Held Captive? Plant a Garden.

I’m in a Marco Polo group of women who are reading through the Bible in a year using the Bible Recap podcast. We’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah, of which Chuck Swindoll says this: 

The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book includes numerous personal statements of emotional engagement, painting Jeremiah not merely as a prophet brought on the scene to deliver God’s message but also as a red-blooded human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well. (bold is mine) 

Anybody else been feeling the weight of that last sentence? 

The people of Israel were getting ready to be taken to Babylon and held captive there. The false prophets were saying the exact opposite of what Jeremiah was proclaiming…they proclaimed the exile wouldn’t last long, peace was coming etc, so Jeremiah sends a letter (chapter 29) to all the people to prepare them for what was about to go down and what they were to do in the midst of being in captivity.

In part, this is what he tells them: This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. (29:4-5CSB) claiming the exile will be long. (29:28CSB) 

As I’ve mulled this verse over, I find it funny that God would tell them to do something as simple as plant a garden and eat its produce in the midst of being held captive by their enemy. 

If you’ve been hanging with me for very long at all, it’s no surprise that I love to garden so at first I thought that’s why I was so drawn to this verse. But I have to say, I believe there’s more to it. That perhaps it’s a message that is helpful to us as well.

Let’s do some paralleling: 

The exile (or captivity)I know we are not being taken anywhere in the physical sense but we can sure be held captive. By our screens. By our schedules. By the 24/7 news cycles. By our 24/7 availability. By everyone’s opinions. By social media. By the need for more. By the need for bigger and better. By the need for perfection. By the need to hurry. 

You get the picture. We are being held captive and sadly, we don’t even realize how heavy the chains are anymore. 

The past couple of years has seen our mental health struggle…even those with no previous mental health issues. The pandemic has been hard on all of us and most everyone has an opinion they aren’t afraid to share. The political and racial unrest piles on top of an already fragile people. Not to mention the rest of the world and all its messiness. 

Between the 24/7 news cycles and our 24/7 availability we have access to heartbreaking pictures, news stories, pleas, more pictures, thoughts, opinions… we are held captive by it and it just keeps going. Because this exile, this captivity we find ourselves in? 

will be long. Just like the people of Israel, this life, our life, is not a sprint but a marathon. If it’s not this, it will be that. If it’s not that, something else will come along. Just think of the past few years and you will note that it’s been one thing after the other. 

What does Jeremiah tell the people to do? Plant gardens. Eat what you’ve grown. 

I hear you non-gardening people groaning right now! Do you know how black my thumb is? I’ve never grown a vegetable in my entire life! I cannot add one more thing to my to do list! 

I hear you! 

I think it’s about more than growing a garden and eating its produce. I think God was trying to tell them (and us) to settle in because this is going to be a long haul. You cannot possibly be all things to all people or do everything that needs to be done or fix every problem or give to every person/cause/upheaval begging for help. 

Beth Moore said it like this: Know when to take a break y’all. This world’s a heartbreaking, baffling ball of fire right now. We’re not God. We can pray and give and speak and act. But we can’t carry all of this 24/7. It’s too heavy for us. It’s not going to give us a time out. We have to take it. 

In other words, go grow a garden, do something you enjoy doing, take a break from the 24/7, slow down and breathe! In order to take care of our whole selves and our soul selves, we must exhale what is unnecessary and inhale nourishment from God.

If growing a garden and eating its produce sounds like too much work and not rest at all, here are some other things that may help bring peace to your mind and rest for your soul: 

~ Get outside. Sit in the sun. Walk in the grass. Hike a trail. Have a picnic. Get your hands in the dirt. Play at the park with your kiddos. Look for wildflowers. Watch a sunset. Howl at the moon. Count the stars. Breathe in the goodness of season we are in. 

~ Be still. Whether you are a person of faith or not, every single one of us need down time, a time with no agenda, no screens, no input from “out there” and no output of your own input. Simply be. 

~ Exercise. Find something you enjoy doing to move your body and do it! It’s good for your muscles, good for your brain and good for the soul. 

~ Journal. Get it out of your brain and on to paper. It can be a couple lines every day or a full-on page of thoughts. It can be a gratitude or prayer journal. 

~ Limit screen time. This includes phone time, checking emails, social media and news. We were not made to be inundated with information every single second of every single day. We just can’t do it for the whole marathon. 

~ Take a nap. Permission granted!

~ Take a bath. Get some Epsom Salts and your favorite blend of essential oils, drink of choice, a good book and go soak! 

~ Go fishing. Just make sure if you catch one, you know how to get it off the hook! 

~ Light a fire. Is there anything more mesmerizing than staring into a fire?  

~ Meditate. Don’t give this to away as some Voo Doo Eastern thing. It’s purpose is to slow down, pay attention to your breathing, your body, and balance out that busy schedule. (I wrote more about not giving this practice away in Meditation is Not a Dirty Word.

~ Pray/Read the Bible. Stay connected with the One who can bring peace in the midst of chaos and calm the soul like no other. 

Like Jeremiah, we are red-blooded human beings who feel compassion for people; we desire judgment for people who do unthinkable evil, all while living during a pandemic and being concerned for our lives as well as the lives of our loved ones. 

Take care my friends, we’re in this thing for the long haul! 

Go. Plant your garden. Eat its produce. Stay focused on what you can do. Take care of your own soul. Love the person in front of you well. 

kw

The Lyrics of Listening (Do You Hear What I Hear?)

We were up to our elbows in peach juice as we peeled, quartered, and cooked down one bushel of peaches into 30 pints of jam. The Steely Dan channel was cranking out some great sing-a-longs from the ‘70’s. We were peeling and stirring and taste testing and jamming away (see what I did there!) when my man looks at me and says…

Did you just say moonshine?

Yeah. Isn’t that what they’re saying? 

He just smiled. 

A half a bushel of peaches and a few songs later…

Did you say building all the castles in mind?

Yeah. What do you think they’re saying? 

Something about jasmine but definitely not castles. 

The next day, we figured out the titles to both songs and looked up the lyrics. 

The first song is Dancing in the Moonlight with the title all throughout the verses as well as the chorus. But hey, if I’m dancing with some moonshine, everybody WILL feel warm and bright. It WOULD be a fine and natural sight if everybody danced with some moonshine! 

The second song I may have rewritten is called Summer Breeze and they were not, in fact building castles in their minds but rather that summer breeze that makes me feel fine was blowin’ jasmine through my mind. Maybe I’m anticipating the next Outlander book coming out in November…Scottish castles and Jamie Fraser but I heard what I heard and jasmine was nowhere to be found. 

I’ve been known to get a lyric or two wrong before. I thought for sure Van Halen was saying animal instead of panama which coincidentally is also the title of said song. 

