Facing My Failure

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This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at it. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables and most especially flowers.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. I even built a greenhouse and kept a fire burning in it at night to keep a few tomato plants alive. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four-hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously. So did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow!

When we moved south, I anticipated the “game” would go on, but was delighted that there were so many grocery stores to choose from! When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.  

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to the world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up part of her potato patch. It was one of those special times – a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of food into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening. It’s not my gift.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have others.

Do you know yours?

2 thoughts on “Facing My Failure

  1. Sandy Sieber May 24, 2022 / 5:21 pm

    You wrote such a nice reflection about us each having our own gifts. I hide behind my husband’s gardening skill to answer those “Do you garden?” questions. Gardening isn’t my gift either.

    • marcialeelaycock May 24, 2022 / 5:41 pm

      Thanks, Sandy. Sometimes it’s easier to hide, isn’t it? 🙂

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