The following essay is taken from "Created to Connect: A Christian's Guide to The Connected Child" by Dr. Karyn Purvis with Michael and Amy Monroe. Although I am NOT a gardener (I can't even keep "hardy" houseplants), the imagery in this essay resonates with me as I consider the lives of my three adopted boys.
The Gardens of Life
By Cheryl Macdonald
We moved into our current home about two years ago, and as with any previously owned home there were a few not so welcome surprises. These unwelcomed surprises were easily overcome, however, by the beautiful landscaping, in particular the well-planned and maintained backyard garden, that we inherited with our new home.
Surrounding our stone pool deck is a lovely haven of green boasting an array of interesting
flowers and trees. From the four varieties of roses to the multitude of crape myrtles, lilies and blooming hedges, color graces our little backyard retreat virtually year round. While maintaining our backyard garden requires some effort, we humbly admit that most of it existed long before we claimed it as “ours.”
As the seasons change we love the new surprises that seemingly bloom to greet us—lovely
things we did not plant and therefore are delighted to discover. There are, however, other things in our garden we most certainly did not plant. Take for instance the parasitic vine that continually fights for a corner with my Indian Hawthorne or the patch of dandelions in the yard that seem to be resistant to any effort to eradicate them. For a while I was convinced they actually multiplied when weed killer was applied. In order to preserve and protect the intended beauty of the garden we’ve had to call the “weed man” for professional advice about the right intervention.
Our precious daughter came home in December 2006. We celebrated her 12th birthday just a few weeks later, and she has been a joy and a blessing to our family in so many ways. As her ”roots” deepen in the ”soil” of our family, I have come to appreciate and respect the garden of her heart and life. This garden was planted and blossoming long before I knew her name or became her mother.
There are so many beautiful things in the garden of my daughter’s heart and life—lovely things I did not plant! I was not there to see her first step, her first time to run, jump or climb, yet I have discovered that she is an amazingly fast, skilled athlete, and a graceful dancer. I did not hear her first words, but she has incredible language skills and is fluent in both English and Russian. Once she was home I discovered she could crochet, sew and cook. I have come to admire her strong work ethic, exhibited through diligence and determination—all qualities modeled for her half a world away. And I did not teach her to read, ride a bicycle or build snowmen, yet she loves to keep illustrated journals, ride bikes with no hands and build astounding things out of snow.
As with my backyard garden, there are also other things in the garden of my daughter’s heart
and life that I did not plant but cannot ignore. There are hard things that do not give life and instead seem intent to steal the beauty and joy from her victories. There are the fast-growing vines of fear and loss that try to choke out the trust and sense of permanence that has blossomed between us. And then there is the stubborn root of self-reliance that impedes vulnerability and healthy attachment. Nurturing the beauty and healthy growth in my daughter’s heart and life requires constant vigilance, regular work and the humility and willingness to call upon and utilize available resources (much like the “weed man”) when needed.
In this ongoing effort to help bring forth our daughter’s beauty and hold at bay the ”weeds”
in her life, I’ve relied upon amazing support from other adoptive families and our church, as well as books, conferences and skilled counselors. But by far the most valuable resource—for me and for her—is the Master Gardener. The garden in our backyard did not come to be by chance. It was carefully designed and created for a purpose. The same is true of our daughter. Acknowledging God as the One who designed her unique and precious life has created a bridge from her past to the present and enables us to continue traveling this journey toward a hope-filled future. He knows better than anyone, including my daughter herself, what things are buried deep in the garden of her heart, and He desires to see those things that He planted burst into life and beautiful color.
As the seasons of life change I know there will be many more surprises that will blossom forth from my daughter’s heart and life. Some will spring forth with life and beauty; others will seek an unsuspecting moment to yield patches of doubt and insecurity. Trusting His skill and purpose gives me courage and hope as I watch my daughter’s heart and life bloom and stand amazed at His Master Plan.