Sometimes, in the garden as in life, you have to be cruel to be kind.
Perhaps like me, you’ve started seeds indoors in late winter. I have a sunny spot in a front bay window where I put my trays of seeds.
I cover them while they’re germinating to keep them warm and moist. After they’ve sprouted, I check the seedlings daily in their protected nook and make sure they’re well watered.
Life for my little seedlings is sweet.
However, I’ve sometimes made the mistake of babying my charges too much. They then shoot up too fast and get “leggy”: their stems are tall but weak.
The problem with this is that when they’re transplanted outdoors, they won’t be able to cope well with the harsher conditions in the garden: the colder night temperatures, the wind buffeting them or the rain pelting on them.
What I need to do is subject the seedlings to a bit of hardship while they’re still in their trays indoors. So I’ve learned that I should blow on them or run my hand over them to simulate wind: this will strengthen their stems. I harden them off by gradually introducing them to greater temperature fluctuations and stronger sunlight. I let them feel a bit of cold.
The seedlings may not like what I’m doing to them, but my efforts will produce stronger plants that will have a better chance of surviving and thriving once translated outside. I do them no favours if I coddle them and leave them unprepared for the hardships they’ll face outdoors.
I think God does the same with us.
Sometimes He subjects us to unwelcome things in order to toughen us up and prepare us for what lies ahead. We may not like it, but He would be an unloving Father if He didn’t do so.
If you’re out in the countryside, how can you tell if you’re near water?
You may be able to catch a glimpse of blue and know that you’re near a lake or pond, but sometimes trees may hide it from your view. What then?
You can use your other senses, plus search for indirect clues.
If you hear the sound of waves lapping on the shore or running water cascading over rocks, you know you’re close to water even if you can’t see it.
Hearing the call of the red-winged blackbird can be another clue, because this bird prefers habitats near water.
Your sense of smell might help you detect the presence of water, too. Wet earth gives off a distinctive scent, and the presence of algae in a lake also emits an odour that can be a tip-off.
If vegetation is blocking the sight of a pond or river, even that vegetation itself can be a clue for you. If you see lots of willow trees, you’re bound to be near water, as willows are naturally found there.
So there are things we can look for that indicate the presence of water, even if it’s hidden from our sight.
But what about when we’re trying to determine if God is near?
We might not be able to see Him directly in physical form, but are there still indications that our Heavenly Father is close by?
If you have ever owned a cat (or have been owned by one), you’ll know that if you want to find the warmest, most comfortable place in your home, just follow the cat.
Cats unerringly zero in on the most comfortable spot in your house. They’re not above stealing your favourite chair or displacing you from your own bed in their quest for comfort.
Our feline friends consistently find the sunniest windowsill on which to perch or a warm heating vent in the floor over which to drape themselves. They’ll snuggle into the coziest, most protected part of the sofa, or stake out a claim on the most comfy lap.
Cats are masters at pinpointing zones of highest comfort.
But if you’re in need of comfort, reassurance, love and protection, where do you find it?
Follow the people who know the Source of all comfort.
A chickadee may have a bird-brain, but it can actually be pretty smart.
Especially if it lives in a harsh climate.
What does climate have to do with bird intelligence? As it turns out, more than you’d expect.
Biologists have discovered that chickadees living in the mountains or in northern latitudes, where the weather is more severe, were smarter than their peers living more comfortably down below.
Chickadees from harsher habitats had superior spatial memories and problem-solving abilities than those living in gentler climes. They were better at finding stored caches of food and at figuring out how to access a worm treat that scientists had cleverly tucked into a glass tube.
The harsh environment makes their brains work a bit harder.
Is there a lesson for humans in the example of the chickadees?
Yes, but it isn’t to move to a more wintry climate (take it from a Canadian who’s done her share of shovelling snow—it hasn’t made me smarter!).
The takeaway here is that there can be unseen benefits to the challenges we face.
As hundreds of millions of us are shut in our homes, nervously monitoring the news for the latest updates on the coronavirus, we’re also dealing with an unexpected side effect of this pandemic:
Many of us are gaining weight as we turn to comfort foods to calm us.
This is perfectly understandable. We’re in a global crisis right now, with the news getting worse day by day in some countries. Who would blame us for reaching for cookies, ice cream, fried foods or nostalgic casseroles to console us, even if they can only do so temporarily?
But is there a more lasting source of comfort, preferably one that’s low in fat and calories?