A good vegetable garden takes maintenance, like a nursery of toddlers who need continual tending. I have five raised garden beds in my backyard and a separate one devoted to my asparagus crowns. The asparagus is a perennial so you just assign them their own space, wait two years, and then let them do their thing year after year—they’re my all-time favorite low-maintenance vegetable. Pretty much everything else requires cultivating: Checking the soil acidity, crushing eggshells into the tomato plant holes for calcium, trimming the blight-infested leaves, weeding, brushing off armies of aphids, and perhaps my least favorite task of all, prying thick green worms off the broccoli plants that lay slug-like on the leaves and move at the speed of honey, yet somehow devour the plant as they go. They’re not my favorites.
And yet, there’s something to be said for all the things that happen when you’re doing absolutely nothing garden related—while you’re sleeping, or out to dinner, or watching Blue Bloods. When you’re not out there with your clippers. This is the mystery of what happens when your plants are simply in the ground.
The other day a friend of mine dropped by with an extra tray of seedlings: peppers, cabbage, herbs, and a cucumber. She left them on my patio table assuming I would get around to planting them. It was the getting around to it part I was finding so problematic. There’s a certain frame of mind that planting requires. I need time and my tools. Morning is preferable. A nice balmy day is ideal. I like to plan what vegetable plants will grow nicely with others, what can face the sun head-on, and what could use a little shade. Basically, I need to be in the headspace.
The next morning I raced out the door to the grocery store, the seedlings calling to me while stretching their leaves toward the sky in celebration of spring. They were oh so joyful. I breezed by them on my way back in a few hours later. They were a little droopier than when I’d left them earlier. The next day on my way to an appointment they looked moderately alive, wearying of their temporary plastic homes. I’ve got to get these guys in the ground, I thought. The day after that they were positively forlorn, but I was busy and running and figured they could hang on another few hours. By day four of my neglect their tendrils were draped over the edges of their pots, like overdone spaghetti noodles gasping for nutrients and someone to love them. Time was running out. I had to get them in the ground.
The unexpected gift of these plants paired with my busy schedule left no time for me to get fancy about this. I armed myself with a spade and a watering can and heaved those seedlings into the ground, confident that the soil, sun, and water would do that thing they do. I even had my nephew, Will, and my niece, Harper, “helping” me—two individuals who can flat mangle an already ailing seedling. (No seedling ever wants to see stubby, uncoordinated kid fingers heading their way.) Things weren’t looking good.
Mystery of mysteries, it wasn’t two days later after tucking my vegetable plants into the soil I found them happily reaching toward the sky like a row of Sunday morning worshipers. They were in the ground where they belonged. Home and thriving.
This little exercise set me thinking about the spiritual cultivating we do in our own lives. At times we try to get too fancy about this, too philosophical, too cutting edge. When all we really need is to get ourselves back in the soil of God’s Word, under the warm rays of fellowship, watered by the refreshment of regular prayer. Sure, there are lots of approaches and techniques, but there’s no substitute for the essentials. As we look toward the summer I encourage you to do whatever it takes to get you, your friends, and your family rooted in the ground. (You can do this even with an irregular vacation and camp schedule).
- Commit to staying in the Word. Do you have a Bible study or reading plan? (If not, you’re in a great place to find one.) Pray about a book or theme of the Bible, or reading plan the Lord wants you to immerse yourself in. The soil of being in God’s Word is what fuels our spirit with life-sustaining nutrients. The summer is the perfect season to take in extra nourishment.
- Commit to staying in fellowship. Don’t take the summer off from church. Showing up in a physical place with actual people around you is what we’re called to as believers. Tuning into online sermons as your regular diet is like a seedling staying in its starter container—you can’t grow deep and wide this way because you’re only taking in, not pouring out. Stay in personal, honest fellowship with people who will encourage, challenge, and love you, and vice-versa.
- Commit to regular, consistent times of prayer. Do this by yourself and do it with others. Gather friends around to seek the Lord for what He wants to accomplish in your community, family, and work. Praise Him. Thank Him. Communing with God is as necessary to our souls as water is to a fledgling plant.
As I think about my own summer I’m remembering that there’s just no way around the essentials. I’ve been known to make things more complicated than they are—substituting quality time with the Lord with busyness for Him, true fellowship with complicated gatherings, actual prayer with learning about prayer. This summer, let’s get ourselves back in the ground—our souls are longing for it. Who knows, in a few months we might be reaching toward the sky again.
Kelly Minter is an author, speaker, songwriter, and singer. She is passionate about women discovering Jesus Christ through the pages of Scripture. So whether it’s through a song, study, or spoken word, Kelly’s desire is to authentically express Christ to the women of this generation. In a culture where so many are hurting and broken, she loves to share about the healing and strength of Christ through the Bible’s truth. Kelly writes extensively and speaks and leads worship at women’s conferences, retreats, and events. To learn more about cultivating from Kelly, attend one of her Cultivate Events.