Patio vs. Tree

From my patio
From my patio

My patio is old.  But then, so is my whole house.  If new houses need maintenance, old ones need ten times more, or maybe it just seems that way.  Now, I love my patio because it’s old.  It’s one of those inlaid irregular stone jobs that was most likely done when the sycamore tree right next to it was merely a sapling, or maybe only a seed.  Well, the sapling grew up, and the roots not only went deep, they are also playing havoc with my patio, making the inlaid stones even more irregular than originally intended.  Before I began working with it, the stone walkway looked more like a stone carving of a seismic ocean wave than a place to gather in the backyard.  It was also a little dangerous, or at least not as functional as it was first made to be; that is, it appeared to be a little easier to twist one’s ankle if wearing something other than tennis shoes or Cabela’s high-top hiking boots.

There was only one thing to be done: dig up the stones and get the dirt out that was being pushed up by the roots of the tree. Some minor root trimming was also needed in the process, with no residual harm to the towering sycamore, before the stones could be refitted back into their proper place.  This was, and continues to be, a sweaty, dirty, mess of a job, but the patio looks so much better, is more functional, and is indeed, safer.  I also love the shade and the beauty of this aged sycamore, but its expanding root system also provides opportunity for some muscle building, back-wrenching toil.  As the patio stones and the tree roots try to prove what is metaphysically impossible—to occupy the same space at the same time—I play referee between the two, balancing their competition with cooperation and compromise.  In all, best to not hold a bar-b-que until the patio is transformed from a gale to a ripple.

Despite the inconvenience (and extra work), expanding roots do indicate growth. And growth helps to define life.  A few thoughts present themselves:

  • As growth in Christ begins and continues to take place, I can expect more than a little dirt to be pushed up to the surface of my life. As His heavenly roots invade my otherwise undisturbed soil, there will be displacement. Not so surprisingly, the dirt becomes more apparent and more accessible than ever before. Old habits of thinking, feeling, speaking, and doing compete with the Christlikeness that continues to grow inside of me. Needless to say, this process can create havoc with my inward patio, the place where fun and relaxation are supposed to take place.  (1)
  • Our life stones, those places that were once so convenient, can become now dangerous and disruptive, not only to myself, but to anyone else I invite onto my patio. Once I commit to the discipleship process, to truly “follow in His steps” (2), I suddenly have the potential to be a stumbling stone to fellow Christians around me. Like it or not, we all possess what can be termed a “hidden congregation”, certain people, or groups of people, that are eyeing our lives for direction and encouragement, people into whose lives we have influence. While it may be more comfortable to emotionally relegate this responsibility to “the pastor”, real life just doesn’t work that way.  Therefore, it is necessary, albeit sweaty, dirty work, to allow Christ to pull up those stones and clean underneath.  Only then can He replace the stones to make it a better, safer fit.
  • A last thought on the discomfort of this process. Analogies only go so far, and this one is no exception. Whereas I try to affect a balance between the burgeoning tree roots and the stone rocks, and this with my limited strength and vision, there is no such moral compromise with a Holy God.  His roots cannot be cut asunder, and His vision for us never changes.  Even though this may sound harsh, (and in our culture of pseudo-tolerance, over-indulgence, and self-defined entitlement, it most likely does), it is this root of God’s love that is alive and active in us.  The stones are dead things and can be displaced to the benefit of the patio: jealousy, envy, unforgiveness, self-pity, to name a few.  So as frustratingly painful as this root expanding process continues, it is a definite sign of life, and something to be joyfully and patiently embraced.  Besides, the pain is, after all, only temporary. (3)

Now, then, let’s fire up the grill!

  • Titus—the entire book!!
  • 1 Peter 2:21
  • 2 Corinthians 4:17
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#Hat or #Badge?

kevin

Still with me on the “pouring-out-that-with-which-you-sustain-your-own-life-to-feed-the-hungry” thing from a few blogs ago?  Good.  Got another thought.  I’d say one more thought, but that would be risky.  Anyway, here goes…

Once we are able to tap into that internal flow of life to pour out to others (the “what”), once we correctly recognize our congregation, hidden or otherwise (the “who”), it can become r-e-a-l-l-y easy to wrap ourselves in that as our identity.  Here’s one way of looking at it:

