At the moment my GPS reveals a solid screen of green, I know it will no longer lead me to my destination. I reach up to my dash, turn off my phone, and begin watching for familiar turns on gravel roads. I see the mailbox I’m looking for. A small landmark at the opening of a tall, green tunnel. The drive is loose gravel in rivets made by tires, and winds through varying shades of green highlighted by the suns rays. I roll down the windows and take in the fresh, cool, shaded air, and listen for the birds, rustling leaves, and grinding pebbles beneath the weight of my tires. After a few minutes, the tunnel opens and the familiar sight of my friend’s rustic home warms me like a good cup of coffee on a cool morning.
Each smooth stone on the path leading to the front door is shadowed by the greenery and flowers of an English country garden. Butterflies and bumblebees hover around a purple butterfly bush and splashes of yellow, orange, white, red, and pink fill the spaces in between creeping ground cover. Time stops and I could stay right here, but I know even more warmth awaits me just inside the large wooden door.
Wayne and Nora are new friends. I met Wayne while he was section hiking on the Appalachian Trail with a good friend. He lives in a town near the trail and said he and his wife would be happy to provide me with a clean bed and good food when I passed through. The camaraderie on the Appalachian Trail is more akin to family than friendly passings of strangers.
Wayne and Nora treated me to a delicious meal and genuine heartfelt conversation. We shared a love of hiking, education, and good wine. We shared a common ache for struggling children. When I left to continue my journey, their door remained open with an invitation to return.
Ten months later, when funds were tight and needed to save on hotel stays while visiting Mossy monthly, I picked up the phone. I struggled to swallow my pride and ask for help and a place to stay, but knew the offer had been sincere. Here I was, in one of the most vulnerable places of my heart, stepping back in to active parenting for a weekend while mentally preparing my heart for the ache of separation in 3 days. I wasn’t sure I could be a cheerful guest, which is hard for my extroverted personality.
Nora’s garden was balm to my raw emotions. As we sipped our morning coffee, and talked about gardening, childhood memories surfaced like a box of old photographs. As a very young child, I loved my grandmother’s back yard. Gorgeous rose vines grew along her black rod iron fence. Colorful flowers and shrubs flowed out of the earth wherever the stone patio ended. So many moments shared with this sweet woman were spent in the shade of the large trees, surrounded by the evidence of her skillful care.
Once we moved to Kwajalein, a tiny island in the Pacific, my mother began a lush tropical garden. She was always sharing or receiving a cutting of some exotic plant. This tiny stick with five or six leaves would be placed in damp soil or a small jar of water, and would quickly grow to become a beautiful hibiscus or bougainvillea.
Gardening, the art of cultivating and creating beauty over time, had been a rich part of my development from my earliest days. I was struck by the parallels of gardening and life. Time, effort, planning, time, nurture, failure, death, time, new life, pruning, sharing, rest …. all of these elements are part of growing a garden worth enjoying.
May we take the time to cultivate and create…
~ a beautiful heart
~ a healthy family – physically, but also emotionally and spiritually
~ a rich faith
~ life-giving relationships
“And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11