Gardening Contemplation

Since turning to the contemplative prayer lifestyle, it’s changed other areas of my life which I never expected. Ah, but such is the life of a Christian.

In short, contemplative prayer involves meditation. It is taking the time to be silent before God and just be. It’s a chance for my soul to rest at the feet of my Lord. It goes further than just checking a box while reading the morning devotion. It means quality over quantity: reading a short passage or a line of Scripture and mulling it over in your mind for a few minutes. Sometimes it means unpacking the message, viewing the context from the view of someone in the passage, or asking yourself questions and how it relates to your treatment of others/God. Other times it’s imagining the sights, sounds, and smells that would accompany the words of Scripture.

It’s an anathema to modern American Christianity. It’s centering. It’s quiet. No flashy lights, no sleek messaging, nearly impossible to Instagram it. It is simply dwelling with Jesus. I use the Pray As You Go app during my lunch walk. It’s an English production and while it is backed by the Catholic Church, it’s so focused on Jesus, you won’t be able to tell it’s Catholic.

Following Jesus means you’re living a life of intention. For many Christians, Christianity is habit, not an intent. Contemplative prayer breaks you out of the typical Christian humdrum of bouncing across the surface instead of plumbing the depths – sometimes where the light doesn’t shine. I want the real Jesus, not this sanitized American version that comes with the “If you do X, God will do Y” formula. That is nothing more than a prosperity gospel dressed up for a middle class capitalistic society with education and money.

A fruit of my garden labor….my favorite garden flower, a Camellia (Corina variety)

I’ve become a better gardener since becoming contemplative. So many times we plant things and then life happens: days, weeks, months later we go to find them dead, diseased, or struggling to survive. We promise to do better and then we don’t. We don’t follow through. Our modern lives are filled with so many things that light up, ding, talk to us – not to mention cooking, cleaning, eating, sleeping, random household things – there simply isn’t time.

I disagree.

If you make it a priority, it’ll happen. But that’s just it: you have to want it and make time for it. Sometimes 10 minutes of contemplative prayer is better than an hour long Bible study. I do a quick survey in my yard at least once a day to see how things are going and address the issues straightaway. Beyond that, it’s a tangible way for me to slow down and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the garden. I get joy from seeing my double formal Camellias carry on with green glossy leaves. My tea plants are flushing with new growth, although they’re still well below my knee. The bed I made around the water oaks with ajuga from my old house, white lantana, and a prized red azalea as its center piece always makes me smile – especially now that the ajuga is taking off. Pretty soon I’ll have to divide it up and give it away someone else.

That’s the beauty of the garden – I get to share it with others. Just like the peace and calmness I get from sitting quietly before Jesus, contemplating the finer notes of Scripture, savoring every new leaf and rejoicing at the flower buds.

Slow down, you busy Christians. This life Jesus calls us to is meant to be lived with purpose and love. Yes, sometimes life gets crazy busy – that will happen – but it should not be a lifestyle to maintain.


The Parable of the Pomegranate Bush

Several years ago at the Farmer’s Market, I fell in love with a baby white pomegranate bush. He was just a little guy, barely a foot high – the quart container he came in seemed large.

Over the years, he kept getting root bound in every pot I put him in – even the giant 2ft diameter one! Once we moved to this new house, I found the perfect spot for him in the ground, anchoring the corner of my flowerbed. He’s as tall as me now.

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The Pomegranate bush, July 2018. It really got branchy this year.

I prune him every February and in late spring, he would flower. These beautiful pink flowers looked as if they were the combination of a rose and carnation. Often times, my tree would be loaded with these gorgeous blossoms in late spring, but alas, no pomegranates.

I started reading more about my fruitless situation and it was suggested that not enough bees were visiting, hence the lacking in pollination (pomegranates are self-pollinators, they don’t need a friend to make fruit). The article suggested to pollinate the blooms myself, which I did this year.

Still no pomegranates. The flowers weren’t even as plentiful this year.

A part of me wonders if he is infertile. If so, it makes little difference to me. He’d be right at home here among the rest of us without descendants. Maybe next year? I’m not holding my breath. Like my own case of infertility, I have no idea how to fix it. It’s been in different soil types – I’m not even sure what I’d give it to make it happier (fruitier?).

I got to thinking too how this translates to my walk with the Lord. How often do I flower not produce fruit? Are my intentions followed through with actions, or do I just show beautiful potential, as the flowers fade away. Oh, fruit? What about all those exquisite flowers I just made?