I’m not the only one. Here’s a few more I found on the internet. See if you can pick up on what the actual words are or recognize the song. I’ll put the answers at the bottom of the page. No cheating!

  1. Dancing queen, feel the beat of the tangerine.
  2. Let’s pee in the corner. Let’s pee in the spotlight. 
  3. Kickin’ your cat all over the place. 
  4. These ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind. 
  5. It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not. 
  6. Rock the cat box. 
  7. Wrapped up like a douche, another rumor in the night. 
  8. Then I saw her face now I’m gonna leave her. 

It’s funny how we can listen to the same song, at the same volume, in the same room, doing the same task and hear something different. 

I feel like that’s the world we live in today. I wish it were as lighthearted and simple as wrong lyrics to a song. Sigh. Unfortunately, it’s with most everything. We’re all losing our religion because I’m crying out to be noticed (that’s me in the corner) and you think I’ve told you to pee there or in the spotlight. Bigger sigh. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

How do we listen better? How do we really hear what someone is trying to tell us? Here are ten quick things you can do (or not do) to become a better listener: 

Be Fully Present by putting your phone down. Nothing says I’d rather be elsewhere than checking your phone every time it dings. 

Pay Attention by facing the person, making eye contact and watching your body language. Nod your head, smile or other appropriate facial expressions. Stay engaged. 

Practice Reflecting instead of Deflecting by asking for more information, how did that make you feel or how did they react to that?  We can bounce back what they’ve told us by using language like, what I hear you saying is…, or if I’m hearing you right, this is how you took that. 

So often we want to give our opinion here or share a personal story when really we need to find out more information or may be there to simply listen. 

Ask Direct Questions…Even the Obvious Ones. Jesus had a way of getting rid of distractions with trenchant questions. To the blind beggar Bartimaeus he asked, What do you want me to do for you? To the disciples of John the Baptist, as they crept along behind him, attracted yet cautious: What do you seek?  To the man who had been disabled for 38 years: Do you want to get well? 

Sometimes obvious questions or questions that have “obvious” answers lead to the most interesting conversations. We never want to assume we know the answer when we’re trying to be good listeners. 

Realize You Don’t Have to Always Have a Wise Response. Many times a person needs to know they are heard. They aren’t looking for you to have all the answers. Simply listening is sometimes the most loving thing you can do. I see this after I’ve sat across from a woman and listened to her story or why she wanted to talk with me. There is such a burden lifted off the other person just by feeling heard…no wisdom given or needed…just two ears and zipped lip. 

Realize You Don’t Have to Understand Everything. I don’t have to get it or you to be able to hear what you’re saying, feeling or struggling with. There’s a lot I don’t understand and yet, I can be there for you with those same two ears and zipped lip. 

Realize You Don’t Have to Evaluate and Interpret Everything. I’m so glad for this one! I don’t have to figure it all out for you (or have that wise response) or decipher a life code. But I can sit in it with you and listen. 

Realize You Don’t Have to Keep the Conversation Lively. You aren’t at a party or trying to entertain someone. Sometimes silence is the most sacred space you can share with someone. 

Realize the Value of the Person You’re Listening To. The person I’m listening to is made in God’s image. If we remember that, we don’t have to agree with them to be a person who listens well. Don’t come in with a preconceived opinion because of their religious or political view or life-style choice or skin color or whatever it is that makes you different from them. The moment we label, we limit. 

Understand the Sacredness of Holding That Space. The person sitting opposite me is always somewhat of a mystery. For her to share her story, her thoughts, her ideas is a chance to realize what an honor it is to be there, sitting with her in it. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

By the end of our peach jamming day, we were both exhausted in the best way. We each had a drink of choice and were discussing how hateful the world can be today with everyone chiming in with their opinions. When my man said…

You know what the world needs? 

What?

More people drinking a glass of wine and singing some Earth, Wind and Fire…even if they get the lyrics wrong sometimes. We need more people singing. 

I agree. 

So. How many did you get right? Here are the answers to the lyric bloopers from above. 

  1. Dancing Queen by Abba is not feeling the beat of the tangerine but rather the tambourine! 
  2. Losing My Religion by REM. It’s terrible advice to pee in the corner or in the spotlight. Singer Michael Stripe is telling us, that’s me in the corner. (Don’t pee on him either.) 
  3. We Will Rock You by Queen is kicking your can all over the place. No cats were harmed in the making of this song. 
  4. Blowin’ in the Wind by Bob Dylan is not friends with ants but what is blowin’ in the wind are these answers my friend. 
  5. Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi. The fictional couple Tommy and Gina remain fully clothed for all we know but weren’t sure if they remained a couple because it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not. 
  6. Rock the Casbah by the Clash. A Casbah is a North African castle or fortress. But if you’re cleaning out the litter box, you can rock the cat box too 
  7. Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Spotify named this Bruce Springsteen cover as the most misquoted song lyric with over half of listeners getting the words wrong. He is singing, Revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.
  8. I’m a Believer by the Monkees. Her face was fine and made him a believer. No hearts were broken! 

kw

Holy Canning

In the house where I spent most of my growing up years, we had a finished-by-my-Grandpa basement. It had a kitchen, complete with cupboards, a deep freeze, table and chairs and an electric stove where my Granny would do all the canning. It was certainly cooler to work down there and this little girl thought we were rich because we had, not one but TWO kitchens!

Every year, when the green beans were gathered, snapped and washed, she would head to the basement, round up her jars, fill them with said beans, add a tsp of salt, pour hot water over the top with one inch of headspace, place the lid on top and screw the ring on.

All the while, the pressure cooker was on the stove heating the water in preparation for the jars to be put in. Once the jars are in, the lid is locked down and you wait for the steam to come through the vent. After 10 minutes of that, you place the “weight” on and wait for the pressure to build up to 10 pounds.

How can you tell the pressure has built up to 10 pounds? The weight starts to jiggle. It’s a beautiful sound to a gardener and canner of vegetables. But every time the jiggle started my Granny would say to me, run and get your Grandpa. I don’t want to blow up the kitchen he worked so hard on. 

With the weight of the basement blowing up resting solely on my shoulders, I would run up those basement stairs as fast as my little legs could go in search of my Grandpa. I thought for sure if I took too long to find him, that part of the house would be blown to smithereens. A hole in the house, and surely in my heart as my Granny was down there waiting for me to bring in the back-up, was all I could envision. 

Fast forward four plus decades and here I am, gathering my own green beans, snapping, washing, rounding up and filling jars, adding salt and hot water to one inch headspace, placing the lid, screwing on the ring and putting prepared jars into my own pressure cooker. 

