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Preparing Your "Garden" for Winter
by Barbara Smith

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. (Eccl. 11:6)

Fall's crisp weather warns me of the wintry winds that will soon blow, freezing the remains of my kaleidoscopic mums, dahlias and daisies. I know many of my favorite plants and flowers will return in the spring. Nevertheless, their stalks remind me that although some plants will die off by design, some will perish because of my gardening skills or lack of them! So, as the foliage begins to die back, I begin to fret. For the next four or five months, I must wait through the winter, guessing what will survive the cold and snow and ice -- and what won't. Did I tend to these plants properly? Or, did any neglect or ignorance impair the hardy perennials?

Now, savvy gardeners plan for winter because severe weather is hard on their shrubs and plants; prudent parents should plan, too. Parents must tend their little ones as carefully as the gardener who tirelessly weeds and waters and fertilizes a newly planted spring garden. Careless or haphazard gardening, like inattention to a young child's physical, emotional and spiritual needs, stunts both gardens and children.

The Bible says our children are like plants. (Psalm 128:3, 144:12) The wise gardener waits and trusts and plans, because she trusts the gardening book. So, too, parents of young adults must wait and trust. And pray because they trust their Creator and heavenly Father and His word.

As they develop, youngsters bloom into adolescents the way seedlings become the sturdy plants enhancing verdant summer gardens. And they require as much care as that foliage, too! (It's just knowing of how much to apply of whatever they need and when to prune that stumps most parents and gardeners alike.) Raising those youngsters to adolescents also feels like the work of maintaining a summer garden: lots of work in less than ideal growing conditions.

Some parents, however, find their "gardens" ruined, in spite of their best efforts, just as even conscientious gardeners cannot forestall the pommeling of a harsh winter upon their garden. Remember God is the Lord of the Harvest Trust His time to bring forth fruit.

A clever gardener aims on planning a garden that in time, will have large self-tending areas so, too, wise parents concentrate on producing self-sufficient, independent children. How? By planting them in the Son's light."

The wise gardener waits and trusts and plans, because she trusts the gardening book. So, too, parents of young adults must wait and trust. And pray because they trust their Creator and heavenly Father and His word. "Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, {though} the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. (Hab 3:17)

Just as no gardener can undo the damage when winter storms do their worst, no parent can reverse the ravages of our children's choices. We know that whatever happens in our "gardens," we must conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. We must stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, especially for our maturing children. (Philippians 1:27) And we must not be frightened in any way by those wintry storms! (1:28) Why? We, like Paul, are confident that it is God who works in them - and us - to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13 )

The enjoyments of the early spring and summer days of parenting are ended for us. By now, our children are similar to gardens in the autumn: their roots have grown deeper in the soil of their hearts and they have shed their childish foliage. Our children are grown now -- well, almost. They don't need constant cultivating, but we can help them weather their "winters." Not by becoming like a fretful gardener, worrying about the previous season's work, however. Worrying never grew even a weed, but a willing worker is a wonderful gardener! Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 11:6 "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

Then comes the winter. Very few chores remain for the gardener when December winds sweep through. When our children leave home, very little is left for parents to do. As our gardens are vulnerable in winter, so are our newly grown children, who are usually away from home and church. My gardening apprehensions mirror some fears I have now that our children are just about grown. Will our children prevail in the world's cold weather? Just as it is now too late to undertake an overhaul of the garden I must bide my time and watch the children weather many seasons.

When we look at our young men and women, we may wonder if our children will make it through the winter of their lives. Will materialism freeze their generosity? Will knowledge puff them up and stifle their passion for Bible study? Will unwise friendships, self-indulgence or apathy freeze their passion for Christ?

Possibly you are feeling an early "blast" of changing seasons as you lay aside once familiar duties. What is God's promise to parents with young children who are overwhelmed with prospect of long growing seasons? It is the same promise for parents who now brave winter gardens: "The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people." (Zechariah 8:12 )

Though winter means gardeners may cease from their chores, parents of older children must keep on with one important task prayer, persistent and fervent prayer for their adult children. Many a man or woman walks upright today, because a mom or dad bent their knees. One pastor commented that sometimes the only thing young adults have going for them is the prayers of their parents!

Our "gardening" responsibilities have diminished. Now, we must watch and wait, as gardeners watch beloved perennials. When we can't be "hands-on" in their lives, we must never forget to fold our hands in prayer for them. Pray and work for a garden that glorifies God, and He will bring you through the winter! Seek your heavenly Father now and ask Him to show you how to cultivate your "garden." Paul reminds us that one works in our gardens alongside us: "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness." (2 Corinthians 9:10)

© Barbara W. Smith 1998, all rights reserved
Permission is given to reprint any of Barbara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and Web site address.

Please send a copy of the publication to:
Third Floor Publishing
PO Box 827
Arnold, MD 21012

We hope our thoughts encourage you in the Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could have asked or imagined -- please let us know what YOU think. E-mail us at workbook@toad.net. (Please don't forget to include your e-mail address with in the body of the message--we've had some of our responses returned due to insufficient e-mail addresses.)


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