While rummaging through old photographs recently, I came across these images Mary Ashley and I took of our hydrangeas last spring. I fell in love with hydrangeas when Joe and I were dating and he took me home to Georgia to visit his parents. His mother's hydrangeas bloom in profusion at their lakeside home. Well established and cared for, Betty's hydrangeas are so breathtakingly beautiful that they took first and second place in the state flower show. Blossoms in the loveliest shades of pink, purple and blue hang heavy on the bushes lining their walkway to the dock. The living was easy as Joe and I sipped sweet tea on the porch during our courtship, cooled by gentle breezes wafting in from the lake. Watching the hydrangeas sway in the wind, I couldn't imagine a more perfect spring day.
So when Joe and I moved to Alabama several years ago, I knew that hydrangeas were a must for a gracious Southern home. With my mother-in-law's guidance we planted hydrangeas, and Joe has faithfully watered and fertilized our tender plants. We were so excited when we discovered our first blooms, we debated the merits of cutting them to arrange inside or leaving them to enjoy outside.
Each year we find a few more blossoms on our hydrangeas, and I had already been looking forward to their blooming this spring. That is, until Joe went outside one day this week and discovered 6-year-old Christian attacking our hydrangeas with a golf club. I asked Christian why he beat my beloved hydrangeas, and he looked confused. He apologized, but then muttered, "But they were just sticks, anyway."
He was right. Those hydrangeas were nothing to look at in winter. They looked like a lifeless, gangly pile of sticks. And for a little boy looking for something to swing a stick at, they looked like a perfect target.
This week I have been mourning the blossoms I was expecting this spring, but my beaten-down hydrangeas have me thinking about the more important garden I'm tending in this season of motherhood. It is my job to nurture and fertilize the tender plants God has placed in my garden. Even as their mother, I cannot fully anticipate the growth the Master Gardener has in store for my four. Especially when their actions frustrate or disappoint me, anger tempts me to lash out. Harsh words and cutting looks could beat them down like sticks, but the Gardener encourages me to look toward the blooms and lovingly prune instead. Tending this garden is not always easy, but I know that He will reward my efforts.
One spring day my little Christian will come home a strong young man, with a girl he hopes to marry. When he does I hope to gather all four children together to sip sweet tea in the garden. As we admire the hydrangeas that have grown so big since their youth, we'll talk about their lives and where the Lord is leading them. As a gentle breeze sways blossoms in the loveliest shades of pink, purple and blue, my gaze will turn back to Joe. Our eyes will meet, and we will know that this is really the perfect spring day. And my heart will smile as I survey my life's garden, knowing the greatest blessing of all is seeing my children bloom.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it."
(Proverbs 22:6 NASB)