My mom loved to work in her garden. I didn’t quite understand this when I was a kid since it was my brothers and me that were edging and weeding in the steamy summer heat while she was at work. Then as we got older and moved away, it became clear that she lived for all things green. One of her favorite pastimes was locating a treasured plant she would find at a place like the Detroit Zoo or Bordine’s Nursery. The former often meant contacting the head groundskeeper and convincing him to give her a cutting or two . . . He usually did!
Her creepiest horticultural prize was the Devil’s Tongue or Vodoo Lily. In the summer it brought forth a low growing tree-like canopy of tropical green leaves. She would dig up the bowling ball-sized corm in the fall and put it in a cardboard box in the coat closet off the kitchen. By mid winter there was a nasty looking spotted pink “tongue” growing straight up from the root ball! Grotesque! But that wasn’t the only reason it was in the coat closet! A sour stench emanated from the plant as it died back again until planting time in the Spring. Crazy stuff. As the years wore on my mom’s garden was so well composted that she no longer had to bring in the corms for the Michigan winters. Thank goodness. That prevented the gross surprise of touching that beast when rummaging around in the bottom of the dark closet for our snow boots!
Flash forward ten years. Not long after I moved out of State, married and bought a townhouse did I begin digging up the grass on three sides of our unit. A full-sized red twig dogwood bush went in first: snagged for just $15.00 on the last day of the fabulous Chicago Garden Show downtown. I got to drive my Toyota Corolla through the showroom floor of Navy Pier to pick up my treasure in the midst of the mayhem as vendors were breaking down their displays. I was elated! She was a beauty and grew more lush every year, tamed only by my garden shears. Yes, I too loved the hunt of a good plant discovery! Eventually my garden wrapped completely around our home and was one of the winners in the inaugural year for our town’s Beautification Awards. So cool.
Sadly I had to leave my first garden with the departure of my former spouse. Gratefully some friends provided a surrogate home for a couple of prized perennials, the Hawaiian punch peony bush, and a few garden tools. Then happiness returned four years later when I was able to bring them to my new life in Indiana where I am living now. You should see the size of the stella d’oro daylilies this year! The peony has struggled then finally put forth three blooms this year. It’s in a more protected location now and I am hopeful that it is going to make it after all. Hmmmm. That’s just like me in some ways . . .
Isn’t it amazing how life begins and began in a garden? I love the symbolism the Lord uses from nature in His Word, such as His reference in John 15 to being the vine and we are the branches. We are to abide in His provision and submit to His pruning in the various seasons of our lives so that we will flourish as His own. Unfortunately there are some “sour grapes” out there too! My past is spotted with schemes from the devil’s influence on people who have hurt me and kept me from flourishing for a time. Then there’s the consequences of living in a fallen world filled with both life and death, good and evil, joy and suffering. As many of you, I have known many sorrows. Through it all I am grateful that I did not stray very far for vary long before coming to the throne of grace in repentance, for nourishment. In due time, my relationship with Jesus Christ has brought forth much goodness, beauty from ashes, restoring the years the locusts have eaten.
So why did I write this fluffy piece when the world is falling apart in a hand basket? I read that a rocket from Hamas that would have annihilated much of Israel was miraculously blown into the sea today. And Russia has amassed 45,000 troops on the Eastern border of Ukraine posed for an invasion. ISIS commits unspeakable war crimes against humanity in Iraq while refugees in Sudan live year after year with raw sewage about their feet. Race riots are escalating in Missouri and our President is the figurehead of policies designed to systematically destroy the United States of America. With headlines like these and the everyday wretchedness for me of my head thrashing about in seizure attacks for 2 to 5 hours, it’s tough to find anything but dirt in the world around me. But thankfully there is more than dirt.
If there was not so much darkness in our midst we would not seek or recognize the light. We would also not cry out for God to save us. We probably wouldn’t think we needed Him if everything was o.k. As many of you, I recognize that we do need Him very urgently. And thankfully we know that He will come again in glory to save us, to make all things right, and to reign forever as Lord over all. We just need to focus on the right kind of dirt.
It is the soil that provides the nutrients that the plant needs to survive under the covering of sunshine that drives the processes of the natural world. Similarly we need to trust in the Word that our God gave us as spiritual food for our souls, the only part of us that will live on after all is said and done here on this Earth. We need to trust in His covering of grace that will bring us into the light of His presence forever, grace that was given by His brutal death and Divine resurrection. We need to trust that He cares for the details of our lives no matter how crazy, how unfair, how evil this life appears. We also need to find rest from time to time in that which gives us peace to endure the challenges of life when they come.
The Lord will extend His love uniquely to each of us in the language of each of our hearts so that we may have hope in these dark days. Will He speak in a gentle voice as you pray or watch the sunset tonight? Will you see Him in in the smiling eyes of a loved one or as you remember the rhythm of a favorite psalm? Will the rush of wind at your back bring humble thanksgiving for all He has given, even a new this or that? Will He show you His power when you are too weak from illness to raise your hand to say goodbye to a friend for the last time? Yes, He will be there for all who seek His holy name.
Our God is personal and He loves us. He is worthy of our praise and worthy of our trust. In the meantime, let us be wise stewards of the time and resources we have here. Let us begin with our relationship with the Giver of life and work our way from there. As for me I’ve got 30 minutes where I think I might be able to go dig in the dirt out back and marvel at the handiwork of my Savior. This is the right kind of dirt for me. Seeya later. Let’s go pups! :J