Glam-nails vs. Garden-nails

garden lastI have friends and co-workers who are into the glamorous nails thing.  Even many of my middle school girls are now sporting the artisan versions that are glued on, and more than once I’ve been asked if I have any “super glue” to fix a wayward piece.  (School nurses get asked for all sorts of random things…) 

As nice as they look, I’ve never been good at fingernail etiquette—the paint chips, it looks terrible, and I’m too lazy to fix it!  So I’m resigned to be content with what I have.  By contrast, one sure way you can tell I’m happy is if I have dirt under my fingernails.  A little gross maybe, but true.  It means I’m outside in my garden making a mess, or as Bob calls it, “tearing up the pea-patch.”

I’ve done plenty of tearing up, but have yet to grow any peas.    

What I have grown, with limited success, ranges from begonias to zinnias, (I could say from A to Z, but the astilbe died…)  However, here in the land of Herefords and harvestores, it’s also a noteworthy Continue reading “Glam-nails vs. Garden-nails”

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Squir-R-R-R-R-R-els!!

garden last

My garden, such as it is, does well with things that thrive on neglect.  In keeping with this strategy, there are four spider plants hanging up and flourishing beautifully under the slight overhang of the garage.  Er,…I mean they were, flourishing that is.  One in particular was all but overflowing its expensive self-watering pot.  And they all look(ed) really nice, too.  This morning, to my non-gardener dismay, I noticed half of the biggest plant was missing, and the one next to it had only a Continue reading “Squir-R-R-R-R-R-els!!”

Hate those #weeds !

(Excerpt from God Loves Gardens, by Dawn Jones)

Weeding.  Yuck.  Why is it that during a drought, weeds still grow? 

I love the flowers and the plants; I love the tomatoes and the fresh herbs.  But let’s face it, weeds are the pits.  Some of their roots go so doggone deep!  And they spread, underneath the surface where you can’t see them, until they pop up somewhere else.  They suck up water, a precious resource by any definition, but especially “tres chere” during July and August in southern Missouri, and especially this year.  Weeding is in the “not fun” section of my gardening book.

“Not fun” is, however, usually a prerequisite to “fun”. 

I now have certain pieces of equipment to take care of said weeds:

  • Thickly padded knee pads. This shows that I mean business. I hate to admit it, but getting down on my knees is not as convenient as it was 20 years ago.  And then there’s the getting up part.  So “knee work” takes effort, as well as, at times, more than just a little discomfort.
  • Weed fork. At least that’s what I call the wicked looking thing. It has sharp little fangs that penetrate deeply into the weeded area to help pull up as much of the root as possible.  It’s a merciless piece of metal, probably invented by someone without knee pads who wanted to spend as little time as he could on his knees.
  • Chemical herbicide. Yes, I know, not exactly eco-friendly, but you don’t know the extent of the weed habitat in my yard. I don’t use it much, sparingly, but it is part of the heavy artillery in my arsenal.
  • Sometimes I wear gloves, but even with those, I always—I mean always—manage to get dirt under my fingernails. So really, I should also here mention my fingernail scrub brush, which sometimes even itself doesn’t fully complete the cleaning up job 
  • Timeliness – rather than put it off until another day, telling myself that I’ll do it all at once, (ha!), it is so much better to see a weed, and pull it on the spot. When it comes to weeds, procrastination only allows them to grow deeper and sprout additional “weed-babies”.

Weeds are a pain, no doubt, but they must be dealt with unless I want to allow them to dominate the garden.  And that includes the weeds in my life-garden as well.  Unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy—these are some big ones.  Then there’s deception, slothfulness, and gossip.  Unkind words are really ugly weeds whose roots can really go deep and pop up when and where we absolutely don’t expect them.  All of these, and more, (since there are many species of “life-weeds”), suck up the precious water of our existence and threaten to dominate our days…unless we take diligent action.

