Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mother Blessing

It is tradition to hold a “Baby Shower” for an expecting mother.  This is a gathering to “shower” her with support, love, and gifts for both her and the baby.  During this time the participants sometimes play some games, have some cake or snacks, and encourage the expectant mother as she begins the new journey of motherhood (or continues it with the arrival of another child).

Let's get some Musica going first.

Last month a sweet friend invited me to participate in what is called a “Mother Blessing”.  I had never been to one before, and was intrigued to learn about it.  Essentially, instead of the traditional “Baby Shower” with gifts, games and food, a “Mother Blessing” is a more spiritual way to honor and encourage an expectant mother.   Traditional, tangible gifts were not expected, as this was to be purely the gift of faith, blessings and encouragement. 

I was asked to bring a poem, song, prayer, words of wisdom, or scripture to share with the mommy-to-be.  It was really wonderful to hear what all of the ladies had to share with their words of wisdom, and different scriptures.  There was a beautiful surrounding of love for the honored mother-to-be.  We laughed, shared, and prayed, enjoying this special time to its fullest.  Each one of us brought a printed version of what we’d shared with our “mommy-to-be”, and she was so grateful to have them so she could (in her own words) “read them again and remember this time and what everyone shared”. 

What a fabulous idea, right?  How special is it to gather with other women who want to share their love for each other, and the love God has for us, with this expecting mommy?  I have to tell you – this was truly a beautiful moment that not only blessed the mommy-to-be, but me as well.

I thought I would share with you what the Lord had impressed on me to bring this sweet new mother.  Not that my words were anything better than those of my other kind friends, but I don’t have copies of what they shared.  Perhaps this will inspire you to have a “Mother Blessing” with an expecting friend.

Dear _____,
It is with great joy that I learn of the blessing God has given you in expecting your first child.  Here are a few scriptures and thoughts that I wanted to share as we celebrate with you.

Psalm 127:3
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”  (ESV)

What a blessing children are, and indeed a gift and heritage from the Lord.  When God chooses to allow us to become parents, He is entrusting us with not only the physical well-being of those children, but also the spiritual well-being.  This verse speaks to the great reward we are given by God as He entrusts us with the lives of these dear little ones.

2 Timothy 3:16-17
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”  (ESV)

Paul wrote this in his letter to Timothy, who served the Lord alongside him and who he considered to be like a son.  These particular verses remind us, as parents, that in God’s Word we can find the truth and direction we need in our lives, especially as we raise our children to love the Lord.  As we seek what to teach our children, we can be assured that everything in God’s Holy Word is profitable, and well worth instilling in their lives.  Not only so they know the Truth, but so they can become equipped to handle the world around them with God’s power, strength, wisdom and love.

3 John 1:4
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  (ESV)

John, the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ, wrote this in his letter to Gaius in the book of 3rd John.  While he was referring to those he knew who were still remaining strong in their Christian faith, it applies so greatly to the joy you’ll feel as a parent when your children are walking in the truth of God’s Word and obeying His commands.  When you live as Christ commands, and teach your children the same, then your joy will come when they seek the Lord, and walk in His Truth.

As for basic motherly wisdom, my suggestions to you are these:

Every morning greet your child with a smile, a hug, and tell them you love them. 
Let “I Love You” be the words they hear when they start their day, any time you have to leave them, and when they end their day. 
Hold your child as often as you can. 
Lift them in prayer to the Lord as much as you can. 
Show your child what it means to be a follower of Christ, and teach them the Word of God. 
When their actions disappoint you, reassure them as you discipline them that it is their actions that you are disappointed with - not them - and when you are done, always give them a hug and tell them that you love them. 
Read to them as often as you can, and encourage lots of play time and an active imagination. 
Spend time with them.  Housework and other things can wait. 
And always tell your child that you love them.
May your lives be filled with God’s love and blessings!

And may your lives, dear ones, be filled with God’s love and blessings!
Hugs to you!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Finding Me" Book Review

The latest title sent to me by Bethany House Publishers for review is the newly-published Contemporary Christian Fiction book  Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman.

This novel is about a young woman named Kelli Huddleston, who was told by her father that her mother and two siblings died in a fire when she was just an infant.  When her father and step-mother die, she finds herself in a quandary as she discovers pictures and newspaper clippings that indicate her father lied to her.

