I poured the black seeds into their small hands and watched as they scattered them on the soft, dark soil. The four of us were expecting an abundant crop of blue flowers by summer. Sadly, none of us remembered to check their progress because we soon had more serious things on our minds. But God was watching over them…and us.
I love gardens because they’re places for creating memories. They provide rich soul food and teach us about life. You can probably remember what you did with buttercups, daisies and snapdragons when you were a child. I used to love the dainty flowers of Nigella damascena, but I called them by their beautiful common name, Love-in-a-Mist. They remind me now of the Sunday School Anniversaries we had in our church each year, where they filled vases at the front of the platform.
They come in white, pink, light blue, dark blue and purple, but the blues are my favourites. They’re all easy to grow and they’ll self-sow in most soils without bother from pests or diseases: my kind of plant! In summer I press them for greeting cards; by autumn the remaining ones have produced paper-thin pods which house their black seeds. Although they’re pretty in the garden, both the flowers and pods are useful in floral arrangements. Whenever I split a pod and shake out the seeds, I remember…
It’s now sixteen years since I took three of my grandchildren into the garden and tipped those nigella seeds into their cupped hands. We were creating garden memories for the future. They sprinkled them on the soil below the window, sprayed them with water and left them to germinate. The next time we were together in our garden, we’d all passed through an experience that had changed us forever.
Matthew, the youngest, had been burnt in a dreadful car fire. He now wore a silicon mask on his face, his fingers were shortened by surgery and parts of his ears had been removed. His sight was affected and his three-year-old development had slowed. He couldn’t walk or talk and he’d suffered two cardiac arrests. For several months, his older brother and sister were often separated from their parents who were dealing with one drama after another at the hospital. But God was watching over us all, as he was with the nigella seeds.
Whenever I needed peace during this time, I would go into our garden and work there. Somehow God’s harmony filled my mind and I’d return to the house with new hope. Some children don’t survive such a tragedy and I feel for their families, but God watches over them too.
Now Matthew is nineteen and a great young man. He’s had many operations as he’s grown, but stopped counting at one hundred. After so many skin grafts, we’re grateful that he still has his lovely smile.
Matt’s an active part of the Burn Survivors Network at the KIDS Foundation and has spoken before many people at various events and on television. I’m so proud of him!
It’s not easy to perceive God’s love in hard places where mists can cloud his beauty. Matt faces difficult situations with courage and gentleness. He truly knows that God is always with him.
As for those Love-in-the-Mist seeds, they grew into healthy plants that in their turn shed more seeds the next year. They’re probably still flowering in that spot where the first ones were sown: symbols of the eternal watchfulness of our loving Heavenly Father.
You can read more about Matthew Thiele here: http://kidsfoundation.org.au/about-us/our-everyday-hero/