My Black Thumb



Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 (NKJV)

Every year I get flowers for Mother’s Day. And every year by July Fourth they’re pathetic looking. Or gone to that great garden in the sky. The healthiest looking ones—if you even want to use the word “healthy”—are all leaves and no blossoms.

Why don’t they bloom? I wondered. I water them when the soil is dry, pouring until the water exits from the hole in the bottom of the pot. (Okay, sometimes the plants are wilted before I remember.) I feed them plant food every other week, using a special kind called “Bloom Booster.” I follow the directions on the package and measure carefully to make sure I don’t use too much or too little. I remove the dead blossoms faithfully.

Vinnie (Vinca Minor)
Vinnie (Vinca Minor) 

Do I water them too much and the roots rot out? Or too little? Maybe my body emits too much static electricity (which is why I can’t wear watches) and that affects them.

Even my kids teased me when the church gave flower plants for Mother’s Day: “Pick your next victim, Mom.”

Every year the flower season begins with so much hope. And every year that hope wilts and dies with the blossoms. I concluded that I simply have a black thumb.

This year I decided no flowers. I wasn’t going to put myself (or them) through the angst.

But my husband surprised me on Mother’s Day with a hanging basket of petunias and a flat of marigolds and petunias.

My Pot of Gold
My Pot of Gold

Now, marigolds have always thrived in spite of me. But the petunias . . .

Sure enough, once the blossoms died, I had a green jungle.

“Where did all the flowers go?” my husband asked me one day.

“Oh, you know me and flowers,” I said. “They take one look at me and say, ‘Oh, it’s her’ and give up the ghost.”

“Are you . . .” He went through the now familiar checklist. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing . . . except . . .

“Wait!” I hurried to the kitchen and brought out the labels that came with the flowers, which gave detailed directions for the care of that particular plant.

The petunia’s label read “I love sun.” (And “I’m super easy to grow.” Right.)

“Maybe that’s why it isn’t blooming,” I said. “It’ supposed to get at least six hours of sun daily. It’s not getting enough sunlight.”

I’d hung the basket on the back deck, which gets plenty of light, but little to no direct sunlight. So I moved the plant to the sunny side of the deck. Sure enough, it began to perk up.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Today Viola (I named her, and, yes, I talk to her every day) is bursting with pink, purple, and white flowers.

One little detail—one important detail—made all the difference.

Just like the flowers, God created each person unique. Some thrive in the sun, others in the shade. It’s important to know the difference.


And it’s important not to compare.

The petunia, which loves the sun, doesn’t wish it were an impatiens, which thrives in the shade. Nor does the impatiens wish it were a petunia. They just bloom and give joy to all who gaze upon their beauty.

Shouldn’t we do the same?


Help me to be sensitive, Lord, to the way You made others. Give me the wisdom to perceive whether they thrive in the sun or in the shade, and to treat them accordingly. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Genesis 1



Nothing Wasted

“Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 6:12 (NIV)

We planted in hope and reaped in dismay.

As usual, we put in the garden around Memorial Day. Then the monsoons arrived. Now, those who live in these parts know the rain that deluged us for weeks and weeks was uncommon. Seeds and spuds rotted in the ground.

Then in mid-July and August the sun shone—and shone and shone. No rain. Not good for the garden.

We did get a healthy bean and pea harvest, and hubby enjoyed green onions and fresh cucumbers in his salad.

But the beets and green peppers were pitifully small. Even the zucchini and squash, of which I usually get way more than I can use, were sparse and a fraction of their usual size. Onions we let grow rotted in the ground and those we pulled rotted while drying out, even though I’d bought the “Keepers.” The skins on the two zucchini we picked were tough, as was the corn. Even the raccoons left the stalks alone.

photoWhen I picked the tomatoes, I tossed quite a number of them because they were rotting or spotted. Not even I, who will save every usable bit of tomato as possible, could use those.

As I prepared the tomatoes for canning, I thought about when Jesus fed the multitude. When they were finished—John writes, “when they all had enough to eat”—Jesus told the disciples to “gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12).

Let nothing be wasted.

I thought about that phrase as I cut out the bad parts of those tomatoes.

I, too, have “bad parts”—character flaws, habits, mistakes that hurt me and others. But Jesus doesn’t toss me away because of them. Instead He lovingly cuts them out so mine will not be a life that’s wasted.

I thought about that phrase as I prepared those tiny beets for canning. I wouldn’t get the yield I wanted, but even those little beets would be used.

I thought about that phrase as I contemplated the things out of my control that affected the garden harvest—the weather, the country critters. So, too, things happen in our lives that are beyond our control and leave us spotted.

But that doesn’t mean God can’t use us.

Think you’ve got too many bad parts? Or you’re too small or too tough to be of any value? Or the stuff of life has marked you up too much to be usable?

Turn yourself over to the One who said, “Let nothing be wasted.”

For, unlike us, He plants in hope and reaps in joy.

When I’m feeling small and marked and unusable, Lord, remind me that “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6) until I am all He plans for me. That nothing in His hands is ever wasted. Amen.

 Extra tea: Read and meditate on John 6:1–13