The book opens up in the past, 26 years before her parents’ deaths.  In the scene we find a man named David, flirting with a waitress in a diner, in a tempting situation that we can only think will end up poorly.  We find his state of mind and intentions definitely conflicted when the book tells us, “Okay, he should probably stop coming here so often.  Maybe just tomorrow, and then he would stop.”

Then the book brings us to the present day, where we learn of Kelli’s discovery of the betrayal from her father.  Kelli leaves her home in search of a family she never got to know, in the town they now live.

Throughout this story Kelli not only learns about her former family, but helps Kenmore, a man who was ready to close the doors of his store in the small town of Shoal Creek, Tennessee.  While there is initial suspicion about her from Kenmore’s son Shane, Kelli and Shane end up becoming friends.

Kelli learns more about what happened with her father and step-mother Mimi from her step-grandmother Opal, who sends Kelli letters written by Mimi years ago.

Kelli brings new life to the store, grows to like Shane, and meets her mother, brother, and sister, eventually revealing who she is to all of them.  By the end of the book, Kelli must make the decision whether to return to her home, and whether she will continue being involved in the lives of the people of Shoal Creek, Tennessee.

This was a good read, with the message of the power of hope and redemption, found in an unusual situation.  I will definitely read more novels by Kathryn Cushman, and recommend this one to all.

I give this one a “thumbs up”.

Monday, June 1, 2015

"A Love Like Ours" Book Review

What a joy it was to read the latest book Bethany House Publishers sent me to review.  The newly-published novel A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade was well worth my time.

This is a story of Lyndie James and Jake Porter, who seemed inseparable as children until Lyndie’s family had to move away to California when they were still children.  They had a special bond, and adored one another.

The Prologue gives us a clue as to how close, opening with:
"Twelve-year-old Jake Porter never felt a hundred percent right unless Lyndie James was beside him.

She was his sidekick.  Or maybe he was hers.  She was the one with the flair and the imagination.  He was the one with the even temper and the sense.

They were a pair."

Twenty years later we find Lyndie returning to the town of Holly, Texas, home of her childhood memories, hoping to get a job at the Porter family ranch, Whispering Hills Horses.  It’s there that she looks for her old childhood friend, Jake Porter, who is now a former marine who suffers from PTSD. While he knew nothing about what she’d been up to all those years, she knew all about his career as a top-notch Thoroughbred horse trainer.  What she didn’t know was how badly hurt and damaged the war had left him.

Jake Porter reluctantly hires Lyndie to exercise the horses, and Lyndie finds herself dismayed, but hopeful, about Jake’s negative attitude.  Lyndie strongly but gently pushes Jake to let go of the hurts he’s harboring, hoping that he can heal when he gets a clear view of who God is, all the while asking God to use her in the process.

While feelings resurface from their childhood where Jake often protected Lyndie, we see Jake take on that same roll as Lyndie pushes more toward riding the race horses competitively.

Not only does Lyndie have her hands full with Jake, she finds herself in the position of trying find out why one of the stallions won’t run. 

There is also an underlying story of redemptive love for Lyndie’s new friend (and neighbor) Amber that keeps you cheering for good as well.

Overall this is a wonderful story that kept me eagerly reading from cover-to-cover.  I could easily relate to the characters, and enjoyed the real-life situations author Becky Wade wonderfully penned with perfectly-placed humor, sass and seriousness.  I enjoyed the redeeming theme that not only relates to the characters, but comes across with hope to the reader as well.  I highly recommend A Love Like Ours to anyone who enjoys Modern Christian Romance novels and wants a truly good read.  I’m sure you’ll find it as much of a delight as I did.

I give this one a definite “two thumbs up”!

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Here! It's Here! Spring! It's here!

It's Here!  It's here!  Spring!  It's here!  I'm SO excited to see the sun again!

And green grass,

and daffodils that wave a cheery hello!

The irises wait for their turn as their leaves get taller...

Even the little weeds in the back yard are bursting with teensy, tiny flowers to celebrate!
Look how tiny these flowers are next to my pinky.  

The tiny clover patch is beautiful shades of green and purple splendor.

The house is filled with decorations that say "Welcome Spring!"
The dining room table, where the pretty daffodils rest in the Spring vase; the colors bright...

The kitchen decor, where the "big guy" sits on the plant table,

 The front bath, where the bunnies sit on the counter with their basket of carrots,

and this one rests near the extra tissue...

Even in the blue bathroom (with its Americana theme), this bunny seems to be saying 
"I love America too!"

