March 28, 2014

Irving mother grows her faith, and career, through gardening

Shelley Cramm has turned her passions into a new book, NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, which went on sale this week.

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As a young Christian mother, Shelley Cramm was determined to get up early and spend time reading her Bible and praying, a daily “quiet time.”

But not being a morning person, “I kept falling asleep,” Cramm said.

To keep from nodding off, Cramm started writing in a journal.

Now, almost 15 years later, “I have a new career.”

Cramm’s journaling led to a love of writing, which, combined with her love of God and gardening, set her on a path toward having her first book published this month.

NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible combines Scripture, essays, devotions and gardening tips in an easy-to-read format.

Cramm, a mother of five children ages 10 to 19, moved with her husband to Texas from California in 1991.

She had been introduced to the soil by her great-grandmother — who lived in Fresno, Calif. — but didn’t really develop a passion for plants until she moved to Texas.

Cramm said she has a few raised beds at her home in Irving and acknowledges “that I still feel like a beginner.”

She said that her garden has spinach and lettuce “that are still hanging on from the winter” and that she is about to put in zucchini, cucumbers, corn, herbs and flowers.

Published by Zondervan, NIV God’s Word for Gardeners Bible is available online and in Fort Worth, at Monkey & Dog Books, 3637 W. Vickery Blvd.

She recently stepped away from her garden, a suburban sanctuary, to answer a few questions.

What inspired you to write the Gardeners Bible ?

A series of events in my life came together which led me to apply the spiritual lessons in tending and keeping plants to endure my challenging life circumstances. At a wine-tasting evening with my husband, I learned that the deeper the roots of the grapevine had to stretch for water, the sweeter the grape. Around the same time, I read in a gardening magazine about the necessity of pruning roses — not to hesitate but to prune drastically for better health and bloom. I applied these as metaphors to the troubles I was facing — as I “stretched” through them and “endured drastic pruning,” I would come out sweeter, healthier and blooming — what a promise! The spiritual overtones of these facts captivated me; these concepts gave me a way to cope with my circumstances and hope in the future.

Not long after, I read Secrets of the Vine, by Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, a small yet powerful book exploring John 15 from the viewpoint of a real-life vineyard owner. His lessons were beautiful to me. I was eager to search God’s word for even more gardening metaphor and, when the time presented itself, I proposed the idea to Zondervan Publishers. … Why not search the Scripture for the themes of gardening, everything a gardener does from choosing her plants to watering them (and, of course, pruning)? Ideas continued to grow in my heart, like including studies of the Bible landscapes as a gardener would view landscapes, and researching the plants and their horticulture to understand their secret meanings — truly, ideas have never stopped flooding me.

How long did it take to write?

I submitted my proposal nearly 5 1/2 years ago! The actual research and writing was 2 1/2 years; negotiating with the publisher, outlining and pre-research was nearly two years, and it’s been a year of editing and publishing.

Were you at all overwhelmed with the task?

Completely! But if God’s word is true, then I could rely on him to guide me at all times and do the impossible.

What is your favorite passage in the Bible about gardening and why?

Not a fair question, there are too many beauties! But the one I go back to the most is Luke 12:32 about wildflowers and worry. If the Lord takes the time to decorate a field with wildflowers — this makes me think of how beautiful the fields of Texas bluebonnets are! — then how much more will he take care of me and my needs? If he is faithful in the frivolous, he will be faithful in the important.

What is your favorite plant in the Bible and why?

Again, not a fair question, there are too many beauties! I love to imagine the splendor of the cedar of Lebanon. … I have a newfound love for pomegranates and I hope to plant a fig tree. And, of course, what would life be without leeks, onions and garlic? I planted hyssop in my garden when I first began writing, so this herb is near and dear to my heart … but I can’t call it “favorite” because, through all I’ve learned about the plants of Scripture and their meanings, they are all my favorites!

How were you able to tie together the thought of “growing your garden while growing your faith” throughout your book?

So often after pondering a verse filled with gardening words or allusions, I would then think of how similar the idea was to regular, practical gardening advice. I included many quotations from gardening books to show that God’s ways are gardener’s ways. It built my faith and trust in his words to be able to observe, experience and put them into practice as I tended my garden.

How much time do you spend in the garden?

Not enough! Truly, just a few hours a week, though I am always hoping for more!

What church do you attend, and do they have a garden?

We belong to Irving Bible Church. And no, we don’t have a garden … yet.

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