T.L.C. [Tender Loving Care] Never Too Much of a Good Thing by Jo Russell

Until she retired, Cheryl insisted that the secret of her lush yard full of plants was pure neglect. The jungle-like lot was thick with trees, wildflower beds, and happy garter snakes.

To skeptics of the neglect theory, she countered “When did you ever see me home when I was working full time and doing volunteer projects in the community? Most of these plants multiply on their own and spread faster than dandelions in the spring.”

But her first summer as a retiree, Cheryl dived into the unfamiliar territory of trying to raise plants from seed and cultivate a garden for food. She complained it ruined too many nights as well as monopolized her days.

As she cried over the phone to a friend, the trowel handler wrung out a hankie, “I’m just not a gardener. I get too attached.”

“To what?” her friend wanted to know.

“The plants. I lost sleep over the sunflowers because the flowers are supposed to turn to face the sun and one stubborn stiff-necked stalk just stares straight ahead with a defiant yellow smile on its face. What’s a gardener to do? Hire a plant shrink? Or let it move through adolescence on its own?”

“Beats me.”

Cheryl recognized Jenny as a great friend, but she was leaning on the wrong person for empathy. Jenny’s back yard was bare dirt. The front yard sported a lawn the size of a wading pool with one struggling rose bush along a fence. The only packaged seeds around Jenny’s house were for jazzing up salads.

“The garden is driving me crazy,” Cheryl sniffled. “With measuring tape in hand and a tablet for tallying veggies just as I do each day, I go out just after sunup to fuss over the pumpkins. I counted them, measured them, and wondered why some flowers never turn into pumpkins even when the bees dance all day in their blossoms.”

Cheryl continued, “You can bet that The Pumpkin Patch farmers raise five acres of pumpkins for Halloween and never count or measure them. They probably just do a quick once-over to be sure the plants are getting enough water. Then I counted the acorn squash. There are twice as many veggies on those two plants than the four pumpkin vines! And yet with all this TLC, I spotted grey spots on the leaves! Where have I gone wrong?”

“They do have sprays for that stuff.” Jenny suggested.

“But I’m trying to grow organic produce!” protested Cheryl. “I’ve even got dark circles under my eyes wondering who gave those little brown caterpillars permission to assault my apples! Each night, I toss and turn with nightmares of fat green tomato caterpillars mutilating my plants, Ernie and Bernice. What is my problem?”

“Ernie and Bernice? You mean you named your tomato plants?! “

“Plants have feelings, too. These are my babies!”

Jenny responded, “I know what your problem is! You’re right. You do get too attached!”

Perhaps without a notebook, measuring tape, and micro-managing, Cheryl could just give the plants love, room to grow and breathe and leave the rest to God. She thought she knew everything about the plants. But God knew everything about Ernie and Bernice while they were just seeds.

That is the same with you. God knows the gift of you and your entire life. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 139:13 [NIV]. The wonder continues with these words: “When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” [Ps. 139:15-16 NIV].

The Lord Himself told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a …” For Jeremiah, it was “prophet to the nations.” [Jeremiah 1:5].

God has honed your skills and talents into a unique combination. He will say, “I appoint you as a….” It’s possible you already see the role He has chosen for you as a ….. a mom, a dad, a visionary, a builder, a teacher, an accountant, caregiver, customer service rep, sales professional, a student, a carpenter, a leader of nations, a business owner… or even a gardener!

Is God attached to you? You bet. But it’s a good thing! He reflects love, care, and promise in a plan for you for all the days of your life. He even gives you the gift of tomatoes like Ernie and Bernice.

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing 2011. For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog on www.button-to-god.com.]

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