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Disheveled Theologian: Faith and the art of garden maintenance

I find myself remembering, from time to time, random things about the home I grew up in. I remember how the wind howled past the dining room windows and sounded to me like the roar of a cougar up on Buck Mountain, which rose behind our house.

Never mind that there were no cougars on Orcas Island.

I remember how I used to pick wild strawberries in the vacant lot next door and wild salmon berries along the road down to the beach and wild blackberries anywhere and everywhere they could take root. And I remember the patch of naturalized yellow daffodils, which grew in a corner of our yard, spreading more and more each year, a splash of sunshine beneath the willow tree.

Several times each spring, Mom would take the kitchen sheers and go out to the daffodils — as well as the rock garden where random tulips popped up here and there — and bring in a bouquet to grace our dining table. Sometimes she brought in hyacinth, too, or narcissus, but their strong fragrance was enough to limit their participation in the dining room decoration scene.

Ever since having a home of my own, I have wanted a patch of spring bulbs large enough to glean from so the blooms could grace my dining table as they did when I was a child. More than once I have planted bulbs, but never enough to fulfill my dreams.

But finally, this year, I bought some bulbs. Forty-nine of them, to be exact. Enough that, hopefully, in a few years if I cut a few for my table, I won’t decimate the remaining patch outside. The trick, of course, was finding the time and energy to get them planted.

Enter Lucy, our 10-year old, outdoor-loving, possessing-far-more-energy-than-her-mother, happy wee girl. Lucy and I donned our grubby clothes on Saturday afternoon. I had spent three hours in urgent care already that day, trying to figure out why I’ve been so worn out lately, only to be told, after various tests and consultations, that I have an indeterminate, untreatable virus that just needs to run its course. So I was tired, and I didn’t feel well, but I knew that this was the day this project needed to be completed.

It was misting — rather hard — and soon we couldn’t see across the lake, but we kept on working. Lucy did almost all of the digging, which I was very thankful for, as my leg still is a little weird from my accidental splits/hamstring accident eight weeks ago. She soon mastered the art of the bulb digger and only required my help with a few holes. While she dug I pulled up dead tomato plants, tidied up the herb garden, and wrestled with the wheelbarrow. We were a fantastic team.

Lucy even discovered that two of the daffodil bulbs had sprouted “daughters” and so a total of 51 bulbs were planted, which, if the goodwill and helpfulness of the girl doing the planting have anything to do with it, were all extra blessed as they were tucked in for their long winter’s nap.

As I tucked Lucy herself into bed that night, I told her how proud I was of her hard work, and how thankful. She replied, “I liked it. I would have liked it even if you told me I had to do it, but I wanted to do it.”

Oh, how I love the thoughts that come out of Lucy’s head.

As I tucked myself into bed that night, a thought came to mind concerning our project. It is not a unique thought, nor is it terribly profound, but it struck me as rather encouraging. I found myself thinking that planting bulbs is an act of faith. You put them in the ground, you bury them, and then you walk away. You don’t cultivate them, you don’t water them, you just ignore them. For months. And then, on a warm spring afternoon, you take a hopeful little walk along your flowerbed, and see, finally, that the seed you buried has produced its fruit.

Very much like the gospel. We are responsible to spread the good news about Jesus, to “plant the seed” of truth. The growth is up to the Lord. When we are faithful to do what we are called to do, we can trust that God will be faithful to do what he has promised to do.

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

Gretchen O’Donnell is a freelance writer who lives in Worthington with her husband and three children. She has a master’s degree from Bethel Seminary and enjoys writing about the things she sees and applying theological truths to everyday situations. Her column, The Disheveled Theologian, is published weekly. Her email is