Dig A Little Deeper

Why did I ever think I could become a gardener?

We worked so hard at creating a beautiful garden in our front yard. Partly because we really wanted to enjoy that visual experience; partly because our local HOA was not happy with our messy yard. 

Gardening isn’t a one-and-done experience. It requires work, weeding, watering, nurturing.

Even with all that, there is no guarantee the plants will grow.

Our best efforts haven’t saved some of our plants. More plants than I want to admit. There appears to be some kind of plant disease on a few of them. Others are merely withering for no apparent reason. Some are thriving, but I don’t see them as easily as the ones that are struggling.

We’ve tried to figure out what the issues are. One plant sits at exactly the right place where water doesn’t reach it as easily or consistently as the others. Neither does it have the same amount of sun as some of the others.

Some of these plants have an issue with our soil. It’s sandy, and there is some hardpack a little deeper down that may keep the plants from getting the nourishment they need. We tried to chop that up; it needed more work than we gave it.

Growth takes time and intent.

In plants and in people.

Lately, the soil of people all around the country has been hardpacked by an unwillingness to listen to opposing views, to take the time to have conversations with those we disagree with, and the cancel culture sentiment of dismissiveness if we’re not in total agreement with one another. That hardpack needs to be dug into, to aerate the soil of dialogue so growth can happen with everyone. 

We’re not a one-plant culture. We are a garden of different plants and flowers, all of which add beauty and substance to the greater picture of who we are as a nation. We become obsessive about plants and animals that may become extinct, yet we are trying to create an extinction mentality when we don’t value everyone.

Jesus used gardens to express how growth can happen among people. When a gardener plants seed on hard ground, the roots never have the chance to take, and the plant quickly dies. Seeds planted on the ground full of weeds soon find themselves choked out by the weeds. Seeds scattered haphazardly on pathways are often eaten by birds and never have a chance to take root. The plants intentionally planted in good soil will thrive. To grow the best way possible, we need to have the soil of our souls ready to listen, to consider, and to grow in truth.

The alternative shows up in stunted plants who lose their beauty, plants that don’t produce what they’re intended to produce, and a haphazard garden that is more of an embarrassment than a place whose allure is in its diverse plant life.

God is the Master Gardener who has given beauty to every person He has created. We have no right to judge the value of another; our challenge is to appreciate our differences and work to allow the whole garden to thrive.

He challenges us to dig a little deeper, to find our common identity in Him

The result is sheer beauty where everyone thrives.

 

The Character Of Chaos

We’ve had the indescribable joy of watching six of our grands for most of this week. Each has a schedule of “must do’s”, activities that require transportation, and unique preferences for food and free time. 

The three oldest have an independent spirit I deeply appreciate. They have either a driver’s license or a friend that can get them places. The younger three, however, still require attention.

Bathroom doors need to stay closed because the youngest has a predilection for throwing things into the toilet and trying to flush them. His interests now center around volcanoes and fire. I can humor him by lighting candles or showing him videos of flowing lava. 

The second to youngest is clever beyond his years and tries to rationalize with me over the things he should and shouldn’t do. What’s scary is his logic is impeccable–at six years of age.

The third youngest is dramatic. The theater is in her blood–and no one knows where that blood came from. She’s creative, writing her own songs and creating tunes using her sister’s ukelele. We have very adult conversations; she, too, has a grand ability to process logically.

The three oldest are just fun. We talk about everything from politics (our oldest grand is entering into his first election season and is thoroughly thinking through options) to soccer teams to life issues. Their ability to converse on several subjects in a very erudite manner never ceases to amaze me.

I am, however, exhausted. I’ve nicknamed Cal “Houdini” because he’s able to disappear in the blink of an eye. If the doors aren’t all closed, he escapes. We’ve managed to catch him each time. And logically engaging young children with an incredible gift of reasoning can be overwhelming.

Our quiet domicile has become a scene of chaos. Cal likes to dump all containers of toys in the middle of the floor and then decide what he wants to play with. Mess exists, and no one seems bothered by it. 

