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Growing Boys

That “crunch, crunch, crunch” woke me again. It was midnight. The garden in my front yard, tenderly cared for the last six months, now provided fast food for every animal in town. Rainy season had tapered off until finally the last precious drops fell. No more cool relief would come for another six months. My world would soon turn from moist green to dry brown. Except—for one special tree with fragile, lacy orange blossoms. It had been planted soon after our first child, a girl, was stillborn and buried in the south of the country. We now had two young sons, growing like weeds under the African sun.

We worked as Bible translators in Togo. Gardening provided a welcome break from language work and the beauty of the plants nourished my soul. In the early years, we had no wall around our house to provide a courtyard and privacy. Whenever the boys played on the porch, neighbors congregated to watch their antics.

During the rainy season, villagers tied up goats, sheep, pigs and cows to protect growing crops. Our front yard was also protected and various flowering plants and fruit trees grew quickly and luxuriantly.

But once crops were harvested and animals were loosed, they returned to feast in our yard with not even a by your leave! It was useless to get out of bed to shoo them away. They were harder to get rid of than an invasion of army ants. My husband Neal tried surrounding the yard with an electric fence, but the crazy animals fought with it, instead of backing off. Their pitiful bellowing and screeching brought the fence down pronto!

At the beginning of each rainy season the boys and I would visit the Catholic mission. The nuns employed a full-time gardener and a high wall protected his meticulous work. These sweet women were always glad to let us fill a basket of flower and plant cuttings to start over again.

Here in the States, gardening has its challenges too. A few months ago I bought a beautiful miniature rose plant and put it in a clay pot. It looked so delicate. I knew I had to be careful to water it properly. But alas, I underwatered it and the leaves turned crunchy. Upset, I asked the Lord to please do something and correct my foolish mistake. And Lord, there’s the kalanchoe that I overwatered and it’s dying of rot! God smiled on me and rescued them both.

The experience of those two plants reminded me of our two sons who are now growing into manhood. Mom wants to fuss over them, protect them and help them get it all right—overwatering! But, they do need love and patience, a pat on the back and a smile. Too little “water” and their spirits dry up. Lord, please help me care for them so they will thrive. They need your protective wall about them too so the temptations of the world will not get to them and destroy them. I can’t keep jumping up at midnight to keep them safe!

At the end of last summer many of my efforts in planting flowers and bushes around the house failed miserably. Convicted, I thought, Well duh, I forgot to ask God to bless my work and help me. I just charged forward in my own strength and knowledge and look what I got. So I decided to work more closely with the Lord this year, even out in the dirt!

Gardeners work hard investing many long, sweaty, but enjoyable hours on a plot of land. We Moms and Dads, too, do our best to raise the beautiful children entrusted to us. Like gardeners, we cannot completely control the climate, soil, and rain, or protect every plant from assaults of insects, diseases and voracious beasts. But through faith, faith in God’s protection, nurture and love, we can watch our children grow and blossom.