The first couple of times I used that thing, I was so nervous that I always made sure Todd was there so I wouldn’t blow up  (my own)kitchen. Now, I’m comfortable enough to go at it alone and even though I know I won’t blow the kitchen up, I am respectful of the power inside that pressure cooker and the potential harm that can come if I get too complacent and think I don’t need to respect the instructions given in the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving. 

Comfortable yes. Careless no. Respectful yes. Flippant no.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Uzziah was made king when he was just 16 years old and remained on the throne for fifty-two years. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just like his father Amaziah

He waged successful wars against the Philistines. 

His enemies, the Ammonites paid him tribute. 

His fame spread throughout the land. 

His power was unequaled with armies and equipment at his command. 

His wealth unmatched with cattle, fertile land, vineyards, servants.

He was wondrously helped until he became, as my Granny would say, too big for his own britches. 

For when he became strong, he grew arrogant, and it led to his own destruction. (2Chronicles 26:16 CSB)

We see proof of this in this same chapter when his pride puffed up to the point of believing he was above God’s law. He wanted to go into the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense on the altar. 

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? 

The problem is that wasn’t his job. Only the consecrated priests, the descendants of Aaron, have the right to offer incense.  They begged him to leave the sanctuary, for you have acted unfaithfully! You will not receive honor from the Lord God. (v18) 

Did he listen to the eighty priests who bravely stood up to him and tried to stop him from defiling the Lord? Nope. He became enraged with them. When he became so angry, the God who gave him success (v5) and helped him (v7) and made him powerful (v8) was also the God who cursed him with a skin disease which banned him from any access to the temple. He was quarantined until the day he died. (v19-21)

Uzziah didn’t listen to sound advice, didn’t follow the Good Book’s guide to preserving your life and his kitchen blew up! 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

How do you go from doing what is right in God’s eyes, being successful, powerful and well liked, to being banned from the temple with the epithet He had a skin disease, as the last (only?) thing people remembered about you? What did Uzziah do to blow up his kitchen? 

1. He became too comfortable in his position. Fifty-two years he sat on that throne as king. The longer we do something, the easier it is to become lax and take for granted our own position in life. We can forget that power, blessing, peace, fruitfulness, fame, fertility comes from God. I wonder if Uzziah thought he sat side-by-side with God, matching chairs and all and forgot for a moment that it is God alone who sits on the throne and is all-powerful, all-seeing and all-knowing. 

I never want to become so comfortable in my position in life or as God’s daughter that I forget who He is…holy and sovereign…or what he’s done for me already…given His Son to die on a cross for my sins. Can I go to Him with anything? Absolutely! Do I need to remember who I’m talking to? Yes. Yes I do. 

Just like with the pressure cooker, I want to be comfortable enough to know how to use it to make good things but respectful of the power within. 

2. He became full of himself. All that Uzziah was, his successes and fame, came from God. What should have humbled him produced pride instead. He convinced himself that he deserved more. That he had every right to be a priest as well as a king. 

I can sure convince myself of my own good works, can’t I? Look at me and all that I’ve accomplished. Here, let me do your job too because I’m that good. All the while forgetting that I have an assignment and ultimately God is in control. 

Who do you think Paul is, anyway? Or Apollos, for that matter? Servants, both of us—servants who waited on you as you gradually learned to entrust your lives to our mutual Master. We each carried out our servant assignment. I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes all things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You just happen to be God’s field in which we are working. (1Corinthians 3:6 MSG) 

I think about this verse often when I’m out watering the garden and thank Him for growing it…and me. 

3. He stopped listening to wise advice. This happens when we get full of ourselves. The priest Azariah as well as eighty other priests were telling Uzziah, warning Uzziah, begging Uzziah to not do the thing Uzziah arrogantly thought he had every right to do. 

81 priests saying the same thing, surely can’t be wrong. 

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10) 

What would happen if I (arrogantly) thought I knew more than the people who wrote the Ball Blue Book: Guide to Preserving  simply because I had a couple of successful batches of green beans. These folks have been an unrivaled guide to home canning for more than 100 years

Surely, I would blow up my kitchen! 

What do I do when others give me wise advice? Warnings? How do I react towards them?

What do I do when I read the Bible…the wisest words of all because they are the very words of God? Do I think I know better? Or do I heed its warnings? Do I do as it says? Listen to what it’s telling me? 

Not always. Sometimes my life blows up because of it.

4. He stopped revering God. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Have we also stopped revering God? Has He become more like a “Bro” and less holy in our eyes? Have we scooted His throne over to seat ourselves beside Him…like equals? 

The Bible tells us to approach the throne of grace with confidence. (Hebrews 4:16 NIV) Approach. Not rearrange for our own to be brought in. 

Solomon says, don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:7 CSB) Fear. Revere. 

I’ve heard fear of the Lord is also the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10 NIV) 

Have we stopped fearing, revering? 

In his book The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul says, 

When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. Our strength is futile in itself; we are spiritually impotent without the assistance of a merciful God. 

Yes, and amen. 

What happened to Uzziah can(does) happen to any(all) of us if we’re not careful. 

As in my experience with the canner, I try to be with God:

Comfortable yes. Careless no. Respectful yes. Flippant no.

All of this from an afternoon spent picking, snapping and canning green beans. 

kw

It’s Been the Longest Two Weeks Ever!

A prayer shawl gifted, my FIL’s walking stick and eggs from my chickens.

One year ago today I wrote in my journal: 

03/12/20 Thursday: COVID 19 is causing quite a stir. Quarantine Day 1. 

I stopped counting in my journal on “Q Day 65”. It was supposed to take two weeks to help flatten the curve and here we are, 365 days later, still figuring things out. What does one call this day? It certainly isn’t Happy Anniversary. Unhappy AnniversaryA Year to Remember or maybe Forget? 

We’ve all had plenty of time to be with ourselves, by ourselves, learning about ourselves. What did you gain? What did you lose? What did you like? What did you not? What have you changed? What has stayed the same? What did you miss? What didn’t you miss? What have you discovered about yourself? Your people? Others? Church? God? What did you learn you could do even when you didn’t think you could? 

There’s no way to answer all these questions in one 1,000-word post. I’m still perusing them in my head, as well as others. (My mind is in need of some garden therapy, truth be told. Soon, dear heart. Soon.) 

There is something God began teaching me a couple years ago that perhaps I didn’t appreciate until these past 12 months and that is the art of finding sacred in the simple, of learning to lean into the ordinariness of every day and being grateful for hallowed simplicity. 

The smell of fresh bread baking. 

The way the light shines across the wood floor in late afternoon. 

The first tiny green bean. 

Eating a tomato fresh off the vine. 

