Get Your Hands Dirty

By Stefanie McGowan

I planted my first garden this year. I’d dreamt about it from the balcony of our tiny apartment years ago, longing for room to plant and room to grow… And this was the year!

We built raised beds in the backyard, and the day we brought in the soil was one of my favorite gardening days. It meant planting was right around the corner, and the dirt brought with it a giddiness that made all the hard work worth it. That soil meant seeds would soon be in the ground, popping up and growing. That good soil was the foundation for everything. Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, we brought it in, and leveled each bed with deep, rich, fertilized soil. It meant planting day had finally come!

I planted my starts first- they were easy. But the seeds… for some reason, the seeds felt tricky. I sat on the edge of my garden beds, and quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing. I was nervous to do it wrong. I bought a book called “Gardening for Dummies,” and did my best to learn all I could on companion planting and what to plant where. When I’d finally spent more time worrying than actually gardening, I called my mom. “Mom, I don’t know how to plant seeds.” We laughed over how silly that sounded, and what a sweet and simple joy gardening is supposed to be. She said, “Just read the instructions on the package. You got this! Just go get your hands dirty.”

image3 (1)I planted my garden that day, and have been adding to it ever since. I go out every day, to check on it, water, prune, or fertilize it. Those little sprouts have become my babies as I tend to them, fight off bugs for them, and eagerly watch them grow.

I tell you this little garden story because I’m learning it’s a reflection of my heart. This garden has become like a mirror for seeing God’s character- how he tends to us, prunes us, replants us, and encourages our growth. How through good soil- through the compost and the dirt- by consistent watering, those seeds can grow. Those plants were designed to bear fruit. And so are we.

After I planted my first garden, I received an unexpected surprise in the mail from a sweet friend. It was a book about being rooted in good soil. She’d sent it after a conversation we’d had about this new garden. She had listened to how The Lord was tilling up my heart and teaching me what it really means to be deeply rooted in Him.

As I sat and read late into the night, I reread Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:1-9; Mark 4:1-9). It stuck out like I’d never read it before. These words in Luke 8:11 struck me: “The seed is God’s word.” The seed is the word. You guys, I’ve read this story countless times. But somehow, it was just now sinking in. All the parallels of the very seeds I’d been planting, tending to, nourishing… The Lord is doing the same through the seed of his word in us. We were meant for a harvest, but the seed must first be planted… planted in good soil.

When I began reading the word everyday, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have it all together. I didn’t know where to start. And much like my new garden, I just had to go get my hands dirty and dig into my Bible. I was 28, newly married, far from home, and longing for authentic intimacy with Jesus. I started with a Bible of my very own- in a version I knew I’d read, rather than just set on my shelf. I had my name printed on the cover, an intimate connection that the word belonged to me. I began with a chronological study, one that would keep me in the word everyday. I dove in with highlighter and pen, expectant on God to speak. I came to the word each morning, to give Jesus the first of my day, and I begged God to reveal more of his character to me. I was tired in the morning, but woke up anyway, begging Jesus to replace my exhaustion with a hunger to read his word. The more I read, the more I wanted to read, and every day I’d ask the Lord to help me digest what I was reading, praying “Please Lord, make it make sense as I read.” He is faithful to meet us in those places.


Hearing the word, planting it in good soil, clinging to it, and patiently enduring each image2season brings growth. A good harvest comes from seasons of pruning, weeding, sometimes replanting, and often being refined. It’s through the growing seasons, that the Lord teaches us to be fruitful Christians and to bear consistent fruit, in and out of season, produced by the Holy Spirit through “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Let the seed fall on “honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest” (Luke 8:15)…

This is the good soil. Our foundation for truly hearing God’s word begins in the soil of our hearts. It’s in our willingness, in our faithfulness through the drought, where our roots grow down deep, searching for water to sustain the growth. It’s in our heart’s surrender to the little by little growth, and it adds up. That tiny growth everyday, out of the mess of the soil, out of the heat and the testing, up through the trials, and the patient endurance of the awkward growing seasons… It’s there we gain a message for the cross. It’s through the waiting and the wrestling that our faith grows. It’s where we gain a testimony for the one who stands with us through it all, and helps us grow. Growth to bring us to our full potential, through the word that won’t return void. (Isaiah 55:11)

Friends, planting the seed matters. The word in you will grow, as you press into Jesus. Let it take root in good soil with ears to hear, as the Holy Spirit teaches you all things, and grows your faith. For “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

There’s no need to have it all together. There’s no such thing. Choose the little by little – it adds up to produce a harvest. Choose what makes an eternal impact; what spreads the Good News of who Jesus is. And there is freedom in the journey, because it’s not in our own strength that anything grows, because “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:7)  

The seeds you plant right now make a difference… Keep reading. Keep growing. Keep soaking in the goodness of who God is in every season, every day. Keep tending to the seeds of the word. Keep cultivating good soil.  Keep nourishing what’s planted with a well that never runs dry- in the living water, the Word made flesh… Jesus.♥


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