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Growing up, my parents took special care to make sure their gardens were maintained and lovely. I have many memories of my mom bringing home trays and trays of flowers and shrubs in the spring to fill her gardens. My dad was usually at work too – weeding, pruning, and mulching. I would usually be solicited to help, but at the time, I had no idea the extent of the work that went into maintaining a garden.

As soon as my husband and I purchased our own home, I was eager to landscape and start my own garden. We dug out our garden beds, broke up the soil, watered the soil, and planted and fertilized the shrubs we had purchased. As we admired our work, I couldn’t help but think that it really wasn’t that hard to have a garden. 

We watered our new plants consistently at first, but as time went on, we did it less and less. As the weeks went on, leftover grass roots made it so that grass popped up throughout our garden. Weeds also made their way through, and over that first winter, we lost two of our bushes. 

The next spring, I had a lot of work to do (and several calls to my mom for advice), as I weeded, pruned, removed dead bushes and branches, and added a few more flowers to my garden. I realized that the more time I spent keeping up with it, the easier it was to maintain. Isn’t that a lot like parenting? 

I have three toddlers. They need constant direction, instruction, and discipline. The longer I allow them to grow wild, ignoring the weeds, the harder it is for me to reign them in.

My mom always tells me to trim my bushes at the top, to encourage them to grow in at the base, making for a fuller and lovelier shaped bush. I want to encourage my children to grow in a certain direction – towards Christ. To do that, I need to teach them at the right time, and in the right way. Just as I trim my bushes in the right way and in the right season, yes?

Right Away, All the Way, and with a Happy Heart

So what does it look like to be consistent in maintaining your garden or training your children?

One of my favorite parenting books is Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard. One of the reasons I really like her writing is that it’s very practical. She expects obedience from her children, right away, all the way, and with a happy heart. Obedience without any of these three things is disobedience, she writes. We’ve adopted this principle in our home, and it’s been very helpful for our young children to grasp. 

Hebrews 12:11 says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

What a powerful promise. Discipline isn’t enjoyable, but the Bible makes it clear that it leads to good fruit. Let’s train our children in righteousness while they are young, and by God’s grace, we will get to see them bloom into adults that seek to follow the Lord. 

The Joy of a Well-Kept Garden

Isn’t it lovely to look at a well-kept and maintained garden? In the same way, it’s a joy to have obedient children. My home is so much more joyful when I’m disciplined in training my children. When I am obedient, and quick to dig up those weeds of sin, I then get to see the fruit bloom in its place. 

John 15:2 says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Our heavenly Father is a perfect gardener. He never neglects the things He has planted. It’s my privilege and responsibility to carry out His work by tending to His creation and to the children He has put in my care. 

Expect Weeds to Take Root

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24 

We are sinners. Our children are sinners. This may seem obvious to Christians, yet we act surprised when our children sin. We need to expect weeds to take root. We need to expect our children to disobey. 

Every sin, every misstep, is an opportunity to train our children to obey. It’s an opportunity to point them to the truth, to the word of God. Since we know that weeds are inevitable, let’s have a plan of attack. I’ve been blessed by having probing questions and scripture ready, for when my children need to be disciplined. 

Is there a whining and complaining attitude in your home? Speak 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to your children. Tell them that it’s God’s will that they are to be thankful in all circumstances. Ask them, “Are you being thankful right now?”

Are your children fighting? Be quick to remind them that Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” I just had my 2 and 3 year olds memorize this verse ;)

Don’t Neglect Your Garden

After several years of planting, pruning, and working in my garden, I’ve realized that it’s not quite as easy as I thought. I can’t just plant the things I choose, and then expect them to flourish without my constant care and attention. 

And in the same way, by neglecting my garden, and putting it off, I’m making more work for myself in the long run. So let’s get down in the dirt, and commit to spending time nurturing and training those precious souls that God has entrusted to us. 

Love, Hannah

{Originally published February 2020}