I reside in farming country and I love it.  I mean… I LOVE it.  Our little house is in the middle of town, and I can ride my bike less than ten minutes to be with the cows.  Here where I live, men wear hats for a reason, not necessarily for style.  A John Deere cap isn’t something meant to be pretty, but sweaty and dirty, because it’s been on the farmer’s head in 90+degree heat with equal humidity for 12-16 hours getting the corn or milo out.  Of course, they’re not the only ones that wear hats for practical reasons.  The surgeon’s cap can get somewhat wet about halfway through heart surgery…on a child.  The constructor worker’s hardhat has a definite purpose also, as does my bicycle helmet (also sweaty at times), as does the military helmet of the 20-year-old defending my country overseas.   The point is that, foremost, a hat is meant to be functional .  It speaks of what we DO.  We talk about someone who “wears a lot of different hats”, who does lots of things in various areas of utility.  Not only are hats for getting dirty in the line of work, we can change hats (functions and jobs, even throughout the day) without really changing ourselves.

Now a badge, on the other hand, speaks of who we ARE.  A badge is meant to identify us to others.  The badge I wear at work has not only my name written on it, but my position (nurse) and which buildings I am allowed to be in at my school system.  There is authority that goes with it, I might add.  Same with my American passport, and the sheriff’s badge even more so.  The challenge with badges is that they need to be kept clean, or polished, or otherwise protected.  Same with our identity.  Once it gets stolen, lost, or trashed, we’re in a world of hurt.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but the truth of the matter remains: I’d better make sure my identity is secure in something (Someone) that can’t get trashed or lost or stolen from me.  What I can pour out to others of myself may change as time marches relentlessly onward, but with my true identity in my Creator, I can be secure while He’s busy rearranging my hat collection for me.

Thanks again for reading….dawnlizjones

#johndeere #badge #wearingdifferenthats #farming

No pain/no gain–where’d THAT come from??

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The famous Missouri KATY Trail!

 

Just had my long-awaited and summarily needed doctor’s appointment for a couple of whining and complaining knees. This had begun to make itself known years ago, along with several other things; it’s like I turned 31 and the warranty on my body expired.  I honestly don’t care too much about doing any more 5-K’s—I hated running when even when I was in high school sports,(which wasn’t much back in the 70’s compared to today’s competitive environment.)  I would, however, like to walk without a limp, and pursue terrain hiking and off-road biking a little more than I have so far.

Unfortunately, one of our daughters has inherited her mom’s inconvenient orthopaedic anomaly, and on top of that, was considerably more athletic in high school.  There wear and tear on her knees drove her to more drastic measures at her young age, and in the process of physical therapy she was given a series of exercises that are a bit different from our culture’s machismo attitude of “no pain, no gain” mentality.   No weights, at least to begin with, no gym facility fees, just simple, isometric, and easy things to do for rehab.  In fact, she confessed that when she had stopped doing the prescribed exercises (given to her by the professional experts, I might underline, they seemed too easy) the difficulties began to return, and were improved when she started again.  Hmmm…

Similarly, we tend to think that being with God has to be hard.  I’m not knocking those that do the 40-day fasting kind of thing, but it’s probably not a good place for most of us to start.  It’s easy to think that if I can’t be proficient in something immediately, then why bother?  Starting and “failing” (however you define that) and starting again; it’s just too discouraging.

What we tend to miss in this line of reasoning is that, when it comes to getting to know our true Father, failure is only defined as not starting at all, and or once started, being persistent even the “small” things.  There are lots of other strategies for this divine relationship that I would like to explore in this format….later.  But suffice it to say for now, that just getting started in a way that seems far too easy is the first step, with surprising results.

Now it’s time to do those wall sits that my husband has been telling me to do all along.  (I’ll probably never live THAT one down…)     –dawnlizjones

Whose #camels are you watering?

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The book of Genesis is so fun.  Challenging, but very human.  I recently read the part when Abraham sends his trusted servant bride-hunting back to their home town for the heir to the throne, Isaac.  Camels were the pack animals of the day, and water was a premium, so when he pulled into town, it was important to park at the local well, not only for himself but also for his livestock.

Per custom, the women were coming over to gather water for their needs.  So how was this guy supposed to pick out a bride?  Where does he even start?  Wisely, he started with a prayer.  Smart move.

As one young local approached, he asked her for a drink of the water.  To the servant’s great pleasure, the girl, whose name was Rebekah, not only gave him a refreshing drink, but offered (offered, now, was not asked) to draw water for all of his camels as well.  (!!)

