So I finally made my sowing schedule. 150 seeds; some indoor, some outdoor. The dates are staggered, dependent on soil temperature, or rainfall. I have the indoor peat pots on the way, and 8 lbs of organic dirt is nestled next to my backdoor, much to my husband’s befuddlement (why are we paying for dirt, again? Because the online voices tell me to, honey, it’s fine). I even brought in a hangdog open-air shelving unit from outside and positioned it next to our biggest, sunniest window. All of this is in hopeful anticipation of optimum weather, and the beginning of sowing season. All of this is in direct defiance of the Great Disappointment of last year.
We had two weeks of over-one hundred degree weather last summer, which was anomalous, record-breaking, and morale-destroying. I planted a huge amount of seeds in the ground last spring: six or seven varieties of pumpkins, tomatoes, moss and miniature clover galore (we’re replacing the grass that is so high-maintenance it causes actual rage in me when I have to water it), five varieties of sunflowers, and multiple blueberry bushes.
Not. One. Thing. Lived.
Every single seed and bush I planted remained in the ground, stillborn. To say it was heartbreaking is not an over statement; I had carefully selected every seed. I did the hard work of digging and watering. I talked to the little seeds as they went in; I used the time of weeding to teach our kids about sin and it’s roots, how those roots choke out our lives if we aren’t careful, serious, faithful. I thought it would be a bumper crop of a year; after all, the year before we had so many volunteer plants we had to give pumpkins and berries away…
But then July came, and no sprouts. The land remained dusty brown, and hot. I watered—I went out our back door at five am most mornings and cranked over the drippy, cold tap handle, unravelling the epically long stretch of garden hose, dragging it, slithering, across our half acre backyard. I watered the trees, the bushes, the fallow garden soil. Then that heat came—and by early August I had to accept that the year was a bust. Though I prayed, no miracle occurred. I had to actually look away when friends would send pictures of their zucchinis or flowers blooming happily… my own land was infertile, and my heart hurt with the disappointment.
I thought my decisions over carefully; I certainly could have been more diligent about weeding (why do those blasted things grow when big, gorgeous sunflowers will not?), I could have chosen a different method of watering, or schedule for it. I could have started more indoors, or purchased starter plants instead of seeds… But for all of that, I finally realized one thing, the only thing: my plants didn’t grow because the Lord didn’t will it.
There is no coincidence to the fact that I make my sowing schedule at the same time that I begin planning for next year’s homeschooling. We have five children, all still in elementary, and the selection of a planner alone has taken on the epic feel of an actual Holy Quest. I pore over reviews, overthink, pray, and research, research, research. Then the deep dive into curriculum begins—and oh! The varieties! The options! The opinions! I make a list for each child, and write out what they individually need, praying over them and trying to discern God’s will for them in the upcoming year. As the Good Word says, I prepare my horses for battle. I learn the state of my flocks.
But I can get confused, too, over what my real job is—I can pick out curriculum, I can faithfully, neatly write out our schedule and pray over our year… but God alone will make His Truth take root. God alone will change their hearts, help our children learn to love the revelation of His Son in the created world. God alone will show them His divine spark in magnificent stories, characters who are kindred and brave and True. I can work the land and sow the seeds, but the miracle of growth belongs to the Lord alone.
So last year’s disappointment, my powerless failure, served an important lesson to my heart and perspective as Spring began anew in our home. I am not almighty—I am a joyful gardener. A tender. A sower. I don’t provide the sunshine, but I can help to prune the dark things that may obscure it. I can’t make the seedling take, but I can help to identify the weeds and attack them with vigor. And most of all, I can accept my own limitations in the face of overwhelming heat, yet choose, after discouragement, to step out in faith again, prayerfully sowing the seed and planning the year. Good growth can still happen, despite perceived failure: Because we experienced a year of loss, I believe our next harvest will be the sweeter because its miraculous origins will be the clearer.
Seedling photo by jcomp