Abundance to Share

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We have been blessed with many different varieties of flowers in our yard. I enjoy each one, but truth be told, I do have my favorites.

Hydrangeas.

I love them all, white, blue, purple, pink, and any variations thereof. Phil has accused me of treating the plants I like better than the plants which are not my favorite. I suppose unconsciously I do so. Hydrangeas make me smile.

I have even made table cloths from fabric that compliment the blue hydrangeas. This creates a lovely table setting when the hydrangeas are the center piece. They make me want to invite guests for dinner to share in their beauty.

That brings me to the point. All these flowers are so lovely – it is a blessing to share them. Lately I have had several opportunities to do so. I could just cut them and put them in vases all over the house. (I have done that at times)

It is so much more fun to share them with others so they can enjoy them as well.

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Garden Shower

God encourages us to share, even our favorite things.

Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Notice the purpose of useful work is not to gain personal wealth – but to have enough to SHARE with those in need.

Luke 3:11 New International Version (NIV)

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Mountain people have always been sharing the fruit of their gardens. I know folks who plant extra rows of beans and corn just so they have more to share with others. (they don’t need to plant extra rows of squash – they multiply on their own)

I am blessed by the abundance of flowers this year. I am even more blessed when I can share them with others.

What do you have to share?

God will show you if you ask – then be prepared to receive a blessing.

 

In My Garden with God – #11

 

 

 

 

 

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“They Need to See Each Other”

When my father passed away several dear friends gave me gift cards to purchase a plant in his honor. This was especially fitting since my father was a botanist and naturalist, as well as a biology teacher.

I knew immediately what I wanted to plant in his honor… an American chestnut tree, blight resistant.

When my father became a seasonal ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1959, one still saw many towering gray tree trunks of dead American chestnuts, the last vestiges of a once mighty species of tree in our mountain forests.

Years later when my parents were living with us, Dad told me that he had read about a blight resistant American chestnut that had been developed and was showing promise of thriving in our mountain habitat. He mentioned that we should get one. I called around to a few local nurseries and no one had any of this variety yet.

So, after my father passed away at 91 years old, I again called the nursery and sure enough, they had American chestnut trees. Phil and I went to pick one up and the man helping us said,

“Now you need two so they can cross pollinate and you then you will get chestnuts.”

Of course – Biology 101.

Thinking about the many trees on our property already,  I asked, “How close do I need to plant them?”

“They need to see each other.” he said.

I smile every time I remember this conversation. As I was weeding around those two trees recently, which by the way are growing very well, I was reminded of a spiritual principle that those trees illustrate perfectly.

Trees will only bear fruit, (or nuts) if they are close enough to each other to cross pollinate. As Christians, we will only bear fruit if we are in close relationship to other Christians. We need the cross pollination of our brothers and sisters in faith to keep us growing spiritually in healthy ways.

Some of the effects of cross pollination are:

  • recognizing Truth vs. deception
  • being held accountable to Godly behavior
  • growing the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, self control, etc.
  • learning from what the Lord is impressing on fellow believers
  • being challenged to love and good works
  • reproducing more Christians

It is hard to demonstrate REAL love, patience, or self control if we are all alone. Expressing real love requires an object of that love. My patience is most often challenged by others and I learn to be patient by practicing it on others. It is hardest to demonstrate self control over my tongue when there is actually someone around to hear me. It is through close contact with others that I cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.

I Corinthians 12:12-13, 18-21 says the following –

12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

We need each other – to grow, to be healthy, to reproduce.

We must remain close to others Christians, close enough to see each other.

 

In My Garden with God #10

 

 

 

It’s All About the Soil

 

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When folks see our yard, they often ask – “How do you get these plants to grow so well?”

First, I always stress that we are just the caretakers, God is the source. I truly mean that – it is NOT just a statement of false humility. Phil and I have moved plants, sometimes multiple times – until we find just the right location for them to thrive. But, then the rich mountain soil fulfills its God ordained function.

Phil – “I thought we moved this plant last year.”

Gayle – “We did, but I think it will do better over here.”

Phil – “It looks fine here.”

Gayle – “Yes, but it needs more sun to bloom. Just dig the hole, please”

Phil – “Is this why you married me?”