The bigs are incredibly helpful, but it takes a village to keep things orderly.

Sometimes the village doesn’t want to engage in order.

So much of life is chaotic right now, with everybody wanting to do what is right in their own eyes. The problem is it rarely takes into account how one person’s “right” can conflict with the “right” of another.

How do we choose what is best for everyone? How do we evaluate everyone else’s choices against our own?

There must be absolute truth and goodness that are a foundation for whatever decisions we need to make. A place to begin to make healthy decisions people can agree on.

Absolute goodness and truth are in God.

He sees everyone as equal; He doesn’t choose one people group, one race, one gender over another. All have been made in His image and have equal value in His eyes. Each person is someone He loves and longs to connect with.

If we could see people as He does and choose to treat them with the respect He does, we’d reduce our chaos considerably.

Peace would be an option.

Apart from agreeing on what is good, we will exist in chaos.

It’s a mess no one is dealing with well.

 

 

 

 

The Community Of Coffee And Companionship

There’s a coffee shop in Orlando that a friend introduced me to several months ago. It’s become my favorite hangout where I’m able to meet with people in a safe environment and enjoy face-to-face interaction.

The owner, Vanessa, celebrated a birthday a few weeks ago. She decorated her place with beautiful pink and white flowers with accents of gray, white, and pink balloons. In front of her shop, she had an old phone booth bedecked with the same pink and white flowers.

Phone booths always remind me of connecting with people; they seem so much more intentional than a cell phone because you had to purposefully find one to be able to use it. With all the flowers filling this particular phone booth, it gave me a sense of how special the conversations were that happened inside. Interactions were full of life and beauty. People connecting at deep levels providing a fragrance of togetherness that filled the shop.

We were made to connect.

A friend shared a comic a while back, showing a panda walking with a tiny dragon hitching a ride on his back. “Which is more important,” asked the Panda, “the journey or the destination?” The tiny dragon answered, “The company.” 

We’re all part of this journey called life, and we don’t travel alone. We’re surrounded by people who touch our lives in a variety of ways; how we receive those exchanges defines our relationships. 

It’s the relationships that give substance to our journey. The company we keep can make our journey pleasant and purposeful or difficult and disruptive. It’s not just the people themselves but how we choose to treat those who are part of the adventure by their proximity and purpose.

We are eternal beings created by an eternal God, and this seventy-odd year excursion here is the prologue of what’s to come. We make choices here that influence what and where our eternity will be. 

People are part of that. They influence us with who they are, the sincerity of their character, how they treat us as individuals. Jesus knew that when He came to show us God; everything He did and said supported the truth of who He was. How He treated people reflected His passion for us. He asks to journey with us, bringing us to a destination of eternal hope with Him.

He has surrounded us with many who could teach us, people different from us who can help us understand the bigger picture. We need to encourage the conversations, not shut them down with anger and bitterness. Many will disagree with us; listening to them may give us a window into their stories and a deeper appreciation for their journey. Those who agree with us could be asked deeper, more insightful questions to better understand them.

We need to learn to value the companions we’ve been given; they may not always be the ones we’d choose, but often they’re the ones we need. The gift of people given us by God isn’t something we should take lightly.

We’re meant to journey with companions. Choose people who will push you to be a better you.

Connecting–it’s the way we need to roll.

Coffee is always better with company.

 

 

All Birds Have Feathers

We were having a meeting on our back porch. Most of us had gathered, and as we waited for the rest of the team, a stranger strolled up. Uninvited. Right to the edge of the porch. I’d never seen him before, and frankly, he made me nervous.

He was brash and bold. I walked up to him, and he stood his ground. I was within two feet of him as we had a staring contest. I was somewhat intimidated; he came up to my shoulder with a long, curved beak and strong, wide wings.

It was a wood stork, a large bird that we don’t often see on or around our pond. He was not bothered by my presence at all. The only time he backed off was when I began clapping my hands.

Obnoxious and loud worked.

He came back.

We continued with our meeting; he stayed for about twenty minutes. As if he was intrigued by what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it. I’d watch him at times, wondering what was going on in his bird brain that gave him the freedom and the desire to come so close to a group of people.