The ticking of the grandfather clock. 

The daffodils breaking through the cold ground of winter. 

Gathering eggs each day. 

Homemade pizza. 

A lit candle.

I could go on, but you get the picture. 

This past year has me longing for more as well. More prayer and less scared. More tradition and less thrill. More depth of teaching and less fluff. More cathedral and less concert. More being and less doing. More transformation and less information. More faith that is unshakable and less excuses that I am unable. 

I wonder if, in my pre-covid days, I missed opportunities to serve, to be, to learn, to experience, to trust because I was looking past the simple in search of something with grandeur, something greater, a bigger stage, a wider audience? I wonder if I missed the sacred moments with God because I was making it too difficult to see what seemed like the unimportant thing? 

* * * * * * * * * *

In Exodus chapter three we find Moses doing a very routine thing on an ordinary day tending to the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro. He sees a burning bush that doesn’t get burnt up. He gets to experience the Lord out there in the middle of nowhere like no one has ever experienced him. 

The Lord has a conversation with Moses about his people, Moses’ lineage and God’s chosen ones. God sees their misery under the heavy hand of Pharaoh and wants Moses to go to Pharaoh and free the people. Moses gives God all manner of excuses: Who am I to do such a thing? What if they ask me who it is that is sending me? What if they don’t believe me. 

God has a response to every objection and the assurance of his presence. Moses still isn’t convinced. Then the Lord asks Moses this simple question: What is that in your hand? To which Moses replies, My staff. 

My staff. 

Something so familiar. Something Moses has used every single day while taking care of Jethro’s sheep. Something that is simply an extension of him after such a long period of time working in the wilderness. 

I love this. I love that God would squelch some fears with something familiar. Moses would soon become a shepherd of people and tend to them on a journey into the unknown with something known, into the uncomfortable with something comforting. 

I imagine when he grabbed hold of his staff there was familiar groove that fit his hand perfectly, reminding him that God could take this simple thing to free his people. God could take that which was in the hand of Moses and use it for his glory. 

* * * * * * * * * *

God uses the simple, the familiar to do spectacular things. I realized this past year that I’ve made serving God too complicated. I’m like Moses in many ways. When God asks me to do something that seems too hard or I make too hard, that I feel unable or inadequate to do and I just want him to leave me to tend to my things, I can hear him ask me, What is that in your hand? 

I’ve often discounted the simple things as serving. That somehow serving has to be done at church, through an organization, with much fanfare, pomp and circumstance. But in reality, God can use the ordinary to do the extraordinary when we answer his question. 

What is that in your hand? 

For me, I’m learning, it can be as simple as giving the fruits of my labor from the garden to someone as a gift because they love homegrown things. I can give a dozen of the most gorgeous blue and brown eggs as a gift. Better yet, I can bake brownies for someone using my Granny’s recipe with my fresh eggs. Or it can be giving someone something they need from out of our abundance. 

I’m learning to see the words I write as a gift given to me so that I can use them to encourage, empower and enlighten. 

I’m learning that listening to someone’s story is as holy a ground as Moses walked, a sacred space, not to be taken lightly. 

It would be easy to overlook that which has become so familiar as something God can use in service to him. But isn’t it like him when we bring our excuses to ask us the same question he asked of Moses? 

What is that in your hand? Let me show you how I can use it to free people, shepherd people, love people, direct people, feed people, stretch people, give people a drink of cold water, make a way for people. 

How would you answer that question? How could God use what you hold?

This past year was challenging. We didn’t have a choice but to sit with it and in it and endure it. And we DID! 

What has this past year of only two weeks taught you? 

kw

Other posts that might be of interest:

2020 In Retrospect

25 Bible Verses to Abide in During Anxious Times

When Life Throws You Zingers

Learning to Do New Things

Everyone meet this handsome guy, a Bar Plymouth Rock who we’ve named Rocky the Rooster. He’s the defender of the flock, the strutter of his stuff and hero to the hens. He’s our wake-up call as he sounds the alarm and his crow pierces through the fog of dawn and early morning sleep.

But it wasn’t always that way. 

When he was first learning to crow, we walked by the coop and thought we heard him trying but after listening more closely…nothing. Then one day as we were milling around outside, we heard what sounded like a teenage boy learning to use his man voice, but have it crack and go all kinds of high at the worst possible time. We giggled, knowing that a full-on cocky crow would soon be heard. 

Sure enough, after several weeks of honing his voice and warming the pipes, his cock-a-doodle-doo sounded like the professional rooster he has come to be. He crows in the morning. He crows when we feed them. (Which we like to think he’s saying, thank-you-for-my-food.) He crows when the sun is shining. And when it’s not. He’s proud of his performance. 

As he should be or at least as much as a rooster can be. 

* * * * * * * * * * *

I love to learn how to do new things, but I also want to be good at what I learn straightaway. It’s a conundrum really; this love of learning but knowing I won’t be good at it until I put the time and practice in. A lot of it. There needs to be space and grace for trial and error. 

Life is a classroom for learning new things. A cycle of seasons when sometimes it’s sunny and we’re acing every test and sometimes it’s a blizzard and we can’t see two feet in front of us. What was this teacher trying to teach us? 

Take parenting for example. When we had our first baby at the mature age of 18, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. But we learned…quickly…what each cry meant, how to feed him, change him, bathe him and care for him. And all survived! Shew…

But then we became parents of a toddler, then a school age kid, then a junior high kid, then a high schooler, then a college kid, then a young adult, then a married adult, then a married adult with children of their own. 

We had to learn new things during each new season. Each new season felt like having to learn how to crow all over again…feeling a little garbled early on then figuring out the how to’s and what not’s and doing the thing….even imperfectly.

Take gardening as another example. In our first house I planted geraniums at the base of a big shade tree in our backyard…in mulch. My father-in-law explained the difference between sun loving and shade loving plants as well as mulch not being a good source of nutrients like rich soil. Oh, and you must water them…not just wait for rain…who knew? 

Life is a classroom.  

Last summer I grew enough food that we are still enjoying right now because I was able to can and freeze the harvest. But you know what? I’m still learning. Still experimenting. Still understanding different soils and ph levels and varieties of plants. It’s an ongoing experience of experiments. 

I’m growing a garden but I’m also growing as a gardener. Were there things I failed at? Yes. The cucumbers did terribly. Were there things I tried just to see what happened? Yes. Some worked. Some didn’t. I learned and will try again this year. 

Life isn’t pass/fail. It’s an adventure of living a life of loving to learn. It’s learning how to sharpen our skills knowing it takes missteps and mistakes to become mature enough to crow about your new-found know-how. Besides, are failures really failures if you’ve learned valuable lessons along the way? 

