Monday, June 25, 2012

gardening as a spiritual experience

when we moved into this house, the gardens were pretty barren.  since then, i have been slowly chipping away at making them more beautiful and productive.  this year i have had the opportunity to put a lot more time towards my garden, both veggies and flowers.  there is plenty of time to think while gardening, and my experiences thus far have really helped me to reflect on and understand God and the bible better.

'Garden flower' photo (c) 2006, Tim Wilson - license:

the promised land.  when the israelites finally got into the promised land, they entered a place where the agriculture was already established.  they could start eating the fruit of other people's labor as soon as they entered.

when we moved in, there was already an herb garden established and a lemon tree.  i have been so thankful for these two things, and they have been the most consistently producing part of our yard since they were established years before we moved in.  i can imagine how much more of a blessing it would be to move it somewhere that had enough food for your whole family every day, every meal.  this was a true blessing and work of God.

patience.  in a world where you can microwave leftovers in under two minutes, order a pizza and have it to your house in an hour, and go to the grocery store at midnight and buy any kind of food you want year round, the thought of waiting for food is rarely thought of (besides waiting impatiently for the server to come back with your order).

gardening requires real patience.  i started working on my veggie garden in january.  i finally have some green tomatoes and i hope that by the beginning of july they will be ripe.  that is a long wait!

my flower gardens have also been a labor of patience: we moved in two years ago, and they are only just barely starting to look ok (this is partially because i am trying to spend as little money as possible on the garden, and so i have to wait until people offer me plants from their yard to put in our garden).  this week i got some irises and lilies from freecycle.  i was very happy to get these plants (especially because they are perennials) but sad to realize they probably wont even start flowering until next year!  ah, patience...

trust in God.  thinking about the bible through the perspective of someone from an agrarian society gives it a whole new dimension.  we are fortunate to be in a position where we do not absolutely depend on the produce from our garden: if it doesn't produce well, we can just go to the store to buy whatever we need.

but it would take an immense amount of trust in God to live in a society where you have to grow all of your own food all the time.  it would be especially difficult to follow his law when he says to leave behind the extra produce for the poor, and to allow traveling people to eat from your fields, and to cease from all work one day of every seven.  the daily dependence on God would go very deep.

Friday, June 22, 2012

my friend naomi is right: its hard to know where to pick back up again with an unattended blog.

'Summer Flowers' photo (c) 2009, Henry Stradford - license:
happy summer!  hard to believe its already here.

whenever i look through my blog archives to find an old post, i notice that i go through cycles pretty frequently with my blog: posting lots of good content for a while, then dwindling away, and then stopping for a time.

in the past month, i have written down lots of great blog ideas.  i have read many things (in the bible and other books) that have struck me that i want to share with you.  but it hasn't happened.

i think the best place to start would be an update on life and what has been keeping me busy of recent.

*preparing for another foster placement. after a few months of basically forgetting about us, our agency is finally getting the ball rolling to get us re-certified and ready to take another baby in our home.  a few weeks ago we got a call to take in a little black baby boy, but his case changed from fost/adopt to straight foster care, so he went to a different home.

in the past few weeks we have had to catch up on classes, meet with our social worker for a home inspection, set up our second crib, clean up the garage (a bit too messy for the SW's liking!) and fill out paperwork.

at this point we have a few more things to get done around our house and yard, and then we will have to wait until our social worker does our home study (which could be done in a week or in a few months).  basically the timing is in God's hands: he knows who our next baby is and when s/he will come into our home and i will be content to wait for Him.

*gardening. both caring for our veggie garden and our yard in general.  when we moved in the gardens were pretty much empty, which i was excited about.  but its also pretty expensive to buy flowers and such, and its MUCH more work to build up a garden than to maintain one that is already doing well.

as far as our flower gardens go, we are taking small steps forward.  i grew some columbines from seed (much cheaper than buying full grown plants... but also more risky and they take longer) and they are slowly taking root (i hope they flower this summer but i kind of doubt that will happen).  i also got some lilies and irises off of freecycle this week (yay for free perennials!).  i also don't think they will bloom this season, but next year i hope!!  my next step with our garden is to hopefully mulch it all.  i can get a free delivery of mulch to our house from the city of long beach, but i need to ask our landlords to put in the order.  i am positive they will be up for it, but i am a little shy to ask.  but i hope it happens soon because mulch will really improve the look of our flower gardens.

as for our veggies, there is good news and bad news.  the bad news is that most of our seedlings died (mostly due to the chickens eating them or my inadvertently killing them). but the good news is that we have some really strong cherry tomato plants (and tomatoes are one of the things i have most been looking forward to!), a few small pepper plants and a handful of herbs (basil, chives and sage are new this year, and we already have well established lavendar, thyme and oregano plants).  i have counted over 30 cherry tomatoes so far! they look big and robust, albeit still green.  i can't wait until they ripen!  and as with my flower gardens, i have learned a lot from my failures in my veggie garden, and i look forward to next year when i hope to do much better (i will also probably try to do a fall planting, i hope that works out well).

the bummer with our garden is that as soon as we get to a point where things will feel like they are coming together with the garden will be the point at which we are moving.  but the good thing is that i have learned a lot and two years into my next gardening venture i expect to be doing a lot better than i am now.  also, i would love to be a blessing to our landlords (we really like them) by leaving the yard looking much better than when we left it.

