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

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

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

 

Beauty Multiplied

 

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“The garden center person told us to plant three bulbs in every hole. That way they look more impressive when they bloom.”

Sadie, a dear, sweet friend recently lost the life, on this earth, of their little baby boy at 21 weeks. It was a sad loss and with it the loss of all the hope that new life brings.

I offered to plant the bulbs they purchased in honor of their son’s short life, since they were going to visit family for an extended period. Sadie passed along the above recommendations of the garden center. Our granddaughters and daughter offered to help me, so one day during a break between the extreme cold and rain we have been having lately, we had the joy of planting 80 spring bulbs.

Now the waiting.

The loss of life carries with it a sorrow that affects each of us in various ways. Sadie and her husband chose to honor the life of their son by planting bulbs that will remind them of his life each spring as they bloom.

They have chosen to replace their loss with beauty.

Isaiah 61: 2-3

To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

I am sure that when those bulbs come up this spring in their multiplied beauty, there will be tears along with the blessing of the flowers’ beauty.

Tears for the loss of the life not with them.

Blessing in the beauty of remembering God’s faithfulness demonstrated each spring as new life comes forth after the bleakness of winter.

Sadie and Dustin chose to name their little boy Hero. As I was getting ready to insert the picture of us planting the bulbs, I noticed that one of my granddaughter’s had the name Hero on her T-shirt. Amazing.

May we allow God to multiply His life in us through times of loss and times of blessing so that we can become those oaks, planted for His glory.

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In My Garden with God – 2

 

 

 

In My Garden with God

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Many of us who seek to truly fellowship with God have a place where we sense His presence more fully then we do in other places. I am not referring here to times of corporate worship where God’s presence certainly is evident.   John 2 tells us “He inhabits the praises of His people”.

I mean that place where we sense God and know that feeling is Him. I have two friends that have told me they feel this way at the beach. They love to walk along the water, feel the breeze and salt air, and bask in His presence. Others feel that presence hiking or fishing.

One of my all time favorite lines in a movie is in Chariots of Fire when Olympic runner, Eric Liddlle, tells his sister why he runs. “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

I feel God’s presence in our garden.

That may seem strange to write about gardens now when we have had such very cold temperatures and the plants are dormant. Let me explain.

We had a big snow last month and the snow was wet and heavy. It broke off several branches, particularly large branches in a weeping willow tree that grows next to the creek. Phil was out cutting up some of the downed trees and I asked him to trim the broken parts of that tree. He did so, even though it is one of his favorite trees.

If we had left the broken branches dangling from the tree, come spring it would be an unsightly mess. The dead limbs along side the fresh new leaves of spring would ruin the natural beauty of that graceful weeping willow.

As I was hauling the cut limbs to toss over the bank, (I LOVE living in the mountains), I sensed God impressing me with this truth – “That is why I have to prune my children.”

That thought took me on a flight of spiritual insight. God has to “cut away” the dead, broken, damaged parts of our lives so that new, healthy growth can take place in the right season. Right now, during winter, all our plants are dormant, but we don’t dig them up and throw all the plants away! Good things are happening!

Dormancy is crucial in the life of plants. They rest, develop deeper roots, and take in moisture. Pruning at this time allows the plant to have fewer branches, so the limited energy of the plant goes to strengthening what is left.

God does that to His children.

Jesus says in John 15: 1- 4

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

When I feel like God is cutting away, pruning my life, I must trust that as the Master gardener, He knows what He is doing.

I must wait to see what appears in spring……