As soon as we saw it, my husband and I liked “the bones” of our house.

But we knew that parts of the house fell slightly into the category of a “fixer upper.”

The layout was kind of neat and spacious, the high wood-beamed ceilings caught our eye, and the curb appeal was rather charming. But the kitchen was, well, a mess.

There was a wall where a wall had no place being, drawers would fall out when you opened them and grout on the tiled counter was simply unclean-able.

A kitchen remodel was going to be necessary.

And then there was the backyard with its abundance of dirt right next to the door where our three dogs come and go all day long.

It was a backyard that may have made sense 30 years ago when there was an above-ground pool on a cement pad, but that pool was long gone. All that remained was a badly cracked large cement pad sitting out in the middle of the backyard.

I am happy to report that after nearly three years in the house, the kitchen remodel was completed last Fall. And, last month, we put in a proper patio and have begun to create a beautiful outdoor sanctuary. Our house is really beginning to feel like our home. 

The last few weekends have been consumed with digging, planting, weeding and mulching.

And I couldn’t be happier!

Call me crazy, but I love the smell of dirt. And I love the satisfaction of seeing this previously unkempt outdoor space transformed into an inviting garden.

Each morning I find myself wondering around in the backyard, checking on our new plants, smiling at them as I water, add soil amendments or pull up weeds.

When I come home each evening, I like to check back in on them, see how they’ve grown and make sure all of our little plants are still happy. Our morning walks are spent noticing other people’s landscaping and discussing what we might want to plant next.

Needless to say, our newly reclaimed backyard is bringing me much joy. 

There is something so innate, something that feels so fundamentally human to me about working in garden.

Indeed, in our Judeo-Christian Scriptures, tending to the earth is the very first task and responsibility assigned to humans.

Whether in small pots, backyard gardens or in large farms, tending to the earth roots us in caring for creation and reminds us the solemn duty to care for “Mother Earth.”

Gardening is for me an almost contemplative activity. Whether digging, weeding or pruning, I find myself with time to take in the smells around me, listen to the birds, and reflect on the steady faithfulness of the Earth and the goodness of God.

Our orange tree is a beautiful example of faithfulness and goodness.

Honestly, I think it might be the most neglected orange tree in the world. For three years now, we have utterly ignored this tree—no water, no fertilizer, no pruning, nothing. And for three years now, it has produced the most amazing, abundant crop of oranges, twice a year!

These oranges make the most delicious and sweet fresh-squeezed orange juice you will ever taste. In our house, taking oranges off our neglected tree, and enjoying its juice minutes later feels like nothing short of a miracle. 

The metaphors of gardening provide rich imagery when it comes to tending to our own spiritual and personal lives.

Are we planting ourselves in good soil? What do we need to do to enrich this soil—more solitude and less internet? Maybe more time with friends and loved ones and less time at work?

Are there “weeds” getting in the way of cultivating a relationship to God, our neighbors or ourselves that might need to be pulled?

Are there some branches to be pruned, or trellises that need to be built for us to grow in new, healthy and more fruitful ways?

And perhaps a final question for reflection, where do you see faithfulness and goodness blooming in your life? 

As we move into the heart of the summer, I hope you will find some time to tend to the Earth, soak in the goodness of Creation, and pay close attention to the miracles of grace and beauty that surround you. 

Aitken is the pastor at Riviera Unity Methodist Church located at 375 Palos Verdes Blvd. in Redondo Beach.

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