Unexpected blooms

I do not have a green thumb whatsoever, but wish I did.

Every spring, my husband and children give me a potted Easter lily. In the beginning, I enjoyed them until they died from a lack of water (my bad) in the foil-lined plastic pot with a large ribbon tied around it. One year, thinking I had nothing to lose, I planted the lily. Five years later, I continue to plant my special gifts with fingers crossed.

Nearby, I wanted to spruce up a small corner of our yard so I planted Calalilies. Truly, if anything is going to live on our property it must be pretty much self-sufficient, drought-proof and frost-proof.

About this time every year, I am AMAZED when these little beauties pop up and show off their gorgeous colors and form.

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As I stood and stared at them today, I had a thought.

Is this what it’s like, God? Is this what happens when we put just a little work into our hearts? It’s like You take our effort and multiple it beyond measure! When I forgive someone. Ask for forgiveness. Help someone. Seek You. Decide one more time not to quit the race. Love the unlovely. Bite my tongue. Give it all over to You. Ask for wisdom. Worship You.

Salvation is not earned by works. God doesn’t love me more or less depending on my actions and words. His grace is steady. Faithful. Unwavering.

But, like with the prodigal son who decided to return home, and his father saw him far off and ran to him and prepared a banquet (Luke 15:11-31). The widow’s son collected jars for the oil that kept flowing and flowing (2 Kings 4:1-7). Moses took the first step out of Egypt (Exodus 12:31-42). Abraham packed up and moved to a place he’d never been (Genesis 12:1-9). Mary believed the angel who told her the good news of great joy about the baby inside her virgin womb (Luke 1:26-38). Peter followed Jesus even after Peter admitted his own inadequacy (Luke 5:1-11).

Just like the plants I planted in the ground, so God sees His children trying to follow Him. Our hearts, like my garden, are rich to receive Him. After all, they were made to be His temple.

A little effort in an area on our part and God runs with it to produce something beyond our wildest dreams. Our effort is our obedience.

Looking at these flowers every year, I am encouraged and challenged to keep pursuing God. To continue letting Him perform heart surgery on me, if you will, in the areas that have grown dry and hard. When I let Him til the soil, pull the weeds and cut back the overgrowth of sin, He has space to grow something beautiful that I could never imagine.

I write this today with a garden in bloom in my heart. Is my life perfect? Absolutely not. However, buds and blooms burst forth in shapes and fragrances I never knew it could by way of healed forgiveness, unexplained peace, raptured joy, and rest knowing God truly is love and is sovereign.

Some of these blooms have taken years to take root. They’ve taken A LOT of surrendering while God tilled and tilled and tilled the weeds and rocks out of my heart. It’s taken me holding my breath while He pours from heaven the grace and mercy I’ve needed for certain buds drink in to thrive.

I’ve learned, and continue to learn, that God really is trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28). He really does work all things good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He really is looking over the world to see who He can encourage (2 Chronicles 16:9). He truly doesn’t forget us or our pain (Psalm 34:18). He is faithful when I’m not (Psalm 89:7-8). Loving when I can’t (Romans 5:8). Strong when I am weak (Psalm 18:2). He is good all the time – even in the midst of baddest bad (Psalm 86:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Just like the blooms that take me by surprise each year, so does the gardening that God continues to do in my heart. Although I’ve left the lilies to fend for themselves, God has never – will never – leave me or you (Deuteronomy 31:6).

So what’s the point of all this gardening He does in our hearts?

We will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor (Isaiah 61:3) in colors and fragrances and forms we have yet to imagine. When people look at our lives they will see the hand of the loving Gardener who makes us beautiful.

 

 

 

You’ve got my attention

For a few days now, I have noticed a huge blimp flying over my neck of the woods advertising this and that. It’s funny, I remember the visual of the blimp way more than I recall what it was promoting because, well, blimps are cool and it’s not every day we get to see one hoovering over the earth.

Last night, in an unusual evening of watching some television, my daughter and I shook our heads at what companies are doing these days to try to get us to buy their stuff. I looked at her and said, “Do they really think we are so dumb that this is all they think we’ll understand?”

I walked away from the experience of watching ridiculously watered-down, unintelligent, sexist (could they please give the men in ads half a brain??) commercials feeling frustrated and insulted. I cannot recall one single product they were selling.

Driving between cities this week on a long stretch of highway, billboards screamed at me it seemed every 10 feet. Everything one can imagine was either plastered in paper, boasted neon blinking lights or had 3D statues strung up for all to see. So sad that these overshadow the simple beauty and serenity of green landscapes of trees, cow fields, and farms.

In the midst of so much visual clutter, there was someone in pursuit of my attention for the past week. He wasn’t selling anything. He wasn’t trying to manipulate my emotions, compulsions or cravings. He didn’t set me up to believe a mirage of quick fixes. He didn’t make empty promises of fulfillment. He had a laser-focused message He wanted me to get – and get it good.

God has been incredibly intentional these past seven days to show me one truth – I am not alone.

