June 01, 2010

The Day I Faced My Failure - M. Laycock

This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at gardening. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously but so did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “Tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow.

When we moved to Alberta, I anticipated the “game” would go on. When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up her potato patch. It was one of those special times - a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp fall air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of tubers into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have another.

I cultivate words, tilling until there are no weeds, pruning away the excess so the fruit can shine through. God’s gift to me has blessed others as, like my friend with the potato patch, I’ve administered the grace and passed it on to readers all over the world. I no longer feel guilty about my black thumb, or about the many things I can’t do that others can. I feel blessed by what I’ve been given and how God has used it to bless others.


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from Central Alberta Canada. Her devotionals have been endorsed by Mark Buchanan and Phil Callaway. She was the winner of the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Visit her website - www.vinemarc.com


  1. No weeds in those words! I'm glad that you have decided that you cannot do everything --- that would leave nothing for me to do! :-)

  2. I love how you were able to identify the little nagging 'voice' that was behind those 'do you garden' words?

    I've had similar epiphanies in other areas.

    And I loved how your friend's seemingly innocent comment "I just love being able to do this" sent that little voice straight out to the weed burning pile for you! How freeing!

    What a great posting.


  3. Anonymous5:56 pm GMT-7

    I have a similar story. My husband says I can't keep artificial flowers alive. But I keep trying and buying bedding plants at least.
    This story is very inspirational, I felt defeat but at the same time, an awareness that God has a gift instilled in each of us. Thanks, Jan Keats

  4. What a great reminder to each of us who think we need to measure up to someone else's standards and expectations. I like the way you have put it all into perspective. Begone bad weeds! Keep tilling and pruning those wonderful words, Marcia! x

  5. Thanks Marcia. Your thoughts confirm what I was just thinking about yesterday - how God has gifted us, each in our own unique ways, like Queen Esther, for 'such a time as this'.
    btw - I love to garden but I feel sorry for people when they give me house plants because they take one look at me and wilt!
    Pam Mytroen


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