In the corner the tall bunny stands up in greeting.  He looks like he's come from England with his cheery basket of eggs,and I sometimes think he should have a bow tie.
For some reason I always 'hear' him give his greeting in a British accent.
"Ello!  'Ow are yew?"  

 The mama goose shines beautifully with her necklace of flowers and babies staying close.

And remember those little Easter Egg Magnets that we made here?  
Here they are on the welcome signs for the guest rooms with more fun magnets.

Ahh...the Spring air in the house, as the breeze pushes out the old, stale air ...

The back door beckons us to go out into the yard and enjoy!  And that's what I'm doing!

The dogs are even enjoying the nice weather.
Chloe, our daughter's mini-dachshund, lives up to her breed by listening...
and digging...for moles.
She looks so cute with her ears perked up, looking down at the ground.

And of course, hubby's dog Molli had to investigate.  
"Hmmm....any moles in this hole?"

Cute ... and they've gotten a mole or two before... but oh... the holes!  
"I'm just doing my job, Grandma!" she says when I tell her to stop digging.

Molli loses interest with no mole activity and finds a sunny spot...
and a chew or two on some limbs that have fallen.
Doesn't it look like she's smiling?

And apparently she feels she must bask in the sunshine - stick in mouth.
Crazy what nice Spring weather will do to you!  Ha!

I hope you are enjoying Spring in your little 'neck of the woods'!

Do what you must . . . but know you MUST . . . go outside and enjoy Spring!

Hugs and blessings to you!

This is what happens when life gets too hard to stand.

Do you ever just have those days when life just seems to get you down?  And those days turn into weeks?

I've been there recently.  Usually I'm careful about what I let roll around in my head on a daily basis, because I know that my thoughts can be a dangerous place for negativity to creep in.  But these last few weeks have been rough.

It started with the lack of sun.  So I wanted to blame the cloudy weather.  

We've had our share of cloudy skies and no sunshine for a while now.  Of course, when it's raining, I don't want to be outside for the obvious reason of getting soaked.  I don't really want to be outside if it's overcast and cold either.  The cold now makes my bones ache, and I get stiff. The cold, the rain, the lack of sun - all contribute to my bad attitude.

But I can't blame the cloudy weather.

I have to blame my own bad attitude.  If my attitude was right to begin with, the cloudy weather wouldn't have much of an effect on me.

The devil knows my every weakness, and knows that if he can prowl around my mind and get me headed in a dark direction he will distract me from God's light.

So I turned to scripture for the warning from the Lord about remaining alert.

1 Peter 5:8 "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (NASB)

I turned to the reminder from the Lord about keeping my thoughts in check.

Philippians 4:8-9:  "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."  (NASB)

It continued with the negativity in the news.  So I wanted to blame the state of our nation.  

My husband loves to watch the news.  He can tell you what is going on pretty much anywhere in the world, and just about anything else you want to know about the politics behind our nation's news and world events.  

He does landscape and lawn irrigation work, so when the weather is too wet or cold he can't work. Since that's been our weather for a few months now, he's home with me more. That means the television is set on the news more.  Which means that my brain is being permeated with more violence, more hatred, more news of terrorism, and more evidence of the downward spiral of our nation.  

And that means my mind begins to focus more on the negative world around me.  The more I hear, the more I ponder.  The more I ponder, the more negative my thoughts become.  The more negative my thoughts become, the more agitated I become.  It's a depressing state.

But I can't blame the state of our nation.

I have to blame my own negative thinking.  If my thought process was in tune with scripture and what God would have me focus on, then the state of our nation wouldn't have as much of an effect on me.

I turned to God's reminder of His almighty power and status.

John 16:33 "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (NASB)

I found the reminder about praying to the Lord for His peace.

Philippians 4:6-7 "6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NASB)

It came to to its pinnacle with debilitating back and hip pain.  So I wanted to blame my failing body.

I have degenerative arthritis in my lower back, arthritis in my knees, and a 'bum' shoulder. This makes it difficult to exercise.  It also makes it difficult to work for long periods of time. Along with that, I have fibromyalgia and live with pain every day.

I don't mention this to get sympathy.  I mention this because I've recently tried to exercise more, and unfortunately it resulted in my back becoming more irritated, which caused excruciating pain.  Pain that felt like someone was stabbing me in the back and that radiated out to my hips.  So bad that I woke up in the middle of the night in agony several times in the last week.

