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

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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

 

Grace for Young Mothers

I haven’t written lately.

I haven’t painted.

I haven’t sewn a book or printed on the handmade paper I recently made.

Yet I have been doing the very things for which I retired. I am spending time with our grandchildren.

I walked into my studio yesterday to check the tiles I made with 8 of our grandchildren. The calm, creative atmosphere of the studio hit me, along with the fact that I have several projects in the works waiting to be attended to. “I LOVE working in this studio,” I thought.

But there will be time later, I thought. Grace.

These thoughts took me back 36 years to the time our children were little. It seemed like I faced a never ending cycle of meals, laundry, cleaning. Oh…. forget the cleaning. I did.

I didn’t write – except a random letter once in a great while.

I didn’t paint – except for a stick horse, a wall mural, or doll furniture.

I did not make anything “creative.”

But wait!

I was doing exactly what I planned to do when I left teaching full time. I was spending time with our children. “There would be time later to “create”, I thought.

AND THERE IS! Grace.

When God births a desire in our hearts, He is faithful to fulfill it in His time. We must wait and trust. I realized this week that I could choose to lament the time I am not in my studio, or enjoy the fact that our grandchildren are here and that I can treasure this time with them.

I am so thankful I chose the latter. We are having a lovely time. (I am worn out!)

A friend, Lena Woods, told me this week that her favorite memories from childhood were spending time with her cousins at her grandmother’s house. I hope we are creating some very special memories for our grandchildren as well.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 2  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

This Scripture passage goes on to list many of life’s activities. Each thing has a time and a place. God’s time and God’s place.

So, I am going to go now and make lunches and we are going to ride bikes.

The studio will be there next month.

The grandchildren will not. Grace.

A Living Sacrifice

As pregnant women, we get a true picture of what it means for our bodies to not be our own. We feel that little life (or lives) moving inside and we realize it is no longer about us.

We may feel sick from certain smells that never bothered us before pregnancy, we also may crave certain foods for no apparent reason. We are no longer in charge and often don’t even understand the changes taking place in our own bodies. This is just the beginning.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice.

You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again. I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest.

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God!  Why did I see them as a hindrance? Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.

As we have contemplated this Easter weekend the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross, let us embrace the sacrifices we make as mothers moment by moment, day by day.

Jesus is our example – He laid down His life. As His follower, I must do likewise and be a living sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Story

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Everyone loves a good story.

Be honest now, remember the last time you were at a baby shower (Sunday for me) with a bunch of women – many with a birthing story to tell. It is amazing! Anyone who has had a child has a story – some are funny, some painful, some are hard to believe, some can’t remember anything because they were drugged.

Some stories are sadly tragic. Yet each story ends with a birth. My friend Carol, a long time labor and delivery nurse, says that the saddest births are those that end in a still-born delivery. Dear friends of ours lost a baby soon after she was born and I remember what a painful time that was.  After nine months of anticipation and planning all the hopes and dreams of sharing that new life die with the death of that baby.

Sharing these stories, good and bad, happy and sad, keep alive the memories of these precious little lives however brief. Sharing the stories of those babies who did not live or had very short lives allows future children to acknowledge that their life is a gift – not a given.

Children love to hear stories about their birth and early years. The story gives each child a sense of belonging and family heritage that is important as they form their self image. This is important for adoptive children as well. The fact that they were chosen by the adoptive parents and the story of the effort that those parents made to include them in the family will help those adopted to feel every bit as loved and valued as biological children.

The shower Sunday was for a baby whose mother is 42 and the parents have been married 18 years. The testimony of that mother of accepting God’s will when they thought they would never have children is a lovely story of God’s grace and faithfulness.

And…YES! Surprise!

This is a time of the year when many of us celebrate the sanctity of human life. As we do so, we remember that each life is ordained by God and so precious in His sight. The following verses were written by the Psalmist before there were x-rays, ultrasounds, or CAT scans. Yet they acknowledge what we now can see through scientific technology – what grows inside the womb is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

Psalm 139:13-16

13 For you created my inmost being; 
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, 
   I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
   when I was made in the secret place, 
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
   before one of them came to be.