A little research tells us that the water pots these women generally used held about three gallons.  One gallon of water weighs about seven pounds (plus the weight of the heavy pitcher).  One tired and thirsty camel can drink up to 30-gallons.  And since the servant was shopping for a bride for what was effectively a “prince” whose father was exceptionally wealthy, it’s not a far stretch to consider that Abraham had sent his servant with several camels loaded with gifts for the prospective bride’s family, ten to be exact.  You can do the math.  Rebekah’s offer wasn’t just generous; by our standards, it was extravagant.

From one act of unselfish servitude and kindness to unexpected elevation; from watering the camels to riding them as a soon-to-be-princess—we just never know what a little hard work mixed with a good dose of mercy will produce.  Now that’s powerful chemistry!

So, whose camels are you watering?

Shouldn’t I still be in bed?

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If my body had its way, I would still be in bed right now.  The alarm, however, announced my previous decision, which was to get up at 4:45AM.  Regardless of how much I wanted to stay under the flannel sheets next to my warm husband, embraced by quiet and darkness, and regardless of the fact that I didn’t need to be at work until 7:30AM, (which means leaving my home at 7:25AM—gotta love small towns…), yes, regardless of what most of my fellow humans would consider common sense, I am up at 4:45 in the morning and sitting on my patio in 40 degree weather.  And, oh!  It is so beautiful!

My old wool sweater and my brother-in-law’s army jacket keep me toasty warm.  The heated “corn pad” sits in my lap, and my steaming hot tea sits in my belly.  The Mighty Wonder Buck, our recently rescued 100% mutt, is happily content out here; with his thick black coat, this is his kind of weather.  Of course, the birds are singing, and somewhere off in the distance I hear the truckers moving their wares down the highway.

It’s a free country, as they say, and I could have changed my mind even after the alarm went off.  There are plenty of good reasons to stay in bed, even beyond the ones mentioned earlier.  Some of them are even arguably valid ones!  I need my sleep, especially at my age.  (That phrase, “at my age”, is becoming a great rationalization, by the way.)  It’s only Tuesday, and a long way until the weekend.  The Buck needs me to be more energetic when I get home from work.  Blah, blah, blah.

My brain wins the battle over my body as I stick to my original plan, pulling myself out of bed, rousing the dog, but usually not my husband, in the process.  I fire up the teapot and nuke the corn pad.  Within a few minutes, I’m wrapped up snugly in my patio chair.

There’s definitely something to be said for making a plan prior to the obstacles showing themselves.  It can be more than a little difficult to make qualitative decisions (especially moral ones) in the face of tempting circumstances, even when some of those circumstances are accurately anticipated.  The word is “commitment”, and it seems to have fallen out of favor these past several decades.

That’s just another reason why I love a good, old-fashioned church wedding ceremony.  I don’t just come for the cake with butter cream frosting, Aunt Sally’s butchering rendition of Paul Stookey’s Wedding Song (again), and the little ring bearer announcing loudly to his mom’s chagrin that he has to “go pee” just as the bride is ready to march down the aisle.  No, amid all the tumult and relative comedy that takes place in even the most formal nuptials, there are transactions far deeper, far more mystical, that take place.  One of those is commitment.  That is, prior commitment: making the decision to love and nurture prior to the financial fiascos, prior to the devastating accident or illness, prior to the disagreements over where to spend holidays.  Granted, some relationships are dangerous, and therefore not workable–most of us get that.  But in general, if commitment is just so dang hard, why even bother?

I suppose that’s one of the reasons why God chose weddings, and marriage, and family to represent so much of what He wants with us.  He tells us that, before God even created us, He knew that His Son, Jesus, would have to come and rescue us out of this messy, sinful separation from Him.  He knew we were going to tank the whole project even before the second generation came on the scene, and they didn’t exactly hit it off too well themselves either.  But, regardless of all that—all of that destruction, all of that disappointment, all of that pain—God stuck to His original plan.  He went ahead and made man in His own image, “in the image of God, He made him.”  The rest that followed is, well, history.

Right now, the owl is crooning, there is a faint lingering fragrance of someone’s wood smoke, and I can hear Buckley chewing on his bone—at least I think that’s what he’s chewing on… All things considered, I guess it’s okay, at least sometimes, to be counted with those whom others would question their common sense by sticking to a crazy plan.  I’m sure glad God stuck with His.

