By Linnette Bachman
Nurture (verb) to care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing. To help or encourage the development of.
I’m sure many of you know way more about this than I do, but a few summers ago I tried my hand at a vegetable garden. In February, I bought some tomato plant seeds online and started growing them indoors. After the final frost, I started putting the small seedlings outside for a few hours at a time. After a week of acclimating them to the outside world in small doses, I transplanted them into a raised bed with special soil. I watered, pruned, (should have fertilized, but didn’t know this step!) and waited and waited. In the heat of July, I thought my poor leafy plants were going to wither up. Some days I would go outside and water twice. Small tomatoes began to grow—green, then orange. And then, at the end of August I had buckets of huge, red tomatoes. Hours of care and thought had produced something edible!
Throughout this process I meditated on the word nurture. I wondered what does it mean to create an environment with optimal conditions for growth and development? In the garden, I had no power to make the seeds sprout and grow. I couldn’t protect them at all times. I couldn’t make each plant grow into maturity. I couldn’t bear fruit for the plants. But I could do certain things in my power to create the best possible conditions towards this goal.
Psalm 144:12 uses this same paradigm in regards to our children: “Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.” I so desire to create this kind of environment in our home for our children to be nourished and to thrive. There is so much I can’t control or produce for my children—I can’t fully protect them either. And there’s no perfect formula to ensure they turn out a certain way. But I can work to create an environment of nurture for my children—an environment where I tenderly care for and protect them while they are growing. An environment that will help and encourage them to grow.
I am sure there are many different values families will emphasize. And I imagine certain values will become more important in different seasons. In our home, I am making it a goal to daily look each of my kids in the eyes, give them a gentle hand on the shoulder or snuggle, and speak an affirmation to them. This seems to be watering their little hearts. I try to express genuine concern and care for boo-boos. (Sometimes it is hard when it feels like the hundredth one for the day!) With my older girls I am learning to listen to them and draw them out before I jump to correction or counsel. With 6 confirmed extroverts in the house (Andrew is still unknown) we are all working hard to honor each person’s voice and not talk over one another. And we pray out loud together a lot. Bringing order to our home (and not requiring perfection) also brings peace. Family traditions, having a candle burning, singing hymns together, laughter—these all create a tone that I hope will provide fertile soil for each of my kids to lay their roots down into Christ.
When I think about the women I invest in, I think this concept is the same. I want my friendship, content in the Word, time in prayer, accountability, and experiences shoulder-to-shoulder to enrich the soil of her life– that she might have space to thrive. I think our words of encouragement, our gentleness, genuine care, and love for her are vital for nurturing her life.
Whether we are discipling our children or women on campus, let us be like Paul when he says, “But we behaved gently when we were among you, like a devoted mother tenderly caring for her own children.” 1 Thess 2:7-8 (AMP)
Linnette and her husband Dave began their marriage and Nav staff career twelve years ago (EDGE and SIT at Colorado State) and they currently lead the collegiate Nav ministries in Nashville. They have five children: Kate (9), Kylie (7), McKenzie (5), Daniel (4), and Andrew (baby). Linnette and Dave are passionate about the shared mission of raising up disciple-makers and raising up their kids.