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My English Garden Dreams

I yearn to be a better gardener. Even as I struggle to make my tiny plot work, I have an English garden in mind. My skills and knowledge are slowly building; progress is sometimes unseen yet steady like the growth of roots. Though, we all know, there is no rushing growth.


Because my reality does not watch up with what’s in my mind, there is a tension. English gardens, with their vast lushness, layered delights just wanting to be discovered, and pebbled twists and turns do not pop up overnight. They are not something we buy during one run to Walmart. No, they take months, years, the weathering of different seasons, changing needs, and considerate, consistent effort to develop.


Think of at least one thing you yearn to be better at and are frustrated that you are not, or a large goal that seems impossible.


I’ve had some small gardening successes this year. I’ve had some absolute fails. I am accustomed to let the failures garnish most of my mental attention: the brittle, brown bean shoots that didn’t make it through our week of vacationing (and happened to take up most of my small gardening plot). Shucks. I ripped them all out. The spinach I planted too late, and came up like tiny, scant, crumpled potato chips that you find near the bottom of the bag. Ughh.


I suck as a gardener,” is all I could think. My hopes of the English garden grew dark.


It’s tempting to dangle here, on the precipice of deciding to give up on the dream, focusing too narrowly on the fails and ignoring the small wins. To climb down from this wall, and from feeling forced to decide on something important to me too early, I unpack a tool for mustering out of dark thoughts.



Still fuming, I asked myself, “Ok, what can I learn?”.

The answers start rolling in past the anger and my mind makes a tiny but important shift.


Next year, I need many more bags of nutrient rich soil. I added some but not enough. (I’m not sure how long this soil was used by the previous owner.) My deep pots are doing much better than the shallow, raised garden. The raised garden could be deeper. I can replace the skinny wooden boards with wider ones to hold the added soil.


These became my first two stepping stones leading me closer to my English garden dreams.


Lessons I learn from my fails and disappointments are tiny rays of hope that I can act on. They don’t necessarily guarantee complete future success, but at least I know what hasn’t worked and what I might improve upon next. The only thing I can do now is take the next actionable steps and be willing to learn (and fail again) along the way.



Still frustrated and grumbly, I turned to tend what else I had (this is the key statement). A small crack of light pierced my angry thoughts: I do have things that are working!… They are small, but they are good.


I have a hydrangea that survived its transplant and is showcasing new green leaves, my potted basil plants are flourishing and healthy (I’ve even made pesto!), the gladiola bulbs my daughters and I planted have given me at least 5 amazing blooms that I’ve been able to cut and enjoy in the house! Smashing!


A change of focus has astounding power. For example, we can focus on what we like about our bodies and encourage it, or we can continue to hold it down with the power of our negative thoughts. We can belittle a marriage into a sour corner, or we can water the things we desire and love. We can knit pick the kids until we forget to enjoy them as imperfect, extraordinary little creatures.


If one area of our lives is suffering, we can turn our hearts to all the other little blessings surrounding us; like Cinderella enjoying the company of the birds and mice visiting in her imprisoned servant quarters. If everything seems to be failing in our lives our focus can always find God.

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God—soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.” – Psalm 42:11 MSG


Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:11 NIV


Sit quietly in your frustration of a goal missed or the tiniest of progress that seems so little it’s almost inconsequential to your mind. Feel the tension of what you want vs. what you have. Feel the frustration of failure rumble in your mind like a thunderstorm and pierce down into your belly like lightning. It is not your identity. Let it release into the air. Cup it in your hands like rain or collected tears.


As the internal storm calms, feel the vulnerability of your wanting and not having and present all you’ve collected to God. Ask Him for what you need and want. Pray for a pure heart and motives. Ask for wisdom and renewed strength. Rest in Him. Move when He says go. Be humble and obedient enough to take any small direction that you’ve collected during your time with God, even if it seems odd.


To move forward after a failure takes a humbleness of heart and an unflashy grit of the will. Turn the disappointment in your heart like the soil for the next season of trying. Enrich the soil with your prayers and the strength only God can give. More direction will be presented, but not until after you take these next few steps of faith.

“Take the first step of faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

What next steps is God asking you to take that you are resisting?


Photo Credit to Annie Spratt