I had to stop exercising and only do my routine back stretches until my body decided to calm down. By the time I got done with my measly two-hour work shift, I went home and hobbled to the couch. Then sat there in pain....     In front of the news....     While it rained and stayed overcast outside. You get the picture of the cycle here.

Pity party - table for one.

But I can't blame my failing body.

I have to blame what Zig Ziglar would call "stinkin' thinkin'". 

I sat in the chair and thought "Why do I always have to be in pain?  Why can't I just exercise like a normal person?  I can't even work a regular shift anymore.  I used to be able to do so much more."  That, my friends, is "stinkin' thinkin'".   

I did what Zig Ziglar would recommend.  I turned the negatives into positives.  Instead of comparing myself to my former abilities, I began saying things like "I'm glad I can do these stretches.  I'm grateful that I can work for two hours each day and for the job that lets me do that.  I'm glad I can still walk.  I'm grateful that God still uses me for His kingdom work."

And with the change in my thought process, I turned to scripture for the reassurance that I can be used by God no matter what my physical limitations.

I sought out Job's words from when everything was taken from him and his foundation was God, to remind me I still have so very much when I have nothing but God.  I sought out the example of Paul, Peter, Silas, and so many others who were afflicted, imprisoned, and downcast, to remind me that I can find my hope, my purpose, and my light in Christ Jesus.

I found Paul's words to keep me in check and remind me of how, in spite of his suffering, he was used in a mighty way for the Lord's purpose.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10  7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

I praised the Lord for His mercy, forgiveness and provision in my life.

Psalm 69:29-30  29 But I am afflicted and in pain;  May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.  30 I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. (NASB)

I found that strange comfort in the refining process my suffering brings.

James 1:2-4  2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

And Hallelujah!  I found the reminder that because I know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and have given my life to Him, receiving the salvation that only Christ can give, that one day there will be no more pain.

Revelation 21:4  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And when I couldn't stand because life - figuratively and literally - got to hard to stand...

I got on my knees.

I repented of that "stinkin' thinkin'", and humbled myself before the Lord.  I asked for His forgiveness for my pity party.  And I stayed there for a while.  When it became too painful to stay on my knees, I lay prostrate on the floor, and cried out to Him.  And waited.  And listened.

And after He calmed my soul, I opened my eyes, stood up again, and smiled.  At His love. His Word.  His grace.  His provision.  His peace.

My prayer for you, dear ones, is that you will kneel before the Lord,
and let Him help you STAND. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

These Easter Egg Magnets are fast and easy!

Here's a fast, easy, kid-friendly Easter craft for you and kids of all ages.

Sometime last year I picked up these little glittery wooden Easter Eggs.

Aren't they cute?

I decided to make magnets out of them for extra Easter decor.  This craft was super easy and fast, and would be great to do with children of any age.

So, I thought I'd share it with you. Really - you'll love how very easy this is!

First -
Gather your supplies.

1.  Glue
     - I used Aleen's Tacky Glue which I love.  It's versatile and has yet to disappoint me.
2.  Small, flat, wood Easter Eggs
     - I got these at Hobby Lobby and bonus - they were very inexpensive.
3.  Magnetic Tape Strips
     - You can use any kind of magnet you like.  I just happened to have these on hand.

(I have not been remunerated by Aleen's or Hobby Lobby or the Magnet Strip company in any way.  I just wanted you to know where I got my supplies and what I like to use.)

Second -
Cut and glue the magnetic strips to the back of the wooden eggs.

If you use magnetic tape strips, you'll need to cut them to the size you need.

These strips were self-adhesive and I tried to just use them just as they came, but they fell off.  So...I used glue.

If you cut your own strips, make sure to glue the side with the line on it - that also has the adhesive on it.  Otherwise, you'll end up with a tacky magnet instead of the smooth side.

After you put the glue on the tacky side of the magnets, put it on the back of the Easter egg and press firmly.

This is especially fun for kids.  They'll LOVE 'smooshing' (that's the technical term - ha!) the magnet and seeing the glue squish out on the edges.  And you do need to let the glue squish out so you can be certain to have a good bond.

Third -
Let the glue dry.  It was dry in a few hours, but I waited overnight to make sure it was completely set before putting them on the metal sign I am using.

Here they are!

Now it's your turn!  What is one of your favorite, easy, fast Easter crafts?
Leave me a link in the comments and I'll come take a look!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


When you have a lot of snow days, you get a little stir crazy.  And stir crazy leads to crafting - of course!

I've had this wonderful little display stand for a while, rescuing it from imminent doom in the trash dumpster.

