By Melissa Stone
A garden, like a person, is never finished; it is always in a state of flux. Where there is growth and decay, there is change. A while back, I talked with my neighbor. He was turning over the leaves in his zinnia bed. I approached the fence and showed him a packet of zinnia seed I was going to grow instead of my usual 'Benary's Giant.' We talked about garden design and what we were going to do with our beds this year.
Invariably, the topic changed to life. He shared the struggles of raising a young son on his own. He shared stories of his own growth and decay as he fought the chaos and pain of never knowing when his wife was going to show up and resume her responsibilities as a wife and mother and when she was just going to show up for a visit. I listened, not saying much unless he asked a question. We finished our fence line chat, and he returned to his tilling leaving me to return to my DIY garden project. I found him later and gave him our two latest CDs praying they would give him comfort.
I used to think my garden was my own. After fifteen years at this location, I think differently. This garden is not for me: it's for the mourners in the cemetery on the other side of the fence who need to see real flowers among a sea of silk; flowers that represent the hope of God in the days too dark to hope. Hope that says, "This too shall pass." For the ones taking their morning stroll and for the dog walkers, it says, "Welcome! I'm glad you stopped by!" For the cemetery workers riding by in their Toyos or mowers, I hope it's visual joy; flowers and grasses swaying in happy abandon compared to the structured, manicured landscaping they have to maintain. And even when nothing is in bloom, the wooden cross towering over the fence line stands sentinel; a tangible reminder that death has its place, but Christ faced Death and bound it so that we need not fear it.
Here are my takeaways from this meditation: first, life is like a garden. We pull weeds and fight off diseases and predators aimed for its destruction, praying our feeble attempts will coax beauty and nourishment to grow from the decay. Second, this garden is not mine; it's a small ministry from a big hobby. So, I will happily maintain this sanctuary of hope, comfort, joy and peace not only for myself, but for others. Think about the ways you can bless others this year from your hobby or hobbies.
For those who garden, stay tuned! I will be offering tips in the days to come with a disclaimer: I am no expert!!!