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.
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.
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!