They say that smells evoke memories better than anything else.
Lily-of-the-valley brings back magical days of playing in a sandbox that was surrounded by a field of them, spread out beneath a shady maple. I cut handfuls of flower stalks and brought them to my mother to put in a vase. I’ll never forget the heady scent of those little bells.
I tried to replicate it in my garden but had only three plants, culled from a neighbor’s castaways. I planted them carefully in the soil of my backyard, fertilized and nurtured them, watered them, watched them…
I guess like a watched pot never boils, a watched plant never grows?
Anyway, these didn’t. That summer every one of them dried up. The next year they all came back, though, and I got three precious stalks to delight in. The next year, just four. Clearly I would never have armloads of magic bells to enjoy! I gave up fertilizing, gave up watering, moved on to something else.
This year I have an explosion of lily-of-the-valley. Do something about these! says my husband. They’re taking over!
Ahhhh…. Armloads of magic, sweet-smelling bells.
Someone once said, regarding perennials, “the first year they sleep, the second they creep, the third year they leap.” It’s something to remember not just in gardening, but in life as well. Life grows in the silence. God works in the hidden, quiet, nothing-times of our lives.
Sometimes in my life, it seems like nothing is happening, and I get impatient. What are you doing, God? Or – Why aren’t you doing anything? I want direction! I want action! I want results! NOW!
But God works in the hidden, quiet, nothing-times of our lives.
Looking back, I can see it. God working in the background, weaving things together so that in the fullness of time, I’d be ready for what He had waiting. Why can’t I see it, going forward?
I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Just wait, he says.
Are you anxiously waiting results of some kind? Here’s some advice from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (d. 1955), a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who was also a scientist. Perhaps he had experience with lilies-of-the-valley, or maybe slow-growing grape vines:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made
by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow.
Let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.
© 2015 Sarah Christmyer