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 – 8

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Nesting

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In winter, when all the leaves are off the trees, you see things that are not visible when foliage is full. We have found several nests recently and looking at their structure causes amazement and wonder. Birds are master builders using various materials to form nests that perfectly meet the needs of their species.

The small nest in the picture above has sticks that form the outside shape, then grasses, and an inside layer of fine, soft fibers. Perfectly suited for this small bird’s eggs.

Nests are made in a wide variety of sizes and materials. We found one that was almost exclusively sticks, nothing soft or cushiony about it. A humming bird nest found in our forsythia bush is tiny, just as the birds who built it are.

I can see some large nests very high in the poplar tress on the ridge behind our house. I would love to see inside the nests and see how they are constructed. I am not sure what kind of birds built these nests, but they must be large.

I will  NOT be climbing any ladders to check them out. Please Phil, don’t get your ladder out!

Phil is engaging in his yearly perusal of garden catalogs. He has already ordered some seeds and is planning where he will plant things this year. I think Phil especially enjoys doing this because of the anticipation of a harvest. That is a long way off from our current winter weather, but Phil loves being outside and planning the garden is a sign to him that winter will end and spring, summer, and fall will come in succession.

Jesus refers to planting in this passage in Luke 13: 18-20 AMP

18 So this led Him to say, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the sky found shelter and nested in its branches.”

What struck me about this passage that Jesus used to describe the kingdom of God is the result of the man’s planting.

I would assume he planted mustard seeds to get mustard. (which by the way is my favorite condiment) The verses do not say anything about the man planting seeds to get a tree so that birds could nest in it! 

Yet that is just what happened, and what Jesus compared to the kingdom of God.

What this spoke to me was the fact that we as “gardeners”  will plant “seeds”, but the end results may be very different than we planned. Or, there may be additional results that are totally unexpected!

This is so true with children and grandchildren, isn’t it?

How I want to embrace this aspect of the Kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom is the place where God reigns – where God’s authority rules.

That place must be my heart.

I must be willing to let “seeds” I plant produce mustard, or grow into large trees so that others can find shelter and nest.

I will plant – God is in charge of the results.

God’s will – God’s way.

 

In My Garden with God – 3

 

“The Savior’s Come”

 

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Abigail, with the help of her boys, made this Lego video last year. It illustrates a song written by one of their pastors, Paul Cummings. They did an amazing job!

I LOVE how it proclaims the TRUTH of the greatest gift we celebrate on Christmas.

Watch it with children and grandchildren – you will all be blessed!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Arise, SHINE!

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 60:1-3

Have you ever had something happen to you that seems unique? You feel like you are the very first person to experience it.

Then you share it with someone and they say “Oh, yes. I had that happen to me last week.”  – and they go on to describe JUST what you thought was a first.

Sometimes I feel God does that with me concerning spiritual truth. I will read something in Scripture and sense an illumination of understanding.

Wow! I new revelation for me! Then…

  • I am in a service and the preacher teaches on that very Scripture
  • I turn on the radio and someone shares my very insight
  • At Bible study a speaker shares in the video (which was made at least year or two previous) the very new, freshinsight I just had this week

So, I can either dismiss my excitement over “my fresh revelation” OR I can realize that

God may be trying to get my attention!

I think it is prudent to do the latter. In my over 60 years of being a Christian, God has faithfully used various means to lead me into Truth.

The fact that we Christians are the LIGHT OF THE WORLD and that we must LET OUR LIGHT SHINE  is the Truth that God is impressing me with every where I turn.

Tuesday night at our home group, God spoke to us through Janice that it is dark all around us, but we have the Light of the world.

Now, what does that mean? I know this message is not just for me, (although I sense I am certainly being held accountable) since I am hearing it in church, on the radio, at the Community Women’s Bible Study, our Home Group, and in my personal time with God.

I must respond.

I must let the Light of Jesus shine in all my interactions with others, starting at home. Then I must let my Light shine wherever I go – every day, every place I go.

I also know that my small Light is greatly multiplied in its effect when it is joined with other Lights. We saw this clearly illustrated at the lighthouses we recently visited on the Outer Banks. There was one light, but many lenses that reflected and multiplied the amount of light so that the effect could be viewed for many miles. That greater light had saved many lives over the years!

When we Christians arise and let our Light shine together – the effect will be so much greater!

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Let us arise, and shine the Light together!

Waiting

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“I don’t like to wait, Nana.”

My first thought was, “dear Daniel, you have a lot of waiting ahead of you in life.”

My next thought was “I don’t like to wait either!”

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We were at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The National Park Ranger had given us a time to ascend to the top, all 257 steps. They limit the number of people in the lighthouse at any given time so that everyone is safe, and to maximize each individual’s viewing opportunity. Our time slot was 30 minutes away.

