the curse and the blessing
No one has better intentions than that of an eager fed-up-with-winter gardener ready to till, sow, and hover over tiny seedlings as they make their first appearance from the ground. The smile it brings as the first snow pea pushes the painfully measured ½ inch soil-cover off its eager spouts, is enough to energize and motivate them to plant the late spring vegetables. In fact, it usually prompts an immediate return to the nearest garden department to peruse the seed display to try something new they have not planted before.
“What about artichoke? Okra? Asparagus? What the heck is swiss chard??? Would I even eat eggplant if I grew it? Are four zucchini plants really enough––because my family really likes zucchini bread. How much land do I need to do corn?”
And the cycle continues. But by the time the first yellow flowers of the trendy zebra tomatoes and pear shaped yellow cherry tomatoes blossom, you start recognizing just how much work it is going to be. The tomato cages were left out last year in the rain and snow . . . which means they are rusty.
Someone could get tetanus from harvesting the tomato. Yes, they need replaced. But, $4.00 each? I could make my own cages for a fourth of the price! Did I forget to water yesterday? And school gets out in two days, who will water it while the family goes to Florida for eleven days? Do I have enough time to put in a soaker system with a timer?”
And you bust your butt to get the cages made and placed on the plants, that really should have been caged two weeks ago, as well as the drip system made and woven between the cages––really, I should have put the soaker hoses on before the cages––and that is when we see them . . .
A LOT OF WEEDS . . .
Oh dear, you think as you glance at the dwindling light to the west on the last night before your vacation, it will have to wait until I get back.
But, when you get back, the six loads of laundry mocking you, and the kitchen garbage can, with a leaky bag––of course––that was left with food in it for ELEVEN days––has entirely changed the way your house smells. The smell isn’t even earthly. It very well can counter any terrorists that may come to attack your now-vile abode.
. . . Well you know what I’m getting at. The weeding didn’t happen right away. Swim lessons did. And play dates at the park with your friend who has been suspiciously quiet. Is she getting depressed again? And Drivers Education––oh goodness! I have to take her to get her permit by Tuesday or we wasted $175!
Then you hear it. “Mom! I’m bored.”
You can’t help but chuckle inside. “Want to play a game little guy? It is something all new second graders are doing over the summer!”
But you did not raise dumb children, your disappointment is overwhelming as he says, “nah,” to think your almost eight year old knows that look in your eye. He knew you were going to say that dirty, awful, nearly-unforgivable-if-said-in-summer
Uh ohhh . . . this means he probably knows about Santa Clause too. He won’t be my little-goose much longer. Is it too late to have another baby at 38? I wonder what my husband . . .
WEEDS! You shout at yourself! Get in, get it done, get out. Reward yourself with a pedicure. See? You can motivate yourself!
And then your sweet friends come over, wearing work boots and smiles that make you distrust them even more than your son did when you mentioned the “game”. And they help you pull the weeds from your garden.
So there is a moral to my story. Yes, I realize it may be your story too.
Is it ever too late to
weed and prune
and shape our lives?
I say, a resounding “NO!”
But, like any good story with a moral, YOU must do the thinking. So I will leave you with some thoughts and facts to help you decide not only IF, but WHEN, and WHY you need to weed and prune your personal inner garden. Your life is your garden. What do you want to grow? What do you want to cultivate in yourself? What nutrition will you feed yourself and your family? How hard are you willing to work for what you are passionate about? So for this metaphor, weeds represent the bad habits and/or the negative things and people in your life, or in other words, the things that have the potential to choke the life out of you.
Facts about weeds
- Definition: A weed is a plant that is considered undesirable. It grows or reproduces aggressively, or is invasive outside its native habitat
- Weeds compete with the plants that you desire to grow in your garden
- Weeds can be the source of pests and diseases.
- If you do not weed early, when harvest time comes, you have to spend a lot of time sorting the good from the bad, and sometimes it is hard to distinguish what is bad.
