Ideally, Tom and I needed a small yard without the need for much maintenance when we moved this last time. Instead, due to our desire to be near our daughter’s school, we ended up buying a house last year with a large yard. Additionally, the home had been owned by a woman with a love for gardening. The fenced-in area had layers of flowers and plants that, when they were tended and cared for, must have been very beautiful.
Needless to say, we have not had the time or ability to maintain that. When we first moved here, I did not anticipate some health issues that prevented me this spring from getting out there and at the very least, pulling weeds. With a chronic pain condition, some days you feel capable, and other days, you simply can’t do what you would like.
So I grieved over the raggedy state of the back garden area, not to mention the front mound and highly visible side of the house that needed tending. Tom had a busy schedule earlier this year and could not get to it as he would have liked.
But through this summer, gradually and belatedly, things began to come together, thanks to Tom’s patience and labor. He planted six trees (I originally wrote four, but remembered two lovely little pine trees he put in earlier on the side of the house), went on weed wars during the long summer evenings, pulled out some things that needed removing, and now, he planted the last tree and put field stones around it for a border. He is doing the same with our trimmed up Magnolia – truly a beautiful and healthy tree that provides shade to the front of our home and the little porch where I like to sit with him evenings.
I had felt sad to the point of shedding a tear earlier this summer that the pretty back yard with all the lovely flowers had not been kept up like the previous owner. I don’t know why I thought we ever could. But today it struck me. The lady who lived here, Dolores was her name, left her beautiful fingerprints behind in her yard. Tom will leave his. They definitely won’t look the same, and that’s OK. He takes care of things in his way, and he has his own thoughts. Already, when I drive into the subdivision, the yard and mound out front has a whole different character to it.
There’s despair when we compare ourselves to other people. We can admire the way they are and the work that they do, but we have our own ideas, our own gifts and style. We bring different things to the lives of others, and we “grow our own gardens” so to speak. What matters is that we are authentically us, and that the gifts God gives us are used to bless others, never to harm.
The tendency to compare ourselves with others is human nature. It’s taken me until this age (50 as of last Saturday) to really believe I had anything authentically mine to contribute—that I have my own voice and that God can use that, free and clear of anyone or anything else. That’s not egotism, it’s an awakening to the fact that God gives each of us gifts and value, no matter what others say to diminish or question that.
So grow your own garden, let your own light shine, whatever metaphor works for you. Nobody else can bring to life the distillation of experiences, compassion and love that you have. Never believe otherwise. You can leave beautiful fingerprints on the lives of others. Uniquely YOUR fingerprints.
Here’s the neat backyard Tom has worked on. The front is close to being finished, just in time for autumn!