A few years ago, Steve began a square foot garden. He carefully prepared the soil, planted the seeds, watered them, fed them, nurtured them, and watched them grow. In time, the garden overflowed with strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, beans, peppers, and carrots. Collard greens became a daily meal just to keep up with the abundant harvest. It was a beautiful sight. Because of his continual care, hard work, and dedication, his garden thrived.
For a garden to grow, it requires daily, nurturing care. Too much water, not enough sun, pesky intruders, high winds, and bad soil will surely damage the delicate plants. There are many things in our lives, especially in our families, that require such diligent care, including raising children and building a strong marriage.
Like his garden, we must tend to our child’s every need, especially during the developmental stages. The same holds true for our marriages. We must strengthen our family gardens with love and respect, encourage them with grace and forgiveness, and watch them grow!
Of course, this is easier said than done. There will be trying times and seemingly impossible obstacles. It will require hard work, maybe harder than you are willing to give, and constant care. You will need patience, support, protection, and most importantly, faith. We must put our trust in God and remember His plans are for good, not to harm but to prosper, to grow, and to thrive!
In Steve’s garden, there were seeds that took only days to sprout and were ready to harvest within a few months. Others, like our pineapple, took years…literally years! But, they were worth the wait and the work.
Anyone with a toddler knows the importance of patience. This morning, my precious two year old threw a tantrum within minutes of waking. Such a mean mommy I was to not let her have a piece of Halloween candy the moment she got out of bed! Patiently I waited, teetering back and forth in my mind between prayer and frustration. Eventually, she peeled herself off the floor and we enjoyed a healthy breakfast together snuggled up on the couch. Tantrums require patience. Trying to catch and dress your wild child requires patience. Helping them finish a science project your little darling had a over month to complete requires patience.
Marriages are not any different. We may not lose our cool over a piece of candy, but we are easily frustrated with our spouses. Stress, finances, habits, can all lead to meltdowns if we do not patiently work through our problems. There will undoubtedly be tough times. Crippling times. Our patience will be tested. Despite our greatest efforts, the road to recovery will seem unreachable. It is then we must call on our character-building, faith-defining, patience and wait for our relationships to grow.
There were certain plants in his garden that required additional support. His tomatoes grew upright and became heavy when they produced fruit. Without the support, the plants would break or bend to the ground and be susceptible to disease and pests. His beans and peas would sprawl everywhere without guided support, quickly overtaking the garden.
Children definitely need our support, our guidance, as they grow. We support their hands as they learn to walk, we support their curiosity as they explore, we reluctantly support their choice in boyfriends and then offer support when they are heartbroken. Likewise, supporting our spouses is imperative to a strong marriage. Without support, our families are left to fend for themselves, possibly growing in the wrong direction or becoming overburdened with the pressures and demands of this world. In addition, we may need to seek outside support.
First and foremost, come to the Lord in prayer. James 1:5- If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. Next, seek counsel, a family member, or a trusted friend to help you through life’s difficult times. Raising a child is tough. Being married is tough. Both are absolutely worth it, but tough. A little support can help your family grow!
Steve’s garden was not without its struggles. The Florida sun proved too harsh for some of his plants and required additional shade. A few squirrels became very fond of his fruits and vegetables, causing daily damage. Aphids, birds, and our new puppy also had their fare share of fun in his garden. He introduced ladybugs, built enclosures, and did all he could to protect his developing plants. Even the strongest of trees can succumb to external attacks.
For 30 years, I watched my father’s avocado tree grow. At nearly 60 feet in height, it has survived frosts, droughts, and hurricanes. Despite the unruly environmental factors, it produced an incredible crop year after year. This last crop was a bumper crop, producing an overabundance of avocados. The harvest was so large, we spent hours as a family picking up fallen avocados from the ground before they rotted. The tree was flourishing so we did not even see the disease that began to take over. A couple of months after this great harvest, the tree was completely dead.
Disaster can strike at any moment. In our worst or in our best of times. It can build up throughout the years or arrive in the blink of an eye. We live in a fallen world that is unpredictable and does not discriminate. It attacks your strengths and your weaknesses, comes after you and your family, and appears without warning. Like extra watering or a little weeding, some problems are easily thwarted. Others will crush us. This crazy world will corrupt our children and our marriages, deceive them, offer them “happiness,” and send them down a thorny path. Everyday, we must put on our armor of God, raise our shield, pull out our sword, and defend what we cherish most.
Last year, our house was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma, followed by a series of tragic events that nearly destroyed our family. Our faith was tested, our love questioned, and our future was uncertain, but we believe in the power of prayer, the strength of someone much bigger than ourselves and our problems. We know what it takes to make our garden grow.
Recently, we moved back in and are slowly getting back to our routine. But it is going to take time to fully return to normal. This week, Steve started a new garden, only this time, our daughter was old enough to participate. How wonderful it will be to see the benefits of gardening through her eyes! As she watches the little seeds grow, she will learn important life lessons required for their garden to prosper.
Put in the care. Watch your gardens grow.