Garden Notes: Seed Memories




Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories we are creating for our children. When they look back on the cool landscape of their growing years, what will the aperture of their minds bring forth? Already I see how they have forgotten the many ways we have loved them. Already they forget the long hours spent poring over stories together, the tucking in and the answering heart-questions awakened by the night. What will they remember? The question fills me with dread and longing.

This morning Jeffrey lay on the couch beside me as I picked through my morning reading. I read Psalm 7 aloud to him, aware of a question in his eyes. When I was finished, he asked about gay marriage, about the Bible, about what I thought.

When he left me, I went out to take pictures of the purple-blossomed eggplant, the new peppers budding, the shy white flowers of the pole beans. When we returned from the ocean two weeks ago, I had to move all of my pepper plants to the other raised bed because the tomatoes had grown so much they were buried alive. I was worried the transplant would disrupt their growth cycle but I have given them such tender care. And we’ve had so much rain they have been happy to have more room to spread their leaves and blossom.

I pinched off a few spotted leaves on my tomato plants and thought about seed memories. Will they remember love? Or will the struggle to burst through the walls of that hard seed shell erase the memory of the soft soilbed?

I wonder. I wonder. But for now, I will continue to water, to prune, to tend my small garden with care.


Garden Notes: Seed Changeling


Yesterday, one of the goats slipped through the fence and when we returned from graduation practice late morning, she was standing in our back yard—perilously close to my garden. I called our neighbor, the goat-man, but he wasn’t picking up, so all I could do was stand guard with a little poker stick and prod at her every time she took a bite of my greens. Each time I did so, I felt so bad that I gently scratched her course-haired nose immediately after. My discipline had little effect. She looked up at me with those vertical pupils—something like adoration on her sweet, kale-stealing face.

We still had a lot of preparation to do for the graduation ceremony that evening. My mom was driving down and I needed to put clean sheets on her bed. Teddy’s slacks still needed ironing, and his gift wasn’t wrapped, not to mention he needed to practice his speech. Time was slipping through my fingers and here I was, goat-sitting.

I walked along the fence line to see if I could find the escape spot. Maybe I could gently urge her back through to the other side. I ran inside and plucked an apple from our fruit bowl. She followed the apple and me along the fence, softly bleating. But I could find no open door through which to coax her. It looked like she had somehow squeezed underneath the already bowed out metal fence. I tried to lift the skeletal remains up and tempt her back under with the apple, but her kindred on the other side caught wind of my fruity treat and came running in a cloud of witnesses. I was soon in danger of having a herd of goats in my yard.

I put the graduate in charge of the poker-stick and drove up to my neighbor’s house to see if anyone could come and retrieve this errant goat. There I learned the goat-man was on his way and when I returned upon the scene he was making the last strides through the meadow to assess the situation. Meanwhile, Miss Goat kept stealing little bites of kale as Teddy ineffectively poked and reprimanded.

The goat-man walked the fence adjacent to our yard and was as mystified as we as to how she had slipped through. He was apologetic, but wondered if I could just lift her up and over to him, then he would inspect the fence for the weak places.

Pick up a goat?

Hilarity ensued. Miss Goat somehow knew we were going to put an end to her adventure and managed to deftly elude us from all sides. At one point, I was possessed with a fit of giggles so pervasive I thought I was going to have to give it up. Finally, we had her cornered by the garden and when she took a bite of kale, I pounced.

Pygmy goats are small but compact and it felt like I was picking up a small Volkswagen. But I handed her off to the goat-man without incident. She joined her other goat friends gladly and soon I was left standing alone, surveying the remains of my kale.

She hadn’t done too much damage, and the greens are nearly past prime anyway. Already the summer squash seeds I had pressed down in between the leafy greens were poking up through the dark soil. I needed to harvest the rest of the lettuce and spinach, pull up all the greens and either use them or feed them to the goats. It is time for the garden’s second wave of crops. The tomatoes and peppers are looking good. My bean plants are nearly four inches tall and looking for more room to vine up and out. I studied the beginning of their twinings and noticed how the remnant of the seeds still clung to the sides of their stems. I gently touched the soft, yellow half moons of the broken pods in wonder.


How do these growing things begin as one thing and change into something entirely different? Beautiful and fragile all at once?


I knew I needed to harvest the kale very soon. But the sheets still needed changing and the slacks pressing. And my boy was waiting in the house, filled with anticipation for the evening.

I took a last look at the goat-nibbled greens and headed back inside.

Garden Notes: The Truth that Carries


This is what the world wants from our rhetoric, what the man of God longs for in a shepherd—someone daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burned in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phony we are.~Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Everywhere—dropping from the dew-soaked sky, clinging to every high stalk of yarrow in the meadow, behind the closed doors of walnut-stained cupboards, between cottony sheets on my bed—everywhere, there is truth. It stares me loud in the face and still I choose to believe in a world of arbitrary rules and a way of life I have concocted on my own—stubbornly convinced of the importance of too many things that. just. aren’t.

In the early morning hours, my feet wet with fallen starlight, I peer through yew branches to find the finch’s nest. She has roosted high this year, on a scaffold of limbs to cradle and protect. I will need the ladder to see and count her young, but I can hear their plaintive cries for breakfast. The crows have been nosing around for days.


