Heirloom Plants and People

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Heirloom plants are all the rage now. At our local farmers market you can find plants that our grandparents ate frequently, but that I had never seen for sale locally. One plant that is becoming increasingly visible is beets. If you believe the “info-mercials”, beets are the answer to all the physical and mental problems one might face.

My grandparents ate beets. LOTS of beets. Grandma Barker was a wonderful cook, but I never developed a taste for her beets. Grandma and Grandpa Barker moved into our home when I was 11 years old and they brought their beets with them. Grandpa Barker loved potatoes at every meal and Grandma cooked the most delicious potato dishes. Fried potatoes with onions, scalloped potatoes, potato salad, boiled potatoes, and mashed “to perfection” potatoes.

Yet the image of the beet juice creeping slowly across their plates and turning the delicious mashed potatoes pinkish purple still sends culinary chills up my spine.

I have been thinking recently about the heirloom plants that people are now planting in their gardens. I have some heirloom flowering plants that were on our property when we bought it and are as old as our home built in 1880.

What is this fascination we have with the past?

Obviously everyone does not have it. One of our daughters lives in a home where all the furniture is new. It is lovely.

We buy old, vintage furniture and treasure the family heirlooms we are fortunate enough to have. We nurture and protect the old plants and flowers that grace our yard with their perennial beauty.

Truth be told, new appliances are a blessing. I am thankful for a washer and dryer, even though I enjoy using a clothes line, weather permitting. I am glad I don’t have to use a wringer washer and heat the water on the woodstove to wash our clothes. We actually have an heirloom hot water heater in our cellar. It is cast iron and was fed with coal. Our electric hot water heater sits next to it connecting to the hot water pipes that plumb our house. I’m glad I don’t have to stoke a coal fire every time I need a shower!

There is a balance between honoring the heirlooms of our past and utilizing the benefits and innovations of our current culture.

My mother recently gave me my Grandma Barker’s Bible. It is a King James Version which my Grandmother gave to her father, George Auman, in 1946. He was a pastor in the United Brethren in Christ denomination. My Great-grandmother gave it back to Grandma Barker in 1956 after Great-grandpa Auman passed away. Grandma had it rebound in 1964 and she writes in the fly leaf – “The * in the margins are Dad’s markings.”

Grandma has written many notes throughout this Bible in her beautiful, distinct hand. It is well worn, well read, and an heirloom I treasure. It demonstrates her sincere faith on every marked page.

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In II Timothy 1:5, Paul says –

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

As a grandmother now myself, I want to live like Lois did, like Grace Auman Barker, my grandmother did.

I want my grandchildren to remember my sincere faith.

And when they see the carefully tended heirloom flowers, or the notes in my journals and Bible, I hope it points them to the God who loves them and blesses them as Grandma’s Bible blesses me.

 

 

In My Garden With God # 13

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“Before you know it, …”

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“Before you know it, that kudzu will creep right on in your bed!”

One of the pleasures of walking for exercise is the encounters you have with people who are also walking.

Now some of you are thinking…”I like to exercise alone.” Good for you.  But I know that once I moved away from my walking buddy – Alice Marie – my exercise level went way down. I do better when I talk and walk.

So – on Monday as I was walking by myself,  I saw another frequent walker. We greeted one another and then started talking about all the rain we have had recently. Weather is a frequent topic because it affects all of us and our walking. Then we talked about our gardens, what was doing well – cucumbers, which like the rain, and what was not doing so well – tomatoes – which prefer hot, dry weather.

Then our conversation moved on to kudzu. Kudzu must REALLY like the rain because it is growing up a storm! My friend mentioned that she and her husband used to own some land where they had cows and never had any trouble with kudzu. When they sold the land, the new owners didn’t want cows and before long called and asked what they could do about all the kudzu. It was taking over their land.

“Before you know it, it will creep right on in your bed!” my fellow walker said.

We laughed together, knowing just how close to the truth that statement is.

A little Kudzu history – it originally came from Japan –

“In the decades that followed kudzu’s formal introduction at the 1876 World’s Fair Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, farmers found little use for a vine that could take years to establish, was nearly impossible to harvest and couldn’t tolerate sustained grazing by horses or cattle. But in 1935, as dust storms damaged the prairies, Congress declared war on soil erosion and enlisted kudzu as a primary weapon. More than 70 million kudzu seedlings were grown in nurseries by the newly created Soil Conservation Service.”  Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/true-story-kudzu-vine-ate-south-180956325/#tvkuq1M1sB0CAeTS.99

So – kudzu found a home in the United States to combat soil erosion.

A good motivation – an unexpected result.

I thought about this and a parallel principle to Spiritual growth.

As Christians we are often looking for “quick fixes” to our problems. Some of the these ideas are good. They even work for a time. But there are unexpected results that we didn’t anticipate.

A few examples:

  • marriages in the church are struggling – have a marriage conference
  • children don’t want to sit quietly in church services –  offer children’s church

The marriage conference may offer great information, but what about a month later when the old conflicts rear their ugly heads (and they will) what does that couple do?Having a mature, Godly couple mentor those struggling in their marriages provides ongoing support and PRAYER which is powerful in effecting real, sustained change.