Still pouring….

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There’s a small(er) town near here with water that, um…smells.  Water isn’t really supposed to taste, much less smell, at least in my thinking.  I would go on record by warning anyone who visits this place to definitely not buy a fountain drink in town.  I am told that our town used to have water-plus also.  Sometime in the semi-recent past, the town fathers decided to go with something called “third-stage water treatment”.  I don’t know what that means, and although I still like to have bottled water in the house when we have guests, I’m definitely okay with drinking our H2O for myself, especially after visiting our little neighbor a few miles away.  Water of course, even the odiferous kind, is life-sustaining. Perspective, I guess.

Water is an apt comparison that Isaiah uses when he speaks of “pouring out that with which you sustain your own life”, as mentioned in last the couple of blogs.  We have important talents and experiences and qualities that help make us who we are, and we need to unafraid to share those when the opportunities arise.  But here’s an additional thought:

Lest I think Isaiah’s encouragement is giving me carte blanche for making my big splash in the world, a cautionary note is in order.  It can be quite tempting, after identifying  what seems to be a special talent or personal  “pearl”, to allow (or even worse, promote) myself as the focus in the situation.  I love the account of Peter and John after Jesus had risen, hung out for a few days and then returned home.  These two newly renewed men were walking into the temple when they saw a beggar, lame and sitting by the building asking for money.   Now lots of us grew up with the Sunday school song that was Peter’s reply, “silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  And the end result was pretty cool.

But what a lot of us old time Sunday-schoolers might have missed, is actually the first thing Peter said to the beggar.  He said,

“Look at us!”

After which, he proceeded with the other words (although I doubt that he sang them….)  My point is this—the reason for any attention being on me is not about me, at all.  I may have the best tasting, thirst quenching water ever created, but the water itself belongs to the One who created it; in fact, to put it succinctly, Jesus calls Himself the “living water.”  Now, I am to allow myself to be “seen”, which speaks to a certain level of vulnerability of course, but this personal visibility is to be immediately reflected upon God, who alone knows how to utilize the gifts He so wisely puts within us.

So, yeah, bottoms up!

Pigs and Pearls

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Having just referred to St. Aug’s comment re: “men’s souls hang on your gifts” and quoting the prophet Isaiah about pouring out “that with which you sustain your own life to feed the hungry and to satisfy the need of the afflicted”, Jesus’ somewhat uncomplimentary metaphor warning us to “not cast your pearls before swine” seems, at first glance, a bit harsh to our 21st century sensibilities.  No doubt, it was to 1st century ears also, particularly considering the religious and social context of the day.

Here’s how I unpack it—

A short take: Everyone has influence, period.  Everyone has a “hidden congregation” that’s watching and learning.  They need what you have to give, which makes each of us responsible for finding out just what that is, and start giving it, even if we don’t know who “they” are yet.  However, pearls take many years to form, and are an organic result of an irritation inside the shell.  Therefore, they are more fragile than, say, a diamond.   Which means you have gifts (sometimes born of inconvenience, irritation, or downright pain) that you might not even be aware of yet, experiences that others need, talents gained, hardships overcome.  Jesus considers these things precious when placed under His care, and He knows who needs them.

Secondly, since they are precious (and admittedly, sometimes fragile), these gifts must be respected and treated with care.  This is where heavenly wisdom is sorely needed.  I see young teenagers giving their hearts and bodies away before they can barely read and write coherently.  I see parents wasting their children’s childhood on drugs and alcohol, or on too many meetings at work (or church!) In these ways and more, pearls are crushed under muddy hooves.

And just a tangent thought: Jesus’ “casting pearls” comment also appears somewhat paradoxical, when compared with the whole “give up your life to find it” idea.  That is one of the many things I love about the Bible.  Like David Limbaugh so endearingly puts it in his book, Jesus on Trial, the paradoxes, the seeming contradictions in the Bible, are invitations to dig deeper to resolve them and thus, far from smashing our faith against the rocks of unanswered questions…

… they serve to help us walk on the water more confidently with Him who holds our hands.

If….then

Choices…consequences.  If I eat too much chocolate, then I get fat(ter).  If I pull the car into the garage too fast like my husband has repeatedly warned me against, then I rip off the mirror, busting the window into a gazillion shards of glass, costing us hundreds of dollars, and having to call my husband to tell him that I pulled the car into the garage too fast…again.  You know, things like that.

