Too Much Green in My Garden?

ID-10013392 (1)“Your carrots look really good,” my mom said as she looked out my kitchen window.  Ah yes, two lacy green rows of baby carrot tops all in a straight row – nice and thick.

“Yes, I bought my seeds from the local hardware store,” I said.  “Only paid fifty-two cents for a half scoop of seeds.  That’s a quarter of the price I would pay for a seed packet and four times the amount of seeds; so I planted them really thick.”

If she looked out today, she’s say with alarm, “What happen to your carrots?”

Today, I thinned my carrots, because I’ve learned that if they are too close together, there will be no room for the carrot to grow. Now maybe it’s the Bambi Syndrome, but I hate pulling up those tiny little carrots and discarding them!  Murderer!  It’s not their fault that I planted them so thick.

While thinning them I need to make the decision as to which one stays and which one goes.  It’s not always the biggest plants that stay.  I just need to have a row of well-spaced carrot plants when I’m finished; so any plant that is too close to another, no matter how big, good, or healthy, has to go!

I couldn’t help thinking that our lives are a lot like those rows of carrots.  So many good things press into our schedules, often keeping us away from what is really important.  As born-again believers, what is most important?  Being a good worker, or being a godly worker?  Raising good kids, or raising godly kids?  Having a great marriage, or having a godly marriage?

Good things make good kids.  For example, dance lessons are a good thing; soccer is a good thing, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, family reunions, camping, skating, working… these are all good things.  They can build character into our children and can build strong families, but when anything gets in the way of godly “things” like church attendance, our personal or family devotions or prayer time, then that good thing must go.  Our lives may look great – lots of green tops, but when the harvest time comes, will there be a carrot?  Will there be any fruit for Jesus? Do I need to “pull out” some of the good things to make room for the godly things?

“Yea, but you don’t understand.  Susie would die if I pulled her out of softball and said that she had to go to Wednesday night Children’s Club at church.”

Well, here’s the deal.  I KNOW that I MUST pull those good carrots out to get fruit, so even though I hate doing it, I did it because I wanted the fruit at harvest time.  The real question for you is, what kind of fruit do you want in your children’s lives and can you accomplish that with your present schedule?  Too often we are fooled into thinking that we’ll get the desired result of godly children even though we don’t do what God requires.  And, at the risk of being too harsh, the problem goes a bit deeper – as adults, our hearts are not really “panting” after God as the deer thirsts for water.  Can we really drink of the Word without being under the preaching of the Word or without reading the Word?

I love growing root plants.  It’s so exciting to think about what’s happening under the ground!  About six weeks from now, I’ll be out there brushing the dirt away from the tops of the carrots to see if there’s any orange coming!

As we raise our children or walk our own path of sanctification, I think we should do the same check: brush away the “cover-ups” that we may create, the false impressions that we are giving, and take an honest hard look at what’s happening under the “dirt.”  Man sees the outside, but God sees the heart.  He knows what’s truly in the garden of our hearts and in the garden of our children’s hearts. When Judgment Day arrives, will any of us regret any decision we made to draw our families closer to God?  I seriously doubt it!

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.  Psalm 42:1

Empty Nest is for the Birds

ID-100186801Well, it’s official – our last little (or not so little!) bird just flew the nest.  As he said, “Good night. I’ll see you in the morning,” for the last time, a lump came to my throat – the same lump that has been lodging itself there for the past few weeks!

The Lord has been so gracious to me this summer:  Nathan originally was going to start his GAship right after graduation and be gone all summer.  THAT would have been very hard to swallow, especially after I continually consoled myself  while he was away at college that I would have him here this last summer before his wedding.  “Closure, Lord!  I need closure,” became my prayer, and He agreed!  God gave Nathan a different GA at a different school which starts August twenty-second!

The closure is over; tomorrow we head to Illinois for the Saturday wedding and I couldn’t be happier!  As we watching his plane grow smaller and smaller in the sky, I cried.  (Funny story: Actually, I was crying and dying over the wrong plane!  We were just about to leave the parking lot, when  Nathan texted us and said that they were about to take off!  LOL!)  After a visit to Hobby Lobby and a nice supper at Panera Bread, we headed home (listening to “For Men Only” which was recommended by our son!)

It’s been a tense few weeks.  Nathan has a lot on his plate: marriage, new apartment in a new town, graduate school, entrance exams), and although he tried hard not to let his angst spill over into our closure time, he wasn’t always successful!  As we sat watching “Little Men” last night, Tom and I both sighed a happy sigh – and I was a bit surprised!  We made it!  He’s gone and life is going on!

“Empty Nest” IS really for the birds. I don’t know all the ins and outs of bird-parenting, but I don’t think mom and dad bird sip coffee and grow old together after the chicks are gone.  None of us want to see our children leave home (well, maybe that’s not true!!).   WE didn’t relish the thought of any of our children leaving home, but the key to successful empty-nesting is to prepare for it.  It’s a dangerous thing, moms, when our lives are so wrapped up in our children that there is no relationship left with our husbands once the children are gone.  We have focused so much on the kids and their lives that, too often, we leave hubby on the couch to fend for himself with the remote control!

