Maintenance – The Water of Encouragement

My heart is safe with Jesus,
of this I can be sure.
He knows my deepest sorrows,
His love for me is the purest pure.

He knows my deepest joys and hurts;
my wounds he gently holds.
My past, my present, my future,
all in His devoted care enfolds.

My steps and path are fragrant;
a sacrifice as myrrh.
He walks and talks with me, cries and laughs with me.
In Him, with Him, and by Him I am secure.

He is my light and safety,
on Him alone can I rely.
Whatever harms or afflicts us,
these things He hates, derides.

These gardens of our hearts and souls, our spirits –
our landscape – its fellowship He most fervently loves.
He jealously protects and keeps us;
His goal: our complete (no less!) restoration – for us the bestest of the best thereof!

His is no absent Gardener!
Just look around and see!
Oh! How our Savior loves us!
His magnificent Creation outspread and cheers in all glorious glee!

Oh friend, in Him we find our refuge!
His voice let us harken, let us receive:
for if we are to truly, really flourish
not the world’s, but His ways must we enweave.

Our hearts are safe with Jesus –
of this we can be most confidently sure!
He is our only Saviour,
for in Him most fully, most surely, is our strength, our energy and stability to endure!

Exuberance!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7: 7-8)

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1, The Message)

Erin
Soil and Seed

Maintenance – The Opportunity and Choice

So the other day I was at the garden centre 🙂 looking for new residents for two pots. th-96Granted, the official planting season is somewhat over (somewhat), and so the selection was far from the vast, robust and bright one that had been on display earlier. I scoured the aisle for potential, and spotted a pair of Gerbera on sale. One, clearly watered, shimmery and refreshed, the other exhausted, haggard and gasping for hydration. Should I take them both, or just the healthier one? Oh the decision!

According to quora.com, “multiple sources on the Internet (indicate) the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day.” That’s a lot of decision-making! And just as I was faced with a choice of deciding between the healthier and less so of the Gerbera, so am I with every decision I choose to make. Do I deliberately make one that exhausts or the one that hydrates?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1: 2-4, New Living Translation)

Do you see it friend? Opportunity! In every circumstance, there is opportunity … for great … joy. Hmmm… An opportunity, a choice to be seized or not. When troubles of any kind come my way, I can choose very deliberately to be rooted in joy in every circumstance. The choice is up to me.

Okay, so bear with me as I slip into my wild imagination and consider snatching the choice of rooting my decisions in joy. What would happen I wonder…

Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path. The path went through the vineyards. There were walls on both sides.
(Numbers 22: 24, New International Reader’s Version)

By mindfully pushing myself away from my go-to mindset into the resolve to choose joy, I The Narrow Roadliterally steer onto a different fork in the road. Rather than straining on my well-worn, parched and wide trail of wallowing, questioning, doubting, fearing, grumbling, whining and complaining, I switch gears and venture onto a slightly narrower but captivatingly different and excitingly unusual path. The trail is peaceful and protected; there is calm and easy assurance here, and I am carried along the pathway, able to stretch out my arms to feel the mist of its refreshing hydration. Is that excitement bubbling? Almost like an unmistakable sense of partnering in something wonderful and glorious – and it seems to give mysterious expression in sustaining me to endure the ache and brave the pain of the troubles. I can straighten up and the eyes of my heart catch glimpses, hints that reassure all is woven into “what is good, what is holy, what is right in God’s sight”.

Wild imagination indeed! Hang in with me here as I venture a little further down the trail.

Palm of His HandThis path seems to open to a vast and glorious meadow, a  “Land of Joy” if you will, a place where I relax physically, psychologically and find myself in spiritually healthier place. God still guides me through inevitable testings, proofing and purifying, but this time I seem to see them from a different perspective. Joy boosts and lifts me higher, and from this aerial overview, difficulties are transformed into glistening opportunities, and joys seem multiplied. Of course, far in the background are the siren calls of resentment, anger and frustration that vie for my attention, but here, choosing joy, I have indescribable peace. Here it’s almost as if joy gives me new eyes, shifting the attention away from me and my efforts, and handing everything over to One who gladly assumes responsibility for our care, the One who gladly includes us in His opus. My ungodly character traits are disclosed and recognized, as is mutual agreement in their relinquishing. In return, love for the Gardener, the very first lover of my soul, takes on extra-new measure, texture, dimension, and deepness. In joy, it is easier to cooperate with Him, and to endure to see His desire for me to grow in me.