- Weeds can make our garden look ugly. Removing them adds value and appeal to those who appreciate true beauty.
- Small daily effort to remove the weeds is far more effective than one long exhausting push to clean it
- Only your true friends are willing to do the work to remove them. Accept their honest assessment and efforts to help
- Neighbors who do not care, will not care about how many weeds you have and often their weeds encroach into your garden simply by association
So why do I blog on the Austen Author website about weeds? Because, the widowed Charlotte Collins has a lot of weeds she needs pruning. And poor Colonel Fitzwilliam has been given the advice to study the “parable of the seed”. For those of you familiar with my writing, you know one of my favorite things to do is use metaphors to carry the plot and increase the depth and insight a reader might receive. So, today, I shall surprise you with a sneak peek into the main metaphor (or at least the obvious one!! * insert evil laugh*) I use in my next book, Hope For Fitzwilliam, the second book in the Hope Series Trilogy, hopefully due out August 1st! My goal is to have it ready to preorder about a week before! If you have not read the first book in the series, Hope for Mr. Darcy, I suggest you get cracking! (Oh, the torture! “Honey, I am under a deadline! I must read this book in the next two weeks!”) 🙂
Here is the link to Hope for Mr. Darcy
Nevertheless, I shall present you with an excerpt from Hope for Fitzwilliam.
Colonel Fitzwilliam was too tall for the tent, and so he hunched over slightly. Chaplain Lisscord was sitting on his cot and looked up at them. His slightly balding head, which was usually covered with a hat, glowed with perspiration. It seemed Fitzwilliam was not the only one suffering from the humidity. The chaplain’s short graying beard was neatly trimmed into a thin line that traveled up his jawbone to his hairline. His Bible lay open on his lap, but he cheerfully closed it and motioned for them to seat themselves on the cot next to him. It was rare that a low-ranking officer, such as Lisscord, got his own accommodations, but considering the private nature of a chaplain’s work, the colonel had made an exception for Chaplain Lisscord—one that probably would not continue when they left for war.
Mr. Heather announced, “Lisscord, our dear colonel is heartbroken and cannot sleep.”
“I am not!”
“Forgive me. He is distraught over a lady—”
“Colonel Fitzwilliam, I recommend complete honesty when speaking with a man of God. Now let me explain what it is you have disclosed over the last few months.” Mr. Heather turned back to the chaplain and said, “He is in love with a woman he cannot have. Or at least he thinks he cannot have her. Mrs. Collins is a penniless widow who is still carrying her previous husband’s child. She is currently a guest at his cousin’s estate in Derbyshire for her confinement. From what the colonel has shared with me, I thought we should seek your counsel. He came to me seeking more tonic for his insomnia, but I think the parable of the seed would do him more good.”
“Luke 8:5–18 is a great parable. I think I see why he needs to hear it.” The man turned to the colonel and said, “Do you know why Christ taught in parables?”
“To be mysterious?” the colonel joked.
“No. Try again.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam could tell his humor was somewhat inappropriate, and so he tried to give a serious answer. “I suppose because if he taught the truth, then people would condemn him for blasphemy.”
“Yes, but that is not all. Why else?”
“I do not know. Perhaps he liked to tell stories.”
Chaplain Lisscord scooted forward in obvious excitement.
Obviously the things that excite men vary greatly from one person to another, the colonel mused.
“Christ taught in parables so that his teaching could be understood on many levels depending on one’s readiness to learn. I can see this will be true for you as well. Depending on your readiness to learn, you will take away many things from this parable. Think of a parable as an onion.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam wrinkled up his brows and gave him a look he had learned from Darcy. “An onion?”
“Yes, there are many layers that can be peeled away one by one. I will help you peel the dry layers that are brown. Only then will you get a chance to really partake of what is at the heart of the onion. As you study this parable and apply it to your life, you will find a most delightful center—a gift that is most nutritious and offers the best flavor to life.”