We live and breathe if/then’s.  Of course, we’re in good company–even our stone age ancestors had to learn that fire was good in some ways…and not so good in others.

Here’s one of my fave’s that’s really worth chewing on.  It’s a quote from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness, and your obscurity and gloom become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10 Amplified Bible)

What do I sustain myself, my very heart and soul with?  Okay, money is always a good indicator about where our hearts are, and I’m in total agreement that no matter how little one has, some of it has to be given away to help someone else.  But how about the other things “with which I sustain myself”?

A big one for me is time.  Is my life so full of chores and projects and responsibilities that I don’t have time to pause and listen to a friend in need? Or is a child’s hug somehow an interruption?

Another one is talent and personal skill set.  Can you make music? Sing? Build a wall (or a new drum “cage”, as the case may be in our church)?  Can you make people laugh?  Cook?  Okay, maybe these aren’t the things with which you bring home the bacon, but not everything of true value is recognized on Wall Street.

I think it was St. Augustine that said “men’s souls hang on your gifts”.  Jesus, Himself, warns us not to bury what He has given us, but to invest it wisely.  IF we pour out (not dribble, by the way) these things to help those in need–not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, relationally–THEN our own personal clouds begin to dissipate as well.  Interesting paradox, this whole “losing my life to find it” thing.

If I get up at 3:30AM to write this post, then I’ll probably need to sleep in.  Good thing it’s Saturday….

NIghty night……….dawnlizjones

So who needs GPS??



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Our middle daughter was interested in cartography even as a young adolescent. She loves travel, and I suppose that has fueled her love of maps. She would sit in the back seat with the Rand McNally or AAA or some other paper route open in her lap while her sisters were typically reading or sleeping as the old family car rolled merrily down the interstate on one of our many long road trips. That was, of course, somewhat before the days of ubiquitous GPS cell phones which, even at this writing, her father and I have yet to own.
IMG_20150314_102847650_HDRMy husband’s usual position was in the driver’s seat (traditional, right?) and if we were lost, his usual position was to stubbornly plod ahead instead of “wasting time” by asking for directions (typical, right?). Bob has on numerous occasions referred to the “map in his head” and is incredulous that I clearly don’t possess such a gift. I imagine that growing up as one of four boys, and having three daughters and no sons of his own hasn’t helped that perception much. Nevertheless, I am usually content to be a passenger/navigator.
Of course, then there was the time we were coming home from yet another family vacation/reunion somewhere out West, New Mexico as the story goes. We had a suburban full of girls (nieces included) winding our way toward our Missouri home when, somewhere in the Oklahoma panhandle, my beloved pilot misinterpreted his psychic guidance signal (as well as the signage in a small town). Ten miles down the road, we were met with a billboard welcoming us to…

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                                            COLORADO?!?

Okay, in his defense the signs on the town square to which our highway had led us were numerous and confusing, and most importantly, no expletives escaped his lips, even when after stopping the car to turn around, the engine wouldn’t start. Shades of the Twilight Zone…
Many have liken life to a journey, an adventure, a road, all carrying with the metaphor a sense of moving, preferably forward. It bears worth repeating, (because God repeats it many times in various ways), that for the Christian, not only are we very susceptible to untoward detours, but we are even more so provided with ways back onto the right path. Consider:

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Just as road signs can become jumbled and confusing, what we expect to be signposts and guiding arrows in life can let us down. A personal mentor leads us astray, a trusted relationship is not as trustworthy as we once thought, a spiritual hero falls off the pedestal. Before we realize it, we may be in the wrong moral lane and miss our turn off. Our cause and effect expectations of “if-I-do-this-then-this-will-follow” don’t pan out as promised. Promised? By whom? Perhaps this is the first question to answer, and answer with uncompromising (if not painful) integrity.
• Then, getting past the blaming game, which is simply another way the Enemy helps us to waste valuable time, we must move on to fixing the situation. Time does not wait for us to have a pity party. This reminds me of another little family holiday when traveling a familiar way to see loved ones at Christmas. It was the way we usually went, but unbeknownst to us this particular passage over the railroad track was out of service and someone had prematurely removed the crossing barrier. Of course, it was covered with snow, so if anything looked out of sorts, it was adequately hidden. As in the past, we innocently started to drive over the crossing, only to get stuck about three feet from the track! (Same car, by the way.) There was a train scheduled to roll down this way, and so time was of the essence. Similarly, we should never waste time getting back on God’s road, even if it seemingly wasn’t our “fault” for getting off in the first place.
• The first step in finding our way back to the correct road is to admit