Take heart dear reader as will I, let’s not be too hard on ourselves as we venture out to learn new things. Let’s cheer each other on as we practice and sound like a teenage rooster learning to crow. Let’s clap loud for each other when we’re able to wake the world with our cock-a-doodle-do’s. Let’s let life be an adventure of learning new things! 

kw

Right Motive, Wrong Season

It was an unusually sunny November day, and I was cleaning out the garden boxes and tidying up some areas when I noticed this strawberry plant blooming. Because of the season I was in personally my immediate thoughts were Girlfriend (because who doesn’t talk to their plants in the garden?) what are you doing blooming this time of year? Can’t you see your buddy right there beside you with frostbite? 

I see you little strawberry flower. While I appreciate your effort, this is not the season for you. Winter is coming. 

Have you ever asked yourself, what was I thinking?  Or perhaps you got in the thick of it and simply knew this was the wrong time to be doing what you’re trying to do. You have the right motive but it’s the wrong season. 

That’s where I found myself that day, in the middle of the garden, talking to a strawberry plant.

Because God uses the simplicity of nature to teach us deeper lessons, here’s some he taught me during that season.  

Open Doors and Warning Signs

I don’t have to nor should I walk through every door opened for me or say yes to every opportunity presented. I had waited for a long time for this gate to swing wide and because of that, I ignored the warning signs, the quickening in my Spirit, and forged ahead with a Finally! attitude. 

I was like that strawberry bloom who trusted the rare sunshine on a November day but ignored the freeze warnings from the rest of the month. Ignored the dead leaves and fellow strawberry turned brown from cold temps. 

Surely, I can bear fruit in the off season, in a toxic environment, with all these warnings. It’s what I thought I was meant to do…even though winter was coming. 

Plans fail with no counsel, but with many counselors they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22CEB)

I didn’t seek wise counsel. 

Maybe it was because I was so sure this open door of opportunity was right for me because I wanted it for so long that I (arrogantly) didn’t feel I needed to ask anyone about it. 

Or maybe it was because I knew they would point out the freeze warnings and tell me to shut the door. Was this something I had put on such a pedestal, blizzard be damned, I’m moving forward? Be careful what you idolize. 

Seek counsel from someone who needs nothing from you but wants the best for you. Be thankful for open doors of opportunities but don’t ignore the warning signs or the wisdom of another. 

Waiting is Frustrating

And tiring. And discouraging. Anybody? 

You’ve prayed and waited. You’ve encouraged others and waited. You’ve watched others move forward and waited. You feel the weight of the wait and don’t know how much longer you can manage the load of it all. 

Sarah got tired of waiting and moved ahead of God. After decades of waiting for a child of her own, who can blame her really, what a mess it all became! She told her husband to sleep with her maid so her maid could get pregnant because God told them she, Sarah, would have a child so maybe this was the way because God certainly wasn’t doing anything….not fast anyhow. 

Esther understood the importance of waiting. After seeking wise counsel from her cousin Modecai, she fasted and prayed (now there’s a concept Kim) and devised a plan. She carried out said plan with patience and trusted the timing. As a result, God’s chosen people and Esther’s lineage was saved from decimation. 

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. (Psalms 37:7 NLT) 

Whenever I want to help God out, stop praying and start doing or get tired of waiting, it’s because I want to control the situation, I want to call the shots, send in the signals for the next play and control the clock. Instead, I need to be still. With the Lord. And not just wait but wait patiently. Sigh. 

Trust God

I can trust God because he is trustworthy. He is for me (and you) like no one else is. He has a view of my situation (and yours) from an angle we never will. He is all knowing, all powerful, ever present. He is a Father who loves me (and you) like no one is able to love us. He wants what’s best for us and we can trust him to open doors we are to walk through and warn us of open doors we are to shut. We need only pay attention. 

We can trust: 

God’s plan for us. He has one. And it’s good because he is good!

God’s timing for us. There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1NIV) 

God’s ability to do what he says he will do. With his plan, not ours. In his time, not ours. 

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:3NIV)

It took a strawberry bloom to show me that even though my motive was right, the season was wrong. She taught me to trust the warning signs and not just the whims of a sunny day. She taught me that though she got frost bit, she’s still meant to bloom. In the right season, she will bear fruit. 

kw

Squeezed Out of Our Comfort Zones (a lesson on Growth)

We’d found the perfect spot. Out back, behind the chicken coop, a field of Golden Rod and blues skies in front of us with drifts of honeysuckle sweetness floating in from behind. The hot summer day felt several degrees cooler sitting under those trees as we settled in to sip iced tea and read. 

I thought I’d head out there every day, if only for a half hour of solace and solitude. We were four months into this pandemic business with no end in sight and as much as I love my family, I need my alone time. 

Except I’d discovered I wasn’t alone. 

I went around a different way to our newly discovered thoughtful spot only to discover this guy (or girl) had left its skin behind. 

I turned right back around and headed indoors knowing there was no way I could concentrate on trying to read with no knowledge of its whereabouts. And forget closing my eyes for any type of meditation or soaking up of the sun! 

A couple weeks later, my man was shoring up the chicken coop, giving it a chic chick makeover, when he came bounding out as fast as he could scurry. Not much gives me the heebie-jeebies but I found out who wore that skin….

A couple of months later, I read this thought from Margaret Guenther’s book Holy Listening: One of the treasures in my study is the intact skin of a Virginia black snake, shed as part of the process of growth. To grow, indeed, to survive, that snake had to leave behind a part of itself. I have no idea whether the shedding was painful or a relief, but my imagination tells me that it was some of each. 

While I have no desire whatsoever to put that snakeskin in my study, we can learn a lot from this authors observance. And yes, I looked up how and why a snake sheds its skin. 

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1. A snake sheds its skin by rubbing up against a rock, tree or other hard surface. It cannot get rid of the old without some friction to help it along. 

We, too, must shed skins and identities by persevering through the painful parts and pieces of life. Paul tells us it’s this suffering that produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.  (Romans 5:3-5a NIV)

James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:1-4 NIV)

I really wish it didn’t take trials of many kinds to help us grow but when I look back on my growth spurts, spiritually and personally speaking, it was because of walking through some hard things.

No friction. No character development. 

No character development. No learning perseverance. 

No perseverance. No faith maturation. 

No maturing faith. No hope. 

No hope. Well…you feel hopeless. 

There is purpose behind the pain of growing.

2. A snake shedding its skin allows for new and further growth. 

We are not the same people on the other side of a hard season. We are wiser, more aware, more compassionate towards others who are going through something similar and even towards those who aren’t because they simply cannot know what they’ve not experienced. 

