Dallas talks about what it takes to cultivate a walk with God. It comes down to recognizing Sabbath: “Very practically, Sabbath is simply ‘casting your cares upon Him,’ to find that in actual fact ‘He cares for you.’ (I Peter 5:7) It is using of the keys to the kingdom to receive the resources for abundant living and ministering.” How do we receive? Through times of silence, solitude and fasting/abstinence. It happens when we actively turn our hearts away from the culture of congestion and offer our souls rest, leaving room to hear the voice of God.
Several of my girlfriends have heard me talk about this in terms of practicing “Soul Care.” For me, I’ve found greater inspiration and creativity by getting outside, taking walks, or sitting in silence while drinking a cup of coffee. I’m choosing not to check my emails, voicemail, or messages as soon as I get up. I choose to remove social media from my phone for days at a time. At times, I have to say no to ministry opportunities. Heaven forbid! Before you start thinking I’m a saint, know that these practices are a daily battle. It’s not easy. But I am learning to stop more. I’m learning to enjoy more. And it’s amazing how much more thankfulness and joy come to my heart.