As you can see in the picture above, I brought out the little stands and tiles I saved from what was left of an old Scrabble game.  I knew one day I'd use them for a good craft and this one was just perfect!

I had one problem though.  I didn't have all of the letters I needed for my idea.  So, I had to bring in a few more supplies.  My favorite ink: "StazOn - For Every Surface", acrylic alphabet stamps, and StazOn Cleaner.  I've used this type of ink on dominoes, these glossy wood tiles, glass, metal, and just about any other surface I can think of.  I love the stuff.

Fair warning though - you MUST use the StazOn Cleaner to get it off of your rubber stamps if you don't want to have them permanently colored from the ink.  I used an old rag/towel that didn't have any fuzz on it to wipe off my stamps.

(StazOn has in no part sponsored or endorsed this post.  The opinions contained herein are completely my own.)

At any rate, I stamped the backs of the tiles with black ink, using the letters I needed for my project, and let them dry.  Then I asked my husband to cut the little stands to the width I wanted for each line. He already had his power saw out for his own project, so he happily obliged, even sanding them for me.  Good man that he is!  When the tiles were dry, I glued them to the (cut & sanded) stands so I didn't have to worry about them falling off.

I unscrewed the bottom two shelves from the little "house" display stand and removed them.  Then I lightly painted over the holes and back of the stand with acrylic black paint to freshen it up a bit.

I placed my creation on the remaining shelves, added a wonderful little candle I adore to it, and voila!

This sits on the top shelf my husband put on the wall in my craft room, and I adore it.

What have you been crafting lately?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet Book Review

Recently Bethany House Publishers sent me the book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Hagerty to review.  This book is about Sara Hagerty’s journey to find God in all circumstances of life, with an emphasis on “barrenness”. 

The inside of the dust jacket give an explanation of this book that led me to think it was going to provide some sort of profound insight into Sara’s life that I might take away to use in mine.  Two of the paragraphs read:

“Whatever lost expectations you are facing – in family, career, singleness, or marriage – Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet will bring you closer to a God who longs for you to know Him more.”

“Going beyond the narrative to offer timeless insight, Hagerty brings you back to hope, back to healing, back to a place that God is holding for you alone – a place where the unseen is more real than what the eye can perceive.  A place where every bitter thing is sweet.”

I was hopeful for that insight or revelation she would share from her own life that would help me in mine.  And while I hate to say it, I was disappointed.  I tried.  I really did.  But this book was easy to put down, and while I tried to find hope and joy in the words, they came across as more pedantic than relatable. 

I did read it completely.  I was hoping that somehow what I desired would be revealed at the end. There was a happy ending in the author’s fertility, so it has that going for it.  The author was truthful in her struggles, and in the fact that she turned to God for help amidst them.  It was nice to have a list of scripture “for your continued pursuit” as she penned.

But overall, the book’s overtone felt rather disconnected and her descriptions rather vague.  I found myself drudgingly finishing it.  While it turned out not to be my style of preferred reading, that sort of style may be appealing to others.  I much prefer a book that gives me interesting stories I can feel a part of, and situations from which I can learn, shared in a different format. 

This book gets a “thumbs down” from me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Clean Out That Heart Garden of Yours - Part II

While the Northeastern corner of the United States is clearing out snow from the winter storm, here in Arkansas I'm still looking at my garden.  We've only had a few inches of snow, so my little garden spot sits, soaking up the nitrogen from the pretty white blanket that fell only a few days ago.

When I took the pictures I've shown below, it was only three weeks ago, and we had beautiful, sunny, warm weather.  It won't be long until it completely melts, the temperatures warm again, and I'll be eager to get my planting started.  So now we'll go back to my preparations before the snowfall.

Remember in Part I of this same title, where I cleaned out the surface areas of my garden space?  It was so encouraging to get rid of the clutter so I could get a good look at the soil!

Remember where we cleaned off the surface area of our heart gardens?  It was so encouraging to get rid of the clutter so we could get a good look at our hearts!

The process continues here.  Let's have some MUSICA to help us along.

After doing all of that clearing, I decided to rake through the soil to see how it looked underneath. The top layer looked wonderful.  The soil was loose, moist, and looked beautiful.  From all outward appearances, my garden looked like the best little plot to grow my veggies.

There are times our spiritual lives look beautiful from the outside.  And there are times we need to dig a little more to make sure that it looks the same deep inside - inside our hearts - the very place our spiritual fruit takes root.  