Those who never go through some tough stuff, stay stuck in their skin-tight selves and never get to experience the joy, heartache, laughter and tears of helping someone who’s transitioning through a hard space. It gives us the maturity and understanding to be able to help others. It gives us a purpose for having suffered ourselves.

All praise to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)

3. A snake shedding its skin allows for the removal of parasites. 

Ewww…am I right? While we may not have actual parasites, (anyone’s head itching yet?) we do have things we need to remove or let go of because we have simply outgrown them. With the help of some friends, here is a list of just a few possible parasites:  

Relationships                                              Pretending

Habits                                                           Nick-nacks                                                   

Positions                                                      Clutter

Jobs                                                               Having to be perfect

My jeans since COVID 😉                          Saying you’re okay and you’re not               

Guilt trips                                                    Expectations of others

Previous hurts Old routines

Ideals of other people’s roles in our lives

What are some of yours?

4. The snake leaves behind a piece of its old self in order to grow/survive. 

This one is especially bittersweet since there is often nothing wrong with the old self or shed skin; it’s simply not useful to us anymore. I jest about my jeans as something I’ve outgrown (if you’ve never laid down on your bed to zip your jeans, I’m afraid we cannot be friends), but how many of us have clothes in our closets that we keep for someday when…? Those clothes we’ve outgrown? They simply do not fit anymore. 

Spiritually speaking, we hold on to our “parasites” because they are comfortable, familiar and safe. Unfortunately, that very same holding on to stunts our growth and stifles the Spirit. 

Matthew says it this way: Who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and running the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16-17NLT)

5. Is the shedding of a snake’s skin painful or a relief? 

I love that Margaret asks this question, to which she answers probably a bit of both. Growth feels like you’re being squeezed out of your own skin. There is pain in the process of the pressing, but the purpose of the process is a promise of perfected faith and perseverance. 

It’s both painful (the process) and a relief (the promise). 

Like the bittersweetness of letting go of an old sweater with its memories and familiarity is to accept growth and change in ourselves as a kind of departure, a leaving behind of the safe and known. It’s both painful to let go and a relief to move forward. Even more painful is trying to shrink yourself down to fit what you once were. I don’t want to be who I was ten, five or one year ago. I want to be a new and improved person, having shed the skin of that which keeps me from being completely me.

If God can use the skin of a snake to teach me such things, what can he do with you and your story? God will use that squeezing, those scars, that pressing down, those questions and desperate prayers for a purpose you can only imagine in your wildest dreams! 

kw

PS I will not be putting a snakes skin in my office…even so. 

You might also enjoy reading:

A Parable of the Peony

Into the Wilderness

How to Rest in the Unrest

Weary.

That’s the overarching message I’ve heard from the many conversations I’ve had with people this month alone. It’s not from one thing but layers of lots of things: covid fatigue, polarizing politics, racial issues and riots are the big dogs but underneath are these puppies: job change or loss, grief, health issues, marriage issues, kid issues, family issues, yearning for normalcy, missing people, working from home while helping your kids learn virtually, the wondering of when or if things will get better. The list goes on and on. 

All wearying. 

How do we do it? How do we fill our buckets in such a life draining world?  How do we find rest in all this unrest? 

Disconnect.

From social media. News outlets. Screens. Phones. Scrolling. Even if it’s for a day, an evening or an hour. Stop scrolling through. Stop getting ticked off at people’s opinions. Stop checking your phone every few minutes. 

We don’t have to or need to be available around the clock.  We don’t have to or need to fill our minds with a constant barrage of bad news, I-know-better-than-you, you-have-no-clue recordings on repeat. We don’t have to have an opinion on every post or a comment on someone else’s quandary. 

The more we are wired to what wires us out, the more wired we become. Unplug from it all. The world will keep spinning…I promise.

Reconnect.

With God…develop some spiritual practices that fill your bucket. Meditate, pray, be still, listen, read a verse or two…don’t make it another thing to check off but instead something that fills you up. 

With nature…walk outside, feel the sunshine on your face, breathe in the crisp air, walk in the grass barefoot, get your hands in the dirt, listen to the birds, be a noticer of new growth, smell the leaves. 

With friends…yes, I know it’s hard right now, but I had the most wonderful time catching up with a friend even though it was virtually. My sister and I actually called each other and talked on the phone…remember those days? It was great catching up and hearing her lol…not just read it on a text! 

Mind Your Mind.

Think about what you’re thinking about. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking…especially these days…and forget our hope is not in those things that are around us but in Who is looking over us. 

What are you allowing in…please reread “disconnect.”

Mind Your Time.

We all need margin in our schedules for rest. In his book Weird, Craig Groeschel says, “One of the foundational lies we’ve absorbed about the value of busyness is that it indicates our spiritual worth.” He goes on to say, “We must discern what God calls us to accomplish rather than mindlessly adding on everything presented to us.” 

He challenges the reader to keep “an or in the water to keep our boat from sinking.” As in, stop doing this AND that but rather do this OR that. I’ve had to make a choice between some really good things that would have ALL been great fun to do but would have put me on the fast road to burn out. 

One positive about the pandemic shutting us down last year was that it cleared our plates of so many things that we now have control to put back on…or not. We get to choose. We are foolish to think we can keep going 100MPH with no margin to rest and never hit a wall. 

Permit yourself a nap with no guilt. Look through a magazine. Allow yourself time to do nothing at all and enjoy it!

Be Present in the Present.

Anybody else worry about what was? Anybody else worrying about what could be? I get it. But when we do that, we miss the here and now, the person right before us, opportunities to reach out and touch those in our present presence. 

When we are always mentally elsewhere, we miss moments that can never be given back. We miss time with our family and friends, sharing the lives we are living right now. It takes practice and purposefully positioning ourselves in the present. 

Be Present in His Presence.

I’ve been trying to practice this more and more these days. Being still. Paying attention. Listening. Not making my time with the Lord just something I do to check off my list and feel accomplished….like a good Jesus girl “should do.” But rather experiencing His presence throughout the day in the way the light shines in my office in the morning or a text comes through from a friend at just the right moment or watching as someone has an aha moment because of something you said. 

All God things that I would miss if I’m not practicing being in His presence. He’s right there…wanting you to notice that He’s with you wherever you are. 

Practice Gratitude.

It sounds corny but if you’re brave enough to try something so simple in this complex world, you’ll see it makes a difference. Gratitude gives you eyes to see our surroundings through a different lense and a heart to see others in a different light. 

“No amount of regret changes the past. No amount of anxiety changes the future. Any amount of gratitude changes the present.” (Ann Voskamp)

Practice Grace.

Grace defined: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion or action. A pleasing or attractive quality. Favor or goodwill.