“Ofercryinoutloud! Come back to reality!” comes the smack-down. “Sounds like nothing more than an escape, a place of whimsy!” But honestly there’s this part of me that insists, and persists in hope, it’s very real. That our reality is not The Reality. That this place is not one of ‘faking it until you make it’, not grinding teeth and setting jaw in ‘grinning it and bearing it’. Within joy, in a mystery of mysteries mixed in with steadfast promises comes a comfortable tranquility of heart and peacefulness in soul. I’m okay with God knowing everything, and me not; not even needing to know or control. Blessed with flashes, fleeting glimpses of The Reality. I need only choose joy at any given moment.

Can I choose joy? Can we? Could it be possible? Even in this crazy mixed up and aching world?

It makes me think of Pollyanna, the main character and title of the book by Eleanor H. Porter. Pollyanna would play the “glad game” to find something positive in every situation, and was often misunderstood and ridiculed as “unrealistic”, “fake”, “disconnected from reality”, and as having “a blind eye to circumstance”. Could it be she decided to see and live in the joy, living in gladness, believing in the best concealed deep within of each person? Joy rooted in trust in Good? Well, judging from how the story unfolds, that simple joy transformed in wonderful and exciting ways.

I contend that joy is not blind to circumstance  – choosing it changes our posture within the circumstance. It enables us to acknowledge the power is our Creator’s, and to be comfortable with the knowing that there is much more going on than the seen, and that in fact what we can see might actually be deceiving. It hints at the part we can play in the Greater Part, the real Reality. Joy is the Master key that offers to open the door to peace and freedom in the midst of conflict both within and beyond ourselves.

But it is a difficult challenge.

Today’s dynamic is much the same as it was in Pollyanna’s time –  choosing joy is rarely the go-to inclination, the norm in this world we live in! In fact, if we dare to do the same today and to persist, chances are we’ll be just as bitingly scorned and bestowed the dictionary’s contemptuous definition of Pollyanna – “an excessively or blindly optimistic person.” But if we pay attention to the message and outcome of her story, we might agree that Pollyanna was onto something very powerful! She took hold of the key, flipped the switch and changed tracks. She persisted and transformed an entire community, freeing and soaking the parched hearts first of her aunt and then the whole Town! Each of us has the flicker of joy that waits to be fanned within to do the very same! Each of us can literally rise above “no-good-terrible-day”s and recalibrate our best and worst and everything-inbetween relationships, our homes, our streets, and our communities! All it takes is daring to choose and persist in joy!

th-83Jesus, it is so hard to choose joy in every single circumstance. Sometimes situations can be just so darned tough and overwhelming. Sometimes I know I need to, but I honestly just don’t want to. Sometimes the world and its worst to douse any vestige of my joy and peace gets to me. Grant me your patience and wisdom Jesus! In the midst of trying times, please draw my eyes, even just briefly, to the hope of choosing joy. Help me to genuinely and determinedly answer its whisper – and I mean genuinely! No faking it Jesus. The real thing. Soften me so it is genuine! Help me to recognize and take my hold of the peace, and to sit in it, to wade in it, even if just for a minute. Help me to risk living it inwardly and outwardly, even if just once. But help that one time to spread into many times, until it becomes a part of my character, part of a settled posture of outrageous-to-the-world peacefulness, easiness, gentleness, compassion, calmness, goodness, mercifulness and tenderness.  Nothing is too great for you Jesus! Help me to live in joy in you so that you can be seen in me.

Honor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
(1 Chronicles 16:27, Revised Standard Version)

Behold, this is the joy of his way; and out of the earth others will spring.
(Job 8: 19, Revised Standard Version)

I will be glad and full of joy because of you! Most High God, I will sing the praises of your name!
(Psalm 9:2, New International Reader’s Version)

 

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

 

Seasons – Out of the Sun

I enjoy every time of day.

Morning_Sunrise_2I enjoy an early morning sunrise as the garden seems to stir and rouse from a rest, yawning and stretching as it awakens, branches straining their tips way out, buds slowly opening up to the warmth of the rising sun, dew bidding its farewell until another day as it evaporates like sparkling pixie dust. Mummy birds fly from ground to nest with a fresh breakfast of wriggly worms to the delighted tweets and twitters of their broods. Bugs seem to venture out, travelling stem and leaf for a quick bite before they head off on a busy day of scavenging and gathering. Scarlet cardinals and cobalt bluejays engage in a duel of song. Heat bugs quicken to attention and begin their mournful song. Captivating!

To be honest though, I’ve never really taken the time to sit back and observe what happens in the garden at night. I’d often think that the explosion of a colorful sunset was signal to garden life to head to bed until it circled around to wake and warm it up once again, to please my eyes and comfort my soul and spirit … 😉 Does the nighttime shimmer with as much activity as day? Is it just as magical?