If I could give one word of caution to any married couple, it would be don’t let ANYTHING destroy that love which brought you two together!  Make time for each other at all cost! Keep focused on your man!  My husband often says that the one of the best things that you can do as a parent is love your spouse – he’s right!  (As usual! :))  It might sound as though our motives are selfish: Keep a close walk with hubby so that he’ll be there when you need him.   Even though that is a true statement, the bigger picture is that a marriage that is built on a strong relationship is one of the most alluring pictures that we can paint of God’s working in our lives!  This world needs to see marriages that shout the difference which Christ makes.

And if you’re saying, “It’s too late – we have nothing in common.”  Take time to remember.  What did you do together when you were first married or dating?  What does he like to do?  Shock him and go talk to him while he works on the car, or chops wood, or watches a ballgame (during the commercials!).  Sacrifice a little and see what happens!

Did Jesus know what He would gain when He suffered so in this world and on the cross?  I think so!  I know so, because He knows everything.  He sacrificed, and I gained everything; but He gained as well – He gained my heart, my love, my all!  What will you gain if you “sacrifice” your wants and time for your marriage?  The thought is beyond imagination!

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.  Proverbs 31:11

Hidden Blessings

“Once I cut down the weeds, I found that the ground was red with wild strawberries.  I guess you’d call them a hidden blessing.”

As this dear man shared his testimony in Sunday school a few weeks back, my husband replied, “That will preach!”

Hidden blessings: How many blessings are hidden from our lives because of the weeds of sin that have crowded in and taken over the ground of our heart?  Jesus promises showers of blessings await the heart that is obedient:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;

and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6: 33

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents,

or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake,

Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Luke 18: 29, 30

And in the Old Testament, our heavenly Father also promises loads of blessings:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house,

and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven,

and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. Malachi 3:10

And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee,

if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 28:2

A faithful man shall abound with blessings:

but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. Proverb 28:20

Does God hide or keep these blessing from us because He is mean?  Never. If you are a parent, you may understand this concept a little better.  You love to shower your child with blessings, but if there is disobedience in his heart and hands, the blessings stop–sometimes for correction, sometimes as instruction.  We don’t taunt our children saying, “I have this for you, but you are not good enough to have it.”  The blessings remain unseen until the problem is corrected; then comes the joy of pouring out the blessing!

God never dangles the reward before us like the proverbial carrot, bribing us to be good, because He knows the obedience will be for the reward and not for right.  Likewise, we would do well not to bribe our children for the same reason.

Hidden blessings.  It’s like a wonderful treasure hunt, seeking to do His will and searching our hearts for the weedy spots, so that we may please the Master.  I just finished weeding the garden…again!  It’s a lot of work!  I am always amazed at how quickly those nasty weeds show up!  If I don’t keep after it every week–what a mess!

Our hearts are even more susceptible to sin than my garden is to weeds.  Just as the roots of those weeds are hidden beneath the soil, the roots of sin run deeply in our hearts, part of our very nature.  All around us, the seeds of sinful thoughts blow, ready to take root at a moment’s notice!  No wonder we are told to “pray without ceasing,” and, like the Bereans, who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Ac 17:11

And then they come – the bountiful blessings from our God!  The blessings of the soul are much sweeter than fresh wild strawberries, and more beneficial than the freshest picked vegetable… “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10

Heavenly Homeland Security

Ah, gardening! I love my garden. I love looking at it out my kitchen window- neat straight rows of healthy plants, and as of yesterday morning, no weeds! What a glorious sight! I’ve trimmed down the size this year, mostly because of my husband’s accident. The garden is mainly my job, but Tom usually tills it in the spring, and he does help when he can. Even if he doesn’t have much spare time, I know he would help if I really get overwhelmed, but that isn’t true this year. My backup safety net is gone! He cannot help; it’s physically impossible. Amazing, how much that played on my mind and attitude.

Can you imagine what it would be like if that same scenario was true of our Heavenly Father? What if He wasn’t there? What if He couldn’t help me? God’s precious promise of security and peace is so much a part of our belief, that its nearly unfathomable to imagine life without it.

We cannot go back to what our lives were before salvation, and we often forget what it was like to have no hope or to be deceived by a false hope – to still be carrying the weight of sin and condemnation. No hope, no help – how miserable! Oh, the joy of knowing Jesus!  His promises are ever true!  He will NEVER leave us or forsake us.

And on this glorious Fourth of July, there is another blessing that is easily overlooked as our gaze seems to focus on all that is wrong with America.  We don’t have to worry about the police coming to our homes and arresting us because we are believers.  We know that there is an ambulance waiting for us if we need to get to the hospital.  There are doctors on call right now if we need them and firemen waiting for that dreaded call.  We live in a country that cannot deny its Christian roots.  We see it every time disaster strikes and a host of volunteers show up to do whatever needs to be done!  That kind of responsible behavior and care came from our American ancestors who learned what was right because they had been taught the Ten Commandments, directly or indirectly.  It was just a given in their homes and schools.

Our homeland is secure as of today, and we have much to be thankful for.  Every country has its skeletons in the closets and its host of demons working to destroy all that is good; but how blessed we are to know that America has so much good at its foundation!  The fiber of American life is threaded together with Christian values and Biblical truths; and no matter how many people try to remove them in the name of tolerance, to do so would insure the destruction of the United States of America. Removing them would be as disastrous as taking the oxygen out of water – it would simply not exist.  Oh, may God continue to bless America!

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.  

Psalm 33:12