By Kim Burdick
I thought I had missed out on it. You know…the “Green Thumb” gene. My grandparents sure had it. I remember our summer visits and counting the amazing number of vegetables and fruit at each meal that came from their abundant garden. I assumed I had it too, though hadn’t had a chance to really put that assumption to the test until the summer of 1986. Brent and I had been married 2 years when we made a trip to visit my great aunt and uncle. My Aunt Tessie has an exceptionally green thumb and can make anything grow. She had beautiful orchids and luscious, leafy green plants overflowing from every nook and cranny of her home and yard. When we prepared to leave, she graciously filled the back of our station wagon with some of her beloved plants with full confidence that not only would they look pretty on our porch, but they would flourish under my care. I couldn’t wait to arrange them by the front door of our duplex. There were 10 in all. I was diligent at first in watering them but as the summer wore on, I got busier and slowly, one by one, they all dried up and died. Instead of attributing their demise to the lack of consistent care, I added to my growing list of apparent deficiencies (which included “can’t sing”, “directionally challenged”, “failure at sports”, etc.) the fact that I didn’t have a green thumb. What a disappointment. Once I convinced myself of this fact, I wasn’t even slightly tempted to try and plant something else. Why bother? They would just die anyway, right?
Well, time passed….and a few years ago my dad, who was aware of my lack of confidence in gardening, surprised me with two big wooden barrels for our back patio and took me to pick out some healthy plants to thrill, fill and spill over. I was so excited…especially when instead of dying, they kept growing and multiplying. With each new bloom, hope sprang to life. Maybe I did have a dormant green thumb after all! For my last birthday, my parents gave me a little gardening kit and some packets of flower seeds. What a vote of confidence! I couldn’t wait to try them out, though I secretly wondered if I could get them to grow. When things started warming up in early March, I took a risk and decided to plant those seeds and this time, I was faithful in watering them daily. I kept watching for a sprig of green and could hardly contain my excitement when things started popping up! I soon discovered that one barrel was filling up fast with one very hardy type of plant. The other barrel took weeks longer to show growth and then it was spotty at best, but had 5 different varieties of plants growing there.
I realized early on that I’d made a major gardening blunder by throwing away the packaging. I had no idea what I was growing! Well, with faith that I would figure it out once they started blooming, I kept watering and watching. Over time, the one barrel was packed full and I started reading gardening articles online and learned the importance of thinning. I couldn’t bear the thought of a single plant being lost in the thinning process, so I tenderly re-planted each one in its own pot, 22 in all, and even planted 5 strategically within the landscaping of our front yard. Boy, did they flourish!
Finally, I could stand the suspense no longer. I took close up pictures of each leaf variety and made a trip to Home Depot. I felt like an undercover agent as I pulled up the photos on my phone and analyzed every plant in the place trying to find a match. Finally, I let go of my pride and asked for help in identifying my mysterious plants. This brought much laughter to the manager and several of her coworkers as they listened to my plight. I couldn’t blame them. Who doesn’t keep track of what they have planted? I joined in with embarrassed laughter and to my chagrin, a dear friend rounded the corner after recognizing my silly laugh and the gig was up. She then mercifully joined in the search…but still no answers.
A few days’ later, I was gathering my LadiesLife planning team at my home for dinner. I decided to use this situation as an illustration for the importance of planting and caring for those seeds of faith, even if we don’t see fruit from it for awhile or in our lifetime for that matter. I even offered potted plants to any who wanted to nurture a mystery plant and enjoy the beautiful blooms when they arrived. Only one went home that night. Thank you, Jennifer Dunham Morris, for taking a risk. Now, I must apologize to you. You probably discovered this long before I did, or at least I hope so…but I have been lovingly caring for a big barrel and multiple other pots of….WEEDS!!!!! Yes, that’s right! Weeds!!!
Because I was so completely convinced that I was growing a variety of Celosia that takes a minimum of 90 days for their vibrant blooms to start showing, I have been patient and expectant. In the meantime, my other mystery plants have revealed their wonderful identities…petunias galore, snapdragons in several colors, pansies…all beautiful!!! With internet images of 60 possible varieties of Celosia dancing in my head, I have been steadfast in my watering. It was only after two separate, respected sources took a closer look, that I began to accept the sad truth that no feathery blooms would be forthcoming. My heart sunk with the thought of how much time and care I have put into those silly, albeit prolific weeds and this morning I did what had to be done. I uprooted every single one of them. I could not believe how deep the roots went and how barren that barrel looked in comparison to the other that is brimming with blooms. Those weeds had completely taken over and I had even allowed them to suck the life out of a few smaller flowering plants, so convinced I was that it would be worth it in the end.
As I dug up the last of those invasive root networks from the depth of the barrel, I couldn’t help but think of the weeds that creep innocently into our lives as well. If not identified and plucked early on, they too can anchor their roots deeply into our perspectives and the very soil of our hearts, minds and emotions. They can suck the life out of even the most vibrant areas of our lives and overflow to our relationships with others. I thought of specific times that this has happened in my life where I have been so completely convinced that I was right and that I had been painfully wronged by someone else. So much so that I failed to see the roots of bitterness and pride creeping in. I felt the Lord reminding me that He is a wise gardener who recognizes every weed that seeks to put down roots and will lovingly uproot them, if I will yield to Him.
How easily I was deceived by the leafy growth I saw in my barrel over the past few months. How easily we can be deceived into thinking that the roots of bitterness and pride are harmless and can be tolerated in our lives without consequences. As our pastor said in one of his wonderful sermons, “What we tolerate today, will dominate us tomorrow.” I have certainly seen that to be true in my own life and in the lives, families and even ministries of others as well. As I disposed of the last of my weeds this morning, I felt God nudging me to write these thoughts down. What needs to be uprooted so that we can flourish in Him? May we have the courage to let Him point those weeds out to us and the willingness to yield to Him as they are uprooted.