To the backdrop of the crickets’ squeaky sing-song, I quietly sauntered past a patch of bumblebee-yellow blooms as the neighbor’s calico zipped past me. Not only were these blooms open, but their glorious citrus evening-primrose-flowerfragrance seemed far more intense and rounded. Up ahead, a couple of moths flit and flew to perch and rest on the single bloom of milky porcelain-white clematis which seemed to have taken on an almost fluorescent glow as the moon began to shine. What was that little creature in the far corner of the garden? He froze in place, hoping I suppose that I didn’t see him huddled beneath the hosta leaves, the quivering of his nose tremoring through his fuzzy weeness like the aftershocks of an earthquake. I closed my eyes to the symphony of gently rustling leaves, the odd chirping, and the squish of stealthy padded paw-steps. The sky soon became an inky sapphire, stars fading in and blinking silently as I quietly tiptoed toward the door. I startled a pair of raccoons who seemed to be strategizing the physics of overturning our garbage can, conspiring the distribution of the feast within. The beginnings of nighttime in the garden. What else happens in the darkness whilst I slumber, I wondered. Creepers must still creep; burrowers must still burrow. Life and activity surely continues, even in the dark hours! A snippet of research revealed that some varieties of flowers only release their nectar during the darker hours, attracting a whole new breed of pollinators! These bugs are stronger it seems than their daytime cousins, and can handle cooler temperatures.  But, I wondered, do plants actually need darkness to grow? Read on, courtesy of user aazainal of Yahoo Answers (http://yhoo.it/1OdanYj):

Yes, plants do need darkness to grow. First, in the photosynthesis process itself, there is a reaction known as ‘dark reaction’ pathway or lately known as ‘carbon reaction’ pathway where the free energy of ATP and reducing power of NADPH, are used to fix and reduce CO2 to form carbohydrate. This is very important process to release Oxygen into the air. This happened in the dark or at night. Secondly, for inducing the plant to initiate flowering process. This phenomena is known as photoperiod, ie based on the ratio of the daylength to night length over 24 hours. Plants reaction to photoperiod can be divided into 4 groups.

  1. Day-neutral plants – the plant has no effect on photoperiod. They will flower when the plant reach physiological maturity.
  2. Short day plants – plants will only flower when daylength is shorter than nightlength. This group of plants will only flower in late summer or fall or very early spring, when day length is shorter than the night period. e.g. strawberries, potatoes, chrysanthemums etc.
  3. Long day plants – plants that flower in spring or early summer. eg lettuce, spinach, radish etc. Flower initiation will begin when the daylength is getting longer than the dark period.
  4. Intermediate day plants – These group of plants will grow vegetatively when daylength is either too long or too short. They will only flower when the day length is about 12hrs of daylight and 12 hrs of darkness.”

Purpose to the light. Purpose to the darkness. There is splendour in its every facet, and splendour growing within each facet it to bring about loveliness in the day. The Gardener has use of it to bring about His glory. Hmmm… Interesting! What about our periods of what seem like dark nights? It can be hard to imagine that He has purpose while we’re in the gloom of their midst, especially in what may appear to be a string of them. But could it be that He does have purpose in, and can use, these moments? While we wonder where God is in all of that apparent murkiness, when our eyes see only dimly, are our prayers truly absorbed or bounced off a glass ceiling?

“The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

I wonder. I wonder if darkness is only so if it is all that I focus on; is only so when I forget His promises. Is only so when I forget Who He is? And Whose I am? Perhaps darkness does have purpose, even for us. Perhaps it too can be a magical place of secret growth, of developing vitality! Perhaps we are brought to such places for a Greater purpose; a place far from distraction and beguilement where a private audience with the loving Gardener is all we have left. A place of sifting. A place where we search and find God not as we imagine Him to be from wild imaginations and rumour, but as Who He really is. Love. Vigilant Love. What would happen if, in the midst of our goop, we re-considered our Gardener’s character, His eye on our full restoration?

How would I then regard Him, my “all I have left”? There is really nothing like realizing that there is nothing like God! The All, who is all-ready, and already there! Eager to draw me to brush up against His iridescence, to be engulfed in the cheerful fragrance of His gladdening! And there is no place that He is not. So then, if He is here, if He stands as our Shield between us and whatever threatens, if He is Light and Love, what does that say of darkness? Of it ever truly overcoming us?

