New Year’s Day, 2012: It was unseasonably toasty as the record-warm winter reached
its mid-season celebration. Just one year prior, our North Carolina hometown had had its first white Christmas in fifty years. What a contrast that was to the 70-degree-sunshine that now crowned my head as I headed outside on January 1st!
Being relatively new to North Carolina, I was elated by the weather. The contrast to the northern gray skies to which I had become accustomed, living north of the Mason Dixon most of my life, was enough to make me sing! I love the outdoors, and the blue sky extracted me from my family room, still decorated with evidence of torn Christmas wrapping paper.
The warmth made it seem like I should be gardening, though the threat of frost could not be far around the corner; it was January after all, despite the day’s forecast. I remembered I had bulbs to plant – the perfect solution to my garden craving, since they required weeks of cold before they could bloom.
As a clever house-warming gift, my parents had sent bulbs from their Colorado garden. I grabbed my bulb-planter from the garage while dreams of tulips, lilies, and daffodils danced in my head. Unlabeled upon arrival, these seeds would each present a surprise color as they emerged from the ground in 6-8 weeks. The love of gardening was passed to me by my father, who was raised on a Kansas farm, where his mother, 96, still lives and gardens. Now I would have a piece of my parents’ garden in my own, like a cycle of life that would continue to keep giving, year after year.
I was in a dreamy mood. That morning’s church service was full of praise to God for giving us another year of life, and the gifts that it included.
No, I didn’t have an iPod plugging my ears. I was alone with my tools, the unwrapped bulbs from my parents and the dirt from God. I began the project.
“This is My Father’s World…” I sang three verses while I planted His seeds in His soil and sprinkled with His provided water. My knee cushion had the worth of gold, as I scooted it sideways on the backyard path, planting a pattern of what I assumed would become tulips. I sang and “painted” a rectangle, matching the bricks that encompassed.
I moved to the next flowerbed, with what looked like 80 more bulbs in the shipping box. Scattering bulbs down either side of the stone walkway, I hoped for a beautiful array of color by spring. I imagined looking out the back windows from my homeschool room.
“In the rustling grass, I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere,” I sang.
Wow. I really had no idea how far 100 bulbs would go, nor how much effort it took to dig a hole for each one! Two flowerbeds done, and I still had at least 60 bulbs!
I moved to the front of the house. This time, I dug large holes and tossed a smattering
of bulbs into each. I figured this “confetti” look would be good out near the road, in front of the backdrop of the hedges, which seemed boring in contrast.
“Great is Thy Faithfulness!” I sang another hymn as I dug holes in pure clay. Thinking of Jesus’s words from Matthew 13, regarding the seed growing in the proper soil, I filled the cavities with some potting soil to better provide for the smattering of bulbs in each.
Twenty bulbs left, and my shoulders ached. My knees didn’t want to bend back into the position for digging. My working sweat was giving me a chill as the temperature dropped with the sun. I pushed on, not knowing the weather forecast for the following day. “Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials there…” came the song out of my mouth, as I forced my body into much needed work to overcome the holiday sedentary state in which I had been. The songs rang through my ears, and I praised God for the gift of a beautiful day, and the colorful hope that each seed represented.
100 bulbs done.
And I rested.
One week after that worship-filled Sunday for which I praised God, I looked outside to see a pattern.
There was a dark pattern around the rectangle perimeter of the backyard flowerbed. Dark spots lined each side of the stepping-stones.
Were the flowers starting to emerge already, in just one week?
I went out the front door to check on the others, and the dark spots were there too. Large HOLES broke up the potting soil next to the hedges, and HOLES were in the woodchips lining the sidewalk to the door.
SOMETHING HAD EATEN THE BULBS!!!!!
I raced around to the back of the house, and to my dismay, the holes continued.
Like some horror flick, “holes” made a pattern as if leading me to the culprit, but no culprit was to be found.
I felt like a thief had come in the night and destroyed my hope for a colorful spring. All of the times in the past when I had enjoyed watching a squirrel run in the grass, a raccoon race up the tree or a fox and deer relax in my back yard became negative thoughts as I blamed them all, not sure which one was so selfish as to steal my dream!
“I wasted my New Year’s Day!” I thought, just as I heard a favorite song on Pandora: “I’m smellin’ coffee, birds are singing just outside!” Chris Rice carried the tune, which I recognized as one that I had happily hummed the day I had planted the bulbs.
No, I guess I hadn’t wasted New Year’s Day. No one (or animal!) could take away the joy-filled day I had had: grateful for the gift my parents had given me, happy to be singing of My Father’s World. I had enJOYed the planting.
It reminds me of a John Maxwell quote that says success shouldn’t be measured by the harvest that we reap, but by the seeds that we plant.
I am not naïve enough to believe that every seed that I plant in my children, my husband, my brothers, sisters-in-Christ and neighbors will bring a harvest. But I want to be naïve enough to enJOY the planting anyway. We are responsible for the planting, but only God can make them grow.
1Cor3:7 says, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
And grow they did!
Six weeks later, as spring arrived, the same pattern became visible: the rectangular bed, the stoned path, the smattering in the hedges, all in a beautiful array of colors. I don’t know if the animal had decided to leave pieces behind, or if the pieces he had taken were too insignificant to affect the overall painting, but God had made the right seeds grow in the right time.
He always does.
May He bless your days of planting for Him,