My passion for gardening grew unexpectedly. When my husband and I got married, he was the landscaper. Somewhere along the way, between kids and work and grad school, his time and interest in maintaining our shrubs and flowerbeds waned and the vacuum of care pulled me into the work of the soil. It needed to be done and I was happy to jump in.
So every spring for fourteen years we’ve set out to plant flowers and herbs and then mulch it all. The number of plants has steadily increased—bulbs, perennials, and native plants merge with the random volunteers that pop up in the beds each spring. This year we built a hugelkultur bed in our front yard to see if it will fare better than our failed attempts in the more shaded area (so far the slugs are winning). The mulching in particular takes a lot of effort over a few weekends. Despite what my lower back says afterward, it’s worth it.
What started as a contribution to our home blossomed far beyond its value as a pastime or property-value booster. The more time I spent gardening the more I felt the plants were tending to me, not just me to them. The work in our yard had become a life-giving outlet helping to quell my anxiety. The bud jar stands as a daily reminder of the work God has done in me through the garden.
Creating the Bud Jar
Our four girls often help select and tend the plants, which means teaching them year after year to do no harm—not to step in the flower beds once they’re mulched, absentmindedly snap off buds, bounce balls close to plants, or dump water directly on them. We always encourage the girls to work alongside us knowing that little girls won’t always have a gentle touch.
Our third daughter and the neighbor girls next door want to use the magenta azalea buds as sprinkles on mud cakes. When trying to plant snapdragons, one of them accidentally pinched off the stem because they pulled too hard and too high while getting it out of the pot. When children are around, entropy is inevitable. But in the spirit of recognizing who they are, I did not want my children to be fearful and hide their accidents or lack of self-discipline around the plants, so I started a bud jar.
At first, someone snapped the purple iris stem, then someone snagged some of the lemon drop petunias, a basketball got a new blossoming tulip, and a snapdragon top got a little too much love. Every time a bud left the earth I just asked one of the kids to put it in the jar. Surprisingly, it turned into a lovely floral arrangement. The iris gave it height and a sleek line, drawing the view line to the gorgeous, full tulip at the bottom. The petunia’s squiggle-stem gave some whimsy while the snapdragon was a burst of sunset ombre. I would have never gone out to my garden and willingly cut these blooms, but here they were—a hodgepodge of spring delights.
A Still Life of God’s Promises
God often gives us unexpected pleasures in acts of unmerited favor. The bud jar is a keen reminder that if one of our plants doesn’t bloom because of a mistake or a forgotten rule, life will still go on and the other plants are still doing their God-given work. We will still have a bountiful harvest from his hands despite the missteps, mistakes, and any other variable beyond our control. Even a stargazer lily broken off at the ground before blooming one year comes back from the bulb the next.
I am a witness to the garden miracle in our yard season after season and year after year, and yet I so often fail to remember its testimony when worry takes over. Hannah Anderson echoes this desire more confidently than I do in Turning of Days: “Nature’s a good storyteller in this respect, holding you in suspense until the final chapter. Maybe that’s why, despite the uncertainty, I always enjoy watching the growing season play out; I always enjoy discovering the unique shape of a year.”
It’s comforting to ponder the act of unfolding “the shape of a year” as we raise our children and tend to our work. It stares me down, ultimately giving the lie to my anxieties. I actually have no idea how the days will play out, for good or for ill, despite my belief that I can predict outcomes.
In a small way, the bud jar helps remind me of the actual rhythms of life I see in the kingdom and immerse myself in, not just the ones in my head. As Anderson says, “It’s far too easy to become a cynic in the name of realism; too easy to give up hope because this is the way it is and what will be will be and the sooner you make peace with reality, the better. But then I think, if we were actually realists we’d acknowledge that sometimes our justified fears don’t materialize. If we were actually realists, we’d know that some years the blooms come and the killing frosts don’t.” God has to remind me that deep down we’re all wildly unprepared for the day, but that he’s where he’s always been—on his throne waiting to dispel our fears with his extravagant constancy.
Cover image by Katrin Hauf.