Divine Placement

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This post is going to be short. The sun is SHINING and I must get out to my garden – my plants are calling…

This thought has been percolating in my brain since my husband, Phil, shared this scripture when preaching recently.

I believe God has a plan.

  • for all creation
  • for our universe
  • for our world
  • for our country
  • for our community
  • for THE CHURCH
  • for our particular fellowship of Believers
  • for my family
  • for me

It is not an accident that I was born in 1951, to parents who lived in Wheaton, Illinois, who raised me in a God honoring home. God placed me there, I did not choose them.

Yet what a profound influence that has had on my life! Since then I have exercised my God given free will to choose to follow Jesus.

God has led me, disciplined me, blessed me, caused me to suffer – all to prepare me to fulfill His plan in me and through me.

Divine placement is a wonderful concept to ponder. In looking at back at my 67 years of life, I can see God’s hand at work – over and over. At the time I was often not aware of His presence, but in hindsight I see clearly His influence – over and over.

Phil recently helped me transplant a Japanese maple that my father had grown from a two inch seedling. He had brought it back to North Carolina in a baggie on an airplane from my brother’s home in Oregon. Dad had first planted it in a sheltered place above a rock wall in our yard that is protected from too much sun, and from grandchildren’s feet. When it grew to about 12 inches, (about 4 years) he moved it to a large planter where it has grown for the past 12 years. It had become root bound and I knew if it wasn’t transplanted soon, it would become unhealthy and eventually die. We planted it in the ground near to the location of the planter because it had grown well there.

Divine placement?

Paul instructed the Corinthian church on how to grow as the Body of  Christ. He explains that our function or placement in the Body is not arbitrary.          I Corinthians 12:18

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?

Divine placement!

Each of us has been placed by God to fulfill His purposes. Sometimes we must be transplanted to stay healthy and grow. We may need to “uproot” our children at times to provide an environment where they will receive the needed nourishment and nurture to thrive. God has a plan.

My parents moved after living in our home for 8 1/2 years to a retirement community back in Wheaton where I grew up and where they had lived years earlier. I missed them dearly after they moved. They were 89 and 85 at the time, but how they flourished after being transplanted to that community! They both finished strong at 91 and 90.

Divine placement.

May we grow where we are planted. May we be healthy and bear fruit for GOD’S GLORY.

 

In My Garden with God   #16

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Enjoy Them While They Last

img_0833“These camellia blooms are bigger and more abundant than we have ever had!” I told Phil last week. “But we will probably have a frost and and they will all turn brown.”

“You need to enjoy them while they last,” my tending toward pessimistic husband replied. “There is nothing you can do about it.” So, I cut these flowers and put them in a vase. Tonight it is supposed to get down to 17 degrees so these blooms wouldn’t make it.

I will enjoy them while they last – right on our dining room table.

Gardening is my hobby, yet there are many things I cannot control when it comes to the plants I tend. Weather is under God’s authority. I can trim, mulch, and fertilize, but freezing temperatures can still eliminate the blooms I hope to see.

This is a lot like parenting, isn’t it?

We care for our children by feeding, clothing, reading to them, limiting screen time, providing shelter….but so many factors are under God’s authority. We don’t form their personality, their God given abilities, their physical appearance.

I remember talking to my Mother about how stubborn one of our daughters was and being at a loss on how to address her defiance as a 3 year old. “Just wait, Gayle.” Mother said. “She will grow out of this stage before you know it.”

Then with a twinkle in her eye she said, “… and she will enter the NEXT stage.”

How can I enjoy my child right in the moment? Right in the stage, phase, mood – call it what you will – that they are in right now?

Grace.

I need grace to love and encourage my child through each phase of their development. And then grace for the next stage….and the next.

Phil was right, instead of bemoaning the fact that my flowers will freeze, I need to enjoy their blooms for as long as they live. I need to look for and FIND the positive aspects of the stages my child is going through and enjoy those qualities – while they last.

I am not referring here to open defiance, or disobedience. I am focusing on behaviors that are the result of growth patterns, often associated with hormonal changes.

I must be honest and admit it is so much easier to have grace for grandchildren’s behavior then I had for their parent’s behavior when they were that age. The separation of a generation does that. In Ephesians 6:4  AMP Paul gives clear instruction to parents –

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.

Grace

I pray I will search for and find the good in each stage  – and enjoy it while it lasts.

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In My Garden with God  #15

 

 

Dormant

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Phil and I recently planted grass seed on some bare spots in our lawn. Well, it is a stretch to call it a lawn…  You know, the green part in front of our house.

Well, actually it is a stretch to call it green. It is brown mud or moss.

So – last year I planted grass seed about March 3rd and it came up beautifully! Then as the weather dried up in June, so did the new grass. The roots weren’t established enough when the temperatures rose and there wasn’t as much rain to keep the new grass alive.

SO – this year I planted in JANUARY. My plan is that the grass seeds will sprout and the roots will be established long before the temperatures rise and the rain stops. I won’t make the same mistake I made last year.

Only one problem – the seeds are lying dormant.

  • The seeds need water – we’ve had plenty of that.
  • The seeds need sun – we have had several sunny days (between the rain)
  • The seeds need warmth to germinate – NOT ENOUGH WARMTH in JANUARY!

The definition of dormant for a plant is – “alive but not actively growing.”

So, my dormant grass seed is alive, but not actively growing. My hope is that as soon as it starts getting warm, the grass seeds will sprout. At least they are ready and waiting.

This situation got me thinking about raising our children. Two friends and I were talking about this at lunch today – as loving parents we work hard to provide all our children need to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes we feel we made mistakes with one child, so we try something different with the next child. (just like I did with the seeds) In discussing this we realized that as hard as we tried, we still made mistakes. Only God’s grace made our feeble efforts effective.

In I Corinthians 3:5-7 Paul is talking about how God’s servants minister to their fellow Christians.

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.          NLT

As Christian parents we must do all we can to help our children grown spiritually. But as Paul said so clearly – “God makes the seed grow”. God will use parents, friends, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, and YES – grandparents to plant and water those spiritual seeds.

We must not be discouraged if we don’t see growth when we think we should. Those spiritual seeds may be lying dormant – alive, but not actively growing at this time.

God makes them grow.

 

 

In My Garden with God #14

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

“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