I can understand Daniel’s impatience. The lighthouse was so beautiful, towering over us on a clear October day. We had just eaten our picnic lunch in the park and we had told the children that we would climb the lighthouse after we finished our lunch.

Now we had to wait.

Waiting is part of life.

Yet our culture is programmed for INSTANT response, isn’t it? Not only can we access information all the time most everywhere, we are constantly being enticed to acquire faster service with more data capacity. No wonder our children don’t like to wait!

How can we help our children and grandchildren (and ourselves for that matter) learn to wait with patience and grace?

  • be an example of waiting with patience ourselves

when we are placed in situations where we must wait, like traffic jams, long                     lines in the store, for food in restaurants, for a family member getting ready –                   we must show patience ourselves. Our irritation for waiting will send a strong                 message.

  • talk to our children about why we must wait

explain that many things in life require waiting, like a child being born, for                       instance, and we must wait for these occurrences patiently. Young children                       may not understand the concept of time, but they will understand our                                 example of irritation or patience.

  • create “waiting games” that help the child learn to use time in positive ways

 digital devices can be positive tools in our lives, but pressing a “game” in front of a child whenever the child must wait will create a new set of  problems.                        Look around you and name colors, count people, find objects that start with                     “b”. Use the time to plan a special dinner, a birthday party (that the child must                  WAIT for), have the child write out your shopping list, even if they can only                        write the first letter of a word

  • be prepared to wait

carry in your car, bag, large purse – some “waiting” items. Paper to write                              Grandma a letter (YES!), a coloring book and crayons or pencils, a small book                    to read, or ask the child to tell you the story using the illustrations. Use                                waiting time to count money and explain the various values of coins. (not as                      effective with plastic!)

Sometimes we must wait for YEARS before something happens that we hope and pray for. Yet God is faithful, especially as we wait.

Isaiah 40: 30-31 says this about waiting –

30  Even youths shall faint and be weary,
      and young men shall fall exhausted;
31   but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
      they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
      they shall run and not be weary;
      they shall walk and not faint.
What a wonderful promise for those who learn to wait!
Let’s make it a personal goal to be patient as we wait, and to model that for the children in our lives.

Feeling Overwhelmed

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” the devastation is overwhelming!”

How do we process catastrophic events when we feel helpless to understand the suffering, much less do something about it?

I felt that way after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 – 16 years ago today.  I felt that way last month when the severe storms hit Texas. Now Florida is being flooded and facing high wind damage. This storm is not over, as it travels north and west, so the wide-ranging effects are still pending.

What should my response be as Christian, as a person who feels deeply for those who have suffered and those who are suffering right now?

Have you ever thought – What can I DO ?- feeling for those who are suffering is not enough!

Jesus had been teaching and healing people who were following him. There was a huge crowd and it was getting time to address a real need – the physical hunger of the people.

John recalls it this way – John 6:5 –

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

I think this story has a powerful message for me when I am faced with an overwhelming need.

First, Jesus recognized that the people were hungry, and He didn’t send them away. In Matthew’s account of this same story – one of the disciples suggests sending the multitude away to get food for themselves.

  • I must recognize what the need is  – not “send them away”.

Secondly, Jesus looked around for what was available right there at that time. A boy had 5 loaves and 2 fish. Bless his mother for packing his lunch! Bless that boy for not eating it ahead of time! Jesus took what was available.

  • I must use what I have available to meet a need. I should not respond like Philip did and bemoan the fact that “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”   I must not think that my contribution is too small to make a difference.

Thirdly, Jesus prayed and gave thanks for those two small fish and those 5 loaves of bread.  God multiplied. God was in charge of the results!

  • I must be faithful to offer what I can. I should be thankful with what I have to share no matter how small it is.  God is faithful to accomplish His will, even multiplying a small offering if He wills.

I am praying for all those suffering around us. I am asking God to show me what I have available to share. I am thanking God for all He is doing and will do in this time of devastating loss.

 

Stay Connected

We have two grandchildren starting kindergarten this year. Our oldest grandchild is starting 7th grade. How time has flown by!

For several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts.

We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain that involvement throughout their child’s career in school.

It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows?

Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Children NEED their parents to stay involved in their education!

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you as your child begins kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable for your child and for me.” (This usually got several polite laughs. 🙂

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility for their education in over, we are sadly mistaken.

As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I admit that I did not see and hear everything that went on in my classroom. I also know that I was not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students faced – unless the child or parent told me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through –

  • If you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes effort but it will pay off!

Read to (and with) your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?”
  • “Did anything funny happen at school today?” “What happened?”
  • “Did you do your homework?  “Let me see it.”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Using devices, watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing many things that are important to their physical, emotional, and social development, like playing outside or reading a book.

God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Verse 19 encourages a continuous connection with our children. Stay connected.

May God bless our children and grandchildren with a great school year that helps them grow in God’s grace. May we be faithful to encourage them.