Children’s Church can be a blessing for parents who want to focus on worship. Yet these children specific offerings often become entertainment, not real worship. They do not prepare children to block out distractions so they learn to focus on worshiping the King of Kings, Creator of the Universe, their Lord and Savior. Toddlers do need separate space. But once children begin school, they are able to learn to participate in the most important activity of human experience – Worship of God. By participating in worship, children will learn to worship.

Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

We must make sure that we are not practicing “quick fixes” in our spiritual lives that cause us and our children to experience unexpected consequences.

Before you know it….!

 

In My Garden with God – #12

“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

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

Heaven Is Rejoicing!

 

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photo –  wfmynews2.com

Billy Graham passed on to his eternal reward yesterday. Heaven is rejoicing!

I was 11 years old in 1962 when I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Graham preach. (along with the 50,000 or so other people who were there at McCormick Place in Chicago) I will always remember the power of his message. “For God so loved the world…”

In thinking about the legacy that Billy Graham has left, I have two personal memories that stand out.

The first memory surrounds the crusade mentioned above.

My parents had attended the training to counsel individuals who responded to the invitation at the end of the crusade to accept Jesus as Lord and savior. This training included people from all over Chicago and the suburbs representing various denominations and churches. Billy Graham required pastors and church leaders, Catholics and Protestant to come together and commit to cooperation and participation in planning, volunteering, and participating in all aspects of the crusade. If the local churches couldn’t commit to working together, Billy Graham would not hold a crusade in that city.

This required religious leaders to put aside sectarian differences for the importance of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Literally hundreds of churches joined together involving thousands of Christians. What an example for being one Body!

My family attended College Church in Wheaton, just west of Chicago. My father was a very loyal person and this extended to our family’s involvement in church. We did not attend other churches, even for special events. If the doors to College Church were open – we were there. Yet my parents felt this crusade merited our family’s involvement.

Attending the Billy Graham Crusade was an eye-opening experience for me. Seeing thousands of people singing and praising was awe-inspiring. All these people were worshiping together! The choir was made up of several hundred people led by Cliff Barrows. Seeing individuals of every race and ethnicity gathered in one place to worship offered me my first glimpse of the enormity and diversity of the Body of Christ.

The second memory is from my teen years, during the racial turmoil of the late 1960’s.

Billy Graham made it a priority to include black Christians front and center on the platform at his crusades. These spiritual brothers and sisters were embraced by Billy Graham and Graham’s actions set an example for all Christians – “we are one in Christ”.

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photo – billygraham.org

 

I remember being so pleased by the fact that Billy Graham had Andre Crouch and the Disciples sing for one of the crusades. They were my favorite singing group! Their pride in their race, and more importantly their savior, Jesus Christ was evident. Rev. Graham practiced what he preached when it came to demonstrating the fact that …  God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Billy Graham was not perfect – he boldly acknowledged,including himself “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23  He then shared the truth that we become new creations when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

He left a legacy of life long (99 years long) commitment to serving the God he loved.

Heaven is rejoicing!

Seeds of Change

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As I mentioned recently, Phil has been ordering seeds. A box of seeds just came in the mail.

This is a sign of hope!

We still have snow on the ground, and I was waiting to take a picture of our first blooms of 2018. I guess I will have to continue waiting. As you can see from the above picture, our hellebores, our earliest bloomer, have yet to open up. Some folks call these flowers Lenten Roses. Winter has not loosened its grip here!

My hellebores were given me by a dear friend, Lois, and I think of her each time I see them. These plants re-seed themselves and spread, so before long there is a lovely group of these hardy, long lasting bloomers.

Seeds are a metaphor for hope. When seeds are planted, there is no guarantee that a plant will grow. There are many variables that influence the outcome.

  • sun, full sun for some plants, shade for others
  • water, not too much, not too little
  • soil, the right composition for various plants
  • critters! – (groundhogs have gotten their fill of tender bean plants too many times in our garden)
  • temperature – a late freeze, intense heat

All these factors determine the outcome of planting seeds. Yet isn’t is glorious when the right conditions all come together at the right time?

We have a bountiful harvest!

When these factors don’t align, we need to make changes to obtain a harvest. It may mean planting in a different location, supplementing with additional water, guarding tender sprouts from predators, or covering plants to protect from frost.

It may mean changing the type of seeds we plant. We take the necessary steps so our hard work gardening doesn’t go to waste.

This is much the same in our spiritual lives.

We may go through a time spiritually where we don’t “harvest” any spiritual fruit. We lack love, joy, peace, patience, and the other fruit of the Spirit. We may be doing all the things we have always done, yet we aren’t getting the same results.

Psalm 51: 10-13 says –

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.

These verses give me hope!

It may be time for a change. Just as doing the same things in our garden year after year doesn’t produce the same results, doing the same activities spiritually doesn’t insure the same peace, joy, or patience.

My friend Patti has walked with God for many years, and recently began sharing God’s Word in a local jail ministry. “I get so much from these ladies every time I go.” she told me today. “They have really had hard lives and to see the way God is working in them blesses and challenges me.”

Patti is planting seeds of change in these ladies’ lives, and it is changing her as well.

I’m praying that God will show me what I need to change so that I can continue to bear fruit – the fruit of the Spirit.

In My Garden with God – 4