Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Four Things My Garden Has Taught Me About Being an Adult

Sometime in February I got the insatiable urge to have a garden. Every fiber in my being suddenly wanted to tend to and grow a successful garden. (Possibly my subconscious' way of creating a place holder for a dog or a baby so that I could exercise my nurturing side without interrupting my sleep schedule.) So, I budgeted for dirt, seeds, seed trays and all sorts of plant-related accessories that I never knew existed before 2013.

I started off my seeds, doing my best to create a makeshift greenhouse, while it was still cold outside. I bought pots and when they were ready, I did my best to transplant them. Some I transplanted successfully, others I literally ripped the roots so badly that they whithered up and died within hours. Now that it's hot in Nashville I put my pots out on my back patio and I'm happy to report that they are doing surprisingly well for the most part! However, as I take time with them each day, it has occurred to me that gardening teaches four important lessons about life as an adult.

1. Doing research is important, but nothing replaces having a mentor
Before I started my garden, I did a lot  of research on Pinterest. I figured out what the best and cheapest brands were, I studied techniques, I figured out what to plant when, but as I've been gardening, I've run into trouble. Sometimes things whither up and die or just stop growing and I don't know why. Thankfully, I've found a community of gardeners (my boss, classmates, even my in-laws) who enjoy gardening and have already experienced the issues I'm facing.

I'm finding that as much as I love my husband, there are days when he tests me (and I him) and while books we've read on marriage may be helpful, it has been the community of encouragement and help that I've found with friends and women from church that have helped us continue to grow and not "whither and die." Part of my day job involves mentoring college student leaders on a daily basis and I've enjoyed watching them grow as they've come to me to ask me about things ranging from to getting a job, to spiritual questions, to how to handle difficult situations, to dating advice. Now that I've experienced both sides of the mentorship relationship, I can tell you that it benefits both parties and even though both gardening and self-help information out there on the Internet and in books, nothing replaces good, old-fashioned relationships with someone who has already been through at least a few seasons of proverbial farming.

2. Quick growth doesn't always ensure stability
Several of my seeds SHOT out of the ground. Seriously. One day there was dirt in a tray and then next there were three-inch stems and leaves sticking out of the ground. However, this turned out to be my garden's version of the tortoise and the hare. Most of my hare plants actually ended up dying when I transplanted them. I saw how big they were and how quickly they grew so I transplanted them early. Mistake.

Moral of the story? Sometimes when things happen quickly, they're not always as stable as they seem. I'm learning more and more every day that there is no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme in life. Sometimes it takes time and careful growth to ensure that projects, relationships, or almost anything else will thrive.

3. Not everything that gets planted produces fruit
Behold, my lemon.

Yes. That is a lemon.

From a Dwarf Meyer Lemon Tree. I bought this three-year-old plant and it came with two flowers and a tiny bud of a lemon. The lemon bud grew and as it aged it started to change from a dark green to a bright yellow exterior... and then it fell off and died. 

Lemon tree pre-falling off and dying

How many times have you spent time and invested blood, sweat, and tears into a relationship or a project and it just didn't pan out. One million? Okay good, me too. But here's the thing. Even though this piece of fruit died, the tree, tiny as it is, is still there. It's still growing and had it not produced that fruit, it wouldn't have grown the same way. Hopefully I can get a little bit more fruit out of it this summer, but if not, then next. We're different, but often better for our mistakes. They help us grow into stronger, different, often better people if we choose to continue to grow.

4. Fruit (and veggies) take a significant amount of time to grow
I will admit it. I have dabbled in the world of Farmville while procrastinating on my papers. There is nothing quite as satisfying as planting virtual wheat, knowing that when I come back in four hours it will be ready to harvest and I'll even get a double harvest if I use fertilizer (courtesy of my virtual Swiss cow).

However, in the real world of gardening, it takes a long time to produce a "take away."

Every day, I've faithfully watered, pruned, and cared for my plants, but most of them are yet to produce any fruit. Much like the relationships we have, with God, with our husbands/wives, with friends, gardening takes diligent and consistent tender loving care to blossom.

Ever since I graduated from undergraduate and left college (the Farmville of social life), I've struggled to give most of my relationships the time and care they deserve because, frankly, I'm just too busy. I know that sounds lame and I don't mean to glorify being busy, but as I've been gardening, I've taken time to pray and spend time alone with God and try to figure out ways to make time in my schedule to let those I love know that I care about them.

Ultimately, as hard as we hope for an easier go at life, there IS NO Farmville in real life. Nothing replaces care, time, and attention to produce growth, development, and fruit, literally or figuratively, out of the things that matter most.

Do you garden? Do you want to?
What has it taught you?

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