Ultimate Joy

Posts Tagged ‘Garden

My brown thumb deeply saddens me. I love flowers. Sweet are the moments spent in gardens and parks. The fragrant smell of nature ignites a passion in my soul and fills my heart to bursting mostly because I lack the gardening skills to keep plants alive.

So standing in the middle of a southern California vineyard last week almost brought me to tears. The earthy smell of the grapes, the lovely shades of the green vines, yet the order in the rows of vines all combined to remind me of the richness of God’s grace. And of course, made me remember John 5:15, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”DSCN2467

One reason I make a lousy gardener is I hate to prune. I don’t mind cutting away the dead shoots or blooms past their prime. However, it seems mean to cut off healthy growth. It is difficult to snip away a lovely flower even knowing in the end it will make a much healthier plant.

Pruning, which means to cleanse, removes the unhealthy part of the plant, but also eliminates the cobwebs, dried leaves and fungus that can collect on a plant. It is difficult, not only in the garden, but in real life. The Master Gardener uses circumstances in our lives as tools to trim, snip and prune us. It hurts to undergo the process. But I’ve learned if I don’t cooperate, I become self-absorbed, greedy, unloving, angry – a person who has lost track of the bigger picture of becoming a beautiful bouquet.

I learned in the vineyard that day a vine left to itself produces what are called “sucker shoots.” Sucker shoots will never bear fruit because they suck away the life-giving sap on its way from the vine to the branch. They will grow leaves abundantly, but they will greatly reduce the quantity and quality of fruit the true branches can bear. To give off the heady fragrance of a woman sold out to God requires pruning the areas in my life that are not producing fruit.

When I am feeling weak, drained, weary or unproductive, it is time to pray asking God where the sucker roots in my life are sapping my strength. Removing them is usually a very unpleasant process because I cling to my opinion of how life should be. I grab desperately to the things I feel are important. But in order to bear fruit, I must stay attached to the Vine.

Cooperating with the Master Gardener’s process means leaving those things behind in order to become more firmly rooted in Him. A vine cannot prune itself or another. The job of shaping me is God’s alone. If I surrender to His plan for my life, there will always be growing pains. At the same time, with God embedded in me the future seems less scary. Even though I’m imperfectly making these God-directed changes, fumbling and relearning the lessons He wants me to learn, I submit. Because I am firmly convinced His pruning is changing my life into a beautiful bouquet.

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On Sunday morning, my dog, Lily, woke me up at the crack of dawn.  My apologies to you early morning risers, but 6AM, in my opinion is not a time fit for man nor beast to be roaming about outside. But a dog’s needs being what they are, I was forced to get out of bed.

This morning, that simple act unexpectedly forced me to collide with the wonder of God. The earth was still, no traffic noise, conversation or dogs barking wafted through the air. The dew was still on the grass and bushes. The sun played peek-a-boo with the dawn sky.

His strength and power were so evident, I almost stopped breathing.

Despite not being fully awake – my eyes and ears were barely open – my heart was slightly more tender at that hour, so experiencing the presence of Almighty God seemed effortless.  It was as if God was shouting in the early morning silence. Piercing through my dreariness, His words brought comfort, “I am here. I love you. You are chosen, redeemed, loved and forgiven. See My world and yourself with new eyes.”

Currently in the midst of an emotional season of self-doubt, I’m bruised, embarrassed and suffering from a mind-soul disconnect. My brain grapples with my inadequacies, even while my soul declares my identity in Christ is not dependent on what the world – including myself – thinks of me.

In the garden that morning, this tension disappeared. I drank in all of Creation and marveled at all the things God put into place to maintain life here on earth. The trees, the flowers, the dew, the sunlight, even the snails. Things we take for granted, but they are the masterpieces of God. Even my body is a work of art – the senses that allow me to experience the world around me, the antibodies that fight off infection, my breathing in and out…

Chronicles 29:11 states, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” The backyard reminded me creation was a gift from God, a instrument to see His glory.

When I take my focus off myself and seek God, my self-doubt is replaced by His glory. My foolish thoughts are brushed away to allow space for His grace and love. The learning begins, for His loyalty to me destroys my doubt.

If you are facing uphill battles, a season filled more with hesitation than certainty, go outside. Take a walk in the forest, go sit by a lake, experience the crash of a waterfall, follow a butterfly. Within the beauty of those things, you’ll sense His gracious faithfulness.

It is waiting for you right outside your door.