Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lessons from the Garden: My favorite child / triage

Just to clear things up- I dont have a favorite child.  I love all my kids all the time.  :)

But when it comes to the garden, the tomato is the favored one.  When you have record rains and despite all your efforts, the weeds are taking over, you have to concentrate your energy.  There is only so much time to give to weeding and tending.  Some things don't get attention.  Sorry green beans. 

The tomatoes win me every year.  It could be because the tomato and mayonnaise sandwich is the best thing to eat ever.   It could be because they are so versatile, going in just about any dish I make this time of year.  I can freeze them, I can can them.  I will be tasting their goodness on the darkest days of winter. 

I don't know why I choose tomatoes over the other vegetables, but I do and I am rewarded now with a bumper crop of these jewels.  The green beans are gone, covered by weeds.  The carrots are hanging on, but there has been a lot of rain for those guys to take.  And the beets are there, but I haven't really dug them up to check on them.

Sad to say, I have had to learn how to do triage on relationships at times.  I have had some relationships that I worked really hard on, even when there was every sign that that relationship was pretty one sided and unhealthy.  I have willed a relationship to be more than it was, but the weeds and floods took it away. 

I now have a pretty good radar for when a relationship is going to suck the life out of me.  I don't mean that I wouldn't stick by a friend's side through a hard time; that is the very essence of friendship.  I mean that sometimes a friendship is not live-giving to both people.  One person is getting encouraged, built up and supported and the other person is ignored. 

I don't know that I am explaining it well because it is one of those things that when you are in the situation, you know it.  And before, I would try try try to get another person to join in the kind of relationship I wanted.  Now I know I can only give what I can give and receive what God brings my way. 

It sounds sad to let some friends go, but when you see the fruit prospering in a healthy relationship, it is a beautiful thing. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lessons from the garden: get by with a little help from your friends

Back in the spring I worked and worked.  I dug up soil, I planted, I mulched.  I took little moments when my toddler was happy and got as much in the ground as I could.  But the day came when it was too late in the season to plant my seeds and I still had big empty spaces in the garden. 

I faced my limits and I accepted them.  There is only so much time I can give. 

And then my neighbor texts- do you want some watermelon plants? 

They had some volunteer plants from last year and I filled in my last spaces with these gifts.

We do what we can and when we can't, many times God sends someone to fill in the gaps.  He made us to not be able to do it all on our own.  He made us to need others. 

Sometimes I'm the giver and sometimes I'm the receiver.  I have to be open to both.

And the old adage is true "good fences make good neighbors".  We have to know how much we can give and how much we can't give.  We have to know when its time to ask and receive help. We have to be honest with others and ourselves. 

Because this garden isn't just for us anyway.  When zucchini is coming out of our ears and tomatoes are falling from the vine, we see that's its all a gift its all grace.

We are all on the receiving end all the time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

lessons from the garden: grace for our limitations

I ran out of time.  Just not enough time to get it all in the ground.  I took the 15 minutes I had here and there and did what I could while keeping an eye on a toddler.  But still, there are sections of my garden that just don't have anything planted. 

And thats OK.

I was on the front porch the other day and noticed something coming up by one of the bushes.  It looked familiar.  It happens to us every year, stray pumpkin seeds from our jack o lanterns find their way into the ground and sprout.  Our front porch is north-facing and in constant shade, so they never grow there well.

I took those sprouts and planted them in one of the garden plots that was not going to get planted this year.

In my little 20 minute time frame, I had filled up that plot.  We may have pumpkins this year, and that wasn't even in the plan.

I spend a lot of mental energy grumbling about what I haven't gotten done.  I set goals for myself and then see myself fall short of them. 

Life is messy and there are so many things we can't predict or plan for.

But there is grace.

There are things planted by accident, seeds of providence that are laid in the ground of our hearts.  They sit there and grow without us even being aware of it.  Its all a gift.

God works the soil, He waters it.  He is the master gardener.

We just let Him work and are thankful for the fruit of His hands.

Forgive me, God for thinking that I make things happen.  It is all your work, all your grace and love that brings good things.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lessons from the garden: saying no to good things

Ascension is this week, which means Pentecost is near.  An old Romanian woman once told me to have everything planted by Pentecost. *  Then someone asked this woman, "When is Pentecost?" and she replied "When everything is planted." 

A beautiful picture of the interwovenness of the church and our lives.

But its true, if you look at the seed catalogs, most things should be in the ground by beginning of June.  And I am at the point where I have just accepted that we will probably not get planted everything we wanted to this year.

And thats OK.

A few years ago, I was in a situation where I was very limited. There were just not many options in our life situation and that was so hard.  Especially when I felt our needs were not being met.

