Monday, April 14, 2008

36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.

A blessed Lent to all from Aster:

When I saw first the Maxim Emily gave me, I didn’t know what to write. We Africans really don’t know what hobbies are. But when we were growing up, girls had to learn what women should know, and boys had to learn what men should know. As a child, I loved landscape: trees, flowers and most of all watching the clouds. After school, we used to go and watch a nearby waterfall, where we saw little animals and plants that lived in the surrounding area.

I remember asking my neighbors for roots from their flower gardens; I used to plant them on my front porch and gave them a lot of care. Usually my flowers looked better than theirs, and they use to come and say, “What did you put in your flowers? They look more beautiful than ours!” So flowers became my “thing.” (This doesn’t mean I knew anything about them!)

Then I got older and left home, traveling to Europe and North America. There I saw beautiful manmade gardens. I started again with single potted plant, given to me by a friend; I started to take care of it, and then I couldn’t stop.

I think everyone has a hobby; it is an extra gift given by God. If you can dedicate time to a certain thing, and become good at it, and share it, it becomes a hobby.

Hobbies always bring us closer to someone and involve someone else. How? A friend of mine was told that she had cancer. I went to see her, and I gave her a tropical plant to take care of. A couple of years later, she wrote: “That flower gave me hope every day; I was eager to wake up and see if it would give one more flower today, and another one tomorrow.” Glory to God, she is still alive!

A hobby is anything that involves spending time with someone without planning or thinking; we do it because it is what we love to do, whether it is gardening, playing a sport or going to art shows. By sharing it with someone else, it also becomes an act of kindness, and it becomes part of our life.

The “Prayer Before Beginning a Task” (from our red prayer book) says “. . . so that it may be profitable to myself and others.” This reminds us that whatever we do affects someone else, too. For me, it something to do with gardening; when I am in the garden, any garden, I am with God. Even in the morning, looking at the trees, looking at people’s gardens as I do every morning on the way to work, it brightens up my day, and I praise God for all the beautiful things I see.

God is an amazing artist; He designed the first garden, and He put His first children, Adam and Eve, in it. (Genesis 2:7-8) I don’t know why, but we always visualize Heaven as a beautiful garden. When I work in the earth, I admire all of the beautiful, colorful things that come out of it, and I praise God: “This God, the God of my fathers, is so big, and I am so small. The God who created all of us and gave us everything, how wonderful, how wise, how patient, how amazing He is! I have no words in my sinful tongue to describe how kind He is to us.”

When we work in the garden, we learn humility, hope and patience. Humility – because there are such small beautiful creatures living on the earth, and that makes us understand that we too are very small in God’s eyes. Patience – because whatever we are working on in the garden, we are waiting for a harvest or result. Hope – because whatever we planted, if it didn’t come out well this time, we can try again next year.

In our Lord Jesus’ time of prayer before His Passion, He went to the Garden of Mount Olive, by Gethsemane. (Matthew 22:39) Many people imitate that when they need to walk alone with God. Whether in our own yard or a public park, a garden can be our escape from the world.

When I garden, then, only then, I find peace. I am so silent, as if I am listening to God. Sometimes I say the Jesus prayer, and sometimes I just smell the earth and the morning dew. I think my gift from God is gardening, and that is my healthy and wholesome hobby.

May our Lord plant His garden in our hearts. Amen.


Laura said...

Thank you...this was lovely. I can't think of a thing to add...

Michele said...

I just logged on and got so excited to see the maxim for the day. 3 years ago a friend of mine helped me design my front yard, went to the local garden center helped me pick out flowers and helped me plant every single one. It was about $700 worth of bushes and plants! It was a huge job and she did it out her love for me and for flowers which I believe came straight from God. Well, now I just can't get enough. I keep digging up my mom's flowers and transplanting AND dropping by the garden center too much lately.

My family is part of a OCA mission and so sometimes we have our special services in homes but on Sundays we are at a chapel. Anyway, we are having our Pascha Vespers and barbecue at her home and she lives in an old home place. She has no bushes or flowers because they just moved back to AL. I got so excited because I saw an opportunity to spend time with her and help her in my limited knowledge of flowers to make her place look beautiful for our celebration. I get to help someone like someone helped me. Isn't that cool? What a wonderful God we have to give us such beautiful things to look at. I am turning into my mother. I never dreamed I would love playing in the dirt so much. I just can't get enough. I am reminded every time I plant something of the monks and their toil and how they say the Jesus Prayer as they work. I try to do this when my children aren't around with lots of questions and such. This week we are planting our first ever vegetable garden. I can't wait. Sorry this was so long. 13 DAYS! girls just 13 days!

Wetumpka, AL

Carla said...

Dear Aster,
Thank you. You have brought peace and joy to me in the way you speak of the garden as a place to meet God. I have experienced that in the past but have been so busy with other things, I have let my garden lapse. Yes, you have reminded me how good it would be to go back outside, and tend my little plants, bugs and weeds. Blessings on you.

Monica said...

Aster, your essay is beautiful and inspiring. Thank you! Love, Monica

The Forty Maxims

  • 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
  • 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
  • 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
  • 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
  • 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
  • 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
  • 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
  • 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
  • 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
  • 10. Be faithful in little things.
  • 11. Do your work, then forget it.
  • 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
  • 13. Face reality.
  • 14. Be grateful.
  • 15. Be cheerful.
  • 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
  • 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • 18. Listen when people talk to you.
  • 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
  • 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
  • 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
  • 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
  • 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
  • 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
  • 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
  • 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
  • 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
  • 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
  • 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
  • 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
  • 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
  • 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
  • 33. Be strict with yourself.
  • 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
  • 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
  • 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
  • 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
  • 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
  • 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
  • 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.