Weeding the Garden

"Bronze Susan"   Photo by Sherri Woodbridge
“Bronze Susan”
Photo by Sherri Woodbridge

Many of you know that my passion is gardening. There is a saying, “You are nearer to God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” I suppose that if you were a carpenter, you might say that you are nearer to God’s heart in the sawmills. However, since that is not the case with me, my heart tends to be nearer to God’s heart when I am outside.

I have often wondered if what draws me is the display of endless and bountiful colors that He adorns the earth with or if it is the fresh air and the release of tension that comes when tending the soil. Whatever it is, it does my heart good.

Recently, I spent a long day out in my yard digging weeds from my lawn. For most people, I have heard that this is tedious work. For others, they prefer to sprinkle it with commercial weed killer and hope that it gets the most of it. For me, I am not content unless I get my gloves on and have my weeding tool in hand and dig the pesky things out, knowing that I have gotten as much as the root as possible. For some they call this obsessive compulsive. For others, being a perfectionist. For me, I’m just doing it the way I was taught. Regardless, it’s great therapy.

During my therapy session with God the other day, He began to show me more deeply, the impact that sin can have on our lives.

I was taught in a biology class that I once took, that a weed is something that grows where you don’t want it. So, on that day of therapy, I took to removing the weeds in my lawn—things that were growing where they didn’t belong, in places where I didn’t want them. I think sin is like weeds. It grows where it doesn’t belong, in children who belong to God and have been bought with the blood of Christ. If we know that it has no place in our lives, then whey do we allow it?

I spent a lot of time that day pulling out clover. I let it go too far. When it first began to grow, I remember thinking, I like the little flowers. I knew it wasn’t grass, I knew it didn’t belong, but for the time, I enjoyed it. Now, I was paying the price. What once seemed so appealing was now literally choking the life out of what I wanted to grow and so much so, that what was supposed to be growing in those places where clover had taken over, had now completely disappeared.

After much pulling and cutting into my fingers, the roots came out slowly, often leaving gaping holes in the lawn. Places that will now need careful tending to heal and grow back to the place where the obsessive compulsive gardener likes them. And, isn’t sin like that?

It can be so appealing and doesn’t appear that harmful and so we allow it to tease us to the point that we let just a little bit in our lives and before we know it, God is having to tend to us with the weeding tool of his gentle hand and work on the roots we have allowed to embed themselves deep into our heart.

Like… swearing. Like eating. Like the books we read or the music we listen to or the shows we watch. It all seems harmless but before we know it, we’re saying a few of the same words, eating a little too much, reading what would break the heart of God, humming tunes that don’t lift anyone or anything up and we’re watching things that Jesus has to leave the room for. And for those of us who are parents, what message are we sending to our kids or grandkids? Even dandelions are pretty for a moment, but we all know how, when left unattended, that pretty little flower goes to seed and then you have a big problem!

As I was pulling out all these weeds, I also realized how much pain there was involved. My hands grew stiff, my back hurt, and it was hot. It made me realize that God takes no joy in seeing His children suffer. And, sin causes suffering.

As my hands became cut and scratched from the weeding, it made me think of Christ, who shed His blood to remove our sin so that we could be restored back to the place our heavenly Father desires us to be.

We all have clover growing around us and we all allow a dandelion or two now and then into our lives. The trick is to get them out before they take hold, the root goes deep and the sin spreads. Is there something in your life, no matter how insignificant it may have seemed, that is keeping you from blooming the way God intended for your life? Is there something choking the life of Christ out of you?

Not too long ago I asked God to show me if there was anything that was not pleasing to Him. Years ago, I decided that if I wanted anything specific for my life, it was to know I lived a life that pleased God alone. When asking Him, there was not anything obvious that came to mind, but in the days to come, God clearly showed me two areas that did not please Him. To others, they may have seemed insignificant. After all, I wasn’t robbing banks or committing adultery, but to me, they were areas needing tending because they grieved His spirit. And to Him, they were, plain and simple – sin. I allowed Him to dig deep into my heart and take out what didn’t belong there. Even the smallest areas can be painful to remove. It is painful to know that you have broken the heart of God.

If you are struggling today, I am praying that you will allow the love of God to restore you to the place He desires you to be. If you think you have everything together, I encourage you to seek His heart. There may be some little area He can see that you are unable to see and it’s keeping you from complete fellowship with Him. It may be time to do some weeding.

Just Because You Plant the Seed

 I plant pumpkins each year and give some away and others are left to sit around as fall decorations.  This  year, I had a two year old in tow when my one and only pumpkin was ripe for picking and so she and her ‘Boppa’ went outside to snip the big orange ball from the vine and returned to the house to gut it.  It was an experience.

