Garden web site curators and bloggers love to sprinkle their prose with stunning pictures of perfect plants and blooms. Books with a gardening theme include a bounty of glossy images with unspoiled backgrounds. Those who garden in the real world—hordes of Japanese beetles, critters that dig in the soft soils of our garden beds, and weather conditions that foster previously undiscovered fungi—harvest a different result. The harsh reality is that no matter the intensity of our effort some garden experiments fail, often spectacularly.
During the winter of 2017 I salivated over books and articles on straw bale gardening. Perhaps I had finally found the magic app for which my garden waited. Our neighborhood covenants prohibit vegetable and fruit plantings in the front yards, and my back yard naps heavy shade with the exception of a narrow band of sun long the rear of the house. I joyfully measured and planned the space for three bales in that tiny oasis. Hope overflowed that the harvest of potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce would justify the outlay of time and money.
The bale garden looked promising as some sprouts raised their tender leaves in praise.
For about two weeks…
An unusual weather pattern settled over the garden. From April through July, Raleigh received 21” of rain which is 10.6” above normal. Note the charts (courtesy of WRAL-TV). That knee in the second chart, where the heavy rain sluiced through the skies, aligns with the planting of the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and lettuce in the bales of straw.
Though the straw bales occupied what I estimated to be a sunny spot in the backyard the rains triggered stunning growth in the tree canopy. Sunlight warmed the bales from eleven to one, and two hours of sun will not sustain a healthy vegetable garden.
Would you like to see some dismally discouraging but realistic garden photos? Here’s what I harvested from my straw bales.
Have you seen more pathetic looking tomato plants?
Not a decent burp in the whole crop of cucumbers.
And the potatoes? I found three beautiful potatoes.
Did I give up and quit? Of course not. Hope empowers dedicated gardeners. We shrug philosophically and start preparing for the next season, which by the way will be stunning. Our best harvests await.
As a believer in Jesus Christ I desire to please Him with my attitudes, thoughts, words, and deeds. Often, for whatever reason, I fall flat in the implementation. The neighbor’s pet using my carefully tended flower bed as a rest facility triggers unholy thoughts. That cell-phone stunted driver who finally wakes up and steps on the gas to whiz through the yellow light does not receive my blessings as I wait the next green. When I compare myself or my possessions with others I usually spawn a crop of covetousness or complaining.
Given the failures, should I abandon my efforts to walk with God and practice godliness?
I am comforted by the writings of the Apostle Paul whose desire to model godliness often ran into the stone wall of sin. Paul, used of God to write much of the New Testament, failed in his personal life. The struggle was real as evidenced by these revealing thoughts.
For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15 NASB
For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. Romans 7:19 NASB
Paul brushed himself off and pushed forward, just like a gardener whose crop fails one season. How could he do this? By claiming God’s promises, taking God at His Word.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NASB
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23
Not everything works as planned, in the garden or in our lives, but like Paul we keep on keeping on.