Friday, July 26, 2013


My mother-in-law, who loves growing her flowers,  once asked me what flowers I was growing in my yard.  It was hard not to laugh.  Gardening has never been my thing.

As a matter of fact, most of my memories of gardening include me trying to find a way to not have to wade through the grass and plants.  I do, however,  have one delicious memory of my dad growing peanuts when I was about six or seven when I hid at the end of the row to eat those lovely little raw peanuts.

Then two years ago, my husband decided it would be a great idea for us to start a garden.  We started small -- pots and a small plot in our backyard.  Then our neighbors told us we could use part of their yard to have a larger garden.  I managed to avoid the action last year, but this year even I was roped into our family garden.

Now I see that there are some real benefits to gardening.  We not only have been able to grow lots of yummy, nutritious, basically free vegetables, but also we have been able to share the wealth with our neighbors around us.  Additionally, our kids are learning to develop a work ethic, it's a great science experiment on the life cycle of plants, we get to be outdoors, and we are working together as a family.

Thus, several weeks ago, I found myself in the garden weeding -- NOT my favorite part. (My favorite part is eating the cherry tomatoes right off the plant  -- maybe I haven't grown up all that much).  In school, I've taught my kids about the way that some species manage to survive in nature.  One of those ways is mimicry.  And as I was in the garden one morning I noticed how similar some of the weeds were to the plants that we were actually trying to grow.  As I studied the leaves to make sure that I wasn't ripping up our precious pea plants, my mind, as usual, began to wander and a very poignant realization came to me.

Our lives are much like the plants growing in a garden.  We choose many people and things in which to invest ourselves.  Some of these are quality people and important activities that make us grow.  Some of these are people and activities that stump our growth and hold us back from our full potential.  In order to reach our full potential, we need to remove the weeds from our lives.

Some weeds are easy to spot.  The friends that are always negative and bring you down -- weed.  Activities that take time away from family or church -- weed.  Gossip -- weed.  Materialism -- weed.  Idleness -- weed.

Some weeds are not so easy to see such as  friends that seem to be on the same page as us, but are quietly manipulating us to do things that aren't right or are sucking away energy that we should be investing somewhere else.

Even worse are the weeds in life that mimic goodness. My little ones often pick "flowers" from the yard to bring in for me.  The flowers are just weeds that have popped up, but the kids only see their beauty. Some of the activities in which we invest our time look like pretty flowers but may not be anything more than a distraction from our personal growth. You may teach Sunday School every week, but if you aren't stopping to allow God to work in your life or living your life in such a way that people see godliness in you, that teaching is a weed in your life.

If we don't remove the weeds from the garden, they will continue to grow and flourish.  They will choke out the good plants and make the rows so overgrown that we cannot get down them.  Likewise, when we do not stop the weeds in our life, we get choked out and cannot reach the potential that we are created to have.

Lately, I've been taking stock of some of the things and people in my life.  Unfortunately, there are some of both that I have had to move away from being involved with in my everyday life.  And this weeding is not always easy.  It's hard when there is someone or something in your life that you're used to having around but that you have to move away from for your own benefit.. It's difficult to realize that your help to someone may really just be a crutch for someone else to lean on and that you may actually be working as an enabler, not a helper.  It's difficult when activities that you enjoy doing are no longer the activities that are beneficial to you.

I challenge you to stop and think about the things in your life.  Are there weeds that are stunting your growth?

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."   Psalms 1: 1 - 3

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Weathering the Storm

A couple of weeks ago, my family, sans my husband this year,  traveled to Missouri for our annual church-building mission trip.  I thought myself to be very fortunate because I was the lucky one -- out of the 120 crew members on the trip, my three little kids and I got to skip the agony of sleeping on leaky air mattresses and got to stay in a small camper that one of the local church members had lent out for our use.

And it was good.  All the ladies complained of freezing at night -- I controlled my own air.  I got to sleep on a real mattress.  I did have to traipse inside to take a shower since there was no hot water, but that was no biggie.

Then the last night of the trip came, and with it, a mighty thunderstorm.  The gusty wind woke me up about one in the morning, and I lay in the bed watching the lightning flash outside the windows.  I listened to the thunder.  I felt the wind pushing the trailer's side.  I kept hearing this slicing whistle of a wind that really freaked me out --- I later realized it was a train that had stopped on the track just across the street. My three little ones snoozed as I rocked in the wind.

And then, as my mama's mind often does, I started to plot out what to do if things got really bad. I started walking myself through "my plan" of how to get the kids out of the trailer and into the main building.  This was a feat that would have forced me to leave little ones alone and get drenched in the process.  I couldn't really come up with a great plan and wasn't so sure that I even needed to get us out.  I finally decided that since I had to be up at 4:30 to prepare breakfast for everyone, I really needed to just get some sleep.

So I prayed.  I told God that I just needed him to give me peace and rest.  And he did.  The next thing I knew, my alarm was beeping for me to get up, and things were clear outside.

I was never in the danger that I felt I was in.  But my control freak tendencies took over, and I started to obsess about the "what if's" like I often do in life.  In the dark of the night, when I felt that I didn't have much control at all, it was easy to let go and let God take the reins.

I have two favorite Bible verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 > "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Philippians 4:13 > "I can do everything through Him who give me strength."

These are my life rafts.  When life veers out of control, and I can't see the upside, I cling to these words to remember that God is with me.  Just as He was in that tiny camper.  But not only is He with me, He was there before I ever get myself into sticky messes, and if I allow His plan to come to fruition (rather than trying to change it myself), He will walk me through it on a path that will make me a stronger person.

But what about when the storms of life become more figurative?

What about when there is conflict that I just don't know how to solve?

What about when I can't quiet my mind to stop and listen to what God is trying to tell me to do?

The winds of these storms are blowing in me now.  There are some things that I have been praying fervently for all summer, but now that I see how God's will is panning out, I don't know if I'm strong enough to accept His will.

I've been here before... I prayed and prayed for something, those prayers were answered, and the path that the answers came on were slippery at best.  I remember kneeling on my son's floor and crying out, "Really God? THIS is how you answered me?"

So there's this knot in my chest.  This "something" that won't release me.  I have spent hours on the phone or huddled in the hallway at church with several of my dear friends trying to find the light at the end of the foggy tunnel.  And I'm split.  I know what I think I should do, but it's becoming pretty clear to me, that what I think I should do may not be what God is telling me to do.  And for me, this is where the thunder and lightning strike up.  I very well believe that God may be about to make me walk on a slick, messy,  muddy path that is going to make me quite uncomfortable.

And I wonder.... will I weather this storm?