The Flower of My Youth


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I planted mint, I planted sage, 

I even planted rue,

But the fairest one I planted was the flower of my youth.

Yes, the fairest one I planted was the flower of my youth.

–Lithuanian folk song

I wish you could hear the tune, lilting and carefree. I heard it first in a compilation of children’s songs I played to amuse my children while I worked. Somewhere, slogging through a week’s worth of laundry with four children running circles around me, having just left my twenties behind, the song brought the wisdom of a Lithuanian granny into my life.

I could see her in my mind’s eye while I yanked up stubborn weeds. She ruminates while she sits outside the sun-bathed front of her ancient house, kerchiefed, shelling peas, a small garden of herbs by the front door. She remembers when her waist was tiny and her hair brown–when her husband brought her to this very house. They had nothing–only a few farm implements, some kitchen necessities and a few precious linens embroidered with love from her mama and aunties. He would leave every day to fight for their living and she tried to make what he earned last. And while the baby napped, though she ached with fatigue, she planted her garden. Everything she grew helped.

Her garden is still there. The babies have grown. The herbs still grow, a bower of blossoms. But she sees a plant unlike any other there too, waving its gentle limbs, full of leaves and heavy with flowers. It is invisible but everything else exists because she tenderly laid it in the soft earth of this place. The flower of her youth is here, roots stretching down for fifty years now. She devoted her best, strongest and most beautiful days to this a small, ignominious place. Yes, this flower is the fairest one of all.

She helped me. And she is right. I am fifteen years past the birth of my fourth and last child. My children are all taller than me, growing strong and brave and beautiful.

And I’m in the same little house. But it has changed over the years. Hands that were twenty planted and painted. The rose bush is stretching higher. Its blossoms did not really begin to grow two weeks ago. It is the work of years.

Dear sisters, years count. If your feeling tired, just remember that. Keep on in faithfulness to your calling or to your vows. Do not despise the day of small things (Zech 4:9)… because, in actuality, there are no small things.

All our decisions grow.

Elizabeth Hiett

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