Thursday, June 2, 2011

“Tomato plant.”

These words are my newest stop sign for worrying.

It happened a few days ago. It was windy, but finally sunny. The kids in the neighborhood were riding their bikes and jumping on trampolines. The neighbors were mowing their soggy lawns. I had just finished planting over three boxes of onions and some pole beans. My lower back was sunburned in the narrow gap between my shirt and the top of my jeans.

Earlier in the day, I went to church, cleaned the kitchen, wrapped gifts for two upcoming birthday parties and helped with homework.

As I got the kids to bed that night, I thought about the coming week. I thought about the laundry. I thought about doing some work on my computer.

My youngest, age 7, was in her bed with a book. She tugged on my arm.

“Mommy, could you bring my tomato plant into the garage tonight so it doesn’t freeze?” She had heard the weather report about one more chance of frost that night, death to any sun-loving plant like the tomato.

Her tomato plant was still sitting on a small table outside our front door. I told her to place it there for some sun in the afternoon.

Under my daughter’s watchful care, this particular tomato plant sprouted and grew at school, destined to be a Mother’s Day gift along with an eggplant and zinnias. She carefully labeled the milk carton planters and proudly presented her plants to me one day after school. She told me that some of the kids didn’t have plants because theirs died.

She wanted to plant hers in our garden right away, but I told her that the weather was too cold for the plants to be outside yet. So she placed them on the workbench in our garage. Every other day she added water.

I nodded my head. “Okay. Yes. Thanks for reminding me.”

I hugged and kissed my girls, said goodnight to my husband and proceeded to sit at my desk for two or three hours, fretting over my to-do list for the week.

The next morning I quickly showered, got dressed and headed to school to supervise an hour of marching band practice. My daughter found me in the gym. She told me she loved me and blew me a kiss before heading to class.

I headed home to grab some coffee and my computer before driving to St. Paul for work. I came into my driveway and that’s when I saw them. Three little milk cartons covered in construction paper. Red pencils lined up in each carton as plant stakes. Wilted and wet brown leaves.

I forgot about her tomato plant.

Kids don’t usually ask for much: “Play with me.” “Tuck me in bed.” “Can you get me a glass of water?” “Read me a story.” So this latest question cuts to the core.

“Mommy, could you bring my tomato plant into the garage tonight so it doesn’t freeze?”

There is a big reason that God tells us not to worry. Worry distracts us from focusing on what’s important right now! Worrying about tomorrow or about the past won’t change it. But we can make a difference right now. We can do what we promise before it’s too late. Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”

What’s your stop sign for worry? What have you failed at or forgotten to do in the distraction of your lists, selfish worries and troubles? A plant can be replaced, but a person’s trust and love is a far different matter and needs deep concentration every day for us to stay on the right path. Avoid distraction from your true purpose. Don’t leave your priorities in the cold.

Matthew 7:13-14