In the weariness of winter, I start to think about planting my garden. I know it is way too early to put seeds in the ground, but peat cups and potting soil are my friends. I plant my tomatoes, peppers and cabbages in peat cups so they can get an early start on the season.
If my seeds are good, I know they will be sprouting and growing in a couple of weeks. My tomato seeds will yield tomatoes, pepper seeds will grow into peppers, and my cabbage seeds always turn into cabbages.
I am never surprised – that is, unless the vendor gets the seeds in the wrong package. That happened to my mother once; she thought she was planting zinnias, and as they grew, she noticed those plants didn’t look like zinnias.
In fact, they looked more like Chinese elm trees. That is what they were. To Mother’s dismay, she had an entire row of trees that had to be pulled as common weeds and no zinnias that season.
Often I have thought how like planting and harvesting is the fertile soil of our minds. We are inundated with thousands of thoughts every day. Like seeds, they will grow if we allow them to take root. It doesn’t take much for a seed to be planted and take root.
Often, I am attacked by a tune on the radio. I hear it once, and I catch myself humming it or hearing the haunting notes in my mind for hours afterward.
The seed of the song is planted. If I listen to the tune often enough, it will become part of my mind’s garden. I can recall it anytime anywhere. Sometimes I don’t even have to think about it, and it attacks me again without warning.
Pictures are like that, too. Our minds snap a picture of every image we see and store them for ready retrieval. Like the tune from the radio, sometimes those images attack us without warning. We suddenly find ourselves reviewing the image with the same emotion we felt when we first saw the image.
If those images are coupled with a strong emotion, like fear, love or disgust, they will return more readily. I have seen images I have had to pray to forget. They bring such bad memories. I have learned to be very careful of what I watch in the media. I don’t want the recall of horrid images.
Our minds are magnificent gardens; they will yield whatever we plant, even if the vendor gives us bad seeds. Seeds will come up just as they are planted. If we nourish those seeds of thought by thinking about them over and over, we are giving those thoughts nourishment, just as we give our plants sun and water.
Whatever we nourish will grow. Self-deprecating thoughts will yield self-deprecating words and actions. Self-confident thoughts will yield self-confident behavior.
I have a new granddaughter who was born in June. She is just starting to jabber, smile and reach for those she loves. I, of course, am her favorite. Babies give everyone that impression. Their smiles are pure and the outward expression of an empty, fertile garden. Their minds are not crowded with vendors’ destructive weeds.
Everything is sweet and beautiful. At least that is the way it is in my little Hazel’s world. People talk to her with kind words and give her confidence at every turn. People express love and kisses freely. She is the center of attention most of the time.
Her little mind garden is full of images of people smiling at her, and her memory is crowded with sounds of love.
I have adopted children who didn’t get that beautiful mind garden in the beginning of their lives. Seeds of discord and conflict were planted in their young minds. Words and images in their lives were hateful and ugly.
These children harvested the seeds the harsh world planted for them. Some were seeds packaged wrongly by the vendor but grew anyway. Where there should have been sounds of love, there were sounds of fighting and abuse.
Because of that beginning, one child created a comfort zone tuned to chaos. She did not feel comfortable if life was peaceful. She had to stir the pot of trouble to satisfy her need for chaos. Another child grew up as a gypsy wandering through the streets finding food and shelter wherever it was. The seeds of wanderlust and attitudes of a victim still plague him.
Another child grew seeds of distrust and rebellion. He suffers daily with the flower of oppositional defiance that has caused him years of grief. It has taken years and will still take years to pull the plants that grew in the minds of these children. Only faith, prayer and trust in the atonement of Jesus Christ will separate the wheat from the tares in these young lives.
Every day, we have thoughts enter our minds, and every day we send out words that will shape the lives of those around us. Sometimes they are thoughtless words spoken in anger and frustration. I shudder to think of some of the seeds I might have planted in the lives of my children by the words I spoke.
I never meant to be unkind, but I am not sure my words were perceived as kind. I often scolded with a furrowed brow and angry tone. How a person hears what you say is more important than what you say. The tone of voice and the look in the eye are seeds that will grow even before the words you speak because they are charged with emotion.
Emotion is the plow that breaks up the soil of the heart. Words spoken in love will be planted just as quickly as words spoken in anger. Since children do not have a large vocabulary, they are even more susceptible to planting seeds of visual images, feelings and sensations.
Therefore, how you make them feel is infinitely more important than the words you say.
Just as I take my peat cups and plant my seeds to prepare for the spring planting, we need to carefully choose the seeds we plant in our minds and, more importantly, we need to consider the seeds we are planting in another’s garden. There is a reason why Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you” and counseled us to “pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us.”
He was aware of the law of the harvest. What you plant, you will receive. He said, “Cast your bread upon the water, and it will return unto you.” He knew everyone didn’t get the same seeds planted in their gardens. He knew the only hope they have to heal is to receive huge doses of love spoken from countenances beaming with kindness and understanding.
Sometimes the love doses work; sometimes they don’t. The harvest takes months, sometimes years, but one weed pulled and replaced makes the garden a better place. We need to be weed pullers, not weed planters.
One of my favorite hymns that floods my mind at planting time is “We are Sowing.” I sing it when I am putting my seeds in my cups and when I am making rows in my garden. The words remind me that words are like seeds; they will grow as I nourish them. I thank the nameless poet who wrote these words. PD
We are Sowing
We are sowing, daily sowing
Countless seeds of good and ill,
Scattered on the level lowland,
Cast upon the windy hill;
Seeds that sink in rich, brown furrows,
Soft with heaven’s gracious rain;
Seeds that rest upon the surface
Of the dry, unyielding plain;
Seeds that fall amid the stillness
Of the lonely mountain glen;
Seeds cast out in crowded places,
Trodden under foot of men;
Seeds by idle hearts forgotten,
Flung at random on the air;
Seeds by faithful souls remembered,
Sown in tears and love and prayer;
Seeds that lie unchanged, unquickened,
Lifeless on the teeming mold;
Seeds that live and grow and flourish
When the sower’s hand is cold.
By a whisper sow we blessings;
By a breath we scatter strife.
In our words and thoughts and actions
Lie the seeds of death and life.
Thou who knowest all our weakness,
Leave us not to sow alone!
Bid thine angels guard the furrows
Where the precious grain is sown,
Till the fields are crown’d with glory,
Filled with mellow, ripened ears,
Filled with fruit of life eternal
From the seed we sowed in tears.
—Text: Anon., Pure Diamonds, Cleveland, 1872
Music: Henry A. Tuckett, 1852-1918