Tidbits and Blessings Blog
by Jeanie Malone
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The first time I planted garlic was the same year that we built our raised beds. One of my high school teachers, the teacher who transitioned our school and community from typewriters to computers, and her well-respected city council member husband were generous to share a bounty of bulbs with locals who wanted to start their own garlic. I was enthused. We typically eat 10-40 cloves each week, so growing our own sounded perfect.
Bought soil won’t have the same nutrient quality as built soil. Bought soil can be packaged as many things, and for what it is, it’s great. But don’t buy a goose expecting a duck. Bought soil is a quick fix to get you started, but it is lacking nutrients that take time to build by amending and working the soil. Many crops including garlic need nutrient-dense soil in order to make a good harvest.
But you have to start somewhere, so we built the garden frames from materials we already had and filled them using the hugelkultur principle of compiling compostable biomass materials. We topped limbs and larger debris with top soil and compost we bought and added smaller, compostable materials such as dead leaves from our own yard along with a stingy amount of expensive, pelleted, organic fertilizer.
Within a week of planting the cloves in our new beds, fresh, green garlic shoots lined the sides, and I expected a good harvest based on that initial growth. After a few weeks of appeared to be stunted growth, I added more of the organic fertilizer.. After two more weeks of unsatisfactory growth, I added some commercial standard triple 13 fertilizer, the magic tonic of much commercially grown vegetation. Nearing time for harvest, I noticed that the blades on my garlic weren’t tall and thick but were somewhat flimsy. It just wasn’t growing like I wanted it to. After the blades died, I pulled up the smallest cloves I’ve ever seen.
A few months after my sad lack of harvest, my former teacher asked how my garlic did. I was so embarrassed to admit my failure. Her husband then gave me a short gardening lesson, informing me of how nutrient-needy garlic is.
Now I realize that I cannot take shortcuts to growing good garlic. These master gardeners shared their secret to success—having good built soil that they continually feed and amend.
I thought of this principle of built versus bought soil in growing relationships. The built being something that takes a lot of consistent effort over time and the bought being convenient, quick fix we often try in efforts to save a marriage, friendship, or other relationship. Often we want a quick turnaround, especially in new relationships. We think, “Well, I was nice to him, so now he should respect me.” We want to quickly build a relationship using materials we already have. Then we throw in some dirt we already own and venture to pour in something flashy fad that promises quick results. We may even add some expensive fertilizer like flashy cars or expensive vacations to ensure good results. Then when harvest time rolls around, we reap weak results. Our relationship hasn’t grown strong in unity and the ability to weather the storms of life.
Some of us continue adding fertilizer late in the season, desperately hoping for a harvest, but then one day we realize the frost killed the plants before any fruit was produced.
The guiding principle I taught as a parent and educator was, “Do what you should when you should how you should, and you’ll be happy with the result.” And depending on the individual and level of understanding, sometimes I would add, “why you should” after the how. I believe this is true for all of us in every aspect of life. There are right and wrong steps, and there is a right and wrong order to things, and there are right and wrong motivations for doing things.
Only the original Gardener can create the timetable from breaking ground to reaping harvest. Whether you plant garlic, pumpkins, or radishes, these all will take a certain number of days to grow. We can do a few things to jumpstart growth like heat lamps or seed blankets, but we have very little control over the length of time God ordained for each fruit to grow to its full potential.
Sometimes in a relationship we exhaust of making contributions to the soil and grow impatient for a harvest. We decide that the six months, six years, or six decades we have labored is more than enough for a harvest. Part of being human seems to be impatience in one way or another.
But some things take longer to grow. According to Penn State Extension, seeds “wake up” and germinate when conditions are right. They lie dormant until then. Instead of seeking God’s wisdom and love for the relationship, adding new amendments and working the relationship so it will breathe healthy, we often give up.
When my husband and I married, we envisioned a wonderful unity of our ministry work as a large part of our marriage. We both felt strongly led by God to minister together.
Even before our nuptials, things seem to start unraveling. A week or so before our wedding, I was in the hospital severely dehydrated and with a couple of infections. This seemed to start a new trend in my health that I kept trying to bolster despite continuing weakness.
My health and our ability to minister together unraveled. Confused and trying to make sense of the drastic contrast from our reality to what we envisioned, my husband started his own downward spiral.
After ten years of nonstop attacks on our marriage, we didn’t even discuss plans to minister together. At the time, we had no plans but trying to figure out how to navigate our individual lives. Ministering together was all but off our radars.
Feeling numb and abandoned, I began praying for my marriage, my husband, my feelings toward my husband, and for our purpose I remembered feeling led to. After many months of doing nothing but hanging on and praying for these things several times every day, something changed. I changed, he changed, and our relationship changed. We started getting closer than ever before. Our passion for one another and our passion to live our purpose together was not just smoldering but on fire completely.
After a few months of growing closer and thanking God for our rekindled romance, we realized that we needed to nurture the relationship for it to grow stronger and fully blossom. We had to fan the flames to keep the fire going. We added in some new priorities and practices. My husband made Friday night date nights a priority in his tight schedule. I studied up to be a good masseuse. Together we planned fun meals and played old board games. We made time for one another every day, no matter how busy or tired we were.
It wasn’t just the new habits that fanned the flames. It was the attitudes behind the habits. We took an honest look at our lives, remembering the vision God gave us, and recommitted to doing our part—something we didn’t quite fully grasp when we started this journey over twelve years ago. We had a long engagement, did pre-marital counseling, discussed our objectives, but then along the way in all the busyness and attacks on our marriage and purpose, we lost focus. We hadn’t prepared realistically against the attacks guaranteed to come our way.
Just as the healthy built soil that gives a good harvest isn’t left alone without additions and amendments, a healthy relationship isn’t left alone, either. It needs good things added in, it needs to be worked so it breathes, and it needs the weeds picked out. Sometimes we expect a good harvest in a relationship just because it has been a part of our life for so long. But a garden left untended only grows weeds. The same is true in relationships. Weeds deplete healthy soil of nutrients, and weeds in our relationships deplete our energy, desires, focus, and efforts so there isn’t anything left to nurture the relationship. We must continually work on our relationships, just like building soil for a productive garden.
I'm tired of running from God and am trying to learn to run to Him instead.