 “You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”
2 Samuel 22: 29 (New International Version)

Remember and recognize there is always Light that darkness cannot and will not ever overcome. Hope will always hum in the flame. Take it. Focus on me, and rejoice! Look! I bathe you entirely in my Light, for the Light is my Love that cannot ever be snuffed out. Yes, allow this joy to rise up from your deepest parts and envelope your heart, and sing as all flickers of light melt together to absorb the darkness in your mind in a flood of brilliant radiance! This juncture is occasion for profound intimacy with me; an opportunity for you to behold my love, my glory, and to allow my love and glory to shine through you. Do not worry. Worry is addictive and draws your attention away from Me and from the freedom I offer out to you and enslaves you in fear, shrinking, deflation, and withdrawal. This is not where I want or have designed for you to be. Trust in me. Trust that even this will be used for my Good in you, and in this circumstance, and that it pollinates future growth in splendour. I am here. Always. I am I AM.  Acknowledge that I am present at allth-86 times, in all ways, and use all things for a good purpose. Allow me to help you to grow in it and from it, and up out of it. You will see its purpose when I know it is best! I will choose when. In the meantime trust me, and only me, and not your own understanding. 

Seeds and plants in the garden of our spirits and  souls need – and still yet grow in – darkness. I wonder… I wonder if we can seize the faith that Light is bathing us, no matter how we feel? I wonder if I can rest in Who God is, and not what I want Him to do or to be? I wonder if I could focus on the Son’s closeness to me, even though I may feel far from the sun?  I wonder if I can settle my heart and mind on the assurance that He who ensured the hope of glittering stars in the night’s navy sky is in absolute control of all things in all situations – and that I just might not need to know every reason why things happen the way they do? Perhaps I could even consider .. perhaps even .. dare? .. to find darkness is alive with His good purpose? I wonder where such thinking would lead Father?

Jesus, help me to choose to consider dark nights and overcast days as places where just you and I meet privately; places where you shine your Light on the pathway out of my worry and self-absorption; places where you trim me down and muscle me up to take the better path illumined by your Light; places where I yield to and trust in you, in your greater purpose, and ask you what you want to accomplish!  And when and where you will it, allow me to be the warmth of your Light to peak through the darkness for others!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
(John 1: 5, New Living Translation)

 “He reveals tth-88he deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light.”
(Job 12:22, New International Version)

Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”
(Matthew 26: 36-39, The Message)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

(John 16:33, New Living Translation)

Erin
Soil and Seed

A vision of what could be…

Tired, tattered and scrubby tufts of grass in the mottled front yard. Defiant dandelion th-38regiments springing up in attack formation. Well-worn grass along the side of house to meet the backyard. Blocks of rectangular utilitarian cement dropped unceremoniously, slicing a path like a lumbering liner through waves of exhausted overgrown grass toward the driveway. Not a flower, not a shrub, save for the wild and crazed appearance of a parched honeysuckle that clung to the side of the back balcony as if to save itself from the sea of overrun savagery.

Such was our garden our first summer in our present home. But, I was undaunted and focused.

I walked slowly from front to back, caught up in what I knew could be. A vision unfolded before me. Springing up was a brilliant kaleidoscope of color in foliage and flower sidling up against the front balcony and under first floor windows, and a wooden fence softened with creeping flowering hydrangea and graceful tendrils. th-45Majestic cedars would rise to frame an arbored entrance to the flag-stone pathway that would meander alongside our new house through a dizzying array of English garden blooms and scents. Mum’s lily of the valley would have to be planted along the foundation so their delicious perfume would waft into our windows in the early spring! The path would widen to a patio where wicker lounges with generous poufy upholstered cushions would invite weary travellers a moment of rest. Maybe a glass of lemonade, iced Red Zinger tea?  A glass of cold, white wine? Off to our left, we’d see an enlarged balcony with potted palm trees, their frawns waltzing in the gentle breeze. A small bistro set would be th-46nestled in the corner for the occasional intimate souper à deux. Hmm… A small pot of coral geraniums would look nice on the table, and maybe a planter or two of herbs at easy reach from the kitchen. Don’t forget to water them, and not too much!

From there would be wooden steps up to our fenced-deck where a wrought-iron table and chairs, a barbecue, and a small, warm and handsome sitting area would fill its expanse. Vibrant, lush and fragrant annuals would spill from large terra-cotta pots dotted around its surface. Strung around the large canvassed patio umbrella would be rustic outdoor lights to softly illuminate animated (very animated) conversations and easy laughter that would stretch into the slowly darkening night. Back on the field-stone patio and off to the right, peering through the two regal trees, would be my grandmother’s phlox and bearded irises, Mum’s daisies and lilies rising up in front of the protection of cedars stationed around the periphery of the small back garden. Perhaps there would be a small bird-bath with the neighborhood mummy sparrows chittering whilst washing their chicks. And around this majestic maple, what about a fun little play area where our future children could play, imagine and climb? Over here, what about a small raised vegetable and herb garden too? In front of us, the patio would end at the stairwell that would spiral down toward the driveway.