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we’re on the wrong road. Our Father, Who loves us dearly, has many creative, oftentimes humorous, but certainly provoking ways of getting our attention. Some may be as large as the billboard announcing our arrival across state lines heading back toward the Rockies! Some may be more subtle. But God knows how to speak our language, whatever it may be. Our part is to pay attention, to listen, and to be honestly wanting His direction. Or at least wanting to want His direction. One of my personal favorites is from Isaiah: “Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

• It is to be expected that, the second we even consider the possibility that we are going the wrong direction and seek to recalculate our bearings, there will be opposition from an Enemy that will throw everything he can in our way. Just like our old car refusing to start after Bob pulled over to confirm where we were and how to get back, when we realize a change is needed, frustration, agitation, and fear are ready to open the flood gates for discouragement, doubt, and spiritual malaise. As difficult as it may be, getting back on track must be accomplished. Summoning all the resources that are made available to us, there is nothing more important at this juncture that to be on the road with God. If Bob had ignored the road sign, we would have ended up in the Pacific, rather than back home in Missouri. Even if it meant calling a tow truck, we must go the other way!
• Which brings up another thought. My husband was not the only one in the car, going the wrong way. He had the six of us girls with him, poor lad. (Anyone who has ever road tripped with women can fill in the blanks on this one…) This is important to consider in that since he was at the helm, we were somewhat effected by his navigational decisions. If this doesn’t strike a little fearful respect into leadership, then the followers should be forewarned! In other words, making sure our road is God’s road isn’t just about “me”.
• It was helpful in our case to backtrack from where we were to where we got off track and go from there. That might not always be the case in life, but it does present a potential option in some circumstances. What was the first wrong turn? And therefore, what can I do to prevent THAT from happening again? Do I need a more readable map? Do I compare the map with the road signs? Or (as is sometimes to my discredit in the passenger seat) do I need a better navigator to interpret the map with the road signs? It is said that knowledge is power, and prevention is very powerful knowledge indeed.
• Even if the car won’t start again, or the bridge is out the way we came, one thing about this journey with God: there is always, always, a way back to Him. All we have to do is to look down the road toward Him, and we will begin to realize that He is already looking at us, and always has been. The way back may not be easy, but with Him, it will be sure.
It was really good to pull into our driveway, even after (especially after) our little detour. Thankfully, the old car started up after a brief rest on the side of the road at the Colorado border.
And no tow truck was necessary (well, this time anyway).

(1) Isaiah 30:21(NASB)

A gardener by any other name….

Not being a gardener by natural intuition, I have had a propensity to plant things in less than ideal places and in less than ideal conditions.  All a plant needs I learned in grade school science classes: dirt, sunlight, and water, right?  With this unimpeachable wisdom I have destroyed many an unsuspecting specimen of innocent flora.  And destroying plant life can become an expensive hobby.  My lack of foreknowledge and pre-planning has caused me a certain amount of anxiety over my green (sometimes brown) friends. As one insightful person once put it, rather than the conventional “ready, aim, fire!” kind of gardener, I tend to be more of the “ready, fire, aim!” variety. I like to think of my ‘scapes’ as controlled chaos, which at times may be more chaos than control. Then I get disappointed when I find my beauties are just not living up to my grand expectations.  Too much sun, too much shade, too much water, too little water; why does life need to be so picky?!  So I uproot my little designs to rearrange their environment, water others, improve the quality of the dirt overall, little by little.  I invest in soaker hoses, and then I can’t divine where I’ve planted them, so they end up with punctures and ruptures as I try to plant over them.  Does any of this sound familiar…to anyone?   Autumn comes and I’m happy about the plants that have survived the brutal late southern Missouri summers (as well as my decidedly lacking gardening prowess) , while other plants seem to just give it up and die off.

Sigh, yet another failure.  Mulch what I can to protect for the winter season and retire the tools until spring with a certain determination to try, try again.

