From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Ground your family in God

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the June 15, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

After years of moving from apartment to apartment or sharing housing with family members, Amy, a mother of four, finally lives in a home of her own. She and her husband helped build a Habitat for Humanity house and will someday own it.

“It may sound petty,” she said, “but just to have a garden, to be able to grow some things, to know if I plant something this year, I’ll be here to see it come up next year — that means a lot.”

The same week I heard this conversation, I visited a woman in a nursing home. She told me she’d been gardening.

“We planted all kinds of seeds in little pots. When they came up we transplanted them outside. I couldn’t get down and help plant because I’m in this wheelchair,” she said. “But it was fun to watch.”

Then I heard about the child asked by her teacher where beans and corn come from. “The grocery store,” answered the child. When pressed, she said, “They come in a can, or from the freezer.”

Can our children come to know God when they do not understand that our food grows from the earth? Can they know what it is to be fully human when they have no opportunity to learn the lessons of sowing, watering, weeding and harvesting?

As an adolescent I dreaded and resisted the long hot days pulling weeds in my mother’s huge garden. What reason could there be, I wondered, to do all this work when you could buy vegetables at the store? I knew when I grew up, I’d have some important career. I wouldn’t have time for gardening.

Fast forward 30 years: This morning I nearly danced with glee. The first blooms had burst forth on my tomato plants! The plants I grew from seed, first under growlights near my computer, then transplanted into clay pots on my back deck. My writing is important work. But I’ve discovered I can’t forsake the growing of vegetables.

My modest garden will not feed my family for the winter, but even the small way it connects us to the earth feeds our souls. The physical work of mixing soil, watering and weeding helps fill the well so often emptied by hours in front of the computer screen. Tiny green shoots pushing aside black dirt help me understand hope when the mail brings nothing but rejection letters.

Like the lilies of the field in Matthew, a few simple pansy blossoms teach me a mighty lesson. Taking time with friends this week to relax in the shade of the garden and be quiet I reveled in how the plants come up each spring, no matter how long and hard the winter has been. The pansy simply leafs out and blooms. It doesn’t fret and fume about whether it should be white or purple, a rose or a mum. Should it grow tall or short this season?

I long for this simplicity, this harmony with God’s plan, this thriving so freely. I value the gift of free will, the marvelous bounty of human intelligence. Still, I hunger for an intimacy with my Creator, a closeness of mind and heart that would allow me to bloom so readily according to God’s will.

The garden provides me space to cultivate this relationship for myself and my children. A combination of work and relaxation in quiet solitude creates room for the Spirit to breathe. Seeing a leaf uncurl, or a bud open brings the miraculous to mind and makes the simple sacramental. Reminding my children how someone somewhere toils likewise to produce the food we eat helps them understand our dependence on one another and on God.

Our plastic culture might make a garden seem petty, but as Amy knows, in reality, it grounds us. And if my kids don’t get out there and pull those weeds, they’ll be grounded. For a week!

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance journalist and children’s writer.)

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