I had just washed my hair, and blown it dry, AND flat ironed every last wrinkle out of it. Now, it was drenched in sweat, and dirt, and full of frizz from steamy humidity that surrounded me as we worked.
Yard work is difficult. It's strenuous and it requires all sorts of energy that I just do not possess. I typically don't do yard work. I typically don't do any kind of physically exhaustive work, to be honest. I get plenty of "activity" while parenting four small children at home all day....every day. Sometimes I wonder how many miles I walk, or how many pounds and reps I lift in the course of a typical day. But I don't think I really want to know. It would either be completely too low of a number, or much too high. Either would add another element of stress to my life that's neither wanted, nor needed.
The girls and I had gone to Lowe's to get a few things for the front of the yard. I'm not a landscaper by any means, nor do I try to be. In fact, it was more of a "thing to do" for the kids this summer. I had a gift card to the store, so I didn't really feel as though I would be loosing much if the investment turned out to tank. I let the girls pick their "own" flowers (from the cheap section of course) and that was a story in and of itself.
We must've walked every aisle of the garden center, nearly 17 times. Teaghan could not choose a plant if her life depended on it. Maybe one day she will create a hybrid flower that's just the right shade of purple. Because Lowe's apparently did not meet her criteria in all of its selections.
"Not too dark and not too light" she said, "with just a little blue at the bottom."
I shook my head as I wrangled her away from the giant trees and shrubs, costing well over the amount on the gift card I carried in my mint, leather wallet adorned with a giant bow (see I'm not really the yard-working or outdoorsy type). She searched high and low finding the perfect flowers, and eventually settled for what I think is heinous and ugly, but I was so beyond walking through the hot outdoor section of the store that I quickly agreed, and marched to the cash-register...located inside with the AC.
This morning after breakfast, we changed into grungy clothes, acceptable for working with dirt, and pulled back our long tresses, and went outside. Wes followed with a bag of toys, and Adalynn sat in her canopy-covered pack-n-play with a water-juice cup in hand. I was envious of her the whole time.
We drug all the plants we had purchased to the section of the yard where we would be planting, along with the tools we needed: a few shovels, the 16 quart bag of miracle grow potting soil mix (for all of us brown-thumbs), and a large container to water. ( we don't even own a watering can, nor would I spend the money on one at this point!)
I started to dig.
The area for flowers at our house is mulched, and like most SW Florida homes, the dirt beneath is mostly clay, rocks, shells, and sand. The shovel wouldn't budge. I pressed harder and still to no avail. Thick roots from all directions prevented the spade from penetrating the earth. I searched for a branch-clipper-thingy in the garage, and found a pair of wire cutters that would suffice. Clipping and picking at the tangled mess of wire-like roots, finally, shell and rock were the next obstacle.
The girls quickly tired of the task of digging, and Teaghan and Wes went inside to watch TV, and cool off with a drink. Adalynn was ready for her nap, so McKenna and I finished the seemingly, never-ending job.
One hole after the next, sweat poured out of me. I didn't even know I was capable of such fluid perspiration. McKenna had drips falling from her nose. Our hands were tired, and covered in dirt. My manicured nails looked like they'd been used by a mechanic, with dirt and filth under each one and between the folds of my skin. McKenna had sand and dirt brushed across her red-heat stricken cheeks, in her hair, on her clothes.
We were finally ready to actually "plant" now. The holes had been dug, and around us lay eight, 6-inch-deep holes, barren, and waiting to be filled. McKenna scooped fresh, self-feeding-soil into them, and then carefully selected a plant for each hole. One at a time, she carefully grasped the plant- firm but gentle, and began to tug. It would slide from the transport container from the store, and into her hands. She then broke up the roots that had been trained to grow only in a small space, and to the shape of the disposable containers, as the soil they clung to, fell to the ground.
Into their pre-selected hole they went, and then she filled all around them with more nutrient-rich soil.
"Pack it down, and make sure they're good and tight" I said. "We don't want them falling over when the rain comes later."
Cape Coral has thunderstorms with big rains in the late afternoons, through the summer. If we didn't pack the dirt tight enough around the new plants, they'd surely wash all over the yard in a few hours, like the mulch in the areas near the driveway. Something neither her, nor I, wanted after all the work we had done.
She pressed and forced dirt down onto the plants base, and at one point shrieked and quickly jumped back. "AAAAAHHHHH!" She screamed.
A small bug was burrowing in the dirt she worked with. I explained that the bugs were needed to help break up the parts of the dirt that aren't best for plants, and how they then return the better "goods" to the soil when they poop.
