Tending the gardens of gratitude


I’ll start with this: There’s a lovely little garden outside my new home and I can’t take credit for it.

I can’t take credit for the blue bells, rose bushes and fully bloomed Easter lilies soon to say goodbye. And I can’t take credit for what I think might be chrysanthemum bushes in the front yard.

I can’t take credit for the flowers blooming in my yard because I didn’t put them there.

But, I can take care of them.

And that’s precisely where I think my life is currently poised: Between the undeserved flowers and the responsibility to care for the undeserved flowers.

Going through multiple life transitions at once will teach you to take a step back and look at where you’ve been. You’ll see what you’ve gained. What you’ve lost. What you did. What you didn’t do. And finally, where you need to go, (or keeping going,) from there.

I believe what will keep us grounded and growing and improving in the midst of all this is the constant gratitude we’re meant to cultivate. In addition to holding fast to the Creator of All, I think this what really keeps us growing. Always, always growing.

Not the crazy life experiences. Not the impressive accomplishments. Not even the tragedies and triumphs that never leave us the same.

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since having my own house to take care of is that my parents are essentially, and quite literally, rock stars. (The severely underrated kind, of course.) Seriously.

How my mother knows what brand of paper towels will prove to be absolutely useless for even the simplest of household tasks and is able to keep the house sparkling clean and presentable at all times is the eighth wonder of the world. And how my father can tell me anything I’ve ever needed to know and help me decipher exactly what a piece of mail is saying to my young, inexperienced home-owning brain is unbelievable even to the girl who Googles everything. (Did you know that third parties from California will try to sell you a copy of the deed to your Ohio home? Not me. Not me at all.)

It doesn’t really matter what happens in your life or what you’re given or not given in your lifetime. It really doesn’t. Sure, it undeniably impacts your life. It gives you a different starting point than everyone else—but it’s really all about what we do with the things that we are given and how we move forward from the position we do start at.

I could let my garden die. I could let my fiancé run over the chrysanthemum bush with the mower. (He didn’t. Kind of. I mean, it was a close call.) I could Google my heart out rather than text my dad a picture of a piece of mail I’m unable to fully comprehend. I could keep buying the cheap paper towels that will only make me insanely frustrated each time I try to simply tear one off the roll.

Or, I could utilize what I’m given. I could keep it. I could care for it. I could tend what I’ve been given with care even if I didn’t deserve it in the first place.

If you don’t know me personally, you should know that I’m a negative person. (Otherwise, this all makes me sound like a glowing, positive sort of person.) I don’t really see the glass half full unless I close my eyes, turn the other way and pretend the glass isn’t really there at all.

I don’t really like this about myself, though it does come in handy when I need to buckle down to earth, be productive, problem-solve and get things done the proper way. For the most part though, it keeps from living in the moment and seeing the beauty outside my kitchen window. It keeps me from recognizing the flowers that bloomed from the rain or the seeds that were planted in the dark. It keeps me from tending a garden of gratitude because I’m too busy looking at what’s left to do, what else might go wrong and what’s left to fix.

My favorite piece of scripture that challenges and comforts my heart all in one fell swoop is; “He makes everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity in the heart of man, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end,” (Ecclesiastes 3:11.)

It’s been ringing throughout my life this past year. In speech and conversations. In books and music. In prayer and the quiet moments.

He won’t let me forget it—just like he won’t let me forget all that I have to be grateful for and how far my life has come. (Swiffering the kitchen floor in silence one minute and then ugly crying the next for what appears to be no reason is the method he likes to use on me.)

He won’t let me forget that more times than not, we won’t see what’s growing in the back yard. We might not even know what’s going to bloom even after we see it sprouting up in the back yard—but we are responsible for keeping the beauty of it when it does blossom.

He will do his part. He will bring the beauty. He will bring the restoration. He will make it new. He will mend what was broken. He will make whole what was once in pieces. And he will bring life where there was death.

Because that’s my God.

(That’s what he does. That’s who he is. He knows no other way.)

And we, we are we’re responsible for the watering, and the tilling and the digging along the way—to keep alive the life he promises to give us if we let him.

He plants, and we tend. He plants, and we tend gratitude.


About April Dray

Written word is my zeal. I love my cat and she tolerates me.
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