The bush that ate Nevada


Many years ago, long before I was took up any discernibly sustained interest in gardening, I planted a few very small forsythia bushes around the yard.  These were the large department store variety, about $5 apiece.  Something I thought I could almost afford back then, but still superfluous on a tight budget with the growing needs of a growing family.  And yet, if I wanted color fifteen years hence, I needed to start planting now. 

And I wasn’t terribly particular (or knowledgeable) about where these bushes should be planted, I merely knew where I WANTED them to be planted.  As I recall, one was ensconced next to the patio, a place which at that time was sorely neglected and fairly ignored in the hectic pace of family life.  It was also very shaded by a massive sycamore and several other overgrown bushes.  Another was put next to the driveway, which was more merciful that the patio since it at least had part sun, albeit probably not the best soil. A few others were put near the street, which eventually had to be completely uprooted several years later when the city street crews decided we need new curbs.  But one little bush I planted, much to my husband’s chagrin, in the very spot at the end of the driveway which was not only in full sun, but also the location where Bob had, for years, burned our autumn leaves.  Admittedly, I knew precious little about plants back then (and just as humbly I agree that I don’t know that much more now), but what I did know was that there was something about organic ash that makes good nutritious soil.  Spade in hand, in it went.

Of course, several things to consider:

  • Where we plant our precious investments of time and resources can make all the difference in usefulness and beauty down the road.
  • Plant in your life now what you want to enjoy later.
  • The most fertile soil for personal growth sometimes comes from the ash of personal tragedy.

In the fifteen-plus years since my forsythia-planting fury, the different bushes have grown, well…differently (as you can well imagine), or died, been replaced, or even flourished when replanted or transplanted.  But the little bush at the end of the driveway has since been renamed (by my husband) as “the Bush That Ate Nevada.” It had grown to become a monster, albeit a beautiful one, a mountain of bright yellow in the spring and lush green in the summer. The combination of sun and soil was perfect to produce such a specimen…

…and to see a bright red cardinal sitting within the yellow flowers was a sight to relish!

Somebody cut me a stick for this marshmallow, please.

(Full read at  I have mentioned the “bush that ate Nevada” previously.  This gorgeous spectacle of botanical proliferation still, at this writing, thrives at the end of our driveway.  Its blooms are, unfortunately, not quite as astounding as in the past.  Some of the inner, older core of the bush/tree have died away, but not before sending out plenty of new shoots in every direction. Of course, these new shoots, which have now redefined the bush itself, are impinging upon other places that, well, should not be impinged upon.  The end of the driveway, the asphalt itself, seems to be sprouting forsythia (life is so tenacious), and it had become a safety hazard when attempting to pull into our street, since my beloved, little $5 sapling has succeeded in semi-hiding oncoming traffic.  There was only one thing to be done—prune. 

Even the most uninitiated gardener may have some cognizance of the first advantage of pruning; that is, it only makes for a thicker, more luxurious plant.  I will admit that I probably have not been as consistent in my pruning process as needed, so when I did “get around to it”, it would generally be a fairly massive, (and messy),  project.  Getting rid of at least some of the dead wood, recovering at least some of the driveway, and clearing visual space for motor vehicle safety— these took some serious effort.

We all know about God’s pruning in our lives.  Sermons are preached on it, we are encouraged to recognize and embrace the process.  But it doesn’t make it any easier.  Sometimes the pruning project isn’t even about us personally; it may about an organization, a group, even a church.  As God allows a particular entity to prosper, the core sends out new shoots to continue the work of the bush as the older core finishes, having done its previous part.  And sometimes the old needs to be pruned away so that the new can redefine the life of the bush—new wine in new wineskins, and all that.  Now, this is not to say that the old is useless; no, far from it!  Although the old branches may not continue to produce the bright yellow blossoms as in the past, yet they are extremely useful in other and very important ways, (and this is where our culture misses it so often!)  The old branches on my forsythia still support life—nesting and hiding places for the birds, support for the new living branches, and when placed in the fire pile, they help become dirt for the other areas in the garden.  How we so often waste the precious resource in our zeal to accomplish so-called “greater” things!  Oh, that we would recognize and reap the benefit of what the older generations have to give to us!  We frequently prefer the flashy over the stable, the things that catch our eyes, rather than the things that enlighten our hearts. 

Additionally, God’s life-pruning process also includes a safety factor.  Sometimes our quest for big-ness prevents us from seeing oncoming danger.  I can think of more than one specific plan I had that was not allowed to happen, due to one circumstance or another, and I praise God (from this side of the idea) that it was not allowed to happen!  What we sometimes see as road blocks to may actually be God’s “bridge out” sign, and we are wise to heed it. 

One last thought about the Bush-That-Ate-Nevada.  Our cycling club had a nighttime ride that ended at our house for a marshmallow and s’mores bonfire.  So much fun!  However, I did not have enough roasting sticks for everyone.  What could be done?  I trimmed off several green limbs from my mega-bush, some that even had multiple “ends”, and we could roast two or three marshies at a time on one stick! 

Shouldn’t we allow our Master Gardener to do the same thing? We may be planted and growing and producing what is “normally expected”, and He may come along and seemingly cut us down from what we anticipated His work through us to be. The main bush still survived, but the severed sticks have been commissioned for a new project, and are exactly what is needed.  But rest assured, it is only so that He can use us in a different, more creative capacity.  He promises that, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” How wise is our Gardener, and how perfect is His plan! 

(The s’mores are really good, too….)

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