 

At first, my granddaughter wanted nothing to do with the flesh hanging from the insides of the pumpkin. Upon first sight, she quickly folded her arms together and backed away after I took the top off the pumpkin and she saw what was in there. She wanted nothing to do with it but when she realized it wasn’t all that yucky, she eagerly helped to clean out the inside.

 

After we finished, I looked through the pulp for seeds to save for next year and collected about two dozen.  I allowed them to dry and then put them in a plastic bag and sat them on the kitchen counter for the time being.  My son saw them sitting there and asked what I was going to do with them.

 

“I’m gonna plant them—all of them.”

 

“You can’t plant all of those,” he insisted.

 

“Yes—I can,” I replied, most certain.

 

“They won’t all grow.”

 

“Yes they will—every single one of them.  I’ll have 85 pumpkins.”

 

His final comment?

 

“Just because you plant the seed doesn’t mean it will grow.”

 

It was so matter-of-fact.  It irritated me.  And then I thought about it for a few days and you know—he’s right.

 

Not every seed I have planted has grown.  Some have stayed in the package past their prime planting dates and refused to emerge. That wasn’t their fault. I neglected them.  In fact, I have a packet of foxglove seeds that my mother in-law gave me that are from 1939.  There is no way I would plant those and expect them to grow.  There’s no way I’m getting rid of them, either.

 

We may plant seeds in others of God’s truth and wonder why it hasn’t grown.  We’ve shared God’s love, extended his mercy, been evidence of His amazing grace, explained the truth of His word, shown the need for repentance and… nothing.  Lots of seeds – but nothing grows.

 

One of the most important things you could ever do for a newly planted seed is water it regularly and make sure it is a nice, warm, safe place to sit and soak up the sun.  It’s that simple.  But sometimes, no matter how right the conditions are, not every seed will grow.  For whatever reason, it will never see daylight or if it does, it withers shortly thereafter.  It will never grow or produce fruit or bloom.

 

As a believer of Christ, our life can be so similar.  We attempt to plant seeds in the lives of others and sometimes they take root and grow.  But there is another side–they refuse to grow.  No roots form.  There is no evidence of life above the ground.  It’s the case of… “Just because you plant the seed, doesn’t mean it will grow.”

 

Ah yes.  Our job is to do the planting.  God knows what it takes to make those seeds grow – how much water, the best time to water, plenty of sunshine, and warmth.  We have been chosen to be the caretakers and gardeners of those planted seeds. To teach those in which seeds have been planted where they are to run and find shelter in the storms.  To teach them how to store up water in their roots for inevitable dry spells. To show them how to apply nutrients from God’s word, making their lives richer and fuller.  

 

I will plant all two dozen pumpkin seeds next year.  Some may not grow.  But I will do what I know I need to do in order for those that grow to produce the best fruit possible… water, allow for sunshine, and provide TLC.  I hope I do the same for those who have seeds lying dormant within their hearts.  Provide some water, lead them into the sunshine, and feed them from God’s word.  But there’s one truth I must remember that I have no control over…

I can plant the seed, but it doesn’t mean it will grow.  

 

Fig Leaf Gardening

 

If you’re anything like me, there’s something about gardening and pulling weeds, about pruning back and watering seedlings. It calms your spirit, draws you closer to your Maker, and soothes your soul. However, given information I just uncovered, I think I may have finally found something about gardening that I just can’t get into. Or maybe I should say, get out of.
Did you know that tomorrow has been named a world day of observance for gardening in the buffWorld Naked Gardening Day (WNGD) has come to be celebrated by some (and denounced by others) since 2005 by the help of Mark Storey.
It has become quite a thing at the Abbey House Gardens in Malmesbury, Great Britain where clothing is optionalPersonally, I can’t imagine doing such a thing. Just think of the situations you misn’t encounter: the briar patch, the poison oak patch, the rose thorns, the neighbors’ cat’s gift in your flower garden (one like  you stepped in yesterday,but then you were wearing your garden togs)…
Well, you can imagine for yourself. Not only does the unexpected visitor get to see unbecoming drops of sweat run down your face, but also they get to see your, well, you can insert whatever you like. And, for much gardening we do, we’re bending over. If you thought that was unattractive before…
Usually, (for me at least) you go into the house at the end of the day and realize you forgot the sunscreen again. Can you imagine forgetting the sunscreen tomorrow? Ouch.
So, now, I have alerted you of tomorrow’s significance. It’s up to you to decide what to do about it. My advice?
Don’t forget the sunscreen. Oh, and the hat. And I heard gloves are okay to wear on this special occasion. I would also suggest a fig leaf. Please…don’t forget the fig leaf.