The colonel glanced at his friend Mr. Heather, who gave him an encouraging look. Fitzwilliam had never fully connected to the chaplain. Lisscord seemed passionate about the oddest things—like onions. “Very well, I am listening,” Colonel Fitzwilliam replied.
“Do you know what a parable is?” Mr. Heather asked.
“Yes. It is like a metaphor with a moral lesson.”
The old man nodded and continued, “The parable of the seed has several morals. And depending on your readiness to learn, you will taste of its enlightenment. Do you have a Bible with you?”
“Must have left it in my other breeches,” Fitzwilliam said cheekily.
“It is no matter. You can borrow my second Bible.”
Two Bibles? Was one really not enough? The colonel recommitted himself to listen closer to the peculiar man.
“The parable of the seed is found in the eighth chapter of Luke. There once was a sower who went out to sow his seeds, and some fell by the wayside. The seeds were trampled on, and the birds ate them. Some seeds fell onto rocks, but although they sprung up, they had no soil or water to sustain them, and they withered away. The next set of seeds fell in with thorns, and both the seeds and the thorns grew together, but the thorns choked the seeds. Even more seeds fell onto good ground and sprang up and flourished and produced much fruit. Do you know what the seed represents?”
“No,” Colonel Fitzwilliam admitted.
The chaplain opened his Bible and showed him. “Read verse eleven.”
Fitzwilliam took the Bible from him and read aloud, “The seed is the word of God.”
“Exactly, now do you see?” Mr. Heather asked eagerly.
“So the seed is . . . the Bible? Colonel Fitzwilliam looked confused. “The Bible is the word of God, no?”
The colonel laughed. “I may only be a ‘Sunday churchgoer’, but I know blasphemy when I hear it.”
Chaplain Lisscord took the Bible back from him and held it up to the candle. “It is not the book itself that is the word of God. It is what is inside that is the word of God. Christ’s teachings, His lessons, His parables, His miraculous healings, His admonitions, and His commandments. That is the seed. Not the paper and binding.”
“Well, that is what I meant. I do understand the concept of books. It is what is in them that matters.”
“And it is the same with parables. It is what is in them that matters. The only way we can peel away the layers of a metaphor and gain greater understanding from them is to apply them to our lives. Mr. Heather felt you needed to hear this parable in order to do what? To help you sleep?”
“I suppose so.”
“Wrong,” Mr. Heather called out.
“Then enlighten me, man,” Fitzwilliam grumbled. “Talking in riddles will not help my eyes close peacefully.”
Chaplain Lisscord replied, “I admit that Mr. Heather and I gossip like old wives. He has told me a great deal of your infatuation with Mrs. Collins, so I am better prepared than you may think to offer you advice. Mr. Heather even told me how instrumental the two of you were in getting Mr. and Mrs. Darcy together.”
The colonel didn’t know how he felt about his friend telling stories about him to the chaplain. Fitzwilliam cleared his throat and decided that he couldn’t feel any worse, no matter how many people knew of his hopeless circumstances.
“Yes, we were quite instrumental. We knew Darcy and Miss Elizabeth loved each other, but it was a hopeless case. They were completely blind to each other’s feelings. All Mrs. Collins and I did was to take off the blinders and offer them that hope. And it worked! It was not much more than six weeks later that they were married. But I do not see how this applies to me. I do indeed hold Mrs. Collins in great esteem, but I cannot marry her. She deserves much more than I have to offer.”
Mr. Heather turned to Chaplain Lisscord and said, “As I said.”
Chaplain Lisscord shook his head. “Indeed, you are quite right about him.”
“What?” Colonel Fitzwilliam asked. “What is he right about?”
“You, sir, are a hopeless case.”
“I know. You do not have to tell me.”
Mr. Heather put his hand on the Colonel’s shoulder. “I think you mistake our meaning,” the doctor said. “It is not that there is no hope for you, Colonel Fitzwilliam, it is that you have no hope.”
