Three Gardening (and Life) Lessons Learned From The World of Sports

My husband and I both grew up playing competitive sports.  It’s in our DNA, I guess you could say.


It’s a tough world to live in.  Yet, the lessons that are learned there are priceless and timeless — lessons that easily translate into every other area of life.

As I was out in the garden, the other day, completely out of breath, dripping with sweat, and with my leg and arm muscles on fire from digging a trench, I started thinking about some of the lessons that I’d learned from the world of sports, so I thought I’d have some fun sharing them with you today.

Lesson number one :  “No pain, no gain!”  Oh, if only this weren’t true!  I’ve never been a fan of physical pain.  I’ve always loved playing sports, but have never enjoyed the physical pain that I’ve had to put my body through in order to get stronger, jump higher, hit a volleyball harder, or outlast my opponent.  So, as I was out there, digging my trench, putting all of my arm and leg strength into it, feeling like I couldn’t dig another inch, I had to remember, “No pain, no gain”.  So, I just kept telling myself, “one shovel-full more.  Just keep on digging, no matter how much it hurts.  You’re getting closer to the end.  Soon you’ll be done and able to get the bed planted!”  If I’d stopped, because of the pain, I never would have gotten my tomatoes planted.  I had to keep digging, despite the pain, to accomplish my task.  That is how you overcome physical pain, you  focus on the end goal.  Whether you’re digging a trench, pulling weeds,  getting started on an exercise regimen, or whatever – focus on the end goal, not the pain, and remember that there is no gain without that pain, and then push through it because the end product is so worth it!

framed raised bed

loads of tomatoes

Lesson Number Two:  You win some, you lose some.  I’ve heard it said that, no matter what we farmers and gardeners do, we should expect to lose about thirty percent of our crops.  Whether seeds fail to germinate, get eaten by bugs or gophers, succumb to disease,  stress out due to extreme heat, or spoil before they make it to your table or tummy, when it comes to harvest time, it’s a given, “You win some, you lose some”.  It’s frustrating, I know!  But, we have to pick ourselves up and carry on.  We can’t let losses drag us down.  We can’t give up!  We must learn from all of our losses, in the garden and in life, and then move on from them.  Losses aren’t really losses, in the large scheme of  things, anyway.  As Robert Louis Stevenson so elegantly put it, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”   Yes!!!  NEVER stop sowing.  Beautiful fruit awaits!!!

acorn squash seeds

Ronde De Nice Squash

The final and greatest lesson I’ve learned from the world of sports is: NEVER GIVE UP!  Do you remember the Chinese hurdler, Liu Xiang,  from the 2012 Summer Olympics, the one who was predicted to win gold, but then tore his achilles tendon at the very start of the race?  Oh, my goodness!  If anyone had a reason to give up, it was him.  (I’ve  experienced that injury before and – believe me – getting up on your feet is the LAST thing you want to do after it happens) But, Liu Xiang did.  He had that “never give up” spirit inside of him that said, “keep on going and finish!”  So, he hopped on one leg, all the way to the final hurdle, which he kissed, and then continued hopping on until he crossed the finish line, where other Olympic contenders met him and carried him off of the track.  It was a beautiful sight.    The point is, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”.   Farmers may lose entire crops.  Athletes may finish last.  All of us, at one time or another are gonna have something devastating happen to us that makes us want to just lie down and give up, but we can’t.   We gotta push through the pain.  We gotta move past the losses and, as one of my cousins always used to say, “Just keep on truckin!”   Keep moving forward, one step at a time, giving 100% in action and attitude towards everything that we do, and – whether the world recognizes it or not – we’ll be successful.  As Joel Salatin says when it comes to farming, “Good Enough is perfect”.  Yes, it is.  As long as you never give up! So…


(graphic via The Pixel Boutique)

Lesson Learned?  I hope so!  Now, carry on. 🙂


The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned From the World of Sports (and, ultimately, the Bible)

I really enjoyed watching the 2012 London Olympic Games —  especially specific events, like volleyball (which is my favorite), gymnastics, swimming, and track and field.

Now, I don’t know about you, but, in addition to all of the sporting events, I loved watching all of the feature and in-focus stories about particular athletes.    It brought a much more personal touch to the games and made me want to cheer for the athletes even more.

The other day, as I was out in the garden, completely out of breath, dripping with sweat, and with my leg and arm muscles on fire from digging a trench, I  thought about the many life lessons that I, myself, have learned from participating in the world of competitive sports.

So, I decided to share one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and show how it continues to impact my world, today, as a mom, homeschool teacher, and hobby farmer.  Don’t worry if you’re not an athlete, have never set foot in a gym, or don’t even particularly like sports.  It doesn’t matter.  Don’t we all aspire to work a little harder at what we do, become more determined to overcome obstacles that lie in our way of success, and strive to be the best that we can be?

So, join me as I bring to the surface, one of the most universal lessons and truths, from the world of sports, that I’ve learned over the many years that I spent as a competitive athlete – the lesson of never giving up.

