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!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Cried Today

I cried today.

For not one particular reason really.
But for a lot of reasons.
Out of a purely broken heart.
Broken at the state of our nation.
Broken at the state of our churches.
Broken at the state of our people.
Broken at the state of the lost.  The invisible.  The broken.

Psalm 34:18 (NASB)  The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Sometimes I want to just stand outside my door and scream “STOP!”
I want everyone to just stop what they’re doing.  Stop what they are not doing.
Stop being so busy.  Too busy.
Stop not caring.  Stop accepting less.
Stop ignoring.  Stop being broken.

I stopped and prayed today.

For not one particular reason really.
But for a lot of reasons.
Out of a purely hopeful heart.
Hopeful for the future of our nation.
Hopeful for the future of our churches.
Hopeful for the future of our people.
Hopeful for the future of the lost.  The invisible.  The broken.

2 Thessalonians 3:5  (NASB)  May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Proverbs 3:5-6  (NASB)  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Sometimes I want to just stand outside my door and shout “LISTEN!”
I want everyone to just listen for God.  Listen to Him and not the noise of the world.
Listen with a quiet mind.  An open heart.
Listen with intent.  Listen with a desire to hear God.
Listen for God’s Words of truth.  Listen for His direction.

I listened and shared today.

For not one particular reason really.
But for a lot of reasons.
Out of a purely purposeful heart.
Purposeful for the future of the lost.  The invisible.  The broken.
Purposeful for the future of our people.
Purposeful for the future of our churches.
Purposeful for the future of our nation.

Sometimes I want to just stand outside my door and yell “SHARE!”
I want everyone to just share God's Word and promises.  Share God's plan for our lives.
Share with love for others.  With a burdened heart.
Share with passion.  Share without fear.
Share God’s grace and salvation.  Share God.

I shared and rejoiced today.

For not one particular reason really.
But for a lot of reasons.
Out of a purely grateful heart.
Grateful for the God who saves the lost.  Sees the invisible.  Heals the broken.
Grateful for the God who loves our people.
Grateful for the God who leads our churches.
Grateful for the God who holds our nation.
Grateful for the God who secures the future of our world.

Philippians 4:4  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Sometimes I want to just stand outside my door and declare “REJOICE!”
I want everyone to rejoice in the freedom God brings.  Rejoice in His forgiveness.
Rejoice in His love.  With the world, with the church, with our people.
Rejoice in His healing.  Rejoice In His care and provision.
Rejoice in knowing one day this world will pass and God will reign victorious forever!

Today I cried.  Stopped.  Prayed.  Listened.  Shared.  Rejoiced.  Did you?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Like a Flower in Bloom Book Review

Recently I was provided a newly-released book free of charge by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my book review.  The book I was delighted to read was the new fiction/historical romance title by Siri Mitchell – Like a Flower in Bloom.

Even today, women struggle with the life they want to have and that which is expected of them by others, either in society or in the eyes of family.  While most of us in the “free world” have the luxury of pursuing a career in whatever field we excel, there are still a great many women who don’t get a choice, or voice, in the matter.  In Like a Flower in Bloom, Siri Mitchell brings us the plight of one such young lady from the Victorian era who battles for her heart’s desire over societal expectation.

The setting is Cheshire, England in 1852.  The story is told by none other than the main character herself - Charlotte Withersby.  Charlotte is a 22-year old young lady who lives with her botanist father, assisting him in his botany research and writing.  This is a job for which Charlotte is quite well-suited, and one she is happily resigned to for the remainder of her life. 

Charlotte’s dream is to be a published botanist under her own name, something that was unheard of in that time, especially in the scientific field.  Her uncle convinces her father that she is getting old, and must be more about finding a husband, and less about writing.  The problem of who will help her father in his research and writing is quickly solved by the arrival of Mr. Trimble, a correspondent from the South Pacific who’s been aiding their research efforts for many years.

While becoming more active in the social scene she neither desires nor embraces, Charlotte befriends Miss Templeton, a young socialite who is eager to teach Charlotte proper etiquette.  Miss Templeton agrees to help Charlotte craft a clever plan to give the appearance of seeking a suitor, while making it obvious there is nobody suited for the position. 