I knew that I needed to rake a little deeper to truly know if the garden would need more work, so I could prepare it properly for the new growing season.  I was a bit disappointed when all I was able to get my rake through was the soil that was about as deep as the head of my rake. The rest of the soil underneath had compacted well during the winter.

Sometimes under all the weight of the clutter on top of us, our hearts seem to compact - or harden. When that happens, it takes a bit more effort to break up the hardened spots and reveal what's beneath.  It's not an easy task.  But it must be done, so we can adequately gauge the condition of our little 'garden' space.

So I used a little bit more force and tried to loosen the soil with my rake.  To my dismay, there were tons of little roots that caught up in my rake and made it even more difficult. They weren't just in one little spot either.  Everywhere I moved the topsoil aside, I was met by hard-packed, root-ridden soil. Not an easy thing to deal with, but I knew I had to do it just the same.

When our hearts are thick with the roots of bitterness, anger, sorrow and darkness, it's not an easy task to break through them.  But we know we must do it just the same.  

I knew I was in over my head already.  Time to ask the experts.  Those who believe in organic gardening like I do, have the experience to back it up, and hold true to helping others with genuine care for the earth and their food grown in it.

I didn't hesitate to do this because I know that the food I would be growing would feed my family, and I wanted to grow it the best way I could.

Sometimes when we dig deeper into our hearts, what we find is too confusing or overwhelming to deal with on our own.  In those cases we have to call in the experts to help us.  Good, Godly counsel is the key here.  We must find professional people who believe the same doctrine we do, use God's Word in their counseling and our healing, and hold true to helping others with genuine care for their hearts and their lives.

We must not hesitate in doing this.  Because we know that the 'fruit' we are growing will feed our souls and, in turn, feed the souls of our families (not to mention everyone else with whom we come in contact).  After all - we want to grow our spiritual lives the best way we can!  

The experts were so very helpful.

The first thing I needed to do was correctly identify the roots so I would know how to deal with them. That way I would know how best to prepare my garden for the seeds I was going to plant.

We have to correctly identify what we have in our hearts so we know how to deal with it. Then we can set about preparing our hearts for the seeds God wants to plant.  

Then it was suggested that if the roots were negatively affecting the potential growth - if they were too compact and invasive - it would be best to get rid of them.  Otherwise it would be too difficult for the seeds to take root and get the nourishment they need from the soil.

If the 'roots' in our hearts are identified as anything against God's Word and are negatively impacting our lives, it's time to get rid of them.  They'll choke out the seeds of love, hope, and joy God wants to plant in our hearts.

Others pointed out that if the roots were beneficial to the soil, but still took up too much space, I could thin them out.  Then they could be used for the benefit of all the organisms in the soil, but be under control so they don't cause a problem.  When used in the right way, these roots could support and encourage the growth of the new vegetables this year.  And the benefits from them would be seen in the years to come.

In our hearts, 'roots' like these are often called our 'past'.  They are life events that have served to grow us and mature us.  Some are the mistakes God has corrected, areas where God has healed us emotionally, physically and spiritually.  And some are victories He's provided in our lives.  

We don't want to obsess about these things so they take up too much space in our hearts. So many times we spend too much time living in the past, and there isn't room for God to grow new seeds in the present, let alone in our future.

When we keep these 'roots' under control, these past life experiences can be used for our own benefit. To remind us of how God was active and alive in our minds, hearts, souls and lives. That He truly cares, is still here to support us now, and will be here for the rest of our lives.  

As a bonus - God gives us the opportunity to use these little 'roots' for His glory - to share and encourage others so their own Heart Gardens can grow.

The general consensus was that if the roots are a positive part of the natural eco-system of the soil they should stay.  That way they could still provide the most beneficial environment for healthy soil and healthy plants.  The gardening experts said that I was doing right in seeking what is good for my little garden.  They also encouraged me to guard my garden against harmful toxins to keep it pure.

They said that these good roots help the soil store the much-needed nutrients for all the other organisms that will help my plants grow and prosper.  They are essential in my garden as a whole - not just one section of it.  Without these roots the soil could dry up, become barren, break apart, and blow away.

There are some 'roots' that are beneficial to our hearts.  Like the roots of a tree that hold it in the ground so it doesn't fall over in the strong winds and storms.  

We must be grounded in our faith.  Grounded in the One and Only true God.  We will do right in seeking what is good for our Heart Gardens.  Seeking God with our whole hearts - not just one section of them.   