All around me the world breathes, inhales and exhales life I can see and touch, and death crouches in the shadows, waiting to pounce. In early spring, I noticed that our plum tree did not bloom. Our beautiful umbrella-like tree that usually announces the arrival of the season heavy-laden with pink, pearly blossoms unfolding … The tree we planted when Jeffrey was born—little pearl, the one who rains color into our days. The tree is dead. The winter must have been too harsh for it—I noticed a neighbor cutting down his plum the other day.

This morning, I picked the first tender shoots of greens from my garden and made a salad for lunch. A simple joy—seeing this thing through from the garden to the table. With each forkful I felt truth settle into my gut.

The truth is, I’ve been too concerned about what other people are doing. Measuring myself up against a plumb line that was not created for me. Lost in worries about slow book sales, and whatiswrongwithmes, and feeling the ache of inadequacy.

The truth is, I know my worth is not found in these things but the truth of this is easy to lose sight of when you run in the wake of the fast kids.

It takes courage to step out of that race, to take a different path and face the writer’s rhetoric with truth.

Dare to be different.

Be humble enough to make mistakes.

Be wild enough to risk the burn of love.

Be real.

I’m tired of following rules that leave me empty and aching for something real. Truth goes by many names. I will try to choose wisely. Is the truth I carry able to carry me?

I think about these things as I water my garden, as I walk Bonnie around the yard, as I cut irises for the table.

Then I see it, blatant in the afternoon sun. Out of the base of the dead plum tree. A single shoot of life.

Garden Notes: A Summer Story

Last night when I went running I couldn’t help noticing how the Queen Anne’s Lace is crocheted into all the in-between places—softening the thistle and chicory, weaving delicate places through rough edges.

Since I’ve returned from Haiti I haven’t had time to breathe.

I had one week of home and then we packed the minivan and headed to the sea for our family vacation.  This week I look around and see that the world hasn’t waited for me to catch up. Summer is in full story and my garden tells the tale.

Before I left for Haiti, I harvested the broccoli; did a quick blanch and froze the florets individually. Jeff made a casserole with some of it Monday night and it tasted fresh on the tongue. 



While we were at the beach last week, there was little rain here. My mother-in-law was kind enough to water for me, but the tomatoes still look a little peaky and there were a dozen cucumbers on the vine—all past prime with tough yellow skins and chewy seeds. I’ve been eating them anyway—peeling away that outer shell and letting the cool of the fruit speak summer to my body. There will be a second crop for pickle making.

But the bush beans were the surprise. When I pushed aside their viney leaves yesterday, I saw the first crop—ready for picking. What I love about picking beans is how it’s so much like a treasure hunt. Just when you think you’ve found the last, just when you’ve given up—something new appears.

But you have to keep looking.

This morning in William Barclay’s commentary on Matthew he says, “We hear only what we’re listening for.” If we don’t practice listening for God’s voice, if we don’t practice looking for goodness and truth … we can lose the ability to hear and see it, he says.

Yesterday, I gave into the grief that I am not enough. We had gotten up early to drive Teddy down to St. Mary’s for a surgery we’ve had scheduled for months. It’s the same procedure he had done on his right ear last summer and we were hopeful this might put an end to these ear troubles that have plagued him his entire life. But he woke up with a cold and when we arrived at the hospital the doctor decided we should cancel the surgery. He didn’t want all the delicate work he needs to do on the tympanic membrane to be undone by sinus pressure and the like.

We are all disappointed, but what can you do? It was the right decision. But now some other plans will have to change and our schedule is always as tight my jeans the first time I put them on in the fall.

That afternoon, I sat on the couch and thought about the mounds and mounds of laundry waiting for me, of my family reunion this coming weekend and how my sister wants me to drive to Clarksburg early to spend some time with her. I thought about that trip to Connecticut Teddy and are planning to visit colleges and meet up with his best friend. I thought about band camp starting next week and how school begins early this year. I thought about that article waiting for me to edit—the one that needs a lot of work and I thought about my upcoming book release and how I’m not ready for that. I thought about that promised endorsement that was never delivered, and how I wanted to get my novel ready to release as an e-book. I thought about Teddy’s college search and the Jumping Tandem Retreat and that preaching engagement I have coming up, and all the difficult, heartbreaking patients we have on our caseload at the hospital right now. And then I took Teddy to the pediatrician to get an antibiotic and I took Bonnie for a walk and I fought back tears all day long.  

Because I’m not enough.

And when Jeff came home from work he said, “Just go.” So I go for a run. And I can’t help noticing how the Queen Anne’s Lace is crocheted into all the in-between places. Giving beauty to the harsh edges, creating a soft place for the tiny songbirds to land. And because I’m looking, I see an Indigo Bunting light on a crusty cattail—his brilliant blue a sudden shock of delight.

And today I am thinking that this is how God weaves beauty into life—in the in-between places. But, just like picking green beans, I have to keep looking.

Because He is the soft place for me to land, my sudden shock of delight.


Psst … did you hear? I’m giving away one copy of Emily’s book Atlas Girl. For a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post before next Sunday (7/20). I’ll announce the winner on next week’s Playdates with God post on Monday. 

ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. The Lulu Tree ( is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.