The house that we recently moved into has the typical garden of many British homes. It is small, but amazingly is an almost blank canvas. The people who lived here right before us had let it go to weeds and disorder, so it had been rototilled under and was just a square plot of dirt when we moved in this past March.
I come from a lot of women who value flowers and seem to find gardening natural instinct. I wouldn’t say that I inherited that DNA, however their values have been passed down to me and so I have been showing up in the dirt ever since I have had a home of my own. I find a sense of satisfaction in watching things grow and am continually amazed how something of intricate beauty can come from a seed, a gnarly root or an ugly bulb. The garden that I left in Pennsylvania last July, was finally looking like something after I had invested 11 summers into it. Our move was all kinds of crazy, so I didn’t really mourn the loss or even take a picture. My mom told me that she went back to it and dug out some of my lilies for her garden which made me smile.
This new house is older than my homeland and the garden has an idyllic brick wall. As spring arrived, so did the weeds that were embedded into my square of dirt. I am not too great at recognizing weeds for what they are. I inherited my dad’s optimistic view of life, so I find myself always looking to these green sprouts with eyes of hope. “Perhaps this is some kind of heirloom flower that is magically appearing in my garden, so I will love on you until you prove otherwise” is my MO. England is still all new to me and while a dandelion is a dandelion the world over, this place does have some weeds that I have not seen before. The worst of the worst is stinging nettles. This plant assaults you by stinging and leaving you tingly where you were touched; sometimes for days. However, while I had been affected by them on plenty of walks, I hadn’t really looked closely enough to identify them when they started coming up in my garden. This will sound ridiculous to any Brit, but initially, I thought that they looked so promising that I actually transplanted some to a more advantageous place. . .that is embarrassing and I am sure that there is a sermon illustration in my foolishness for my pastor husband to grab onto at some point!
I have been scouring garden centers and street vendors for plants at reasonable prices and working hard to turn this block of dirt into something lovely for my family to enjoy when we step out our back door. Ironically, many would argue that there is absolutely no point in my doing a thing with this garden. You see, along with the home that we are in comes this amazing communal garden that many would pay to get to spend time in. It overlooks the river that runs through our city and to say that it is the best place to be downtown would be an understatement. And yet, I feel drawn to making something beautiful just for my family.
There are a lot of parallels to my life to be found in my new little garden. Last summer, we left our life. So often over the past years, I have said under my breath, “I love my life.” I really did, but we were called to leave it. And we are starting over with what feels like a blank canvas. And yes, like the garden, we know what to do, we have a good idea of what we are looking for and want to build. But, we are in a new culture and so we don’t totally know what we are dealing with. On a daily basis, we don’t know if we are using the correct words when we communicate and we don’t always know what is meant by what we hear in return. There is a level of humbling that comes with starting over like this. It is tempting to yearn for those lilies left behind. . .
I really wish that my mom, grandmother and aunts could see my new garden, give me their tips and help me with identifying the weeds. But, they are not here. In many ways, there are less resources in my life here. I need to learn to depend on and reach out to people who I do not have a long history with. I am learning to do this. A new friend gave me a gift of excess bulbs from her garden – a sweet picture of all that there is to gain from new friendships.
Settling into this house brings a new season of parenting for us. Our four precious kids were uprooted from their lives as well and they didn’t get a lot of say in the matter. That is how life goes sometimes when you are a kid and as their parent, it breaks your heart. It makes you want to spoil them rotten and let them get away with murder. As we begin month 11 in this new country, my husband and I are emerging from survival mode and have acknowledged that perhaps we have accidently valued some weeds.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:19
Cling to what is good. . .In my heart, I know what is good for my kids is time poured into them like water on parched plants. More than anything, my husband’s and my relationship with them transcends this move. We are their constants. They don’t need anything besides us and their eyes on God to navigate their homesickness and acclimation to this new land.
My British garden is pretty rocky. It actually has a ton of broken pottery pieces in it from years and years of I do not even know! Every time I break open the earth to plant something new, I brace myself to see if there is going to be a huge rock that is going to make it impossible to proceed or if I will need to pick through the dirt to provide the best possible chance for the flower to grow. We have one teenager and one almost teenager and that means a new, complicated place for us. There are some issues that we may have been dealing with if we had never left the US and some that have definitely been made rockier because of this move. I am learning that time spent in prayer over these young lives makes things plainer and less complicated to me – it is the most valuable parenting resource that I have. This is what I am praying for my kids as we have faced missing friends, bullying and all of the loss that comes when you move at such a difficult time of life:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-19
And so, I will toil on in my garden and this new life. I will never stop missing family and loved ones (and those gloriously wide US parking spaces!) I need to focus on the things to be planted in this new life. I may sometimes smile and nod when I cannot decipher an accent. There are some things that I will let grow just a little longer in order to decide if they are weeds or not. But, I will not give up on making this little square beautiful for me and my family. Because, somedays, you wake up to discover amazing things blooming, like these lovelies pictured below on my garden wall that just appeared last week! (Anybody know what they are called?!)