McKenna winced at the thought of bug poo on her hands. But quickly realized how perfect the system was. "God made them do that, huh?"
I nodded. He certainly thought of it all.
I sit now, staring through the front window near the door, waiting.
I know it won't happen tonight, or even this week, but like any good gardener (if I can even call myself that) I check on the hard work, and hope and pray it's fruitful.
The Holy Spirit, faithful as always, spoke to me today while toiling in the soil. Even the Bible gives us the analogy of a sower and his seed, and the example of God as the Vine and also the pruning gardener of the vineyards. But today, I was nothing more than a clump of dirt, and He was gracefully reminding me that His ways are always, always good.
Like those plants, selected especially for a specific place and purpose, we are hand-picked. He knew and still knows the plan He has for us. At some point, and probably again for all of us each day- our hearts have hard, clay and sand filling. Full of shells, and debris not good for growing anything. But God in His loving kindness, digs away at them. He doesn't tire, He isn't sweating like I was today- he just keeps at us. And I'm so grateful. Even when roots cover the places He wants most- and usually from things not even related to where He's working. Like the roots systems today that covered yards of ground before ever finding the source. He works hard to trace and remove even the most complex of strongholds in our lives.
Then, like those holes, we can feel barren, and empty. Naked. With nothing inside. Like He has stripped us of all we had, and for what?
But in His goodness, He comes along with His word, and He fills the holes with nutrient rich soil, that's good for growing things. He deposits something new inside of us- and not just a wimpy small container-sized plant. Nope. He starts shaking us so we can expand and grow into something much more grand.
Sometimes it feels like He's shaking us and ripping us up. There are times when he is pouring dirt down over us, and it seems unfair. There's times when He presses and presses and won't relent until He has pressed dirt all around us. In our human-ness we complain and struggle with understanding why He would ever do such a thing. Or why He would allow the pressure to continue.
"God why me?"
"God why now?"
"Why not the other way?"
"What is the point?"
"How can this ever become good?"
"This is Your plan?"
But He knows that when the rain comes, we will be standing firm through the storm, because He has pressed all the weakness from around us in His time.
We can feel like there are pests and enemies scurrying through our life and taking all the things we need from us, like those bugs in the dirt. But God has a system all worked out. And once again, it's so very good. He uses ALL things- even the things like those pesky bugs, the scary bugs, the harmful ones- to make us into something even more beautiful.
And He sits back, like any good gardener would, and He admires His creation, and He waits for us to grow and produce much fruit.
Maybe you're lacking fruit today. Things like love and joy and peace. They're all things that He plants within us when we give ourselves to Him. If we are lacking in any of these areas, we've not fully allowed Him to work in us. Allow Him to prune you. I know I need to allow more always. Allow Him to press you. Allow Him to dump His word on you and make you lack no good thing.
Maybe you're dry. Drink up. He made water come from the rock for the Israelites. He will certainly shower down rains of refreshing on you in seasons of drought. He sees and He knows and He is not far off, as high and lofty as He is. He is good.
Maybe you're being pressed on all sides. Maybe like me, you're being pulled and prodded and adjusted and bruised, wondering if it will ever end. But friend, we are just being planted, that we might be able to weather the storms of life when they come. He won't allow us to become uprooted, if we allow Him to have His perfect and complete work in us. Oh God, complete Your work in me.
Only when we deny His Lordship and resist His work do we spread across the pavement in the midst of adversity. Like mulch that's good for nothing and wasted after a heavy rain. It's swept from the walk-ways, and pushed down into a gutter and forgotten. Heaven help me never deny You, Jesus.
He is the Master gardener, and His investment is much more steep than that of a measly gift card at Lowe's. He gave flesh and blood for you and I, and sent His son to pay the price for our freedom, that we could be planted and bloom in His garden. That one day, the world would see such beauty and smell such fragrant scents that they'd stop and take notice of His work, and His workmanship, and give honor and glory to the One who is worthy of it all.
Thank God He is so good! He has a plan. He is working it out in you- and certainly in me. We are nothing more than dirt. Piles and piles of filthy dirt. But with Him- and only with Him- can we produce something more and of worth, like the flowers sitting outside of my house. One day, we will return to dirt. And the only things we will have to show for our lives, are the things we allowed Him to grow in us. Allow Him. He wants to. So allow Him. If you're reading this: allow Him. If you're typing this: allow Him (that's me!). We all need to allow Him His way, because it's so, so, so very good.
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples....“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy complete....You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil." -Portions of John 15