These good 'roots' are found in God's Word, in His commandments, in His promises, in living for Him. 

They are found in the positive influence of Godly people, in biblically sound teaching, and in our desire for God to permeate our hearts and our lives.  In holding fast to these 'roots' we can guard against the 'toxins' in the world and live a life that is more pure.  

Without the 'roots' of God's Word, our spiritual lives - our Heart Gardens - could dry up. Become barren.  Break apart.  And blow away.

We must be vigilant, intentional, determined.  We must thoroughly prepare our Heart Gardens by removing the harmful elements, and keeping only what is beneficial.  So we can be ready for the Master Gardener to plant His seeds and grow our lives into flourishing gardens of His love and delight.  

I thought about my own life.  There were a few questions I asked myself.

On the surface does my life give the appearance of a well-maintained garden, with fertile soil ready for the seeds to be planted?  Ready to yield the fruit of those seeds, and in turn nourish others?  When I talk about appearance and what I look like, I'm not talking about my clothes or my face.  I'm talking about what my life looks like.  Not even what I say.  But what I live.  When people look at me, do they see me living out the life I profess?  A life that is fruitful for God?

When people look at us, do they see us living out the life we profess?  A life that is fruitful for God?

Most importantly, do they see it both on the outside and on the inside?  What happens when that outer layer is pulled back?  When it's all said and done, what do I look like on the inside?  Have I tended to my Heart Garden as diligently as I have my vegetable garden? Am I ready with a clean heart for God to plant His seeds?  

When it's all said and done, what do we look like on the inside?  Are we ready with a clean heart for God to plant His seeds?

If not, I need to put down the rake, take off the gloves, get on my knees, and get some "cleaning" done.  If have, then it's planting time!

With our Heart Gardens ready . . . we're ready for God to plant His seeds so we can flourish and be fruitful for God.

Writer, Rebecca Goings said it best with this picture I found on

Photo Credit:
Happy gardening, dear ones.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to Clean Out That Heart Garden of Yours - Part I

Last season I so enjoyed working in my little vegetable garden.  I delighted in working the soil, getting my hands dirty, caring for it, and watching it grow.  In turn, it yielded a nice little delicious bounty that blessed us.  This is the garden from last July, midway through it's growing splendor.

I've not yet learned how to beneficially grow vegetables or good cover crops during the winter months, so thought it best to just let the soil rest over the winter.  With the weather finally nice and the temperatures rather warm for mid-January, I took advantage of the sunshine to do a little maintenance in my little garden space.

The space was in quite disarray and suffered from my neglect.  There were leaves, pine needles, sticks, and old tomato plants (that I didn't remove from last season like I should have) waiting to be cleared so I could begin this season's preparations.  The pipes that carried the water to it had broken because I'd not drained them before the freezing weather came.  Part of the fence had pulled away from the post because I let the ties break off.  My garden space needed some attention.

At the same time God spoke to me about my Heart Garden.  

You see, our hearts are like God's vegetable garden.  He so delights in working with us, getting His hands dirty in the soil of our lives, nurturing us, growing us, loving us.  So we can yield a nice little bounty that will nurture others and grow His kingdom and bless Him.  

Yes - we are here to bless the Lord.

Sometimes our spiritual lives suffer from neglect.  Just like a gardener, we need to stop and take a good look at our Heart Garden - God's garden.  We have to stop for a moment and identify the obvious distractions and neglect that create clutter and hardship instead of clarity and fruitfulness.  

Are we distracted by too many obligations, comparing ourselves with others, our careers, too much busy-ness?  Do we have too many negative influences in our lives?  Are we tied up in focusing on everyone else's sin and not repenting of our own?  Are we fighting everyone else's battles and neglecting our own?  Are we hiding behind the facade of a perfect life, all the while harboring bitterness and hurting from blows to our lives, our feelings, our hearts?  

Is there something that is covering up your heart so God can't get in to work His garden?  

Identify it and get your tools out so you can clean it up.

The only tools I thought I'd need to clear out my vegetable garden were my hands and a rake.  Easy enough.  I just needed to get in there and do it.  With rake in hand and determination in my head, I began the task.  It's such a small area that I didn't have any problems raking up all the leaves, twigs, and other assorted debris.

Sometimes our spiritual lives need a little clean-up.  Once we identify the junk that's covering our hearts, we can begin to remove it.  When the pile of clutter is small, we may only need a few tools.  