                “No one worth your time or trouble.  Of course, I might 
answer differently if you actually wished to marry.  In that case you 
could even consider old Mr. Carew, but the goal is to provoke a man 
into paying you attention enough to raise alarm, but not enough to 
propose.  You’ve issued quite a challenge, Miss Withersby, but I’ve
both talent and time, and if you leave it to my capable hands, you’ll 
soon be back to your life’s work.”

Charlotte hopes that Mr. Trimble will serve as a horrible assistant to her father.  She also hopes that the men she and Miss Templeton choose to feign an interest in for betrothal will be denied by her father.  If the plan should work, Charlotte would return to her father’s side as his assistant and the life she desires. 

Charlotte is a smart, feisty, rather opinionated voice of stubborn will.  She can’t understand why people talk in circles instead of just saying what they mean, and why she should be forced to be someone she’s not, or pursue a life she doesn’t want.  Several “suitors” are found, and Charlotte finds herself in quite the predicament as the book progresses.  Will she end up in dismay, or will there be a man who changes her mind about marriage?  You have to read this book to see what happens.  You won’t be disappointed.

Like a Flower in Bloom is an insightful, yet thought-provoking read with a touch of delightful humor.  Mitchell brings to us characters you can relate to, in lives that are believable, and struggles that not only occurred in the late 1800s, but also appear in our lives today.  From the subtle details to the easy-flowing story line, I’m sure you’ll find this as much of a delight to read as I did. 

Lisa L. Floyd

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas Porch Display

I know Christmas is already over, but I wanted to share the craft project I did for our front porch display this Christmas.  And...perhaps get your opinion.

After searching through a common internet site that lets you "pin" things of "interest" (you know the one), I decided I wanted one of those signs that was so popular as well as a sled with the old ice skates hanging off of it.  A wonderful couple had a legitimate antique sled they sold me for a reasonable price that worked perfectly for what I needed.  Although, living in the South has its drawbacks and I was unable to find an old pair of ice skates.  So I put my own little twist on the display.

While I wanted to use one big board, my husband suggested I let him put together some privacy fence pickets to look a little more unique.  He also sanded, sealed and painted them an off-white color for me.  Free help?  Love it!

After printing out the letters I wanted, I centered them on the boards and taped them in place with painter's tape so it would be easy to remove without leaving residue.

Then I used a pencil with a dull tip to trace over the letters, which left the outline of the letters on the board without leaving any pencil lead marks.  You can see it here with the letter "P".

Earlier in the week my husband and I went down to our local hardware store for the paint. We chose the red color from Behr called "Allure" and had them mix a jar of Color Sample-size using Behr Premium Plus interior-exterior paint & primer-in-one.  (I have not been remunerated in any way by Behr for using or mentioning their product in this post.)  I really didn't have to use much of it so I have plenty left over for future use.  Bonus!

After painting all the letters and letting it dry I coated it with modge podge.  That's really not a necessity, but since I knew I would be storing the signs in the attic where they'd get bumped and scratched, I wanted the extra protection.

While all of that dried, I put some greenery and bows on the sled.  I also have a Wardian Case (like a fancy tabletop greenhouse/terrarium) that I put lights in.  I decorated it on the outside with the same greenery and bow as the sled.

Once everything was done, I tipped a plastic 5-gallon bucket upside down, put some heavy-duty fabric over it, and placed the Wardian Case on it to give it the height it needed.

On the left we put these two:

On the right we put these two:

And here is what the finished product looked like:

After it was all said and done, I looked at it and thought to myself:  "Why didn't I paint the letters bigger so they took up the entire board?"  (Insert face-palm here.)  But as I drove by the house, I realized that the letters were placed perfectly high on the board to make it easier to read to those driving by.  Or at least that's my excuse.  Ha!

Maybe next year I'll paint over it and make the letters bigger.  What do you think?  Should I leave the words the size they are or re-do them in a bigger size?  I'd love to hear your opinion!

The message?  May your lives be filled with the Hope and Peace of our Savior!