Diligence and Focus: Thoughts from the Garden

Since the blossoms are turning into green beans;

Since the tomatoes are crowding each other for a peek of the red-ripening sun;

Since going to the garden feeds my soul as well as my family, I look forward every year to the season of hunkering down between the bean plants.  It’s challenging this year with a summer job, but this is my twenty-seventh garden, so I’ve definitely signed on for the long haul of canning and sticky jam-making on hot July afternoons.

Weeding was terrifying in my early days of gardening.  How can you tell a beet seedling from an imposter when both are tinged with red?  And I truly thought I would perish before finishing our first season of bean canning —  sixty-five shiny new pint jars full of green beans.  Ironically, in 2015, I canned 63 quarts and 55 pints, and never once thought I would perish.

 From my garden, I am learning about diligence. 

The garden yields its treasures to the worker who plants, weeds, picks, prepares, and preserves its bounty.    When I pick veggies, I have learned to use my sense of touch as well as sight.  For example, green peppers blend in so well with their bushy plant that last fall I underestimated their number and carried a small bucket to hold the harvest.  When that was full, I requisitioned a decrepit Tonka truck from the sandbox and loaded it too!

Where had this unexpected bounty come from?

Picking, I had used two hands, holding onto each plant and feeling every inch.

I wish I could say that my devotional habits mirrored my gardening practices. Do I read as if I were working in the garden, ransacking every verse for every morsel of truth to feed my soul?

I’m afraid that sometimes I pick up the Bible as if it were a sales flyer.  “Anything good on sale this week?”  A quick scan for bargains, and then on to the next item in the junk mail pile.

I have friends of the heart who talk to me sadly about their truth-harvesting habits.  As I listen and commiserate, I think of Paradise Lost  by John Milton, the book that sat on my night stand for three years.

I knew I should read it.

I knew that when I did read it I would love it!   (“He also serves who sits and waits,” wrote Milton on his blindness.  Beautiful.  Who wouldn’t want to read more of his writing?)

One thing I know for sure:  when I harvest my green peppers, I’m not thinking about eggplants (as lovely as eggplants are!).

From my garden, I am learning about focus.

When the psalmists wrote about this kind of concentration, they used the Hebrew word hagah, usually translated as “meditate.”  (See Psalm 1:2; 63:6)  In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson connects the dots to Isaiah 31:4 where the prophet uses the same Hebrew word to refer to a lion growling over its prey.  Our St. Bernard, Tucker, concentrates on his bones and chewy toys in the same noisy and focused state of mind.   In Peterson’s opinion, “Meditation is too tame a word.  Isaiah’s lion chewed and swallowed when he meditated.”  I am interested in cultivating this kind of reading — spiritual reading that feeds my soul.

“Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”  Psalm 119:18


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46 thoughts on “Diligence and Focus: Thoughts from the Garden”

  1. Oh friend, this is beautiful food for thought. We do so often pick up the Bible like it’s a sales flyer. Thanks for your thought-provoking words this morning. I love picturing you hunkered down between bean plants! Careful attention to the Word of God yields fruit too, doesn’t it? Thinking of all your canning jars, full to the brim.


    1. Yes, and all that goodness preserved for the cold winter months. Kind of like reading the Word and storing up truth so that during times of trial and “the silence of God,” we can hold on in faith.


  2. I love that yellow truck, I love your diligence, I love the life lessons that gardening gives us.

    And I really love some of that sticky sweet July jam right about now!

    A true summertime post, friend!


    1. Isn’t that poor, sad old truck just a keeper? The Tonkas in my house have seen a lot of hard use — and now I put them to work in my garden when I forget to bring a big enough bucket.


  3. We do everything too fast, don’t we, Michele? Your post reminds me of a quote from Laura’s book, “Every moment is sacred if we pay attention to it.” I love what you’re learning from your garden. From God. Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙂


  4. Thank you for these words. Your garden analogy mirrors mine this weekend. There is seems to be a lot we can learn from gardening. Sowing God’s truth requires diligence and I know when we lack that everything else seems to be off kilter. The reminder today to focus and persevere is just what I needed. Sabbath blessings my friend!


  5. What a convicting question -Do I read as if I were working in the garden, ransacking every verse for every morsel of truth to feed my soul? I need to work more on this. I have a couple of Tonka trucks in the garage that look just like yours. My husband loving played with them when he was little and our son enjoyed also. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.


  6. I love the idea of meditating like a lion chewing up his prey–such voracious hunger! That’s what I want, Michele! Thanks for the reminder and kudos to you for your gardening skills and perseverance!


    1. Beth, I have been pondering that metaphor by Eugene Peterson for years, and just had to work it into this post on diligence. Really, what a fantastic treasure of a verse!


  7. Michele I don’t know how you have time to garden sweet lady, and I know from your blog you are in the Word and sharing daily. I love people like you who have gardens because well a neighbor brings me those beautiful fresh tomatoes we have been eating and squash and cucumbers and peppers.

    I am guilty of plowing right thru my Bible many years back. I think that’s part of the reason now I can’t get enough. There are some books also on my shelves that need to be read.

    Have a very blessed week.


  8. First of all, I’m impressed by your gardening skills! Looks like you are having a bounty 🙂

    Secondly, I like the way you connected that diligence you learnt with studying God’s word. Very true.


  9. So fitting today! I’ve been putting off getting in my garden because the weeds are overtaking it. I just don’t seem to have the knack for gardening although I want to.
    I love being in my garden though, because I can talk to God.
    I want to be more diligent in connecting with God daily. I blog and so much of my time is spent on that, I forgot to spend time just with Him without an agenda.
    I’m going to get in my garden today and just be in His presence among the weeds!
    Blessings on your day!


    1. Gardens and blogs are both tough masters! I sympathize! So good to know that our time with God is fruitful even without an agenda — and that everything else is more fruitful as a result!


  10. Thank you Michele for linking up. We love having you at Dishing it and Digging it link party. Have a great week.


  11. Such great insight, Michele! Loved this post! Such a great reminder of how we should pour over God’s word and the rewards that are ours as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love how everyday things can teach us so much. I love the comparisons you make here about the different approaches to reading the Bible. It is too easy to treat it like a sales flyer at times but I love the idea of meditation being like a lion focusing on his prey. It definitely conjures up a whole new image of meditation.


  13. I’ve always found gardening to be so full of lovely spiritual metaphor and you’ve somehow managed to tease out some fresh ones. Well done. Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!


  14. You are my hero with all that canning and diligence in the garden! Wow! I come from a family of people just like you in that way, but somehow I did not get that same love! Thankfully, my diligence shows up in other ways, though! I’m praying along with you for our diligence in our devotional time to strengthen.

    Thank you so much for sharing hope alongside me each week, Michele. You are a treasure!
    Blessings and smiles,


  15. Michele, you are amazing! Such a gifted writer (your review of my book makes me want to read it all over again), a loving wife and mother, conscientious summer worker, and gardener–whew! I also know from what you’ve shared with me that you are memorizing the entire Scripture verses that accompany the 26 alphabetical Names of Christ in my book—-you are personifying Eugene Peterson’s metaphor! Many blessings to you ❤️


    1. Overwhelming positive feedback here, Beth! I do want to thank you, again, for your book, which has become a reference point for me this summer. (Right now I’m stuck on “R,” – pesky references – but only 8 more verses to go!)

      Liked by 1 person

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