Well, friends, after years of dreaming about this book, it actually happened! The story of this book’s creation mirrors the heart of the book itself: good things grow over time from small seeds—and God has a plan!
You probably saw “write the children’s book” on my Tending List several years ago, but the timing was never quite right. Last February, I got an email from a PowerSheets user who happened to also be an editor at B&H Kids. Would I be interested in writing a children’s book about gardening?
Why, yes! Yes, I would! 🙂 God always knows the right timing and He knew better than I did just how timely this book would be.
After many weeks of working with the illustrator, and getting all the flora and fauna just right (did you know there are over 200 species of squirrels!?), it’s a joy to introduce you to this simple little book that has a big heart: Gracie’s Garden.
What gave you the idea to write “Gracie’s Garden”?
I am an unlikely gardener; I’ve killed a lot of plants in my life. But, by God’s grace, I’m still a gardener. Being out in the dirt with our kiddos has taught me the best lessons: good things grow slowly over time (not overnight!), growing good things requires getting your hands dirty, you don’t have to have a weed-free garden to have a garden and there’s so much joy to be found in the wait. I wrote Gracie’s Garden about the best lesson our kids have learned alongside me out in the dirt: waiting is worth it—and can be a whole lot of fun with a little perspective. Around here, we celebrate along the way, not just at the end! The rewards don’t just come in the harvest; they come in the wait if we’re willing to look around us. Especially in such a time as this, learning to live in a consistent state of waiting and unknown has been challenging. But, we’re all learning! Sometimes the frustration of waiting gives way to our best creativity, as you’ll see in these pages, and we end up loving the journey, not just the destination! This is a message that transcends age—we all need this right now.
Who did you write it for and why?
As a young girl, I believed that, in order to have value, I had to make things happen—and be successful overnight. I felt enormous pressure to do it all perfectly and find success fast. God has used our garden to deconstruct those lies. This book is for children all over the world to learn what I wish I would have learned years ago: peonies grow through the dirt, and so do we. Good things grow—and take root—little by little with faith and tending. My hope is that, as adults give these gifts to the kids in their lives through these pages, their hearts are cultivated, too.
You’ve written trade books for adults and built a brand that focuses mostly on products to encourage and inspire women. Why was it important for you to focus on children this time?
Have you ever watched a caterpillar turn into a monarch butterfly? As a kid, we would visit a small bookstore that had chrysalis’s in the window each spring. We’d come back week after week to see them unfold. That wonder and awe are still with me today, and I want to give the same to our children, children all over the world—and you, too, dear adult! We had that wonder once, too: a trust, joy, and delight in what we can’t yet see. And abruptly in many cases, that came to a halt as we formed our identities in the world. I’ve listened to the stories of thousands of women over the last decade, and there is a central theme: we feel the pressure to strive instead of trust. We want to have faith, but we’ve been told all our lives to create “knowns,” to build security, to work harder and to be better. We’ve been told to make things happen. Unknowns have become scary instead of intriguing. This book bridges the gap between the wonder of childhood and what happens next. My hope is that children will learn to trust in the wait, to believe in what they can’t yet see and learn to relish God’s perfect plans as they unfold day by day.
How does your family garden together? What are some of the lessons you and your kids have learned from getting outside and gardening?
It’s funny—we set out to keep a garden and grow good things together, but the garden grows us. We’re out here all through the day to poke around and see what grew overnight, to look for ladybugs and rollie pollies, and to savor a pinch of herbs for a family meal. Gardening begins as something you do, a hobby, and it becomes who you are.
Here in the garden, we’ve learned to plant seeds in faith. We’ve learned to be okay with failure and just try again (not every seed grows as we expect and sometimes the garden pests outwit us!). We’ve learned to get our hands dirty. We’ve learned to celebrate small victories. And most of all, we’ve learned to notice—to be present. Out in the garden, you can’t do two things at once. You have to be fully there with head, hands, and heart. The garden begs for our presence, and when we give it, it grows.
Watch this fun video to see inside the book! Do you recognize this sweet little voice? 🙂
You wrote the book before the 2020 pandemic became a reality. How has its message become even more timely now?
Around the world, there has been a resurgence of planting “victory gardens.” More than ever before—more than we could have ever imagined, we want to solidify our future, plant hope, and grow good things right where we are. Experiencing the wonder of planting something with our bare hands and watching God make it grow each day is faith-transforming. It does something to us. And our kids need the fresh air of the garden just as much as we do!
Tell us about the main characters. (They’re based on your own kiddos, right?)
Yes! Aside from the adorable bunny who likes to nestle in Sarah’s hair, this book was born from the real hearts and curiosities of our children. They love playing in the dirt, making mud soup, and flower petal celebrations. And, Nutty the Squirrel is a real-life peach-gobbling squirrel that lives in the oak tree near the garden. He once ate 50 peaches from our tree in a short span of time! We love him, though, and even gave him a little squirrel picnic table in the front yard this year. If you can’t beat ’em, make them a proper place to eat! 🙂 In the book and in real life, Gracie loves taking Sarah and Josh under her wing to lead them to delight in the garden. Josh craves instant gratification and overnight results, something we can all identify with. (He has learned recently to wait for the tomatoes to turn red instead of insisting on eating them when they are blush pink and not so tasty!) And, Sarah, as the youngest, mirrors all of our hearts in having doubts about things she can’t yet see. We see ourselves in her sweet questions that lead her to faith. Sarah is joyful and funny and I hope we all have her curiosity. Curiosity can lead us to faith, trust, and lasting joy!
Many parents are looking for more opportunities to involve their whole families in both reading and gardening, especially after staying at home because of COVID-19. How can reading Gracie’s Garden be a special part of those activities?
Reading aloud is one of the biggest connectors of families. The neurological, social and family connection benefits are plentiful for parents and children. Start with reading aloud and let your kids ask questions about the garden. If you don’t know the answers, take the opportunity to show your kids how exploring and doing a little digging, literally and figuratively, can help them find answers.
Next, plant something! Dream together; your kids will love it. Go to GardeningWithLara.com for a free guide. You likely have far more hesitations than your kiddos, who just can’t wait for an excuse to play in the dirt and watch the magic and miracle of a seed unfold. They will feel such confidence and joy learning to play and create like Gracie, Sarah and Josh do in the book. There are no expectations for perfection out in the garden. Peonies grow through dirt, and so do we.
You intentionally worked some silliness into the book and even included a poster with silly rhymes. Why were these playful elements important to you?
It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you have a garden! There are always weeds, critters, funny sights, and garden blunders to be had. Growing flowers and vegetables—or whatever you choose to grow—invites us to let go and know that we aren’t in control; God is. And in that surrender, we find a lot of joy. Laughing and watching the honeybees dance on our flowers bring us refreshment. More than that though, planting seeds in faith and letting go to watch God do His thing is a deeper refreshment that lasts. We all need that right now.
What are some of the key takeaways you hope kids will glean from Gracie’s Garden? What do you hope parents will learn from it?
We all need these reminders and golden nuggets from the garden: Good things grow little by little. In the wait, cultivate! Celebrate all the tiny victories. Wait and see: God is growing good things, even when we can’t see it or feel it. Most of all, trust Him, the Master Gardener.
Many, many thanks to the team at B&H, to my wonderful illustrator, Jon, to Shunta Grant for the real-life hairbows we love (that had to be part of the book, too!), and to God for making me an imperfect, dirt-loving gardener. :seedling:
P.S. Did you notice anything different around here? Welcome to my new website! Enjoy! 💛