Then March and April finally arrive, and with it tiny green things begin to emerge, miraculously, unexpectedly, where apparent death had conquered just a few months before!  And not only do they emerge, but explode onto the scene, taller, stronger and more vibrant than when first planted!  I guess some living things are just made to keep living, despite my inexperience and ignorance. And, of course, others don’t.  But I have an important hypothesis: if the roots are good, the plant will try again, because that’s the way it’s designed.

I have also learned, am learning, and will continue to learn, the importance of working with, not against, the natural environment.  I can increase the soil quality, I can irrigate (until my dear husband frets over the water bill), but I cannot control the sun, the rain, or the temperature.  God may have put me in charge of a few things, but the weather is not one of them.  And evidently working with the environment would include:  a) being flexible, b) considering my timing, c) increasing my creativity, and d) seeing the beauty and usefulness in what God supplies in my particular garden, even if at first it appears inconvenient or uncomfortable.  Incorporating these four components—skills they are actually—will not only increase the productivity and loveliness of my garden, but also decrease the stress and anxiety associated with my new hobby.

Hmmm…

Now, God has a time-honored way of communicating with us on what could be coined as a “natural level”, in the sense that what we see in nature corresponds many times with lessons that are extremely applicable to life in general.  The tangibles can help us to understand the intangibles.  For starters:

  • Lack of knowledge has a way of messing things up. I realize that is not a nice theological way of putting it, but if for any appreciable length of time you have been a card-carrying member of your local garden club, (or of the human race for that matter), you understand this concept. There is biblical precedent to back it up.  In the Old Testament, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (1)  Yes, well, clearly this includes my plants.  But of infinitely greater significance, our lack of knowledge, wisdom, and insight can severely and adversely damage those around us.  Human relationships are costly, and foresight is expensive than hindsight.  I need help, I need correct information, but recognition of my need is the first step toward wise cultivating in my personal people-garden.  (For what it’s worth, one my on-going prayers is that God would grant grace to those who have to encounter me in any way today…)
  • I understand—yes, even me—that roots do more than hold a plant down should the gravitational pull of the universe change. There’s the hydration issue, the nutrition issue, and even the reproduction process in some plants is in the roots. I am told there are plants that, because of the way they are designed in their root system, are made to die off just up top, and relax for a while underneath the warm soil until it’s time to make their way to the surface again.  My husband, Bob, who has an alphabet of letters behind his name with his multiple science degrees, gave me a fancy name for this, but I’ve since forgotten it.  It’s the idea of programmed rest that I’m interested in—what appears to be dead is merely dormant, and given time and patience, and adequate supply for basic needs, it will return and flourish.  That’s the way it’s made.  People are amazingly resilient also…amazingly.  What seems to be dead, whether a dream or a vision or perhaps even a relationship, may only be dormant.  When God, as our Master Gardener, plants a root, we have only to nourish with faith and water it with patience, and what He has planned for that root will erupt.  That’s the way we are made.  I love how the Amplified Version puts it: “I [God] create the fruit of his lips, and I will heal him, make his lips blossom anew with speech in thankful praise.” (2)  It’s all about timing—God’s, not mine.
  • And concerning those roots, I sense that I have some responsibility in acquiring and properly using that aforementioned knowledge. This includes working WITH my environment, and not against it. Compromise is not always a bad thing, and as a wise wit once penned: “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break.”  Jesus didn’t demand an air-conditioned conference hall and catered lunch for his hillside audience of 5000, but did just fine with rural setting and a few donated loaves and fishes. (3)  I would say that also qualifies as pretty creative.  And as much as I would love to have a full scale garden of blooming beauties, patience for the proper timing is part of the program.  So many times I want what I want…NOW.  How I thank my Lord for what I sometimes have regarded as a ball and chain, but has actually turned out to be a life-saving anchor!  Granted, it can seem inconvenient and heavy at first, but the benefits are enormous.

And so I love spring all the more as remarkable rebirth occurs sometimes to my delighted surprise, but I also find an increased appreciation of winter—not just a season of death as so many have unkindly marked it, but a season of rest and rejuvenation.  Such wisdom could only come from the mind of the Master Gardener, the One who planted the first garden, the One from whom I can learn as I dig about and get grass-stained in my own garden of life…if I will but make myself teachable.

–signing off for  now—-dawnlizjones

  • Hosea 4:6
  • Isaiah 57:19
  • Matthew 14:13-21