Today’s guest post comes from my good friend Kelley, whom I got to know when we worked across the hall from each other at the parish office…and even after jobs changed, we never stopped helping each other along the Christian (and parenting, and marriage) journey. Chapter 3 of “This Little Light” focuses in on the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, and that’s what Kelley is talking about today.
…the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
I love gardening. Each March, my husband and I plan out our garden plot and rush to the store to make our botanical dreams come true. Every spring we buy little baby plants and seeds, and I dream of a great harvest of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, melons, etc. Now let me clarify. By the phrase, “I love gardening,” I actually mean I love to eat things that grow in a garden. Year after year, when green begins to appear on the trees and I’m high on daffodil fumes, I think I love gardening. And then we plant a garden, and I’m reminded that I actually do not enjoy weeding and watering, transplanting and staking.
Last fall, when my round-the-clock job as a youth minister and my round-the-clock job as a mom and wife were beginning to pile up, I thought to myself that what I really needed was some joy in my life. And then a few days later, patience was what I needed. And then a heavy dose of love for the people I live with. So I began to pursue these things, looking for ways to infuse my life with them. I read book after book, trying tactics and techniques that seemed so easy and yet in practice didn’t have the effect I was searching for.
One day in prayer, it hit me. What I was lacking most in my life were these fruits of the spirit. But I wanted the fruit without putting in the work. I was trying to obtain the fruit without being attached to the vine. Oh yes, I wanted so badly to be joyful and patient with my children and my husband. I yearned to have control over my selfishness and to be a holy and faithful disciple. But beyond the mere wanting of it, what had I done to grow that fruit in my life? Sure, I had tossed up a prayer now and then, when I remembered, but other than that I was trying to make these qualities materialize out of sheer will.
In the garden, if you neglect the plant it might bear a little fruit at first, but it certainly won’t be a plentiful harvest. The same is true in our spiritual lives. By tending to my soul through persistent prayer, daily reading of scripture, reception of the sacraments, etc, I can ensure myself a bounty of sweetness in the form of those fruits of the spirit. When I routinely forget to nurture my own spirituality, becoming so busy that I forget to water the vine, the end result is a meager sampling of what God has intended for our lives here on Earth.
The Holy Spirit spoke to me, when I was feeling weak and parched–reminded me of the Living Water that is waiting to be poured into our lives, if we only ask for it. I spent the next nine weeks praying a homemade novena of sorts. Each week for the nine weeks, I prayed actively for one of the fruits of the Spirit. I read scripture as much as possible, attended daily Mass, and really focused on tending the garden. The results were powerful and undeniable. Life was springing forth. While I might not be any better at actual gardening, I feel like I am making some forward strides in spiritual gardening! Of course I still struggle. Of course I grow lazy and complacent. But I’m noticing the neglect more quickly these days—trying my best to continually water and feed my soul that is yearning for that nourishment. Working hard for a plentiful harvest!
In the cool of the day, You come and meet me.
All the blue fades away; the stars are winking.
Your love’s so strong. I can’t recall–
What was this thing they called the fall?
And You walk with me. You never leave.
You’re making my heart a garden.
By Matt Maher and Audrey Assad
About Me: I am a wife to the best husband money could buy, mother of three (9, 7, and 2 ½), and a ginger. We are all ginger, in fact. I am a former youth minister, turned elementary school teacher, turned youth minister, and am now rocking the gig as a stay at home mom. I love music, coffee, Jesus, the Catholic Church, and reality TV. Also Harry Potter.