5 Things: Life Lessons I've Learned from Gardening.

I am new to gardening. Ask my neighbors. 

Growing up, my grandmother Nonnie always kept a beautiful flower garden. Once we moved into their house and they moved up the road, the garden, unfortunately, became a little bit of a disaster area. 

In Jordan's and my house now, we have three tiers to our backyard; all three feature lovely landscaping, and two have raised beds. I decided that this was something I was going to take on. 

In the last three days or so, Jordan and I have had lots of "real life" things hit us between the eyes. Family members dealing with cancer diagnoses or surgeries, friends passing away from long-suffered illnesses - the kinds of things that always make us take a step back and look at life in a new way. At a certain point yesterday, amidst lots of this news pouring in, I felt the need to be outside for a while. So I started working in the garden, and because the "Big Questions" of life were weighing on my heart, I started realizing just how many parallels there are between gardening and life. 

1. For everything, there is a season. 

"This, too, shall pass." I remember hearing that quote for the first time and thinking, "...what??" But man, how true it is. Standing in this same spot in front of our house only a few months ago, everything around me was blanketed with over two feet of snow. And now, there isn't a trace of cold weather left - only beautiful blooms and signs of spring. The natural rhythm of the world - the growing, dying away, growing, dying away - is such a beautiful reminder that nothing physical is everlasting.

And it's hard to remember, while we're living in a specific season, that another one could ever happen. It was hard to believe, when I had snow up to my knees, that I would ever feel overheated again in the summer sunshine. But seasons change. It's an inevitability. 

Good times should be cherished and savored, bad times can be endured, and every opportunity should be seized, because we don't have forever to decide. It's just that simple.

2. In order for some things to grow, other things must be cut away. 

Pictured above is the peach tree we inherited when we moved into our house last July. I love peaches, and I was real happy to get to have fresh peaches as often as I wanted - peaches on top of my vanilla ice cream? Hello. Yes, please. Once the peaches came in, I remember walking out to the tree with a little basket to gather them, only to discover they were hard. As. Rocks. 

Seasoned gardeners will already know why this happened - it's because the former residents of our little cabin didn't prune the tree before spring. In order to grow full, juicy peaches, you have to crawl up in the tree and cut away most of the buds that are sprouting. Otherwise, the nutrients in the tree will be so split among all of the peach buds that none of the peaches will get enough, and none will grow to their potential. 

Good grief - that's an easy lesson, right? We can be anything we want, but we can't be everything we want. Things in life must be pruned away in order for other things to get the attention the deserve, so that we can grow to our full potential. Whether it's people, activities, habits, hobbies - there are some things that must be cut away so that other, more important things, get all they need to thrive. 

3. Good things are worth hard work. 

With the exception of the grace of God and the unconditional love of our families, there is no good thing in life that comes without hard work. When we moved into this house, the garden was overwhelming. The previous tenants didn't care for it at all, and so it had become wildly overgrown. Weeds were ruling the roost. 

As much as I feel like I've weeded, sprayed, rearranged, weeded, etc., weeds continue to persist every so often, and I find myself back on my hands and knees shoveling out the roots and piling the weeds to be thrown out. 

This is such a major lesson for me. If I'm being really honest and vulnerable, the truth is that there are a couple of things that have always come naturally to me. Because of that, early in my life, I was able to rest on the laurels of my natural abilities and didn't throw myself into working as hard as I could have. What a mistake that was. Not only did I cheat myself out of learning the value of work hard, but I also will never know what I could've achieved had I actually applied myself.  

Disciplining myself in order to achieve a goal is something I had to really learn, and it's a skill that I don't take for granted. Now, there is little in life that feels better to me than being disciplined - setting a goal and chipping away at it - and that is exactly what this garden project is to me. In order to keep a beautiful garden, I have to be constantly disciplined and attentive. And that's okay, because for me, this is something worth working hard on. 

I used to think: If at first you don't succeed, it wasn't meant to be.
But now I know: If at first you don't succeed, it's because you haven't earned it yet. Keep working hard. 

4. Don't jump to conclusions.

Two days ago, I was weeding around a little rock bed we have, and as I reached for the next clump of weeds, I saw a tiny bit of movement. That movement turned out to be the teeniest tiniest garter snake that I've ever seen. 

Having not encountered many snakes in the wild, and certainly not less than an inch away from my hand, I was very heebie-jeebied by this little fella. In my mind, this 5 inch (or less, really) snake was about to somehow Mighty Morphin' Power Ranger into an anaconda and eat me, my dog, and my entire house. 

So I used my snake safety (meaning I immediately fled). But first, I took pictures. After researching it from a safe distance, I discovered that garter snakes are non-venomous, and are actually helpful in a garden, because their diet consists of tiny bugs that can eat away at your plants! 

I'll give myself a little credit here, since snakes can definitely be scary, but the lesson still rings true: there are SO many examples of when jumping to conclusions is a bad idea. Sometimes things that to be appear scary aren't scary at all. Sometimes a knee-jerk reaction is a bad one. Sometimes first impressions are flat-out wrong. 

Oh, to have the wisdom to remember that in the future. :) 

5. We are small, but we are special. 

I've heard people say that being out in nature makes them feel insignificant, and reminds them just how small they are compared to the big, wide world. 

And I get it. I know what they mean - when presented with the vastness and the scope of ALL OF NATURE, all of the universes and galaxies that surround our little tiny planet, it's very easy to feel like our lives are just vapors. Because we are small. Here today and gone tomorrow. That part is true. 

But I also think that each one of us is so special. Such a singular creation. In the same way that every flower in my garden is new, and fresh, and will never quite bloom the same way again, so are we, and so do we. 

Get ready for me to sound like one of those motivational posters in your 4th grade classroom. 

Every one of us is unique, like a fingerprint of our Creator, a perfect creation that has never been and will never be again. All living things have this in common. The gift of life is so precious - so fragile - and it demands that we plant our feet firmly and, with every breath, that we make good use of every daily jog, of every belly laugh, of every bolt of inspiration. 

Every flutter of our eyelashes. Each night as we finally crawl into bed. Every mundane lunch. All of it. It's all part of what's wrapped up in a life that can only be ours. Life is happening right now, every day, in every little action and every moment, for as long as we're on this planet. 

So we have to answer the question, "Who are you? What do you have to offer?" Some days, we might answer in whispers. Others, we might answer in a roar. But being alive means that every day, we are living into that answer We're only one person, and we're only here for a short while, but we're the only "us" there will ever be. 

So we have to bloom.