How many times have we all, at one time or another, been faced with a difficult challenge and decision to persevere and keep on going or pack it in and give up?  As I was digging that trench, out in one hundred degree heat, muscles burning, dripping with sweat, I faced that very decision.  I was tired.  I was hot.  I was hurting, and the last thing I really wanted to do was finish the job.  Yet, in the back of my mind, a little voice just kept saying, “Keep on going.  Don’t give up.   You can do it!”  I know it sounds silly.  It’s not like I was trying to complete the marathon at the London Olympics, right?  Yet, that is the first lesson that sports instilled in me — develop a spirit that never wants to give up.

If you watched the London Games, you may have seen the race with the Chinese hurdler, Liu Xiang, who was among the favorites to win gold in the 110m hurdles, this year.  Tragedy of tragedies!  He failed to clear the very first hurdle, and went down with an achilles tendon rupture (I can tell you from experience, that is an extremely painful injury!)  Yet, instead of quitting the race,  Liu hopped all the way down the track,  on his good leg, and stopped only to kiss the final hurdle before crossing the finish line — he never gave up!  It was a moment that will probably never be forgotten in Olympic history, and one that will stick with him for the rest of his life.

So, how does this lesson, from the world of sports, intersect with and impact a person’s life?  Well, I can tell you that, now,  as a mom, homemaker, homeschool teacher, and farmer who is far removed from the world of competitive sports, that lesson still has great bearing on my life.  When I’m faced with cleaning yet another pile of dirty dishes, or  a huge stack of papers that need to be corrected, or another trench that needs to be dug, I apply this very lesson, and I never give up!  I Keep on going.  I Persevere because I know that there is a reward waiting, for me, in the end (a clean kitchen, an empty file, a bed that is ready for planting), and it propels me forward to complete that next great task that lies before me.

Yet, as I’ve been writing, and given more thought to it, I’ve decided that, for me,  it even goes much deeper than that…

You see, one of the many things that I do in my spare time (yes, I actually do have some of that)  is study the Bible.  Guess what?  It has a lot to say on this topic of perseverance and never giving up.

For example, Galatians 6:9 says, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

One of my favorite verses is James 1:2-4, which says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

And, likewise, Romans 5:3-5 says, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”

Matthew Henry, an esteemed Bible commentator explains that,  “It is by tribulation that we make an experiment of our own sincerity”, and that “being thus tried…[we] will thereby be encouraged to hope.”

What does that have to do with sports and life lessons?  Well, when Liu Xiang fell at the beginning of his race, according to Henry, his sincerity was being tested. Was he sincere about competing as a representative for his home nation?  Was he sincere about finishing the race?  Was he sincere about completing the task he had gone there to finish?  Yes, he was!  He got up, continued on, finished the race, and, in the end, absolutely “encouraged hope” – not only in himself, but in his opponents, and in the rest of the world who was watching to see what he would do with this tribulation.

Henry says, “Nothing confounds more than disappointment.”  Yet, Xiang did not allow himself to be confounded.  He persevered.  He never gave up.

Why?   I don’t have the answer for that.  But, I know that in my own life, I am propelled forward by the trials in my life because, as Henry says, “[I] am not ashamed of [my] sufferings.  It is in a good cause, for a good Master, and in good hope; and therefore [I] am not ashamed.”   Whether I win, or lose, whether my kitchen stays clean for five minutes, or five days after I’ve washed another pile of  dishes, and whether I manage to get all of the trenches dug on my property before the end of the planting season comes, I never give up.  The reason for my perseverance lies not in whether I achieve the end goal, but, as Henry puts it, ” it is laid in the shedding abroad of the love of God in [my] heart.”  For as 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, it is “Christ’s love [that] compels us”.  As Mr. Henry says, “What should such do, for whom Christ died? Namely, they should live to him.”  In other words, because Jesus persevered and never gave up, but marched straight to the cross, where He was crucified for you and me – when I realize the incredible amount of love that He poured out for me when He did it, I am compelled to persevere in my own life, I am propelled by an unspeakable love that, regardless of the outcome, compels me to never give up!

So, to sum it up, my compulsion to never give up started in the world of sports, where I learned that invaluable lesson that Liu Xiang, and all of the other Olympic athletes that competed this year, demonstrated so well.  Keep on going.  Finish.  Never give up.  The lessons in perseverance that I learned, as an athlete, will stick with me for the rest of my life.  But, the thing that has cemented that “never give up” spirit that lies within me, and is the source of my perseverance, now,  is the love of Christ, which enables me to meet any challenge or obstacle I am facing with a fierce determination that I have never known before.  It is why I clean, yet, another stack of dirty dishes, correct every piece of schoolwork that my kids put into my inbox, and dig, yet, another trench out in the garden.  If Christ died for me, how can I do any less than persevere for Him?

~ So, is there something that you need to persevere in, or a difficult task that lies before you today?  What will you do to nurture that spirit of never giving up?  How will you use that accomplishment to propel forward to finish the next great task that lies before you?  Do you know the love of Christ, in a real way, in your life such that it will, ultimately, compel you to never give up?  Do you need and want to know what it’s all about?  If so, I’d love to share all I know about it with you. 🙂