Dear Pastor's Wife

Dear Pastor’s Wife: Not Your Year

Dear Pastor’s Wife,

You wouldn’t believe the year I’ve had in my garden so far- the tussle of life and death, and of toil and waiting. Well, I say you wouldn’t believe it, but you’re a pastor’s wife so I know you will find yourself in this letter.

The year started with an unseasonably long winter, which I was used to in Canada. In NC, though, not so much. It finally warmed up, but felt like we went from using the heat to using the air conditioner in the span of three days. We were apparently traveling during the tiny sweet spot of balmy temperatures. So there’s that.

Then it began to rain. And although I’m quite familiar with the biblical account of Noah and God’s promise to never flood the earth again, I did start to wonder if this might be the year that the flood returned and that this time there would be no rainbow. It was getting later and later in the year and planting season was quickly passing by, yet our garden was too wet to plow and till, much less plant.

I planted my herbs in pots on the back steps, knowing how hardy they are, and banking on that hardiness to get them through an unpredictable spring. I was wrong. I’ve never had herbs die before, but this year they did. Each day I faithfully dumped the standing water from their pots and even moved some onto the porch to increase their chance of living. Still the basil (my favorite herb) died and so did the dill and the oregano (my second favorite.) Meanwhile the lemon balm sprang back from last year- a whole acre of it, seemingly- but who needs lemon balm in abundance?

After weeks of solid rain, I confirmed with the farmer that if I did not get my garden in, it would indeed be too late to plant this year. So he plowed and tilled, and we planted.

Then a drought of biblical proportions (it seemed) arrived and we got not a drop of rain for several weeks. Hardly anything in our large garden came up. About five green bean plants came up, and were promptly devoured by bean beetles while we were traveling. About three squash plants came up, and have survived. About five zinnias. Two okra plants. Multiple sunflowers (but they don’t really cut the grocery bill). Zero onions. Zero carrots. Five sweet potato (planted from plants.) Three watermelons, puny and barely visible. Seven cucumber plants, five of which the dog dug up and killed. Everything else- a total loss. I planted a tray of flowers from starter seeds, and not a single one sprouted. I planted beautiful hanging baskets of purple flowers, and they withered into a brown crisp during the first week after their transplanting. (I think I am nursing them back to health, but time will tell.)

We replanted some things from seeds, and some things from plants, but only after deliberating long about whether or not it was even worth it. Even some of those plants are withering. I can’t  believe that, after yearning for 10 years for a garden while we lived in Canada, I now had a huge plot which seemed like it was going to waste. Weeds are growing in abundance, but the actual plants? A totally different story.

To top it off, we lost TWO killdeer nests literally days before they were supposed to hatch- one in April and one in May. I felt like I did everything in my power to guarantee their success, including putting multiple stakes in the ground to keep the mowers away, and checking often on the nests to make sure they were safe. Still, something got the eggs and for the second time, Mama Killdeer flew away disappointed.

You’re probably thinking that I have a brown thumb. The thing is, I don’t. I’m normally pretty effective at the gardening thing, and never more so than now living on a farm with rich, black earth and no limits to the possibilities. But after the second bird nest loss, which fit perfectly with the territory of our plant loss,  I came inside one day after viewing the carnage and said to my husband:

“Maybe it’s just not my year.” I hovered between the decision to replant or just forget the whole thing. I’m honestly still  in that place.

And while I’ve contemplated how this struggle (a result of the curse) has made me feel, I recognized the thoughts and emotions and conclusions I was having.

Oh yes, I’ve been here before. I’ve poured into this one and that one. I’ve prayed with that one and this one. I’ve discipled those, and I’ve nurtured these with special food for tender babes. I’ve planted seeds of the Gospel into hearts that were thirsty but didn’t know it yet. I’ve served and sacrificed. I’ve gone to the meetings and let the rake go over, tines piercing deep. I’ve been pressed too deep into the ground to ever emerge again, and then I’ve seen a spark of light and sprung up again, ready to do it all over again. I’ve been the planter and I’ve been the seed. I’ve nurtured a plant of thorns that only stung me each time I touched it. I’ve watched the one I spent so much time with, wither and die- away from spiritual things. I’ve replanted, hoping for a different outcome. I’ve weeded for hours- from my own life and from others, so that the roots could have all the nutrients needed to grow. I’ve projected my future as having no harvest because it seemed that nothing I touched was growing. I’ve lifted leaves to check for fruit again and again, only to find nothing.

This is me. And this is you. Year after year, we work in our plots. We nurture and tend and feed and we pray and hope and weed. We fear that we will have no harvest, judging by the way our plot looks and the way things aren’t growing or changing. We say “It’s just not my year.”

Even as I thought this to myself, I realized the bold and face value truth in this line. It’s true- it’s NOT my year. It’s never my year. It’s always the Lord of the Harvest’s year. It’s always about what He is doing, most of which we cannot see above the ground in the plot where we toil.

The Master Gardener works in the roots, where no one can see. And it’s HIS job, not mine. I tend the plot faithfully, but only God can work underground. In this I am able to release myself from trying to guarantee the outcome of the garden.  Here I can place my hope in the Gardener, and not in the garden or what it will produce. Because what He does is always right, even when it shocks or disappoints or grieves or exhausts or exasperates me.

I think I’ve put so much work into it all, this ministry thing. (I have) I know I’m exhausted from pouring and feeding and nurturing. (a new level of tired and it’s real) I remember the times I’ve sacrificed in ways that no one but pastors’ families can understand. (We do)

BUT….even in light of all of that….it pales in comparison to what our precious Savior has done through His finished work, how He poured out His soul unto death, how He feeds His flock like a Shepherd, and how He sacrificed His very life on the cross….for us to become “the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” {Isaiah 61:3}

Oh friend, are you weary in your garden? Looking around, surveying the realities, unsure of how or if to move forward….wondering why it seems like everything {or everyone} you touch is withering, dying, or not even sprouting or taking root.

Remember this- You’re not the gardener- HE is! It’s not your year, it’s HIS year- always.


A Kindred Spirit

(P.S. The funniest thing happened as I was working on this letter. I opened a Dove chocolate (don’t judge) to eat. You know how the inside of the wrapper always has a message to read? Well, here was the message: “It’s your year.” 🙂 I’m not even kidding; that’s what it said!)