“Precisely,” Chaplain Lisscord replied. “You seem convinced that there is no hope for Fitzwilliam. Is there really no reason to hope that she holds you in some small regard?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam did not have to use much effort to recall his interactions with the lady, for every moment with her these last few months was permanently etched into his mind. “She has been the perfect example of what a woman in mourning should be. Once, I was escorting her and Mrs. Darcy’s cousin back to the parsonage, and I offered her my arm. I certainly did not mean anything by it—it was getting dark, and I did not want her to take a misstep and injure herself. At first she took it, but then seconds later she dropped my arm and hurried on ahead of me. She folded her arms tightly across her chest. It was at that moment that I knew she did not look at me as a suitor. She could not even bear to take my arm.”
“What about the time at the wedding, weeks later? You told me about sitting next to her at the wedding. Tell Chaplain Lisscord what she said.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam rubbed his brow and tried not to show his discomfort. He didn’t like showing his vulnerability to the chaplain, whom he admittedly didn’t know well. He was getting fatigued, but he had reached a point over the last two months since the wedding where the special moment had kept him awake many hours some nights; offering him a bit of contentment––not hope, not peace, just contentment.
“It was the day of Mr. Darcy’s wedding . . .” He began. Colonel Fitzwilliam was easily taken back to that moment in body, heart, and spirit.
The garden was adorned with deep green and rose colored ribbons. Chairs had been set up in small groupings between the bushes in a very quaint and intimate way. He had to admit that Mrs. Reynolds and Mrs. Bennet had done a miraculous job in arranging just enough space for the guests to see the wedding. The potted plants had been positioned to create a botanical wall, making an even more private setting. The tree trunks on each side of the rose-colored path were wrapped with ribbons and small bouquets of flowers hung in wicker baskets from the branches. The path had pink iris petals sprinkled on it, along with freshly picked tree leaves to accent their bold color. The sound of the creek behind them only made the moment even more magical.
His parents and Aunt Catherine sat on the right. On the left, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner were chatting quietly to each other next to Mrs. Collins and Miss Gardiner. The latter two seemed eager to see the ceremony begin.
He hadn’t intended to sit with them, only to offer greetings, but he had timed his entrance poorly. “Good morning, Mrs. Collins, Miss Gardiner. For such a short amount of planning time, Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Reynolds did a fabulous job at turning an already wonderful garden into a heavenly place.” He looked at Mrs. Collins, and her eyes shined brightly in her dark lavender gown. She still wore a black lace shawl, but the black veiled hat did not conceal her happiness.
She replied in her most musical voice, a voice he had not heard her use since the death of Mr. Collins: “I could not have said it better myself. Did Mr. Darcy explain why they chose Pemberley gardens for the wedding?”
“Yes. It seems Miss Elizabeth actually dreamed of this place during her illness, even though she had never seen it before. What a marvelous story!”
“It most definitely makes you believe in second chances.” Then she broke eye contact and looked down at her hands.
He did not know what prompted him to do so, perhaps it was that the music was starting, perhaps it was that the crowd’s conversations died down, perhaps it was something entirely different, but he sat down in the seat next to Mrs. Collins. She looked over at him, and a subtle look of surprise flashed in her eyes. She glanced at his parents’ small grouping of chairs and then back again at him. It was then that she smiled with her eyes. It was the same smile that lit up her face. He had missed that smile. It was a smile that said everything about her: genuine, honest, loyal, charitable, caring, courageous, and beautiful.
The wedding was that much sweeter as he remembered her smile.
Colonel Fitzwilliam finished the story and sighed. “I was a guest at Pemberley for a week after the wedding, ostensibly to spend time with Georgiana. But Mrs. Collins was . . . distant. It was as if she had closed some imaginary door against me. I spoke to her several times, but I never saw that smile again. I was so sure that she desired me to sit next to her at the wedding, but I must have offended her in some way. All the ease and friendship we shared while we were in Kent and even after her husband’s funeral simply vanished. So you see, there is no hope for me.”
