Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Day I Faced My Failure

Marcia Lee Laycock lives and writes from Central Alberta Canada. Her devotionals have been widely published and are endorsed by Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Jeanette Oke. Her novel, One Smooth Stone won her the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award in 2006. A sequel will be released soon.

This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at gardening. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously but so did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “Tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow.

When we moved to Alberta, I anticipated the “game” would go on. When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up her potato patch. It was one of those special times - a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp fall air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of tubers into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have another.

I cultivate words, tilling until there are no weeds, pruning away the excess so the fruit can shine through. God’s gift to me has blessed others as, like my friend with the potato patch, I’ve administered the grace and passed it on to readers all over the world. I no longer feel guilty about my black thumb, or about the many things I can’t do that others can. I feel blessed by what I’ve been given and how God has used it to bless others.


Patricia said...

I appreciated this post. I too have tried gardening only to give up and watch the weeds take over. I think of all the money I have put into my "trying" and wonder what else I could have used it for. Thank you for helping me to see the bigger picture.

Marcia said...

Black Thumbs Unite! Mayb we should start a club!? ;)

Kelly Freestone said...

Thanks for the post, hon!
I really enjoyed it.
I see things like that all around me from super moms at church, to amazing leaders at work.
I'm not those people, and I really feel guilty about, more so lately, so I think you so much for this.

But when I get under my laptop and let God take the keys, I'm being God's hands just as they are, but in a different way.
I'm praying that this hard work will bring forth much fruit.
Thanks for sharing!

Debra E Marvin said...

Great Post, Marcia!

I love gardening--flowers and veggies. But this is a nice reminder to let go. People really do like to help us and being self-sufficient is probably as much about pride as anything else!