This is my garden and my son.  It’s a small one but he’s a tall one.  The garden stays where it’s planted but the boy is soon to be transplanted.

I thought I was doing alright with this.  I’ve heard lots of good advice from friends and have plenty to keep me busy so it was easy to feel “intellectually” ready.  That was until I read the bulletin at church.  The Outreach Team posted a plea for help serving college kids dinner on Sunday nights.  The announcement said the campus dining hall closes then so this effort was started as an outreach.

I got flustered the minute I read it.  What no dinner Sunday nights?  How will Luke survive?  He’s a three squares a day kid plus snacks.  Between his strength training and tennis the amount of food required to fuel him up in a day is more than his grandmother eats in a week.  He can’t skip dinner Sunday night. What if he doesn’t find out about the free meal or feel comfortable going?  If he has to buy dinner on Sunday nights he’ll run through his spending money fast.  What’s he going to do? 

So went the rolling message board in my brain and the neon was blinding me.  I can’t remember what the sermon was about.  I think prayer and Lord knows I was praying now.  My maternal instincts were on overdrive.  Thank goodness Luke was out of town for a tournament or I would have immediately fixed the problem by telling him he’d have to come home Sunday nights for dinner.

Instead Chase and I went to the nursery after church because I needed to talk to the master gardener about my tomatoes.  I’d discovered the night before they have Yellow Shoulder.  All the remedies on the Internet were so confusing I had no idea what to do.  I had to fight back tears when every tomato I cut open had a yellow ring inside it and no flavor.  I’ve been nurturing these plants from seedling to adult for months protecting them from rain, snow, sleet, hail and wind.  It was gardening heartbreak.

Several experts had to be consulted and the owner got online to find out more.  Was it the plants, soil, weather or some other environmental factor?  Every possibility was being weighed when finally the nursery’s farm hand asked how often I was watering my plants.

“Every morning,” I answered.

“Oh my goodness,” he said.  “You’re drowning them.”

“But it’s so hot they wilt when I don’t,” I protested.

“So let them.  They’re mature enough now.  They won’t die.  You have to let them get thirsty.”

I had to sit down.  I started feeling faint.

Dennis the owner of the nursery started to laugh.

“It’s okay mom,” he said.  “You can do it.”

How did he know what I was thinking about on my way to the garden center I thought?  To tell a mother not to worry about her babies whether they’re plants or children is like telling her not to breathe.

“I don’t get it,” I said.  The plants look beautiful.  They’re green, leafy, and very hearty.  They don’t look like they’re drowning.  They’re the best looking plants I’ve ever grown.”

“Yes, but they’re not meant to be flowers.  They’re meant to produce fruit and the best fruit comes from struggling,” he said.

Confronted with something that now seemed obvious I felt stupid.  Dennis had told me something I know about the life of a believer but hadn’t considered for a tomato and certainly didn’t want to accept for my son.  Skip a day of watering—skip a meal that’s not how I’m wired.

“How often should I water them?” I asked.

“Every four to five days,” he said.

“That’s going to be hard for me.”

“I know but you want the fruit to be good so you will,” he said smiling.

He was right and the penny I spotted while we were talking reminded me this is a leap of faith I have to make.  I didn’t plant the garden to harvest something of little value and I didn’t have a child for that same reason either.  I want the fruit to have flavor—some depth and character which is the same thing I want for Luke.

So, I have to let go.  I have to resist the impulse to smother and let him figure it out with dinner and lots of other things.  Like the plants in my garden he’s been well cared for.  His roots are deep and he can weather the heat.  Be it a night on his own for dinner, a troublesome roommate, hard class, or even being apart from me the stretch is his to make not mine.  He might have to dig deep within himself to handle it all but that’s where he’ll grow because as my garden seems to want to remind me—the best seasoning in life is born from struggle.





  1. This is a masterpiece! How amazing to have God speaking to you through your garden! My daughter has skipped meals. I got a call last September from the hospital where she had been taken by ambulance for dehydration. The worst part was that last year she ate an omelet most days in the cafeteria and since she is egg allergic, she ooughed the entire year. I was beside myself with worry everytime we talked because I could hear that she was not well. This Summer she and I spent a lot of time at a naturopath doctor. Mary now looks radiant, doesn’t cough and has more energy. But she goes back to school in one week and I have no assurance that she will take care of herself when she does. I am praying again as she enters her Junior year, that she will make self care a priority over social life. Dig in for the long haul Mom!

    • I keep reminding myself Nancy that my role praying for Luke is as important now as it’s been from day one. That’s the only way I can let go-knowing that the Holy Spirit is with him. I pray for Mary too and as the days go on I know I will empathize even more with how hard this has been/is for my other mom friends.

  2. Well, what a big event, one I dont’ look forward to myself, especially as Madison talks about wanting to attend Texas Christian University! I might begin saving for a little place in Texas to “Hang Out” haha What a gift God gives us in these kids lives!!

  3. I love this wonderful story. Draws you in.The reader comes to the end feeling uplifted and informed.

  4. Hi, I know this post of yours that I stumbled upon is an old one. I was simply looking for an answer to whether some tomatoes in my fridge that turned out to be yellow on the inside are edible. Now, not only I know the term “yellow shoulder” but also got to read your beautiful post about tomatoes, your son, and how the best fruit comes from struggling. That last one I knew at some time and had forgotten about it. My child is not old enough for kindergarten yet but every step of parenting has its own challenges and your post, besides beautiful has given me some things to keep in mind for some things in my own parenting life. Loved it!

  5. This is a heart warming well written story. I love it. Great lead in.

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