I’ll admit it: I’ve cussed more than once over my gardening frustrations in Colorado. Planting in pots offers me great success, yet attempting to grow boxwoods or roses or carrots in the ground brings mostly failure. Our soil is stubborn yet sandy as can be, so planting directions include extensive aids. The prolific deer like to eat every green thing from the top downward, and they laugh — cackle! — in the face of “deer resistant” labels. Voles like to eat everything from below ground upward. We have hail storms that have turned my gorgeously growing plants into pathetic green shrapnel.
While all this may be true, it’s also true I won’t give up gardening. I’m committed to learning what works and what doesn’t. But gardening is just that: work. It simply takes a long time for roots to grow here.
On a similar note, I didn’t think I’d ever grow roots here in Colorado. I know that sounds ridiculous since in many ways, Colorado is dang near paradise. It’s beautiful in that jaw-dropping, mountain-majestic kind of way. I know countless people who grew up here before leaving for college or employment, but they eventually boomeranged right back to the Front Range. People spend thousands of dollars to vacation here. In the military community, Colorado is consistently one of the most highly coveted assignment locations.
When we moved here in 2010, courtesy of the US Air Force, we loved that several other friends lived here as well. So I wasn’t lonely in the same way I had been when we moved to places I knew no one outside my immediate family.
After my husband David retired from the US Air Force, we decided it was best for our family to stay here, and David took a civilian job in the local area. Given all the advantages of Colorado and our personal plans of staying put, I asked myself one question over and over: Kristen, what is your problem that you can’t feel at home here like everyone else?
Part of that answer lied in the weather. While I like winter more than I used to, I’ll always tilt towards summer, and summers here are short. However, I knew this went deeper than a lack of warm weather. I just couldn’t get used to the idea that this was where we would likely live for the foreseeable future, even though my husband and kids were thrilled.
I wish this was the part of the story where I tell you a big shift occurred, where things miraculously changed and I immediately felt more settled in here. But I can’t. What I can tell you is I sensed God telling me all along the way that even if Colorado didn’t feel like home today, it was home. And it would eventually feel that way too. All I could do in response was to hang my feelings on that peg of faith by believing God meant it.
As I waited to feel like I belonged, I walked through my days doing what I could to affect what was in my control. I reached out to folks — a lot. I showed up at places other women were. My family and I opened up our home to share dinner, dessert, or coffee with other people. I prayed and asked for Jesus’s help a lot. I went outside not just when the weather was warm but also when it wasn’t. I read books, like Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Growing Slow, and I learned it often takes time to grow good things, and God works in powerful ways while I wait.
Slowly, surely, I started forming real connections with others. Not with every person with whom I engaged, mind you. But with enough that it helped me settle in more. I started to look forward to Colorado-specific events and happenings. One apple-crisp fall day, after eleven years of what felt like work through stubborn, sandy soil, I looked at our big, golden-leafed cottonwood at the end of our lane and realized with a little bit of shock, I don’t want to leave here. I said to David, “Ya know, this place feels like home.” And I meant it.
It was one of those moments when faith became sight.
This past summer, I invited a gardening expert out to our house to give me specific advice on what to plant where. At one point, I lamented to him that I thought I needed to move my lilac bush to a different location because it wasn’t really thriving.
He asked me, “When did you plant it?” I responded, “About two years ago.” He stooped down to look at the plant more closely. Looking up at me, he said, “It generally takes three years for plants to become established, if not a bit longer where we live. Think of it as ‘sleep, creep, then leap’ kind of progress. There is new growth on this lilac bush, and next year you will see a good deal more. I would leave it where it is.”
With spring still a little ways away, I can’t yet report if it will hold an explosion of lilac blooms. I’ve done what I can to nurture the plant, so I’m hopeful. But if it does need more time to grow roots before it takes off? No matter. Sometimes, it simply takes a long time for roots to grow for plants . . .