“Check out these starts … they’re actually thriving!” I hollered to my husband this week as I investigated my raised-bed garden. Deciding that I might experience greater success earlier in the growing season by planting starts rather than seeds, I had, one Saturday in early April, brought home a sizable tray of small plants. I chose cabbage, broccoli, and peppers, a spicy lettuce mix, midget peas, green beans, and spinach. Then I caught a vision for flowers and filled two additional beds with various hues of violet and white flowering plants the nurseryman has promised will eventually entice bees and butterflies. Recalling a file I’d been filling with magazine and Internet articles on raising herbs, I pulled out the information and made another trip into town, this time with herbs on my mind. I made my selections and filled another box with cilantro, parsley, sage, tarragon, chives, and rosemary. When July 4 has passed and I can count on the sun to adequately warm the soil, I’ll add basil.
Until then I’ll weed and water and wonder.
Long ago I figured out a simple fact about myself: If I want to enjoy being a friend, wife, daughter, sister, writer and mom, I must create a place and regularly schedule a time in that place to renew. Regroup. Rethink. Realign. Recommit.
In the winter I like to pull up my favorite leather chair and matching ottoman next to our stove in the family room. It’s warm and welcoming. In the spring and summer I prefer my modest garden. I’m soothed by merely walking outside to my spot nestled between our lawn and the edge of the forest. It’s just a few paces away from the house, yet far enough from the laundry, iPods, TV, cell phones and familial hubbub to do my soul a world of good.
It has become my place for a quick escape and I occasionally take a book or magazine to read. But mostly I graze off the hedge of berries when they’re ripe, pull weeds, and water. I listen to the birds, visit with my doggie pals who invariably follow me, gaze at the clouds framed against the clean blue sky, and soak in rays of the sun. I try to take it in so deeply that it becomes a place I can return to in my mind when the wind and rain of fall and winter force me indoors to catch my breath, hope a little, pray a lot, and plan.
I am learning that renewal is a multi-faceted process involving more than temporary escape from the people, noise, and obligations in our lives. Renewal can also take place in our hearts and be reflected in our attitudes, no matter the people or situations surrounding us. This kind of renewal is deep and spiritual and has the potential to be life changing.
It begins for me when I acknowledge and thank God that there is rhyme and reason, a process and a timing in the universe that includes each one of us. Such renewal on some level begins each time I dip into the Bible. It is here, for example, that I read in the Old Testament book of Isaiah that “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
The longer I live and the deeper I venture into life’s myriad of experiences, the more I depend on that kind of renewal — God’s obvious touch and inspiration. For I intend to contribute enthusiasm, hope, strength and peace into a world that frequently presents health scares, children leaving home and asserting their independence, and career instability. I know how I want to maneuver, but I do not have the strength in and of myself to always be strong. In my garden I meet him.
Life never lets up. The struggle is ongoing for each one of us on many levels. But God is on duty; He is aware of all that brings us to our breaking points and onto our knees. And while his promises can soothe our worries, God also marries each tender promise with a request that we step forward and trust —oh, so hard to do at times! — and incorporate him into our daily thoughts and plans.
Renewal can be experienced in yet another form. If we ask for the internal eyes to catch his plan for our lives, God will supply each one of us with new dreams and paths, hope and energy. Although such dreams can complicate our lives, stripping away our treasured routines and comforting activities, requiring that we walk down unknown paths and step over to new venues of faith, these new adventures can also renew and clarify our ultimate purpose for living. By working toward the goal of living within God’s plan for our lives, trusting him and seeking him daily, we have greater potential to experience prosperity. New friends. Personal fortitude. Deep and passionate growth. Strength for our family members and friends. Hope for a world in collective angst and struggle.
Let’s ask God to help us discover ways to find renewal this week, for there are plans God has for each of us. Let’s each renew so we have the courage to live extraordinary lives.