I had not the faintest idea if these plans would come to pass in the small spaces afforded me. I saw the immense potential, and it was exciting!. Inspiring. I knew that more than likely, the plans would need adjustment as more detailed surveying would take place. They did. Exposure to the sun. Shady areas. Drainage. Water source. Condition and character of the soil. Pests in the area. Lots of pests in the area. Mr.-and-Mrs.-squirrels-th-77pests. Nest-condos in our majestic maple tree for the nourished-and-fattened-by-our neighbours pesky squirrels. Parents Richard and Isabelle, as we named them, favored the heads of our tulips, and would hide their stash of nuts  in our terra-cotta pots. Their children, Harold and Emma would bury theirs under upturned roots of flowering daisies, liatris, sweet peas, and Sweet William. None of them remembered where they’d buried their treasures. All of them would frantically dig up our garden in search. The aftermath of these quests dotted our garden like beds in an emergency ward. Little inconveniences. Things reorganized and amended my plans, but plans I still had.

It would be several years until any of my vision came to be realized. Several battles with Harold and Emma, and ambulatory trips to the garden center; several under-watered and over-fertilized episodes sprinkled with seasons of outright delight at the abundant and luxurious growth.

It never did and never will stop. Planning in deliciously pleasurable perpetual motion.

This is what, I understand, many real gardeners find, and come to expect. First, they walk the lot, th-51and based upon a myriad of conditions that they test and take note of, vision takes shape and coalesces in their mind. Planning and determination follow. The goal of nudging this patch of land into one that joyously shouts of abundance and glory begins. No terrain is beyond reach of transformation. No patch is too small. No challenge overwhelms a solution that will produce profuse and copious flourishing. Making and remaking. Planning and re-planning. Always on the move.

Our Master Gardener is in perpetual and undaunted motion as well, undeterred by any and all obstacle, and resolute in determination. He is caught up too. He is inspired not by what could be, but by what will be. He knows the plans he has for us – faint ideas they are not. But I wonder what he sees when he looks upon the garden of my soul, of my heart.

Does he sigh and see a condition beyond any hope of restoration or rejuvenation, or does he relish in the potential that hums beneath?

Does he despair at the overgrowth of the underbrush, or does he delight in the prospect of rolling up his sleeves and digging in to uproot and refresh?

Does he anger at the neglect and rebellion, the infestation of pests, and throw up his hands, abandoning all hope, or does he choose to gently tackle this little corner and then that, and so on, so that renewal slowly but surely spreads like a blossoming aromatic wave that coaxes and engulfs the whole?

th-47Does he see me standing in front of some patches, forbidding him from entering? Dark and foreboding places? Places of profound hurt, deep shame and debilitating guilt? “No terrain is beyond reach of transformation,” he softly whispers. “Don’t be afraid. Let me in to warm it with my light and life.”

Do the alarms that sound really come from his direction, or from my very insecurities, harmful habits and attitudes where he is kneeling, bending to gently uproot, to remove and replace with confident and exuberant beauty?

Does he bulldoze his way through, or does he extend a trowel or spade toward me, and invite me into his infectious enthusiasm, to partner with him in clearing the brush and unearthing the me whose hairs he counted, and eyes he painted?

It is said that no two gardens are really truly identical just as no two gardeners are. Each garden reflects glimpses of the gardener’s natural style, and their unique personality. It is also said that a garden is amongst the only places where you could create a splendiferous world, one as you would very much like it to be.

th-50Oh, the splendiferousness the One and Only Master Gardener would very much like for each of us, his parcels of elegant loveliness! Extravagantly and outrageously splendiferous. Triumphant in gentleness and goodness. Brimming in faith and joy. Rich in hope and peace. Brilliantly gleaming with kindness. Glistening in character and self-constraint. Gloriously exquisite in marvelous uniqueness, spilling over with his family resemblance. Exquisitely marvelous and intertwining plots of wondrous beauty trickling and spilling into his expansive, vibrant and lush carpet of flourishing in magnificent Kingdom splendor. And he will not stop until his purpose is fulfilled in me, in you, in each of us.

Will I pick up the trowel and join him?

But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!
Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Living Bible)

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Luke 12:32 (Living Bible)

th-55

Carlsbad flower fields

Erin
Soil and Seed