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Lessons from My Dying Basil Plant

October 24, 2009

I wrote this sometime in September, perhaps near the beginning? I have a billion thoughts spinning through my head tonight, after a heady eight-hour training session at church today for small group leaders. It will take me days to process all of this, on top of all the other stuff I’ve been processing — I am unsticking myself from inside my head and, in the meantime, didn’t want to leave you hanging in the wind.

So here you go…here is what I was thinking in early September (and probably still am…I hang onto thoughts for awhile):

My basil plant is dying. Every time I leave my house, I see the naughty, fading, lime-colored leaves creeping in on the healthy, shamrock-colored ones. I pick off the little white flowers that the tag in the pot told me to, and I poke a finger in the soil to make sure it’s still well-watered.

And I leave.

When I come home, even if it’s just a half-hour later, I look at it again, expecting it to have made a glorious recovery. Instead, it’s still drooping, growing towards the waning sunlight, and slowly drawing rattled, chlorophyll-deprived breaths.

“I’m taking care of it the right way, aren’t I?” I think. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to. And it’s still not working.”

June 2009 047

My basil plant, when it was a baby and still healthy.

I suppose life is just like that sometimes. Rules and tags in plant pots only can take you so far. Sometimes it’s the sun. Sometimes it’s the unusual coolness of the air or a simple growing apart or a natural death. I tend to these plants, to these relationships, to these people, and wait expectantly for their curved spines to straighten up because I did or said the right thing. I suppose sometimes things just grow away from each other, growing towards what they want and away from what they don’t. I guess at times, I have to be what someone doesn’t want. And I have a hard time with that.

My best friend’s mother once told her, “The right thing to the wrong person can still be the wrong thing. But saying the wrong thing to the right person doesn’t have to be.”

My mouth is brimming with the wrong things – with the nervous giggles, with the obvious statements, with the rambling stories, and the things that milliseconds later make me want to smack myself. I want to say the right things, but unless you give me a couple of hours and a pen, it’s not likely. The right words are in there, but they are usually buried in the wrong ones.

NOTE: This dying basil plant is now dead as a doornail and has been taking a joyride in the backseat of my car for the past two weeks. I meant to drop it off at my parents’ house for composting, but keep forgetting. When the heat in my car gets too warm, my whole car still smells lightly of basil. It’s strangely comforting.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    October 25, 2009 8:11 am

    “I’m taking care of it the right way, aren’t I?” I think. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to. And it’s still not working.”
    June 2009 047

    I suppose life is just like that sometimes. Rules and tags in plant pots only can take you so far. Sometimes it’s the sun. Sometimes it’s the unusual coolness of the air or a simple growing apart or a natural death. I tend to these plants, to these relationships, to these people, and wait expectantly for their curved spines to straighten up because I did or said the right thing. I suppose sometimes things just grow away from each other, growing towards what they want and away from what they don’t. I guess at times, I have to be what someone doesn’t want. And I have a hard time with that.

    I love the simple lessons of life. And this one hits me so often in working with the church. So often it “droops” when I try so hard to make it robust.

    And then I remember that my work is not MY work. I am a partner with God. I will trust Him, work prayerfully with Him, and entrust the crop to Him.

    Thanks for more of those beautiful words.

  2. Dave permalink
    October 25, 2009 8:14 am

    I thought I edited that comment better than that. Obviously the first 2 paragraphs are yours. The date popped in from copying your pic. Messy Dave.

  3. Grandma Carr permalink
    October 26, 2009 9:49 am

    Caroline….I love your writings. So often you express what I have buried in my memory closet long ago. One of my most challenging scriptures is Isaiah 64:6. “All of us has become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like FILTHY RAGS; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” But I can’t stay there. That’s like remembering only the Friday on Golgatha. Turn and LOOK….THEN CAME SUNDAY!! Our blessed Lord took the key of pain and sacrifice and set us free from sins price. He says that we are worth it….I believe it….that settles it! Love you much, Grandma

  4. October 26, 2009 12:00 pm

    I killed my basil plant too. And I had such high hopes for it.

  5. Caroline permalink*
    November 15, 2009 11:18 pm

    @ Uncle Dave!

    It is His work, isn’t it? It’s so easy to try and bend things to our own will, because being in control feels more comfortable. But He’ll have none of that. He made the basil and He chooses how it will grow.

    Love you. 🙂

  6. Caroline permalink*
    November 15, 2009 11:19 pm

    @ Grandma!

    I love that you always take the time to read and respond to what I write. Your encouragement means so much, it really does. It’s so easy to focus on the Golgathas of life, isn’t it? I find it harder to turn towards the empty tomb, because it remidns me that it’s done, it’s taken care, there is nothing else I can do.

    All I can do is thank Him with my life.
    Sigh.

    Love you!

  7. Caroline permalink*
    November 15, 2009 11:20 pm

    @ Jenna!

    I tried so hard, but plants just don’t seem to like me. My rosemary plant committed suicide recently. Until the farmers’ market reopens, I guess it’s back to the grocery store for herbs for awhile.

    Oh well.
    We tried, right? That has to count for something!

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