*praying and reading. few months ago, i prayed that God would give me a deeper desire to pray.  i think i should have been a little more hesitant to pray that prayer, because he has answered, but not in the way i expected.  so i have been praying more.

and reading more.  i continue to work through the m'cheyene year long bible reading plan (along with d.a. carson's accompanying daily devotional "for the love of God").  i also am reading the bruised reed by richard sibbes, the meaning of marriage by tim keller, and in the presence of my enemies by gracia burnham (a missionary in the phillipines who was held hostage by muslim terrorists for a year.  her husband was killed by the terrorists).

how have you been spending your time these last few days of spring and beginning of summer?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

discouraged by your slow rate of sanctification?

sometimes i get so discouraged by how much i still sin, and how slowly God answers my prayers to make me more like Himself.  recently i have been thinking about this a lot as i have been weighed down by my thoughts: full of anxiety, jealousy, and judgment.  i ask for the grace to think about "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, [things of] excellence, [and] anything worthy of praise" (philippians 4:8), but God doesn't answer as quickly or fully as i hope.  

here is something encouraging i read today in light of that:
"things of greatest perfection are longest in coming to their growth.  man, the most perfect creature, comes to perfection by little and little; worthless things, like mushrooms and the like, like jonah's gourd, soon spring up and soon vanish"  -richard sibbes, the bruised reed

this has been a great little book so far, i commend it to anyone needing some grace for a weary soul.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

turn your competition into encouragement

"as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" proverbs 27:17

"[older women] are to teach what is good and so train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled" titus 2:3-5

in the midst of thinking about resisting the temptation to compete in motherhood, i do want to make a caveat so that we aren't rejecting the good in the midst of the bad.

let other mothers be an encouragement and a positive challenge to you in order to make you a more godly mother.

here are some examples.  say you know a mother who has scripture memory plan for her toddler.  you are surprised and impressed to see that he already knows about five bible verses by heart.  your toddler doesn't even know what the bible is.

another mother you know has made some huge sacrifices in order to breast feed her baby, because she believes that the nourishment is important for her baby's life long health.  she struggles to produce enough milk, and still sacrificially wakes up every night to pump milk to make sure she has enough, even though her baby was sleeping through the night long ago. furthermore, she does it all without complaining.  you gave up breast feeding after a few weeks of difficulty, complaining the whole way through.

another mother you know has decided to be a stay at home mom, even though she has an advanced degree.  her and her husband are struggling financially to get by, but she counts the trial as a joy that she might get to invest in her children full time.  and miraculously, God keeps providing for their every need even when it seems like they are almost to the bottom of their bank account.  you and your husband didn't want to have to worry about money after having kids, so you work full time, while your three little ones are in day care and preschool.

in each of these situations, you may feel inadequate as you compare yourself to these moms. "wow, they are such great mothers, and really have it all together!" you may think.  your initial reaction may be jealousy and a competitive heart.  "maybe if i try harder, i can be better than them!"

but then, in your struggle to avoid being competitive, you might go to the opposite end of the spectrum.  you may think "well, i could never do that, so i wont even try to do what she is doing" or, "thats fine for them, but we do things differently."

i would challenge you to take a different perspective all together.  specifically i would encourage you to meditate on the gospel and pray about how you can incorporate others' examples into your life.

first of all, immerse yourself in the gospel.  know that jesus came for sinners, and you are probably the chief sinner you know (if you aren't, then you are blind to your sin in some way!).  your inadequacy in motherhood may stem from sin.  you don't have to run in shame and try to hide your sin, you can bring it to the open, confess it and find freedom and forgiveness for it.  maybe you are being lazy, or you are loving the world, or you are not loving your husband and children.  confess and repent, and be encouraged to know that God uses sinners, especially those who are repenting of sin and seeking Him.  open your bible and be amazed at how he uses some of the most sinful people you could imagine.  use your gratefulness for your forgiveness to motivate you and spur you on toward more love and good deeds.

secondly, pray about and consider how you can emulate these mothers' examples.  God places us in community so that we can love one another and build one another up, often time by the example of one another's lives.  he may want you to exactly emulate them, or slightly modify their example.

to continue with the first example, maybe you need to just start reading the bible with your toddler, and think about scripture memory at some point in the future.  or maybe you need to take the step of faith to start memorizing scripture with him today, right now. (so, go sit down with him and do it!)

maybe you are convicted of your lack of homeward focus, so you decide to look into cutting your hours back at work so that you can have some more time with your children.  or maybe you will decide to take a bigger step of faith, walk into your bosses' office and quit your job right then and there, and ask God for the faith in His provision that you see in your friend.

 "let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." hebrews 10:24-25