Gayle  – “Yes” (smile – always smile)

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The MOST important factor in the beauty of the plants in our yard is the soil. We had nothing to do with that. Over the years, many leaves and plant matter have decomposed creating a rich, nutritious soil that results in beautiful plants and flowers. That is one of the many blessings of living in an older home. Some of our shrubs and trees are very old and we receive the blessing of their beauty year after year.

But it started with good dirt.

I was thinking about this as I was reading in Ephesians as part of our Bible study. We are in chapter 6. In verse 4, Paul says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

In the Amplified translation verse 4 says this –

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I try to place our plants in the best location for that plant. Hostas need shade, Shasta daisies need sun. ALL plants need the good foundation of rich, nutritious soil so their roots can grown down deep in that soil.

As we raise our children, we must first and foremost make sure that we provide a good foundation (soil). In a family this means a safe, secure, loving environment where the child can grow. As the child grows, we must then provide nurture for the specific needs that child may have. Just as all plants don’t require the same amount of sun, each child will not thrive in the same activities or learning environment.

Raising plants are a fitting parallel to raising children. If I place a hosta in full sun, just because my crepe myrtles do well there, the hostas are sure to burn up in the summer heat. Our native plant section is at the edge of the yard where these lovely plants thrive under the canopy of  poplar and oak trees, their natural habitat. When Phil and I move a plant, we study where it has thrived in nature and move it to a similar environment.

We must do the same as parents. Society now labels some of our children “special needs” which I feel is a respectful way to understand that these children have their individual path for growth and development. Yet ALL children have unique needs and recognizing those needs will help ensure their full growth and development. Those who don’t fit into the “traditional school mold”, (like most little boys) will need increased attention to their specific situations. Like some of my plants, they may need to be moved (i.e. try various strategies) several times before just the right place is found.

God is SO patient with us!

My dear friend Julianna is facing challenges with her special needs son, Hawk. They are facing these challenges with faith and grace, choosing to celebrate each step of progress no matter how small. Hawk is blessed to be in this family. Instead of focusing on what Hawk is unable to do at this time, they get excited over each new accomplishment.

We must provide the “soil” as parents – that firm foundation. Then as verse 4 says –  bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Each child is unique. Each child is precious in God’s sight.

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In My Garden With God – 9

Death to Life

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I was SO disappointed after one of the recent cold nights we had. Our camellia had so many buds just waiting to burst open, and the cold snap turned them brown. Just like that, my anticipation of pink loveliness dissipated like the morning dew.

Then, the other morning I was out with my clippers to cut off the reminders of what could have been, and to my great joy, there was a large pink bloom! It was way in the back, under foliage and had been protected.

Death to life.

This is what the Resurrection of Jesus is all about.

Death to Life!

Romans 5:10  (AMP)

10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more certain, having been reconciled, that we will be saved [from the consequences of sin] by His life [that is, we will be saved because Christ lives today].

When I think about how excited I was to see the flower blooming, (which by the way I had nothing to do with) I can only imagine God’s joy when His creation, you and me, move from death to life.

“we will be saved because Christ lives today”

Hallelujah!

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In My Garden with God  #8

Pure Water

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Spring Lizard

Phil was cleaning out around the overflow from our spring. Several years ago Phil and my father threaded a hose through a vintage water pump and the water now flows freely nestled in our wild flower area.

“Gayle, come look here!”

I hurried over and much to our delight, a tiny salamander was peeking out from some decaying leaves Phil was about to remove. He gently moved a rock, and there was another one! I love seeing these amphibians of God’s creation. They have such a fluid, simple form as their moist skin shimmers in their wet habitat.

I remember my father showing me salamanders as a little girl and telling me not to pick them up because they are very fragile and our skin oil can harm them. Dad went on to say that they were an indicator of  pure water. Salamanders only survive in pure water.

Mountain folks call salamanders “spring lizards”. They knew if salamanders were in their spring boxes, the water was safe to drink.

As I was working outside yesterday, I started thinking about purity. Just as a salamander is an indication of pure water, what is the sign of purity in my life as a Christian?

Is there some quality that indicates I have a pure heart?

I thought about this awhile. Does love, joy, or peace in my life indicate purity? Those are “fruit of the Spirit” and are the result of God’s Spirit dwelling in me.

Not necessarily signs of purity. I asked God, “what denotes purity in our lives?”

Then today, our pastor asked us to read Luke 6:45. Our pastor was preaching on “Soul Food”, yet as soon as I looked at this verse, I knew it was God’s answer to my question.

Luke 6:45  (NLT)

45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.

