What’s a little numbness in my hands while I sleep? Dinner? Who needs food when there are weeds to destroy, flowers to deadhead, and shrubs to trim?! “Just one more section and I will come inside.” “Yes, I know it’s starting to rain.” “No, I didn’t hear any thunder.” “I can see well enough. It’s not completely dark yet.”
I have a slight garden obsession.
But I may have gone a little far (even for me) when I chose the 80 by 23 foot oval section of our yard to create my newest happy place. Yes, that is the actual size of the mixed shade and sun garden-to-be amongst a charming grouping of trees. It all started with a twenty five foot wall of buttery yellow irises that stun as you make your way down the driveway. I didn’t plant those. But I insisted they now needed plant friends to join them!
The trees and all that lies beneath had been neglected for many years. I made dozens of trips back and forth to the discard pile with wheel barrows full of obnoxious (and sometimes painful) weeds. I discovered that virginia creeper gives me an itchy rash and that a certain viney demon spawn stuck to me like velcro while slicing my arms when I yanked it out.
But I persisted.
I took nearly a dozen cinderblocks out of the area once they were found under the weeds, strewn randomly around my soon-to-be garden. Pay no attention to the pile of roof shingles and broken bricks that were uncovered too.
But I would not be deterred! A friend visited bearing a potted perennial that would become the first addition to this labor of love. I gathered up my shovel and compost to create the perfect home for this lovely gift. My shovel made a crunching sound as it sliced into the dirt. I reached down and pulled out a fistful of broken glass. And then another. And another. Was that a rusty nail?
I filled a bucket with the debris from this one hole. A five gallon bucket of glass, metal and globs of plastic were replaced with rich dirt and a happy little plant. A sense of accomplishment washed over me as I stepped back to peruse my handiwork.
Then came the window screen pieces. And nails. And fuses. And roof truss supports. Was that a door handle? A toy car? Wire? Nails. Glass. Plastic lumps. Repeat ad infinitem.
Most normal people would have given up by now and declared this area a junk heap. But I imagined a glorious garden on this spot, and THERE WILL BE A GARDEN HERE!!! I shall soldier on through the mess!
I planted hostas taken from around the foundation of a house that was slated for demolition. (That is a story in and of itself that we will save for another time.) They were free and they covered some of the newly bare ground. More buckets of nails, glass, and unidentifiable globs.
Then the deer discovered how delectable and convenient this garden was.
I planted clearance rack coral bells to add color variety. The rabbits found them quite tasty. ‘Deer resistant’ bushes were apparently –not. And yet I insisted this would be a garden to behold.
This garden is on a major and long established route of many furry friends.
And, as it turns out, the irises that started it all were planted in front of a mobile home that used to be on this very spot. I unearthed large metal bolts and hooks that were most likely trailer tie-downs. They would stay in the cement squares where I found them. The previous land owner had purchased the lot and had the fire company burn down the trailer for training purposes. Whatever remained from someone’s old home was now in a shallow grave that I had stubbornly declared my newest garden. Should I throw in the towel now? (Coincidentally, there is a towel bar sticking out of the ground that is unmovable since tree roots have grown around it. I find it charming and unique in its trashiness).
I was fully committed to rehabilitating this land before all the trash was discovered. I was determined that beauty would grow on this site. It’s somewhat silly to battle animals, poor soil, and a modern archaeological dig site. But I do. I want the garden that I see in my head. I want lush green covering the ground for small animals to hide in. I want meandering paths to slowly walk along while admiring the flowers. I want to work in the shade as birds chirp their warnings above me in their nests. I see the potential. I see the garden-to-be.
And that is much of what God does.
He chooses to love us long before our ugliness is revealed. He chooses to take away bucket after bucket of debris from our lives as it is unearthed. He untiringly pulls the weeds from our lives.
They grow back.
And He patiently pulls them again.
But His hands never tire of the task.
We are so beautiful when He finishes pruning and tidying.
Then He waits for the rain to bring more broken pieces to the surface. And He gently pries them free from the mud. He carries them away. Far away from the beauty He is trying to create.
Some debris may take many years, many storms, and even some digging to come free. Some (like the towel bar) may forever remain where they were placed. We don’t know why. From our perspective it seems crazy and pointless. But He has a reason.
I’ve changed plans on occasion for my garden dependent upon unexpected barriers. Sometimes a flower just needs to go somewhere other than where I originally planned. I’ve avoided planting in spots where too many stones and roots run underneath. Let’s try this spot instead.
I think God does this too. Sometimes we choose to be or do something other than what He chose. Sometimes we just aren’t strong enough to break through a barrier yet. And sometimes He allows us to go where He didn’t prefer. It can create a different, yet pleasant, path. And sometimes it can cause us much pain.
And He will be there to prune the broken branches. He will be there to pry the rusty nails from the ground when they poke through.
I have named my difficult garden Cindergarden. It is where new life grows over the ashes of destruction. I’ve created a sculpture from some of the larger treasures that have been unearthed. It sits, proudly, in the center of the garden. It is a reminder of where everything began. It is a reminder that beauty can come from difficulty. It is a monument to the gardener who has toiled countless hours to rid the soil of debris.
And I like to imagine God stepping back to gaze at the pile of debris He has tirelessly removed from our lives. He smiles. And He grins at the beautiful creation yet to be. He beams at the image of the person we are to become. The picture only He can see.
The junk fades into the shadows as the blooms fill the air with their aroma.
And the Master Gardener smiles at His creation.