Gardening for the soul

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My grandmother passed on her love of gardening to my mom, and their summer vegetable and flower gardens remain some of my favorite childhood memories.  My grandmom loved to take my sister and me summer harvestdown to her garden in the late afternoon to collect roses for the table and corn for our Sunday suppers; I will always remember my mom’s joy at each summer’s first tomato, which she would carefully watch until it was an acceptable ripeness to pluck from the vine.

For my grandmom, the essence of gardening was captured in the simple verse she had hand-stitched on the sampler hanging in her kitchen:

Who plants a seed

beneath the sod

and waits to see

believes in God.

As simple as the poem is, there’s really something to it.  “Besides being a practical, life-nurturing task, gardening is also always a spiritual activity. In it we attempt to make room for what is beautiful, delectable, and even holy,” says Norman Wirzba, a research professor of theology, ecology and rural life at Duke Divinity School, in his book, In Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating.

And I agree: for me, especially when grown at my own hand, gardens are constant reminders of God’s presence and power.

peonyWhile my mom and grandmom had the space to grow rows and rows of vegetables and flowers, in my adult years, I haven’t had the acreage for this type of gardening, so I’ve resorted to carving out small corners of my yard for flowerbeds and planting my vegetables in pots.  This year I’m proudest of my peonies, and I’m also planning to grow the makings for salsa: cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, jalepenos, chives, and basil.  Click here for 20 clever tips to help you be a gardener without breaking the bank, needing much land, or having all the right tools.  Can’t do your own vegetable gardening this year?  Click here to read about getting the most out of your local farmer’s market.

Wirzba takes gardening one step further and applies the analogy of gardening to tending to God’s people.  He says, “A caring, faithful, and worshipping humanity is one of the garden’s most important crops.”

A 2011 Faith and Leadership article on a struggling Dallas church shows both sides of this analogy.  Click here to read about how a dwindling church rebuilt itself through a community garden; in less than 10 years they generated 20 tons of produce for local food pantries, and this church ministry became a staple in the community.

This summer, as you are cultivating tomatoes in your own yard or tending to God’s larger garden, remember Wirzba’s words: “When we garden well, creatures are nurtured and fed, the world is received as a blessing, and God is glorified.”

-Katie Huffman

Inspired by Faith and Leadership’s 11/22/11 posts, “Norman Wirzba: Godly gardening” and “Growing in relevance.”

First image by Flickr user OakleyOriginals via CC

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About Katie Huffman

Katie is a Wellness Advocate with the Clergy Health Initiative. She has an undergraduate degree in History and French and a Masters degree in Gerontology; prior to her current position, Katie worked as a social worker in a retirement community in Chapel Hill. Outside of work, she enjoys gardening, spending time outdoors, baking, and hanging out with her husband, Noah, their daughter, Ada, and two kitties, Grady and Gracie.

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