Synonyms for Grace: decency, decorum, finesse, poise.

To the Mom trying to spin so many plates…practice Grace. 

To the Dad trying to work from home with a toddler in your lap…practice Grace.

To the married couples who are suddenly with each other 24/7…practice Grace. 

To the congregants learning to worship online while your church staff is trying to figure out how to be online…practice Grace. 

To the people who are of opposing views…practice Grace. 

To those who are experiencing covid fatigue…practice Grace. 

Man do we need everyone on the team uniformed up and ready to give it their all with this one. Not just to each other but also to ourselves. 

Breathe.

No seriously. Deep breathing (in for 4 counts, out for 4 counts) calms your nerves, reduces stress and anxiety, improves your attention span and decreases pain. It also makes you slow down and concentrate. 

I had my ladies in Bible study do this at the very beginning of each time we were together. It allowed them to “switch hats” and be present in the moments we were with each other. 

I have my clients for spiritual direction do this at the beginning of each session to clear their minds and allow themselves to slow down. One client said, “Wow! I didn’t realize how long it had been since I too some deep cleansing breaths. That was refreshing!” 

We’ve been holding our breaths in anticipation for many things over this past year. So, yes, breathe! In…1, 2, 3, 4. Out…1, 2, 3, 4. And again. 

How do you rest in the unrest? What are some practices you do to fill your empty bucket? 

kw

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy:

When Life Hijacks Your Joy

3 Things You Can Do When Life Keeps Happening

A Prayer for the Worn Out and Overwhelmed

Ten Things I Learned During My Social Media Sabbatical

A Vineyard in the Ohio Amish country.

There’s a scene in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty movie that finds the main character, Walter, who works for Life Magazine, on an adventure to find nature and wildlife photographer, Sean O’Conner, after one of the negatives Sean had sent in for an upcoming edition went missing.  

Walter finds Sean high atop a mountain in search of a snow leopard. They are side by side sitting behind a camera with a lens that could count the spots and whiskers of said cat. Sean is looking through the lens when he pokes Walter to look too. There she is, the most beautiful and rare of all snow leopards. Sean looks back through the lens then sits there in silence. 

When are you going to take the shot? (Walter asks) 

Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment…I mean me, personally…I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it. 

Stay in it. (whispers Walter)

Yeah. Right there. Right here.

Yeah. Right here. 

How many moments meant just for me have I missed because I was looking to shoot a shot for everyone else? 

How many moments have I missed because I was busy bustling to the next beat instead of being right here

Whoa. Let those questions sink in a minute as you ask yourself the same thing. 

I realized a lot over the past month of taking a break from all things social media….

  1. Social Media is neither good nor bad but is simply what you make of it.
  2. It’s about Balance and Boundaries
  3. There’s always another idol waiting in the wings to take the current one’s place if you’re not careful. It’s about my behavior not the device/platform itself. 
  4. There is a feeling of freedom when not chained to checking your device for likes, hearts, stars, atta girls, comments and shares. My identity and worth are not wrapped around anyone else’s thoughts about me.  It’s easy to get caught in that trap! 
  5. Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect.
  6. Front porch swing conversations > ensuing a “comment” conversation.
  7. I don’t need to be accessible 24/7.
  8. I don’t need to answer every text, email, Marco or call at the exact moment it comes in. In fact, often times it’s better not to but instead, think about what my reply should be. 
  9. There’s no need to subject myself to everyone’s “expert” opinions all the time on everything from politics to mask wearing to corona virus cures to who’s the biggest idiot to who’s bad, who’s not…it’s exhausting to watch so why do I scroll…it’s like watching a wreck…you almost can’t not look. 
  10. There’s no need to get caught in the hustle and rush that keeps me ramped up. Hurry leads to worry and there’s no need for that. 

Bonus: 

11. It is possible to go from FOMO to JOMO. From the Fear of Missing Out to the Joy of Missing Out. 

This is a quick jot down of what I’ve learned. I’m still thinking through it…processing the pieces; seeing the affects and reading about the reason why we need rest from it all.  I do know that the break was much needed for my mind, heart and soul. I feel much more at peace and filled up. I guess you don’t realize how much social media has the ability to drain the energy from you (if you let it) until you walk away for a few weeks. 

I was worried that I wouldn’t know what was going on with everyone so I wouldn’t know what to write about. Afterall, I live a pretty ordinary life. But instead, in the stillness, I got to hear a Voice speaking loud and clear. He knows better than I the message that needs to be written; lessons that need to be learned. Staying connected to the Vine is much more important than staying connected through social media. (#12?). There’s so much more to share. 

Stay tuned. 

kw

Simple Garden Theology

I sang about it before I’d really had a chance to truly understand it. I really just wanted to hit my part of the four-part harmony. It was an old hymn from 1912, written by a pharmacist in his New Jersey windowless, damp basement, no garden in sight. C. Austin Miles must have known the garden was nothing new to God. It was a place to walk and talk with Him, to tarry and listen to the sound of His voice. A voice so sweet that even the birds stop singing. (Read about Mr. Miles and get the full lyrics of “In the Garden” here.

God and gardens go way back. In fact, He was the pioneer planter of the very first one. (Genesis 2:8) It was a beautiful place with all kinds of trees growing out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. (Genesis 2:9Rivers ran through it. Lush and plush with green goodness all around. It was a slice of heaven here on earth. 

Until a slice of “apple” was more pleasing to the eye than the rest of the entire garden. Eden taught us all about the importance of listening to God’s boundaries and the consequence thereof. It taught us the wiliness of the enemy and the ease in which we can get caught in the did God really say scenario of that serpent of old. (Genesis 3)

Vineyards, grape gardens, were commonplace in Jerusalem. In John 15, the disciple recorded Jesus’ teaching about the importance of staying connected to the True Vine in order to be fruitful. Words like abide and love, obedience and joy are found in this garden. Pruning, while seemingly harsh, is necessary for new growth and even better fruit, assuring us there is a sweetness to the process of pruning. 

Groves of olive gardens are found in scripture with life lessons growing in each. Gethsemane is one such garden. It is a place that, in Hebrew, means oil press, i.e. a place for squeezing the oil from the olives. It is here that Jesus prayed so hard that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44) While Jesus was leaning into His Father because of pressing matters at hand, the disciples were pressing into their pillows having fallen fast asleep. It was in this garden Jesus warns them to stay alert, to watch and pray so they aren’t tempted.  

God in the garden is nothing new. Garden theology 101 is still taught by the Gardener Himself…if we choose to pay attention. Take for instance…

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Weeds

You can be in the thick of them quickly if you aren’t careful.

