Less Is More.

LessIsMore081914I’ve had a garden every summer for the past thirty-five years. It’s generous to call some years’ efforts aĀ garden. Different years meant different babies newly arrived or still in the works during garden seasons. Babies were born in April, May, June, August, September, October (of different years, obviously šŸ™‚ ). Those years were a bit more challenging. I called the gardens of those years myĀ treasure hunt gardens. Go out and see what you can find in the weeds.

In thirty-five years, I’ve managed to learn a few things Ā — what we will eat and what we never get around to using (kohlrabi is amusing to look at but not very exciting to eat), how much lettuce to plant at one time so a whole row doesn’t go to seed all at once, which seeds never seem to germinate for me (no parsnips for us this year šŸ™ ), which seeds I should plant thickly in order to get enough to sprout.

But one thing I’ve never seemed to learn is how toĀ thinĀ seedlings without feeling bad.

Actually, IĀ haveĀ learned that it’s important to thin seedlings. I usually just can’t bring myself toĀ killĀ all those hopeful little baby plants! Right now I have lettuce that I need to go out and thin. I always tell myself that I’ll wait until the plants have grown some, and then we can use the thinnings in a salad. It’s a nice theory, but I don’t always get around to it.

And so I end up with lots of small, crowded lettuce plants in the same space that seven or eight heads of lettuce would thrive in if they had enough space. The same thing happens with the beets — lots of small ones instead a fewer big ones. Swiss chard and carrots often suffer the same neglect.

Sometimes less actually means more. Less plants in the ground often means more actual food to eat. If fifty lettuce plants aren’t all fighting for the same 10 feet feet of soil, we actually get seven or eight nice big heads of healthy lettuce.

Sometimes less means more when it comes to raising our kids, too. It’s so hard to say “no” to so many good activities, but how many things can we actually cram into a 24-hour period and do them allĀ well? How many lessons, how many sports activities, how many church commitments, how many social gatherings?

If we try to squeeze too much into our lives (and into the lives of our children), none of our busy-ness ends up bearing much fruit. We end up with a lotĀ of activity, but not much deep learning or real joy in what we’re doing.

When we’re too busy, theĀ bestĀ things often get crowded out, like the Yugoslavian Red lettuce I really like that is getting crowded out by the overpopulation of ho-hum green lettuce. It needs space to grow. I need to give it that space.

When our lives get too full, we often sacrifice the best parts of life and the parts God holds us most responsible for — things like relaxed, un-pressured time spent with our children and with our spouse, time learning together from God’s Word, timeĀ thinkingĀ andĀ imaginingĀ andĀ planning, time building relationships, time when Mama isn’t cranky and stressed as she tries to keep up with everyone’s overbooked schedules. (I can remember some too-busy seasons of our family life when I’m sure I was not very fun to live with.)

We’re supposed to teach our children God’s law when we sit in our house, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. That means we need to spendĀ timeĀ with them — time when we can really give them our undivided attention.

As we are about to launch into a new school year, stop and reevaluate. Do you need to do some “thinning”? Should you reconsider how many extra classes and activities you want to encourage your children to participate in? Pray about this. What doesĀ GodĀ want you and your family to do? What is really going to matter twenty or thirty years from now — or more importantly — in eternity? Are you making those things a priority?

Discuss this with your husband, pray together, fortify yourselves, and start plucking out the good things that are going to keep you from doing the best things and doing them well.

I’m heading out now to face that row of lettuce. šŸ™‚




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  1. Thank you for this reminder! I needed it so very much!

  2. daughter of the King

    Ditto what Susan said.

    My middle child was planning out her daily school schedule, but left no time for our “school” devotion. Something that I’d been trying to do every year but seem to lose it. We lost it with vacation and family coming to visit.

    I reminded my daugher of this time, she wanted to do it with Daddy -plus she had no room in her busy schedule. I hate writing schedules, b/c they never work for me/us.

    I want my children to seek God all day every day. In her defense, she does have quiet time alone with God twice daily. Maybe that is enough. Our babies are growing up. Waiting to see what God has in store for our family can be hard. But I know I can trust & depend on him!

  3. Thank you for your timely blog, Pam. Our family is in the very midst of this as we try to discern whether or not to keep one particular activity in our sons’ schedules. Your questions to ponder are very helpful. Thank you!

  4. I thank the Lord for this timely post. As I begin “formal” homeschooling with my five year old I’ve continued to read and reread about being relaxed and not giving him too much busywork. I wholeheartedly agree especially considering how much he and his sister have learned without a curriculum šŸ˜€ I’d like him to continue to really learn and enjoy learning. BUT yesterday I became very busy in my mind making lofty plans for how I was going to tackle ALL the projects that have to be done inside and outside the house. Actually going ahead with my plan would not glorify the Lord. From past experience I know I would want to rush my son through his lessons, yell at a child for getting in my way, get angry with another for needing my attention when I have more “pressing” tasks to do, and neglecting to submit to my husband and be attractive to him. So thank you for this post that has expanded my vision to being concerned about all aspects of my life.

  5. wonderful reminder and great metaphor
    I thought I was alone in feeling bad about pulling out the overcrowded baby plants!

  6. I was just pondering this thought on Sunday as I was searching for treasures in our garden to use for supper! We chose this summer to just let the garden go, we had other priorities that pushed it out.

    I was reminded that sometimes we try to do too much and nothing gets done well because we are pulled so many ways. We don’t have to have too many commitments away from home for wrong choices to crowd out our priorities.

    In the past I tried to make a lot of our clothes because it can be hard to find girl clothes that pass my husbands inspection. I also fell into the trap of making our own bread. We’ve also spent time trying to save money by doing things ourselves that we could have paid someone to do. These things are not bad things but they don’t make the top of our priority list.

    I was also tired a lot because I was either nursing or pregnant so that made each decision even more critical.

    So, we are currently searching through many weeds that have grown up in our children to find the fruit; it’s there but it’s so much easier to see the weeds.

    Our garden of children isn’t hopeless because we have the Master Garden continuing to guide us and help us through. It’s just a lot harder now to root out the weeds than if we would have paid more attention to those little ones before the roots got so deep. We rejoice that a couple of them have recently began their walk with the Lord and it is clear that they have turned from sin and are seeking God’s help to obey His Word. God is able to work in spite of our failure – or perhaps He waited for us to fail and recognize our helplessness so He could step in and receive ALL the glory!!!

    Yes, we had plenty of pride as well – our own weeds! But God has brought us to utter dependence on Him and it is so sweet!!!

    So parents may I encourage you? Make a list of your priorities!!! Just because something’s good and just because others can manage things doesn’t mean it’s right for your family or your situation right now.

    My husband and I recently made a list of our priorities. We haven’t yet taken the time to put them in a specific order so we may rearrange a few but perhaps it will give you an idea where to start.

    Personal devotions
    Family devotions
    Relationship with spouse
    Mentoring our children (one on one discussions)
    Family time
    Life skills
    Nursing home programs
    Community outreach


  7. Thanks, Pam for your encouraging words. I enjoy them coming across my email. I have also rooted out blogs for the most part. šŸ™‚ I have the most beneficial ones sent to my email.

  8. God bless you for sharing this today. I really needed to hear this. Homeschooling, therapies, sports, and driving around a lot of the time can drive a mama crazy sometimes. Your message today reenforces what I’ve been praying about. Thank you!