By the seeds

From Alaska to faraway Virginia, the flowers I enjoy today came from seeds a friend sent to me months ago. Alexandria, April 2015

From faraway Alaska to our Virginia home, the flowers we enjoy today
came from seeds a friend sent to us months ago. Alexandria, April 2015

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

Spring is a time of anticipation and reward, but it also can be a time of impatience, when the weather is moody and unpredictable, and some of our plants don’t bloom as quickly as we wish they would.  Spring is the perfect time to reflect on the truth of Stevenson’s words about the wisdom of focusing on planting instead of harvest.

All of us love to see quick results and successful finishes, but most of life just doesn’t go that way.  Things take time, and we are surrounded by media images that speed things up to the point that we may buy into an unreasonable degree of expectation about how long we should be kept waiting.

Moreover, results depend on many factors that are beyond our control.  Weather, soil condition, pests and the genetics of the seeds themselves all influence our harvest.  One of the first things gardening taught me is the realization that a large percentage of what I plant will not turn out the way I hope it will.  And, except for our years on the central coast of California, it has been rare for me to succeed at growing anything from seeds.

The photo above is a favorite exception.  Jena, who has been with us here at this blog for over two years now, has been especially thoughtful to send me little treats from her travels and from her fascinating home state of Alaska.  Back in mid-2014 she sent me some seeds for Alaskan plants, including the state flower, the Forget-Me-Not.  I promptly planted some and was surprised and excited when they quickly became healthy seedlings.

Because I feared the young plants would freeze, I brought some indoors in pots during the fall, and left three planted outdoors.  As they lay under several inches of snow two months ago, I doubted they would survive.  But when the snow melted away, they sprung back to life almost immediately.  In fact, they are doing much better than the ones I kept indoors and transplanted back outside a couple of weeks ago.  It reminded me of our discussion here about the benefits of snow for insulation and fertilization.

On a recent morning when I had returned from Atlanta the previous evening, I went out on the patio to check on them.  Wow! They had doubled in size and were covered with lovely blue flowers.  It made my day to see them, knowing they grew from tiny seeds that had been sent my way across many miles, literally from one corner of North America to the other.  What a fun surprise!

I don’t remember much about the day I planted those seeds.  It was likely a typical day, one in which I got a few things accomplished, but felt there was much more still to be done.  If I could go back in time several months and show myself the photo above, I might have gotten quite a boost out of knowing that some of what was accomplished that day wasn’t immediately obvious.

Likewise, the day Jena bought those seeds to send to me, she could not have known how, several months later, there would be a rainy spring morning when the sight of their rapid growth would provide me with a burst of joyful surprise on a day when I was in need of cheer.  Though she would not be present to see the harvest of her actions, she focused on the seeds, and I hope she felt at least a small sense of accomplishment on the day she packed them along with the other surprises in the package she sent my way.

When I was prowling around for a link to post for Stevenson with his quote, I discovered something I had forgotten; he died at the age of 44, which seems tragically young to me.  He never lived to see the continuing harvest of joy that his words have brought to people of all ages for over a century.  I am comforted to think that perhaps he realized his life’s work consisted of planting seeds in faith that they would bear a harvest beyond what he might have dared to imagine. I hope we can all be inspired to remember his vision and do likewise.

Seeds from Jena 2014back of seed packet from Jena 2014

This post was first published seven years ago today. I have long since moved away from the home where my Alaskan blooms lived, but perhaps those who live there now are enjoying them, not guessing their full story. But my Alaskan friend, who sent those blooms, continues to bless my life in countless ways.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.



  1. Judy

    For a number of years now, I’ve begun each morning by first reading the daily meditation from The Upper Room ( and then reading your column. Taken together, they give me fresh encouragements and insights to start my day in a positive state of mind. Some days I really, really need that. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get bogged down by The Troubles which seem to come at us from so many directions.

    About your words for today — Julia, you too help plant seeds of faith and hope and acceptance. Some of them turn into flowers out there that you may never see.

    I hope you’re feeling better now and Matt is doing alright.

    • Judy, I am grateful that you pair my posts with your Upper Room devotionals. Yes, we are beset by so many woes. I have always treasured the words of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, even before I could really understand what troubles were. May we continue to be aware of the unseen victories being lived out by saints all around us, known and unknown! Matt and I are surviving. His valve replacement surgery will be next week. Please keep us in prayers about that, and thank you so much for your steadfast friendship! God willing, I hope I will get to see you in person before the end of 2022. I think a trip to PA might be a balm to my soul!

      • Judy

        We’re keeping you and Matt in prayer, and let’s count on seeing one another in person this year! By the way, our ferns are coming up beautifully again this year and I hope yours are too.

        • Thank you, Judy! Yes, both the ferns and pachysandra have reappeared again this year, always lovely!

  2. Sheila

    Good morning, my dear friend. I hope you’re finding pleasure in these beautiful days of Spring, early May. I must tell you pachysandra was Bob Vann’s very favorite ground cover. I have a little bit that I snipped from his flower bed, before his condo was sold. It’s priceless❣️I hope you continue recovering from your fall and know how many prayer warriors you have! I’ll be praying for strength in the upcoming days! Hi to Matt💙

    • Thank you so much for your prayers, Sheila. Regarding the pachysandra, I don’t remember ever hearing of that lovely plant until Judy showed it to me in her own beautifully kept garden when I went to see her in Pennsylvania. Her husband was so kind to dig up many plants (including some ferns) for me to bring back to my then-new home, and all are thriving now. I enjoy seeing them awaken each springtime. As you say, such reminders are priceless!

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