“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
– Isaiah 58:11 NIV
I once slept in a castle in Ireland. Our neighbor’s son was getting married and his bride-to-be was a native of Ireland. With over three hundred castles throughout the country, we decided it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to sleep in one.
The castle did not disappoint, with legend, lore, and a dramatic history. As we were packing up to leave and head on to our next destination, the castle host asked me if I had visited the secret garden. I had not. With our go-go American agenda, I had been so busy seeing the sights, that I hadn’t walked to the backyard. He said that I absolutely had to see it before I left. He insisted.
I hesitated, as everyone was preparing to leave and my bags were literally on the front porch, or in this case, the front moat. But something in his insistence forced me to go. Reluctantly and obligingly, I went.
Around back, a small Alice in Wonderland style door was framed by a rock wall, centuries old. It appeared simple, a tiny passageway. Stooping through the frame, I was astonished by what I saw. As I entered through the tiny unassuming door, several acres literally unfolded before me. Tumbling flowers, elaborate statues, pebbled footpaths, archways, pergolas, plants towering above and below me. I literally felt like I was Alice in Wonderland. Gorgeous beauty was everywhere I looked. It was stunning.
I think back on that moment and wonder, “What if I had missed it?” What if I had been so busy as not to take the five minutes to literally see the backyard? In hindsight, that garden surprise was one of the highlights of the of the entire trip.
Here at home, I have a tiny garden. It is often neglected and overgrown. Usually during the spring season, I start to dream of the possibilities. I consider what could grow as I gather seeds, peruse the garden center. I love the idea of gardening, but I struggle with making time for it. Everything in the high school and homeschooling world feels more important—college visits, SAT prep, reviewing papers, discussing books, making checklists of to-dos.
If I’m not careful, I can let homeschooling become more important than anything else. Sometimes I am guilty of being so busy “doing” that I neglect my own health, friendships, spouse, faith, and my own passions. It’s so easy to let it become the most important thing.
Don’t get me wrong, our children’s education is very important and being dedicated to doing it well is a high calling. I like to justify my “overdoing” with the prideful, “I just want to do it well and as unto the Lord.” This is a fine statement, but if I am not careful, I can make homeschooling an idol just like anything else. I can get so wrapped up in my very involved plans that I forget our Creator already has His plans at work. His plans, not mine.
When I find myself in “overdoing” mode, I look to my little garden. Just walking outside and spending time clearing weeds reminds me of the dreams inside of me. I can simply trim a few clippings or spend time raking a patch. Like a comb running through my soul, it untangles the knotted up places in me. It reminds me of the real me. The one God loves and wants to spend time with. The one that is full of dreams and hopes and desires beyond the list of to-dos. It reminds me I am more than my doings.
My encouragement to you as a homeschooling parent is to find your secret garden. Find the thing that allows you to tend to your soul, that undoes the fears, worries, and knotty places in you. Gardening may not be your thing. Perhaps it’s cooking, handcrafts, poetry reading, journaling, walking in nature. Whatever it may be for you, make time on a regular basis to tend that secret place in you.
Our children need us to be parents that know the love of the Creator by experiencing it firsthand for ourselves. When we are filled with that love, we can’t help but pour out on our families and our pursuits. We must tend the gardens of our soul in order to bloom fully as the Lord calls us.