Several days ago, there was a difficult day that I could barely muddle through. I was at the third grocery store of the day trying to gather everything we needed to host three dinners back-to-back in three days, including Easter. My oldest son and I were filing out of the store with the scores of other people shopping for their weekends when beautiful flowers caught my eye.

What is it about flowers and females? We just can’t help ourselves. We love them!

Years ago, I reconciled that is perfectly fine to buy myself flowers. I am worth it. But, this particularly hard day struck me with wave after wave of despair. I believed the lie being whispered in my ear that I, in fact, wasn’t worth it after all.

My son tried to convince me to buy them, but I didn’t. This wasn’t a pit party or woe-is-me moment, it was a seriously dark day for good reason and I couldn’t find a silver lining in the thunderous clouds looming overhead no matter how many hours I looked for it.

The very next day, my doorbell rang. I had no earthly idea who it was.

I opened the door to find one of my closest friends smiling, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers!  Her heart felt God’s tug, and out of her love for me and obedience to Him she stopped her day to bless mine.

Here is what happened the MOMENT I saw her and the bouquet. God instantly brought back the flowers I wouldn’t buy – and why I wouldn’t buy them – and He whispered to me, Yes you are worth it. 

Only God could have known.

I had been cruising along with cooking, cleaning etc, in preparation for hosting Easter weekend and had not given the flowers I saw the day before another thought. But, God was watching. He saw that, although I tried to hide my broken heart from my son, I couldn’t hide it from my Father. Oh how I love Him!

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* * * * * * * * * *

Fast-forward a few days. I was unexpectedly involved in a helping a tragedy that left me extremely shaken. Dazed and numb, I continue to coast through the hours and days doing my daily work. Inside, I am a wreck. Flashbacks, sounds of it ringing in my ears and sights of it every time I close my eyes leaves me with an inner tremor I can’t control. It was 2 days before I could shed a single tear. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It’s only been four days and the tears keep flowing…

During this time, my husband and youngest son went to the grocery store for just a couple of things after karate lessons one night, and the sight I beheld when they walked through the door stole my heart.

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I asked my favorite middle schooler why he was giving me these gorgeous roses. He smiled real big and replied, Because I love you and for what you went through. I thought you could use some cheering up. 

I know without a doubt he loves me, and am grateful my teenage son would take the time to show me.  In my heart, I heard God tell me, I see. I know. You can trust your pain to me and I will take care of you.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yesterday was an ordinary morning of racing the sunrise to get everybody to where they needed to be. I stumbled into our bathroom to brush my teeth and saw something out of the corner of my eye.

I reached for it and discovered a small yellow Post-it stuck under my medicine cabinet. Then another near my make-up. And another one inside the cabinet. And still another…

Although they were unsigned, I knew exactly who they were from – my daughter. Each member of our family has distinct handwriting, and there was no doubt at all these was from her.

How did she know I needed encouragement so desperately this particular morning? She has a very giving heart and a sense of intuition beyond her high school age.  She, like my friend and my son, felt God’s tug on her heart and responded.

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Lately, stress has been high octane around here for many reasons – some completely out of our control. Like a small boat on the ocean, I feel like our family is being tossed around by ominous, bullying waves. I am seasick from it all and wake up every morning with a pit in my stomach. This pit is the first feeling of the day – not ideal. Only God knows this, and He prepared all of these love notes, with my daughter’s help, to help me exhale through the early mornings.

Does life seem to have the upper hand for you right now? Do you feel lost, tossed, tired or forgotten?

There is one God, one true God, who knows everything about your life. Talking to Him through prayer is awesome because, unlike family and friends, we never have to catch Him up. He has been in every moment. When life takes our breath away, and we feel sucker-punched, we don’t have to muster strength to relive, retell and feel everything all over again.

He knows. He sees. He cares.

Even if you have never, ever called on Him for help – He has loved you all you along, never more – never less. His love is not conditional and does not depend on our performance or lack thereof.

He. Just. Loves. You. Period.

Tap into His love today. He’s shouting it from the mountains, singing it over you while you sleep, and painting it in brilliant colors that flowers only dream of.  He is leaving love notes all over your life.  His signature is distinct, just like my daughter’s.  He is pursing you in ways that only you can deeply grasp, like my friend’s and son’s flowers.

Ask God to help you recognize His handwriting in your life. He is writing His love story on your heart to you, about you, and for you.  Take a moment and read it today. It’s amazing what His perspective can bring to our lives – truth, peace, hope and joy – even in the midst of dark days and frightening waves.

Yes, sometimes life absolutely has the upper hand. But, as a believer, I rest in complete peace knowing God’s hands are bigger and He’s got the whole world in them. He’s got you, too. Let Him carry you today.

 

Hope blooms

Nature has risen from its slumber.  Flowers are in bloom, trees burst with pride over their new leaves.  The air is fresh.  Crisp.  That’s what I love about spring – everything is new.  Our family enjoys watching the seasonal birds come to and fro – especially my husband.  He takes very good care of his “woodland friends,” as he calls them, by keeping the bird feeders we have scattered across our yard well-stocked with unique mixtures of seed, thistle, corn, etc.  One feeder, however, has a design flaw.  It cannot keep squirrels away.  Squirrels are a huge part of our naturescape, and they’ve spread the word among the squirrel kingdom about this feeder.