We must be determined to deal with the task at hand and be willing to see it to completion.  We must be willing to get our hands dirty and dive in with all our strength.  We can't just "wish" or "will" it all away.  We have to get in the mess and clean it up.

We have to focus our attention on what needs to be removed and get busy doing it. Perhaps it will just take a pen and paper.  Writing down changes we need to make, praying over them, confessing our sins, and re-committing ourselves to God.  Sometimes that is all we need.
Sometimes there's more to deal with than you expected.

I thought the piles would be small enough to burn, which would be an easy solution to what to do with it all.  Before you suggest it - I don't have a compost bin so I can't convert it to compost for my vegetable garden.  By burning it all I knew that it would be gone forever, and I wouldn't have to deal with it again.

Unfortunately the piles were quite a bit larger than I thought they'd be.  My little garden space is so small, I didn't think there could possibly be so much.  I would have to haul it away to burn it.  The piles were too big and too close to the house to burn.  So much for the easy solution.  But I was not going to just let it sit there and stay in the way of progress.

Sometimes our spiritual lives need a lot of clean-up.  After we pile up everything we need to take care of, it can surprise us.  What we may have thought to be little things could very well end up being a big pile.

In this case, the solution may not be as easy as we originally thought.  We can't give up because it's a bigger mess than we expected.  We have to be intentional about getting rid of it.  Remember how we started with determination?  We must continue as determined as when we started.

We need to stop and focus our attention not on how big the mess is, but on what we are going to do with it.
Sometimes we need more tools.

I stopped and focused my attention again on what I needed to do with it all.  I needed more tools.  My hands and that rake weren't enough to do the job.

My husband asked if I needed help.  He's so kind.  If the job was bigger than what I could handle, I would have accepted it.  But this was something I could do by myself when I got the additional tools I needed.

There were prickly sweet gum tree balls, twigs, branches, and other things lurking in the piles, ready to poke my bare, unprotected hands.  I needed protective gloves.

There are times we look at the list of things we've written down to clean-up our spiritual life, and find that they could fill a wheelbarrow.  When this happens, we can begin tackling it the same way we begin the smaller things.

We stop, focus our attention again on the task at hand, and ask God to help us.  We begin in prayer and confession, then ask God for guidance as we remove the barriers that are hindering us from a clear focus on Him.

Sometimes God works on our hearts without any outside help.  Occasionally He tells us we need to read other resources, engage in a Bible Study, or consult other godly people. Whatever it is He calls us to, we must follow His plan and direction.  And we must do so immediately, avoiding further distraction, so we can get rid of the clutter as quickly as possible.

The Bible is like our protective glove.  

The Word of God is our protection against the prickly parts and all that waits in the rubbish, ready to poke us and hurt us.  God's Word provides hope, love, reassurance, wisdom, strength, and protection.

We must do whatever it takes to begin the process of cleaning out our heart gardens.  Use those scripture memory cards, seek scripture with the help of a concordance if needed. We need to read His Word to re-affirm His desire for a life that is both honoring to Him and delightful for us.  

Using God's Word to strengthen us will help keep us from getting bogged down in the muck.

I also needed a wheelbarrow so I could safely, effectively and quickly haul everything off. After getting my gloves and wheelbarrow I began the removal process.  Scoop by scoop I put the refuse in the wheelbarrow and hauled it over to create a pile away from the house. It took 4 1/2 loads to clear it all out.  So there really was more clutter than I expected. Now the pile was complete and ready to burn.

The cross is like our wheelbarrow.

We have to dispose of all that is holding us back.  Let go of what is keeping God's love from getting deep into our hearts.  We can load it all up on the cross and dump it all at the feet of Jesus.

At the cross we burn all the trash we've removed from our hearts, giving it as a fragrant offering before Him.  Turning it into ashes so we don't have to deal with it again anywhere else.  So it can no longer distract us, cover us, burden us, or rob us of the love God has ready to pour into our hearts to make us grow.  

It's time to lay it all down at the foot of the cross and let Jesus restore us!

It felt good to have all of that mess out the way and be able to tend to my garden space, free of clutter, free from prickly things, and easier to prepare for a new growing season.

It feels good when we have all that mess out of the way.  Through repentance, in releasing it all to Christ, accepting His forgiveness, and embracing His promises and love, we have a heart that is ready to be cultivated.  Free of clutter.  Free from prickly things, and easier to prepare for a new growing season.

Here's to us!  And our new gardening season!  Time to grow!