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Another “maybe next time” getting ready to flower. So much potential.

I think a lot about others too with this analogy: how often am I distracted by the flowers without fruit production? “Oh, he’s a flower kind of guy, fruit eventually rots anyway.” I see this in the media, the insane political culture, and occasionally in the church. This is not exactly what the Lord calls us to do.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to make more fruit in both my garden (I’m looking at you, Fig tree sapling without buds) and in my life.

Also, if you have ANY tips for a fruitful pomegranate season, I’m open to suggestion.

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16)

September in Review

As hypothesized at the beginning of the month, I didn’t plant my grape vines. I did, however, grow in other areas.

My husband and I had a couple over from church for dinner. Despite the main course not turning out 100%, dessert was perfect and they didn’t leave until after 10pm because we were having such great conversation. It was really good for us. Seeds of friendship were sown.

While we downsized our stuff before we moved, there were a few items that we couldn’t place in our new house. They were sent to a resale shop that benefits women of domestic violence, in hopes they could help grow someone else’s new beginning.

I began my second assignment working as a ghostwriter, and it has stretched me as a writer and challenged my abilities. We’re still working on setting the right voice with the literature, but I love helping others reach their goals from behind the scenes. My ghosting benefits many by tilling the soil for others to grow – it’s a good feeling – and I am happy to be a part of it, even though my name is not on it.

In the vein of gardening, I paid entirely too much money for a full landscape of my house, but now it looks amazing. The final frontier, also know as the backyard, is a work in progress. The many years of debris are cleared and I hope to rescue the remnants of grass and coax it into a lawn in the spring. The amount of weeds is simply astounding. But pulling each weed by hand has been a salve for my panic attacks. It’s quickly becoming a sanctuary for me. Between work and marriage, I need a place of solace, and right now it is among the weeds.

Next year, there will be grapes.

September: Grow Grapes

One of my goals this year was to grow grapes.

Muscadine grapes are indigenous to the Carolinas and I thought this would be the perfect variety to grow. They need sun, 20 feet of trellis, and a friend to pollinate. My backyard, like the rest of my landscape, is in a sad state of affairs. There is so much work to be done, grading the yard, removing weeds, and getting a plan together – I will need professional help. Because of time and money, I can’t plant this year.

I made this list of focus points for the year back in January, in our old house. Moving was still a “maybe someday” conversation. I had no idea how much of a roller coaster 2017 was going to become and how much would change in my world.

My September focus is indeed “growing grapes” – what other goals did I have for this new minimalistic life? What was I going to accomplish here that I did not/could not do in my old huge house?

Live with less stuff. Invite people over for meals. For tea. Focus on my crocheting, spend time on the deck, get out into the garden, focus on my health, my husband’s health, and those around me. Travel more. Get back to those free spirit days I had in a 1 bedroom apartment in a midwestern cornfield. Gone are the days of maintaining and cleaning a huge property: I have always been content with less stuff. It’s time to start living that.

I am going to share this contentment with those around me. I’ll always be a shy introvert – it’s who I am at my core – but perhaps it is time to blossom in being about the Lord’s work through hospitality.

Perhaps I will serve muscadine grape juice to my guests next year.

July in Review

July highlighted my brown thumb tendencies, as well as the noxious weeds that seemed to pop up in my marriage.

Plant wise, I did well. I kept my ajuga transplants watered and so far they’re still green. I transplanted an upset, poorly placed gardinia, but it hasn’t quite decided to live or die yet. Nonetheless it has been given ample amounts of water and soil.

Having a smaller house with less to manage has improved life in other areas, namely the garden. I’m more inclined to walk outside to check on things than my old house. There was so much surface area to clean, walk through, and maintain. My next feat is to get the yard landscaped. But first, gutters!

As for the marriage bit, things got better as the month progressed. At first, even after a good day, we were arguing. Sometimes I think he just likes to pick fights. His love language is words of affirmation, perhaps more acutely so, which probably exacerbated an already flammable situation. Every time I think the worst is over, we hit another rough patch. It’s almost like clockwork. I really hope we have turned a corner; I think the vacation helped. We never used to be so ugly to each other. I must learn to respond by standing up for myself and not defaulting to complacency when he’s in my face telling me to go….well….you can fill in the blank.

As with growing plants and marriage, time tells all.

And fertilize/mulch as required.