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Gracie’s Garden Author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Jun 12th
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 in the journey. I wrote “Gracie’s Garden” about the best lesson our kids have learned alongside me out in the dirt: waiting is worth it—and it can be a whole lot of fun. Especially in such a time as this, learning to cultivate what matters in the wait brings great joy and contentment. God reveals this to us as seeds, sprouts and buds  turn into marvelous things to enjoy. The rewards don’t just come in the harvest; they come along the way. This is a message that transcends age.

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 to you to focus on children this time?

I see the faith of my children and the wonder they experience in the garden—especially in planting seeds. 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.

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 are out there 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.

We’ve learned to plant seeds in faith.

We’ve learned to be okay with failure and just try again (we still kill a lot of plants—ha!).

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.

You wrote the book before the 2020 pandemic became a reality. How has its message become even more timely now?

All 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 cultivate what matters right where we are. We have gone through a lot together this year, and we want to have something to look forward to, something to lighten the mental strain of school challenges and COVID-19 and the economy. We want to get some fresh air. Experiencing the wonder of planting something with our bare hands and watching God make it grow each day is faith-transforming. It’s what we need and crave right now. Let’s bring our children along for the journey and get them out in the garden, too. They need this just as much as we do! “Gracie’s Garden” will help you all take a breath of fresh air and believe in good things to come.

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. Sarah, as the youngest, mirrors all of our own hearts in having doubts in things she can’t yet see. We see ourselves in her sweet questions that lead her to faith. My kids are excited to share this special garden with more friends, and they all hope you each get out in the dirt right where you are, too.

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 teach your kids about curiosity and seeking 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, and I love that! 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 on our flowers bring us such refreshment, and 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. Trust him, the Master Gardener.