I Was A Princess

I have a bad habit of cutting and pruning things and piling the cuttings and brush in piles and then when I am finished, I am too tired to pick them up and discard them. It’s not a big chore, as there is a specified dumpster that I am able to drive right up to and dump it in but it is one chore I don’t leave energy for.

The other day I was doing just that. I had driven a few bags and boxes and tubs to the dumpster to clean up the piles accumulating behind the house. I put down the door hatch in the back of the car and got in the car.

Starting the engine, I then put it in drive and made a left onto the road and headed down to the dumpster. I got out of the car, put on my gloves and walked to the back of the car and opened the door.

Grabbing the first tub, I heard a “Stop right there. We’ll do that.”

I turned around to see the two maintenance guys in our park pull up and exit their little golf cart.

“Really?,” I asked, feeling they had enough to do and I didn’t.

“Yep. Just leave it there. We’ll get it for you,” said Toby, the one who has worked here for ten years.

It’s a funny thing what pain can do. It humbles you. It changes you. It makes you a different person. Where once I felt I could do it all and would feel guilty and reply with something like, “You just go ahead and do what you need to do – I can get this“, now I am happy for the help.

So, I stood there and watched them empty my garden clippings and thought, “I feel like a princess.” And then I asked myself, “Is this what a princess feels like?”

I am certain it is. A princess has her own servants who empty her yard clippings. They lift out the bundles from her carriage so that in her daily pain she does not wince and feel every stretch of her muscles that have tightened in her back and neck and arms.

I don’t think of Toby or the other guy as servants. Yet, in their willingness to serve me, I did feel like a princess, even if it was for only a moment.

Listening and Staying

Something inside compelled me to stay. Was it really necessary to plant the smaller plants for this old woman? After all, she loved gardening just as much as I did and would love to be down there on her knees with me, bent over to face the dirt and let the earth crumble within her hands. But bend over she couldn’t do. So she sat in her plastic WalMart chair that has sustained all too many harsh summer rays, weathering its original, glossy sheen to a dull, dingey green.

She sat there, grateful and appreciative that someone would take the time to help her. She was more than willing to get her old rug and lay it on the grass so she could lay on her stomach and plant the zinnias I held in my hand. She would be more than happy to, but tomorrow would come and her back would be complaining to her all day about how it warned her to stop and accept the help.

I kept on until the last flower was planted, feeling torn to go home and yet, feeling as if I needed to stay. And as I covered that last zinnia with dirt, she stood.

“It’s been twelve years today since my son killed himself.”

I froze, the shovel still in the grip of my hand.

What do you say at a moment like that? To say, “I’m sorry” seemed so trite. I stood. And she continued.

She told how, as a young man he had had some hard knocks, then had served eight years in the Gulf War, only to come home to find his wife pregnant with a child by a friend of his. He couldn’t find a way out of the darkness and he took his own life. He was forty-four. 

The prime of his life, some might say. But – what is a prime time of life for some finds others in the worst circumstances they  ever imagined. Darkness consumes the soul and they can’t seem to find a way out other than to stop it’s deadly envasion by stopping it themselves.

She had spent the morning going through letters he had written, cards, mementos kept to keep memories alive and fresh. But on this day, twelve years after his death, she discarded those worn pieces of paper that kept sadness and heartache alive and fresh.

And so I stayed longer and we sat and talked about David. And the life he lived. And how hard it had been to lose him – one of your own children.

I cannot imagine. I don’t want to imagine.

The flowers were planted. It was quiet now as we sat there in those two plastic chairs.

“Can I do anything for you?” I asked.

What could I do? I couldn’t take away the pain. I couldn’t turn back time and wish someone could have stopped him and made him see how valuable he was, how his life mattered. How it would get better, even through the pain. What could I do? Yet, still I asked.

“No, I’ll be alright,” she said, a tear falling down her cheek. “What you’ve done means more than you’ll know. Now I can come out here and look at my beautiful flowers and smile.”

Little did I know that the woman sitting behind me, watching the dust of the earth being sifted through my hands, was reliving the heartache of the last twelve years in her lonely
world. Time may ease the pain, but it certainly doesn’t take away the pain.

I look out my window now and can see her watering her yard, just two houses down. I thank God that I listened to that still small voice that beckoned me to stay with her a while longer and finish planting the flowers that, in the midst of her sorrow, would bring a smile to her face.

 

How Do You Say P-E-O-N-Y ?

