We do what we can to invite nature into our yard, and often we’re given surprises. I spent the greater part of my childhood living on an acre occupied by 100 trees, mostly walnut and oak. To my delight upon marrying Jim, I found we are in agreement, our southern California yard is a nature preserve of sorts. We invite birds, butterflies and a wide variety of plants onto our property, a slightly larger piece of land than the average postage stamp lot in our city. Visiting friends enjoy watching the birds splash about in our birdbaths and dine from the various feeders, but these same friends usually don’t want the mess in their backyard.
I have to say birds are very messy, but oh so entertaining. The regular entertainers are hummingbirds, sparrows and hawks, though they are not all compatible. Apart from bird doings, a thriving plant also brings great satisfaction. A recent post on Instagram expressed the writer’s concern for the survival of her plants when leaving town for an extended period of time. It seems no one else in her family is aware of the of plants the way she is, offering them the care needed to keep them alive. This is a BIG concern when we take a vacation!
A few weeks before embarking on a trip I asked my husband who is going to take care of our plants? Now we don’t have just a few house plants and a little bit of landscaping to water; we have PLANTS. We have heavy drinkers and drought tolerant plants all needing different kinds of care. So it is a relatively big task to take on and I don’t envy the person doing it. Jim knows our plants and even under his fastidious care we occasionally lose one. The mourning that goes on around here when we lose a favorite plant might make some wonder if we have a life outside of our yard.
When tuned into the details of nature, God’s creation, the surprises never end. Jim and I delight in walking around the yard together and taking inventory of the latest changes. We dote on our plants like grandparents with grandchildren. For instance, I planted various flower seeds saved over time a couple of months ago. We misted the seeded areas waiting and watching for something to happen. I don’t normally do well with seeds, so I looked online to find out how to plant seeds for each of the following: Hollyhocks, Cosmos, Zinnias and Sunflowers. The Hollyhocks emerged and disappeared. No Cosmos. The Zinnia’s came up and seem to be doing well. I dug deep and loosened the soil for the Sunflower seeds and added compost as suggested.
I was so excited when I saw tiny plants emerging where I made the extra effort planting Sunflower seeds. As they grew larger Jim noticed something unusual. He asked me, “Are you sure you planted Sunflower seeds?” Sunflower seeds are rather distinctive. I was sure! “They look more like tomato plants,” he said. They sure did and they sure are! The Sunflowers didn’t emerge at all, but the rotting tomatoes in the compost sprouted. We have 5 thriving tomato plants and they would not be doing so well if I had intended for them to grow there. Tomato plants have always started in random places in the yard as a result of using compost to enrich our soil. But I now have a nice line up of tomato plants looking exactly as if I planned it.
Jim introduced me to composting seven years ago when we got married. It is a marvel! Compost is a great way to make use of organic waste like eggshells, vegetable scraps, dried leaves, etc. Mixed together, occasionally watered and stirred, then left to marinate; this results in a rich humus attracting worms making it perfect for adding to the poor soil in our yard. Nature has much to teach us about living richer lives.
It seems what we grow depends on two things: whether we bury our hurt in dark places or whether we give them up to God for compost. When life hits us with pain and hardship we need to invite God into our pain and give Him these experiences to be composted – “accumulating experiences and letting them ripen into the rich soil” (Janice Elsheimer) – as opposed to being buried deeply into our spirits.
All of us have gone through difficulties, been hurt and even suffered at one time or another. When I think about composting I often consider how the hurtful mess of life can be composted and then worked into our lives to transform us like scraps can be transformed into rich soil. There have been times when I allowed the pain of life to dictate negativity and hopelessness. But when I choose to come crawling up into the lap of the Heavenly Father and let it all out on His shoulders something different happens. When I see Him as for me and not against me in the difficulties, over time I am transformed. Rich growth unimaginable takes place and I am released to become more the person He designed me to be. It is the beautiful side of pain.
I love Deborah DeFord’s picture of this in her book, The Simpler Life. “Personally, I prefer to consider old, outdated thoughts and actions along an organic model. They’ve had their day, for better or worse and now they’re like a garden’s stubble. We can plow them under and allow them to decompose without rancor. In that way they come to enrich the living material of our present and future.”
We can plant one thing and harvest another with compost. It was Sunflowers I planted, but I was given produce to enjoy throughout the summer. My desire was for a bloom that would not last long and I was given nourishment instead. How has God enriched your life when difficulties were given over to Him to decompose and transform into something beautiful and meaningful?