I take a bucket out to the garden with me each morning and fill it with weeds in the hopes of keeping on top of them. They multiply to the Nth degree. Or so it seems. If I’ve missed a few days, the weeds take over the rows where we walk as well as around the actual plants themselves. 

Sometimes it takes the drastic measures of the rototiller to root out the masses. While that “gets ‘er done” on a large scale and is necessary sometimes, it’s the gentler approach, on your knees, carefully removing those that are closest to the plant that takes determination and patience. 

Jesus had something to say about weeds when He was telling the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. He explained to the disciples that the seed sown among the weeds represents the person who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart and his ambition for wealth result in suffocating the kingdom message and prevent him from bearing spiritual fruit. (v22TPT bold is mine)

Who reading this hasn’t felt suffocated by one of these? Before you know it, you’re knee deep and can’t even see the Seed that helps you grow. Start tilling in some confession, repentance, obedience to get the soil of your heart back in shape and weed free. Get on your knees and pluck gently around the more tender parts and places, listening for the sound of the Gardener’s voice that is so sweet the birds stop singing to listen. 

Water

It’s essential to a garden if you want your plants to live (duh) otherwise the plants shrivel up and die. Lately, here in the Midwest the weather has been extra hot which means morning and evening watering. 

I go out each morning and give a thorough soaking and even then, in this heat, by evening things are looking droopy and in need of an extra drink. 

Jesus had something to say to people dying (rather they knew it or not) for a drink of water. 

His first encounter is found in John 4 and is with a woman who goes to a well for water and sees Jesus sitting, waiting, as if for her. Little did she know she was about to meet a Man like no other man and boy had she met plenty of them. 

He asks her for a drink. She’s confused because He, a Jew, is supposed to hate her, a Samaritan and a woman, and yet here He is asking her for a drink. She tells Him this to which He replies, If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink and I would give you fresh, living water. (John 4:10MSG)

Again, she’s confused because Jesus doesn’t have a dipper or bucket or anything to draw water from the well, so she asks Him about it and lets Him know that she knows of spiritual things so don’t pull a fast one on her Jesus! 

Jesus then tells her, Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. (my droopy plants can testify here) Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. (John 4:13-14MSG)

Life can often feel like a trial by fire with one thing after another coming at you. Douse yourself in Living Water morning, noon and night when it feels extra hot. 

Experiments

Every year we do some experiments in the garden. This year I grew okra for the first time which blooms these gorgeous blooms before the fruit sets on! Who knew?

I also grew my tomatoes and jalapenos from seeds. It took time and patience to baby first the seeds then the seedlings then the bigger plants that could go outside under a covered area then to the actual big plant being put in the garden, in real soil. Lots of care. Lots of learning. Lots of YouTubing “how to” videos from some fellow hippies who are much wiser than I when it comes to gardening. 

Everything is doing beautifully! I would never have known just how I could grow things if I hadn’t ventured out and taken a risk. 

Sometimes we have to trust the Lord and venture onto a new path He has set before us. In Isaiah God says, Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19NIV)

I don’t want to think about past experiments that failed, making me afraid to try again. I want to see what new thing God has for me! Springs in the desert and streams in the wasteland? Yes please! 

Maybe you’re stuck in a perpetual rut. Will you try a new thing? Who knows what flower will bloom if you do! 

Pests/Suckers/Nemesis

I walked out back a few days ago and watched a squirrel jump off the bird feeder, a chipmunk jump out of the oregano and a bunny be very, very still by the chamomile. Apparently, the JackRabbit family was in need of a soothing cuppa before bed. 

A little stroll further out into the garden and I notice the zucchini leaves turning yellow, a sure sign of the squash bug. A giant maggot looking beastly thing that worms its way into the base of the stems, hollowing them out so they can’t get the nutrients or water the plant needs to survive. A half-eaten strawberry lies just outside the box, a sure sign of the dastardly chipmunk. Doesn’t he know you don’t season strawberries with oregano? Maybe that’s why he only ate half. 

The tomatoes grow all manner of shoots off the main stem. If you don’t pinch off some of these, you’ll have lots of green leaves but very little actual tomatoes because all the nutrients and water goes to keeping those little suckers alive and well. Anybody have the life sucked out them from time to time? Pinch those suckers off! 

We have an enemy whose sole (soul?) mission is to steal, kill and destroy the abundant life Jesus came to give us. (John 10:10NIV)

We have to learn how to stop him from achieving what he sets out to do. We do this by learning his tactics and how to look for signs that he’s there. I learned that a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water sprayed on the leaves of the zucchini kill the bug (and its eggs) that burrowed its way into the heart of the plant leaving it without life sustaining water and nutrients. 

Paul talks about the armor we’re to put on every day in Ephesians 6. Remember the Vine from the intro above? Stay connected. How? Study His word. Listen to His voice. Pray. Obey. Believe. Trust. Nothing squashes the plans of the enemy like a daughter who lives like she knows who her Daddy is! 

Inspection Inspection Inspection

Every single day, I walk in the garden, looking, watching, waiting for something to happen. In fact, I do it so many times a day my family pokes a bit of fun at me. Not only am I looking for pests, suckers and my nemesis (that dastardly chipmunk!) but also new growth. 

Just when you think nothing is happening, you’ll look closely and see a bloom on the tomatoes or the tiniest green bean or a zucchini ready for picking under one of the giant leaves. 

The next day you go out and there’s a tomato where the flower used to be, a handful of green beans ready for picking and the vine of the cucumbers has somehow reached the top of the fence! How did that happen? 

It may seem “just like that” but really, I’ve worked hard tending, caring, weeding, watering, inspecting multiple times a day. 

Growth happens over time. It takes hard work and doing what we need to each day. Then “just like that” you’ll find yourself…

~ Remaining calm in a situation that would have caused you to blow your lid a few weeks ago. 

~ Feeling peace in the middle of some heavy hard stuff. 

~ Praying instead of worrying. 

~ Reaching for your Bible instead of the bottle or food or shopping or Neflix or…

~  Finding joy in a less than joyous season. 

~ Being the bigger person. 

~ Forgiving even though they didn’t apologize.

~ Practicing self-control…and succeeding.

~ Listening when you really want to react. 

~ Apologizing. 

Man. It’s so fun when you notice growth because you’ve kept the weeds at bay, when you notice you’re thirsty and go drink from the well of Living water (often), when you see a flower bloom because you weren’t afraid to try a new thing, when you’re prepared for a battle with your nemesis. 

I think C. Austin Miles was on to something…even if I can no longer carry my part in a four-part harmony. God walks with me and He talks with me and He teaches me simple theology in the garden using weeds and chipmunks. His voice is so sweet that I stand in awed silence, listening, loving, and learning. 

kw