Jon and Ginnie Deason, owners of Deason Peonies

Situated in the quaint little town of Ashland, in Southern Oregon, sits a little farm where Jon and Ginnie Deason grow (what some believe to be) the most beautiful flowers in the world – peonies.

Known to thrive for over 50 plus years, peonies are “the fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, a rare fusion of fluff and majesty…” said Henry Mitchell, an American writer (1923-93) and truly, he knew what he was talking about.

Having been labeled as ‘outrageously beautiful’, ‘sumptuous’, ‘breath-taking’, ‘striking’, and ‘impressive’, peonies are a gardener’s favorite. Easy to grow but “requiring a lot of patience” (according to grower Ginnie Deason), the peony is one flower every garden should not be without.

Ginnie grew up in the midwest, where her family grew peonies – one of their favorite flowers – so deciding to grow peonies on two of their twelve acres in the outskirts of Ashland seemed like a natural fit. They now sell plants and tubers at local farmer’s markets and on the internet.

“Blaze”

Ginnie’s “favorite” peony changes from year to year, one of this year’s favorites being “Blaze“, a ‘reliable performer with bright red blooms, with flowers that are perfect for cutting.’ 

As I stand at the Deason’s stand at the local Farmer’s Market in Medford, I am once again taken aback at just how beautiful these flowers really are. No matter if they are fluffy like a fat, down pillow or donning only six petals, the beauty of each one leaves you speechless.

Jon and Ginnie sell fresh tubers, as Ginnie says they are the best way to go for growing a strong, healthy plant.

“Buying them in the stores, they have usually been frozen at least a year, if not more” Ginnie says, making their quality inferior to those found at a peony farm like the Deason’s. When you compare one of the Deason’s peony tubers to that of one purchased at a local retail store, well… there is no comparison (speaking from personal experience). Once you have seen a fresh, plump, healthy tuber and hold it up alongside one that has been frozen, the quality cannot be matched. And – if you want quality flowers, you’ve got to start with a quality root/tuberous system.

Peonies that arrive as a tuber will usually take 2-3 years to bloom, where if you were to buy a peony already established in a pot and ready to take home to plant, you’ve gained 1-2 years of having to wait for that first beautiful bloom.

Blooms for Sale

There are three types of peonies and the Deason’s sell approximately 25 varieties a year, some from each category-

  • Tree peonies: The foliage on the tree peony stays green year round and begins to get new growth in spring, having taken a rest in the fall and on through winter. Tree peonies take a tad bit more care in that the spring frost can bite the buds, thereby reducing its glorious blooms.
  • Herbaceous peonies: soft-stemmed, the herbaceous peony‘s foliage dies down in the fall and re-emerges in springtime.
  • ITOH Peonies have advantages over the other peonies in that: the stems are stronger and can hold its flower upright. At maturity, they are known for having up to 50 blooms on one plant. Although the ITOH peonies have foliage and blooms like a tree peony, the must be cut back in the fall.
 
 
Peonies come in types known as singles, doubles, and semi-doubles, many beautiful colors, and those that bloom early in the season, mid-season, and later in the season. Some growers also have what are known as “Bomb” Doubles and Japanese and Anemone peonies.

Often confused with the planting techniques of a bulb, tubers differ in that they should not be buried too deep. One to two inches is the suggested depth. Ginnie says that if the tuber is buried to deep, the plant will be weak and not produce blooms and if buried too shallow, buds will not form. Potted peonies are planted right away or left to potted, ready to plant in the fall.

Rather easy to care for, peonies offer a elegant show of beauty each spring, plants growing in size and blooms growing in number as the years go by.

Bouquet of Mixed Colors

As I stand and watch the Deasons sell single to armfuls of blooms and pots of healthy plants, they do it with joy and smiling faces. Selling a peony must feel like you’re decorating the world with heavenly beauty.

“I hope some day to meet God, because I want to thank Him for the flowers.”  ~Robert Brault

You can learn more about the Deason’s Peonies by going to their website here or by emailing Ginnie for more information. 

My favorite? Coral Charm. But like Ginnie, my favorites change – to whatever I happen to be looking at at that moment.

“Coral Charm”

 

 

Saturday was Beautiful in Southern Oregon. Sunday, too.

 

Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. 

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; 

though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

 

Luke 12:27

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. 

They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, 

not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

 

Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his feathers

and under his wings you will find refuge; 

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

 

1 Peter 2:25

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, 

but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All people are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;

the grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

  

Luke 12:27

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. 

Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.

  

 Psalm 104:12 

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; 

they sing among the branches.
 

 

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.