The indicator of a pure life is the words that come out of one’s mouth.

John 7:37 says

37 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”

The words we speak come from our heart. Those words then are the indication of what is in our hearts.

A PURE heart speaks PURE words.

The sign of purity in my life will be the words I speak.

This brought me back to my father. When he passed away a bit over two years ago, so many people expressed how kind, thoughtful, and loving he was.

And he was.

My father spoke kindly as his natural pattern of speech. It was rare for him to speak ill of others. I think those of us who knew him would say he had a pure heart.

I want a pure heart.

And the test of that will be what comes out of my mouth. Each morning I pray –

Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Amen

 

In My Garden with God    #7

Despite the Weather

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We have had some weird and wild weather lately, yet I felt like spring had finally arrived.

Then I drove to Wheaton, Illinois to visit my mother and it has been in the 20’s and 30’s. Tomorrow morning the weather prediction is 10 degrees! It will be March 12th tomorrow!

The weather is one of those things in life we do not have any control over. It reminds us we are finite human beings.

We need that reminder once in a while – truth be told.

Because I cannot control the weather, I cannot control when, if at all, plants in our yard will bloom. That is one reason that the wildflower blooms create excitement for me. They are like a surprise, an anticipated, but uncertain gift.

The subjects of the above pictures herald the arrival of my favorite season. I LOVE to see the trillium in bloom. The various colors and parts of these treasures of God’s creation never cease to excite me.

Phil is very patient as I drag him around to see each of the varieties, many of which he helped transplant from further up on the hill in the woods. We have moved over nine different varieties to the edge of the backyard where the woods begin. We enjoy these beautiful flowers and especially appreciate the variety. This picture was taken in our backyard. We are SO BLESSED!

Jesus refers to the beauty of wild flowers in this passage in Matthew 6: 28-30

28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?”

These verses remind me of God’s great love and care for me. Jesus said these wildflowers should remind me as well – that when I notice just how beautiful and perfectly they are made – I should be REMINDED that my heavenly Father cares ever-so-much more for me!

I hope you will notice the wildflowers this spring and that they will inspire you and remind you of just how much God loves and cares for you, despite the weather or circumstances in your life.

 

In My Garden with God #6

Worth the Cost?

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Phil and I spent all Saturday afternoon and evening trimming, pruning, raking dead stems and leaves, and then hauling off the refuse we had created to pitch over the bank.

(one of the many great benefits of living in the mountains is that our cuttings create critter habitat as we toss all cuttings over the bank.  Previous owners also tossed old cars, old furnaces, and who knows what all over the bank – but that is a story for another time)

I carefully removed the old leaf matter from around the area where our native plants grow. The tiny white buds of blood root were just starting to poke through. As I moved on I saw the trout lily leaves and the stems emerging that will soon be crowned with lovely yellow blooms.  “Phil,look at this!”

I LOVE spring!

It signifies hope.

After the cold and sparse winter, new life springs forth! But, to really get the full benefit of  the new growth in spring, we have to pay the price. It was a lot of hard work to trim, rake, prune, and gather the cuttings and dead leaves and stems. The new plants would have come up anyway, at least many of them would. But – they would have been hidden and their growth hindered by the old dead leaves and stems.

In our Community Women’s Bible Study this past Wednesday, my friend Cathy shared her reflections on Ephesians 2: 1-5

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

Then she challenged us with questions to ask ourselves – one of which was “Do we consider our participation in the Body of Christ a privilege worth the cost?”

We were all “dead” spiritually following our own way – in trespasses and sin, as verse 2:1 says. But, God, who is RICH in mercy, made us alive with Christ!

As we ask for forgiveness and choose to follow Jesus, God clears away ALL the old stuff so the new life can come forth!

Was it hard work cleaning up our yard this spring? Yes!

Was it worth it? YES!

Especially as I watch new life spring forth each day.

So back to Cathy’s question – Do I consider it a privilege to be part of  Jesus’ Church – the Body of Christ? Yes!

Paul says in verse  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Incomparable riches – meaning NOTHING compares to what God has offered us through his son Jesus.

Is it worth the cost?

Yes!

We must let God rake away the old, dead ideas, traditions, and beliefs that keep the fresh, new life from shining through. The old way that was gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. v3

Then our NEW life in Christ will emerge, fresh, clean, and vibrate like the flowers in spring.

In My Garden with God  – #5