“Or it was veiled with black lace,” Chaplain Lisscord suggested. “I suggest you take my Bible and study that parable while pondering that moment when she smiled at you. Search your heart for its meaning. Remember, the seed is the word of God—His beliefs, His teachings, and His inner soul. It is the Bible, as you said. But you too have a Bible of sorts—your beliefs, your teachings, your inner soul. And if someone was interested enough, they could read it. What exactly is the word of Fitzwilliam? What would you like it to be?”
Colonel Fitzwilliam’s head was beginning to spin under the weight of new information. He took a moment and pondered the chaplain’s question, the discussion, the parable, and how it might apply to his situation. He simply could not puzzle it out.
After several minutes of patient silence, Mr. Heather asked, “What are your thoughts?”
“I am no simpleton, but I admit that I do not see a connection between my situation and the parable of the seed. Can you not enlighten me?”
Chaplain Lisscord smiled and shook his head. “Think of the seed in the parable as your Bible—all the acts of kindness you do for her, all these things you say to her, even if she seems distant toward you, she is reading your Bible. What kind of environment is Mrs. Collins in right now? Is she prepared to accept and nurture your advances? Or are you just throwing your seed along the roadside for the birds to eat? It comes down to sowing the seed in the proper place and time. She is in mourning, and will be . . . for how many more months?”
Without even thinking, he replied, “Just under nine.”
Lisscord asked, “When would you say you started thinking of her the way you do now? I certainly hope it was not before her husband’s death.”
“No. We had a great friendship, and I respected her a great deal, but that was all. But when I saw how brave she was in the face of his death, my admiration blossomed rapidly.”
“Ah, it ‘blossomed’! A very apt word. I think you will understand the parable very soon. I believe she unknowingly sowed her own seeds in your fertile ground, and once the environment was right, they sprung forth and grew. She may not be ready to accept your advances, and if she is as loyal as you say, she may very well not be ready for nine months. A woman of strong character will guard her soil carefully and will not accept any of your kindnesses.”
“Then there is no hope for nine months?”
“I would not say that. How much do you know about gardening?”
“Not much. Just a little about farming from working with my father’s tenants.”
“Consider farming then. How important it is to prepare the soil before planting?”
“Critical. I would say it is even more important than caring for the soil once the seeds are planted.”
“Indeed. Ponder that along with the parable. Now if that is not enough of a hint, I might be tempted to call you bacon-brained. Think about the lesson. What do you wish for her to read from your bible and where are your seeds being sown.”
Colonel Fitzwilliam stared at the two men who were anxiously looking at him to say something remarkable, but he had no idea what to say. It was a question that could not be answered in a single moment. It was a question that would keep him up for many more nights to come.
What exactly do I wish to teach her? What do I want her to know about my thoughts, my passions, my inspiration? Colonel Fitzwilliam unwillingly shuddered. He suddenly felt very exposed and vulnerable. Was this how Darcy felt when he offered for Elizabeth? No wonder the man had very nearly been broken with sorrow at her refusal. Darcy had shown her his passions, his thoughts, his desires, and she had dismissed them heatedly. That was a risk that Colonel Fitzwilliam may very well never be able to take. He then remembered the brightness in the Darcys’ faces as they embraced each family member upon their departure for their wedding trip. Darcy had risked it all, twice, and Colonel Fitzwilliam was struggling to even risk it once. He had once called Darcy a prideful coward. He knew now who the real coward was.
He stood and bowed, taking the spare Bible with him. There was so much risk ahead of him.
He absentmindedly pulled at his collar. The humidity was unbearable.
🙂 Hope you enjoyed this! I LOVE all my readers and fellow writers! You are my what keep me motivated! Happy reading! See you on August 1st on Amazon.com! 🙂
Jeanna Ellsworth Lake
Hey Lady Publications