Any time of day, I can look out my window and see them scampering all over this feeder like a superhighway, hoarding the treats inside.  The little thieves.  They run the birds off, fight with each other, and make a mess in the process dropping both shells and whole seeds on the ground in my flowerbed.  Ug.  My dog loves these bushy-tailed critters because they are fun to chase…and anything on our property is fair game to this canine.

One morning, I went outside to check on things.  I noticed a small, bright green bud poking up through the ground near the feeder.  It didn’t look like the perennials I’ve planted before.  It looked like a weed.  Call me lazy, I did nothing about it.  We watched this little bud grow bigger over time, but still couldn’t tell what it was.  I kept telling myself, just pull it up, but I was usually already doing something else and didn’t want to bother with it.

It was a hot afternoon, in the sweltering sun, when this mysterious plant made its debut.  It was indeed, not a weed, rather – a sunflower!  How in the world?  In my flowerbed are black-eyed susans, daisies, and assorted flowers and foliage I planted by hand.  I did not plant any sunflowers.  It’s not the right place for them.  They need lots of space and tons of sun.  This little guy was wedged in between plants and only received partial sun.  Nonetheless, there stood, in my flowerbed, a sunflower – perfect in every way.  I laughed to myself when I realized what happened.  At some point, a whole sunflower kernel had been knocked off the bird feeder (by a menacing squirrel, no doubt), and it germinated and produced a spectacular specimen.  Wow.

I was amazed because I did nothing to it.  I didn’t water it, nurture it, or help it in any way, because I figured whatever was growing was simply a weed.  How wrong I was.  What was presumed a worthless wonder was a wonderful treasure.  A plan had taken root within the small, black seed and unveiled a resplendent result.

Life can be like that at times.  Messy.  Upheavaled.  Unplanned.  What we see as weeds, God sees as hidden potential.  The old expression, bloom where you’re planted, is a fine message.  But, I don’t know if it’s only the bloom that should receive an applause.  Like the sunflower seed that fell off of our bird feeder, our lives have more fight in them than we may think when God’s hand is upon them.  We weather the storms, survive the droughts, and struggle to find our place in the world.  Why?  Hope.  This little word packs a big punch.  Hope is hidden potential.  Hidden potential is God’s plan for us.  When the odds are stacked against us, we’re tired and weary, and we just don’t see how anything is possible, hope tells us that the impossible is possible.  Hope is not logical, reasonable, or conceivably attainable.  But, God sees such a different perspective.  He says…

Watch Me make a way when you don’t see one (Isaiah 30:21). I have plans for your life (Philippians 1:6).  Have hope (Psalm 62:5).  Even if you give up, I’m not going to.  Never (Isaiah 40:28-31).  I created you, love you, and will never leave you (Psalm 17: 8; Psalm 139:13-14).  I will plant you, water you, make you strong, and cheer you as you grow (Isaiah 61:3b).  I will delight in your blooms and sing over you (Zephaniah 3:17).  What the world meant for harm, I will work for your good (Romans 8:28).  Everyone else may have given up and left you, but I have not and will not (Matthew 28:20; John 14:18).  Seasons of life are continually changing (Ecc. 3:1-8) you need only to trust Me.  Continue growing in Me, and wait for the bloom (Psalm 130:5). You are beautiful now in the growing season; and will continue to be when My light is revealed through you and others see the work of My hand and praise Me (Matthew 5:16).  Don’t be afraid to ask big of Me (Ephesians 3:20-21).  I am the Good Father and you can trust Me (Matthew 7:7-11).

When we feel like we’ve been discarded by life – forgotten and useless – where we are may be right where we need to be for a new beginning.  Waiting is hard.  We want results now, but we know good things are worth the wait.  Sarah Young writes in Jesus Calling:

Waiting on Me means directing your attention to Me in hopeful anticipation of what I will do…I have promised many blessings to those who wait on Me: renewed strength, living above one’s circumstances, resurgence of hope, awareness of My continual presence.

We must give God time and space to work in our lives.  When we can’t see what He is doing, we know He is working twice as hard beneath the surface to fulfill His purpose for us (Ps 33:11).  Grow.  Keep growing.  Keep growing.  Wait for the bloom – what a beautiful sight, like the sunflower, you will be.

Oh, as a follow-up, it was absolutely amazing to me when, as the sunflower continued to remind me every day of hope, God’s plan, and true beauty that can come ever so unexpectedly, one day I saw another bud appear.  Another sunflower?  I thought.  Nope.  Something even more of an enigma.  It grew to be, in fact, a 4 foot tall corn stalk!  Yes!  Right there, nestled between typical flowerbed foliage and the single, sparkling sunflower, was an actual stalk of corn – born out of a corn kernel discarded by the squirrels.  Just when we think there is nothing good that can come from an experience, God does the remarkable with our leftovers and creates a work of art.  When we doubt and say There is no way, God says, Just watch me.  Never underestimate His power or plan for your life.  You just never know when a miracle will pop up.

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