  • Weeding in our life takes commitment—commitment to the point of discomfort, and often times, more than just a little. The writer of the book of Hebrews warns that “for the time being, no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful”—now there’s an understatement! But he goes on to say that “afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Okay, I like that part.  If makes sense that if I don’t want the weeds listed above, or any other species of unwanted harvest, there is only one person responsible for eradicating them—me.  The same writer then adds this encouragement: “So then, brace up and reinvigorate and set right your slackened and weakened and drooping hands and strengthen your feeble and palsied and tottering knees.”  (Has he been spying on me while I’m gardening??)   Although that may sound a bit harsh to our sensitive 21st century ears, it’s actually quite helpful.  There are time when, oh yes, I can feel very tottering and weak, even discouraged when I work, and work, and yet keep seeing things in my character and personality with which I am sorely displeased, a weed popping up when I thought I had taken care of it or a new unknown weed that I’ve never seen before.  What the writer is saying here, however, indicates that this courage, this strength is, in fact, available to me.  So brace yourself (or pad yourself!) for the impact, expect the pain, but know that the results of our hard work will be rewarded. (1)
  • We need to go as deeply as possible to the root of the problem. Surface weeding may allow the garden to appear well-tended, but as the saying goes, looks can be (and usually are) deceiving. I think of my weed fork, a sharp and menacing-looking tool that, in the right hands and wielded skillfully, can bring up roots while yet sparing the precious soil. This kind of deep life-weeding takes time and effort, and we may need the help of a friend, or sometimes even a professional.  It is here that we must be willing to allow God to search and reveal as only His light can do. As the Psalmist said, “Search me thoroughly, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me…” (2)  And then let Him have control of the tool.
  • We must not disregard the heavy artillery of spiritual warfare. As Keith Green so aptly illustrated in a song that is supposed to be Satan himself singing to us:

                          I used to have to sneak around,

                          But now they just open their doors! 

                          You know, no one’s watching for my tricks

                          Because no one believes in me anymore! (3)

One of the enemy’s main tactics is deception.  Our Lord uncovered this by describing Satan as a liar and even the father of lies. (4) This age-old adversary will try to convince us of everything from false guilt feelings lingering after true repentance, to thinking we have committed the unpardonable sin.  Yes, I’ve been there too.  But God says otherwise.  We must arm ourselves for continued battle, and learn to use this critical piece of spiritual artillery. There is much well balanced writing on practical, Biblically based spiritual warfare.  In our culture, we are many times uncomfortable with this aspect of what used to be assumed in the early church as a normal part of Christian life.  The Bible makes it clear that it still is. (5)

  • Certainly, we cannot be afraid to get our hands dirty while we dig about in our lives, removing the weeds with the help of our Holy Gardener Himself. Sometimes it’s also a matter of getting our hands dirty helping weed around someone else’s life, after which are just as concerned with keeping ourselves cleaned up! Paul, in writing to the church at Corinth, reminds us as he reminded them, to be careful to watch ourselves, especially when we think we are doing well.   We are just as prone, whether we like to admit it or not, to lapse into tempting thoughts and behaviors as the ones we have been helping.  Maybe not the same temptations, but sinful dirt under our nails nonetheless.  Our Lord promised to wash us clean when we bring this dirt to him, and surely it pleases Him to do so! (6)
  • And, of course, when the Master Gardener points out a weed, we must not delay in getting it taken care of as quickly as possible, so that successful growing time is on our side, not the weed’s. When God calls us to a specific repentance to a particular life-weed, procrastination is not a good idea. The longer we wait, the deeper it grows, and the more resources it wastes on itself. Most gardeners have seen this happen over time in flower beds that are habitually untended—yuck!   And one of the unhappy consequences of such neglect is that the seeds of the weeds float into my yard, (and honestly, I have enough of my own to deal with), then I have to tend to those as well!  Gossip, for example, spreads into others’ minds and hearts and begins to root (very quickly, I might add) unkind thoughts concerning the victim being gossiped about.  Another culprit is irritability—that one spreads like dandelion seeds!  (7)

In seasons of plentiful water, or in times of difficult drought, weeds seem to flourish both in our gardens, and in our lives.  Yet we are not without the proper tools to deal effectively with them.  The alternative is to ignore them or to pretend they don’t exist.

And, really, a weed would love nothing better… 

  • Hebrews 12:10-12 (Amplified)
  • Psalm 139:23-24 (Amplified)
  • No One Believes in Me Anymore, by Keith Green, c. 1977
  • John 8:44
  • 2 Corinthians 10:4, Ephesians 6:11-12 (For a good resource in this area, see Neil Anderson’s Victory Over Darkness, and The Bondage Breakers, both from Harvest House Publishers. Another good resource is The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare, by Ed Murphy from Nelson Publishers.)
  • 1 Corinthians 10:12-13; Ephesians 5:26-27
  • Proverbs 15:1

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

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