Thinning Our Garden: When We Need Room To Breathe & Grow

The part of gardening that has always been difficult for me is thinning.

Intentionally uprooting living plants, filled with potential, and discarding them, in order to make way for their brothers and sisters to grow and be more productive adult plants.

It has always seemed cruel and heartless.

For this reason, carrots have never been a strong point in our garden.  I thin them too seldom and not at the right intervals.

But this year, our gardening strategies have taken a different turn.  We want our garden to be the most effective for us.  We want to produce the best possible produce (how’s that for a tricky sentence to read?)  So I’ve been thinning in our garden quite often.  A large part of it is due to actually having a cut flower garden this year.  I want my flowers to be healthy, large, and stunning; therefore, I must do the work.

Life tends to follow garden metaphors, doesn’t it?  I believe there’s a reason God used earthy, agrarian metaphors so many times in the Bible.  Earth is practical, because we’re all made from dirt, and to dirt we’ll return.

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
    reap steadfast love;
    break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
    that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Hosea 10:12

In many ways, our family has had to do a lot of thinning in our routine.  I’ve left my job, we’ve weaned the kids off of all movies for at least a month, probably more since they’ve stopped noticing the absence.  We’re cutting out grocery shopping down to a paltry amount ($10 to $15 a week) for the most part this summer and eating just out of our pantry, the farmers market, and our garden.  We’ve had to remove a lot of things that are good or filled with educational/vocational potential in order for what is important to our family to flourish.  The beautiful thing about removing things from our days in order for other things to flourish is that we can appreciate the beauty in what remains.


Beauty in What Remains

By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established;

And by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24: 3-4

I just love these verses.  I use them so often with my kids to explain why mommy chooses not to allow certain things in our home.  But these verses also read just as well from the positive perspective.  If we are diligent as parents to intentionally fill our homes with precious and pleasant riches, what a home we will have!

I’ve been reading a lot lately.  That’s been something I’ve missed for the last year.  How can I pour out without being poured into?  “Self-care” is a term that is getting thrown around a LOT—and boy, do I mean A LOT—in motherhood circles these days.  Often self-care is described as taking time for yourself.  But I believe the missing part of self-care for many moms is that there isn’t a consideration for how to prevent the breakdowns and the exhaustion and fatigue.  We’re not bettering our souls or our emotions.  We’re just physically resting or buying stuff or services for ourselves.  So reading has done wonders for me.  I’ve picked up Charlotte Mason’s original writings again, and I’m reading a few other books as well.  More on that in a future post.

Since we’ve thinned out some of the superfluous things, we’re taking time to read bedtime stories and more fun, non-school books.

We’re taking time to intentionally finish this season of life well.  Sometimes that means dentist and eye doctor appointments.  But sometimes it means giving away furniture and tools that we won’t need in France.

I can now just sit and appreciate listening to two of the boys learn the notes on the piano.  (Thank you, Hoffman Academy.)

I can savor watching all of our kids enjoying our nightly Swedish Drill lessons and teach them handicrafts and nature lore that was getting bypassed before.

And our family is growing and stretching and being filled.  Because we have this space that we didn’t have before.

It seems heartless in the garden to remove what is living to make space for another plant to expand.  But this real-life thinning?  It’s necessary.

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence. But we rather have those because we have acted rightly.We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”



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