We are blessed to be in a fruitful time and place now, which presents another set of problems.  So much to do, so much to say yes to!  So many good things that can help us grow and learn!

But still we have the limit of time.

Just 24 hours, just 7 days, just 18 years with them at home.  We dont have more time to give than we have.  We just can't fit everything in.

In homeschooling, in church, in social events, in creative projects, there is always more to do than we have time for. 

So we say no to good things.  We may even say no to great things. 

We discern what is the best fit, the most profitable, the most edifying.  And we say no to everything else.

I will probably only have a few rows of green beans come up this year.  And thats ok.  We will enjoy what we have.  The lettuce may be sparse, but we will relish those salads that we do have.   

Its all a gift.  Thank you.

*(It actually may have been a Ukranian woman.  If I am stealing this story from Phylliska- sorry!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

lessons from the garden: bloom from your roots

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
 Isaiah 58:11
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.  Psalm 1:3
Several years ago I was on a personal retreat. I found a spot on my hike to sit by a stream and pray.  I came to these passages and I just cried.  I felt like the opposite of prosperous, well-watered garden. I felt dry deep in my bones. 

Our family was in a difficult place.  There were many burdens and griefs in my heart.  And I remember as I prayed I asked that these verses would be true for me.  That God would guide me and satisfy me and that He would bring fruit.  I was thirsty for Living Water.

This year the early spring weather was very strange.  The winter had record-breaking low temps.  The cold held on for a long long time. Then we had rain that flooded many homes.  I have noticed that my azaelea bushes are dead on the top two-thirds of the plant.  I can snap off the branches with my hand.  I wondered if they would come back at all. 

But then I noticed green leaves coming from the base.  And now there are flowers there too.  It looks pretty odd when you see them in the neighborhood.  Dead brown branches on top and vibrant pink and white blossoms on the bottoms. 

This shows me that there is life there.  The roots go deep and even when the cold is too much for some parts of the plant, there is a safe space where the life resides and can make it bloom again. 

As a mother, right now I am focused on my kids' roots.  I am working to instill the truth and love that they will need to draw upon for their whole lives.  They will have hard winters and terrible storms in life, and if they can have roots that go deep, they can make it.

This is also an admonition for me to continue to dig deep and make sure I stay rooted.  With whatever time I can, I must pray. I must read God's word.  I must soak in the worship at church.  My roots need to continue to thrive so that I may bear fruit.

As I see these strange bushes, I am reminded of seeing past what is on the surface. Last year, I dug up a bush that I thought had died.  As I dug, I found that the bush was actually alive and would have come back if I just pruned it and let it be.  I am so quick to judge others by what I see.  I make assumptions on the externals and neglect to trust that God is working on them and in them.  I see them as dead and give up on them, but God has the true vision to see them as they are. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

grab with one hand, release with the other

This weekend, we were in a sticky situation.  Other people's problems affecting us.  Unsure of what we were to do-  We talked about it.  We sat and felt the awkwardness.  We did other things, then we came back to talk some more.

We didn't give up until we were together in it. 

Because thats what matters.

Other people have problems.  We have problems.  But we can't fix other people's lives. 

We gotta be on the same team, the team that is cheering for health, wholeness, a return to God. 

 We are listening ears, shoulders to cry on, and meals delivered.  But at some point there is a place we cannot go.  A place where the pieces have to be put together by those who broke it. 

And we trust that God's love is bigger than any mess anyone can make.  We have faith that God's grace is stronger than the pain we have inflicted.  And we believe that there is not place too dark for God's light to penetrate. 

And we are together.

Monday, April 20, 2015

just a cuppa

Thank you to all of you that stuck with me through lent as I wrote and processed the prayer of St. Ephrem.  It was one of the best lents I have had in a long time, and I think all that writing was good for me to carry the prayer around with me all day. 

So now I am considering what is my writing to be about without the wise words of St. Ephrem to guide me. 

The baby is sleeping through the night now.  I mean like 12 hrs straight sleeping. And I suddenly dont have the dying craving need for caffeine in the afternoon.  I feel like cleaning, like organizing, like getting stuff done on my to do list. 

But I still need to take a moment.  I still need to sit, to reflect, to get keep a little holy space in the middle of my day. 

So I put the kids down for rest time and I make my little cup of tea and I sit.  I check email, I click on totally stupid links from facebook, I find very useful ideas on pinterest.    But the best thing is I just sit and am here to think for just a big and rest.

And I need to write. 

I don't know what the topic will be, but I need to take some time and put down on paper (or screen) the thoughts, ideas and memories swirling in my mind. 

So I will come back here with more writing.  Maybe you will be here reading. 

I am open to suggestions.  Stories, meditations, musings?  Let me know in the comments and maybe it will kick me into my next writing goal.