This is a story we must tell our children and grandchildren. Share with these children the story of their birth, celebrating together God’s faithfulness.

Each of them is made in the image of God and as their lives unfold, the story of their lives has been written in God’s book – planned by the God of the universe.

Late Bloomers

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“Look at these blooms!”

I have just returned from a trip with my mother to see my brother and sister-in-law in Eugene, Oregon. I fully expected to see our flower beds in that dried out, dead leaf state that results from a freeze.

But it is October 31 and we have not had a freeze yet!

These late bloomers are especially beautiful to me because they are unexpected.

These flowers are showing off their beauty “out of season” and therefore are that much more enjoyable. This caused me to think about the seasons or phases in our lives and the fact that this delay can create a special appreciation….if we recognize it.

As parents and grandparents we are often looking for developmental milestones in our children. These can be as varied as –

  • talking
  • walking
  • hitting a baseball
  • riding a bike
  • reading
  • writing one’s name

When there is a delay in reaching one of these “milestones”, it can cause anxiety. Yet, often children develop at various rates because not everyone is on the same developmental time-table. Each human is an individual. There are so many variables in life that affect development.

Each stage of a child’s life becomes more precious if we enjoy it for what it is. a “season” or “stage” of life. Some mother’s lament the passing of the baby stage while others look forward to meaningful conversations with their teenagers.

Wait….are those meaningful conversations possible?

YES!

A well-known passage of scripture in Ecclesiastes  3 addresses the various seasons and times in life. We often read this in regard to major life events. I think several of these verses apply aptly to raising children.

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

God has a season and a time for everything. It may not be according to our timing, in fact many things probably WON’T be according to our timing.

Yet God in His infinite love and wisdom will carry out His plan in the lives of our children and grandchildren.

If they are precocious and do things “early”, enjoy that season.

If they progress at a “normal” pace (whatever that is), enjoy that as well.

If they are “late bloomers”, enjoy the surprise and joy of accomplishment with them. The wait can make it all the more sweet.

Above all else, remember – God is faithful.

An Act of True Worship

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Our daughter shared a post yesterday from John Piper about worshipping with our children. It is excellent and if you want to read it, I have included the link below.

It reminded me of my personal story regarding worship and children. It is from the 2nd blog I ever posted – April 25, 2011. Here it is –

As mothers of young children your body is a living sacrifice. You are no longer your own. You get up in the morning, change diapers, breastfeed, have meals, tend to chores (when able) and meet others’ needs all day long according to their schedule, not your own.

Romans 12:1 says “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

A loving mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for her family. I can remember thinking when our four children were small that I would never feel rested again.

I couldn’t imagine getting enough rest!

Yet, God convicted me with the truth of the above scripture one day at our home group. The home group leader, Phil, asked us to think about what in our lives were hindrances to authentic worship. The immediate response that came to my mind was “my children”!

Then I felt shame.

These were gifts from God! Why did I see them as a hindrance?

Because I did not see my service to them as significant in God’s eyes. I thought a “ministry” was more important. Yet, the Lord showed me those children were my ministry at that time. NOTHING was more important. Offering my body as a living sacrifice WAS an act of worship – one very pleasing to our Lord.”

Worshipping in church services with our children is one way to sacrifice – for a relatively short period of time – our own desire to focus on worship without distractions. As our children watch us worship, they will learn what worship is and learn to sense the Holy Spirit’s presence through the various parts of the service.

I believe once children are 5 years old, (some even before), most are able to learn what it means to sit quietly, participating as they are able. John Piper says – “Authentic, heartfelt worship is the most valuable thing in human experience.”   Yes! Amen!

If I believe that, why would I deprive my children of this experience? Add to that the joy of experiencing authentic worship together.

There will be challenging times, especially at first, but it is well worth the effort. This is true for grandparents as well. Grandparents need to support and encourage our grandchildren to worship, first by being examples of those who truly worship ourselves.

What a joy to experience the act of true worship together as families!

 

desiringgod.org  “Should Children Sit Through “Big Church”?