There were characteristics of that wood stork that I admired, qualities I wish I had in greater quantity. His fearlessness in approaching creatures very unlike him. His boldness in being present. His courage to watch what he was not a part of.

It made me wish I talked bird.

There are many in our world who have that sense of bravery, of choosing to involve themselves with people very different from themselves, to be present and listen to what they may not understand or agree with. People who are personally fearless because the ultimate good is of greater value than appearances.

It may seem strange to compare myself to a bird but in our culture today we dismiss one another as easily as we dismiss a winged creature that doesn’t hold any significance for us. If the language isn’t what we want to hear, if the message isn’t exactly what we agree with, it’s easier to reject those who aren’t in accordance with us than embrace them in their differences.

The people of Jesus’ time were very much like this. The Romans dismissed the Jews as being insignificant, a people who’d they’d taken over with their superior power and pushed around and abused. The Jewish leaders took advantage of the servitude of those Jewish people under their authority, heaping more laws on them than anyone could conceivably follow. 

Jesus entered this picture, a world of divisiveness and turmoil, of injustice and injury. He preached a gospel of hope, forgiveness, and unity, challenging people to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and also love their neighbors as themselves.

When asked who a neighbor was, Jesus shared a parable that spoke of a neighbor being someone who was very different from us, who wasn’t always seen as equal to us.

Everyone is our neighbor.

The valid question to ask ourselves is how do we treat everyone else, not just those like us? Do we know how to be a neighbor?

Reality–all of humanity are our neighbors.

All deserve love.

 

 

 

Chew On What’s Good And Right

Is there a better taste combination than peanut butter and chocolate?

In my family, that’s a winning combination no matter what form it takes. Smoothies, brownies, candy–if it’s PB&C, it’s viewed as a success.

I have a recipe for buckeyes that are time-intensive but favorites–a peanut butter center surrounded by a chocolate shell. They can be eaten one bite at a time, savoring the flavors as they blend together. Or stuff the whole thing in at once and chew away.

Two-year-old Mason chose the latter.

His mouth isn’t that big.

Mason had never had them before, so he was wary as he put it on his tongue. When he realized it was to his liking, he shoved the whole thing in. He could barely get his lips around it, but his eyes grew large with appreciation. He chewed, swallowed, opened his mouth to prove it was gone and repeated the process before anyone could pull the dish away from him.

The concern was that he’d choke on it; it was too big for his mouth, though that didn’t deter him. His desire for what he wanted was greater than his discomfort in trying to swallow more than he could chew.

At the moment, the results outweighed the risks.

I tend to be that “all in” person. When I find something I agree with or enjoy, I’m wholehearted in my support and enthusiasm. 

Which has gotten me in trouble. 

I too often lead with my emotions. I’m an empathetic person who cries at heartfelt commercials, who wants to help those in need no matter what it might cost me, and who chooses to support those things that I believe to be good causes.

However, not every fight is worth what it costs, and not every hill is worthy of dying on.

When I jump into something without fully understanding the whole picture, without considering the ramifications of my choices and actions, I find I can do more harm than good without intending to. 

I bite off more than I can chew.

My kids used to despair that I would ever learn that telemarketers didn’t care about me. I’d listen to their shpiel and buy it because it sounded like the right thing to do. Helping a certain group of people. Contributing to a great cause. 

But the whole conversation was scripted. Made to sound good for those who would hear it and want to be part of what they sold or were seeking donations for.

A good script isn’t true. It merely plays to the emotions of those who hear it. 

Asking the right questions, fact-checking, seeking wisdom from those who know more about a situation than I do is smart.

There is only one person I’m all in on.

Jesus.

I trust Him because He has proven Himself faithful to what He says. My life has changed because I’ve experienced His words to be true. I’ve experienced His power and peace in ways I never did before.

There is nothing and no one else that is that reliable. 

Everything and everyone else has the ability to disappoint.

Choose wisely who and what you believe.

Taste and see if it’s good.