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Posts Tagged ‘azaleas’

A few weeks ago, our village gardeners finally had time to renovate the garden area near our unit. It used to be our neighbour’s pride and joy, before she could no longer look after it. The men worked busily, leaving some of the old plants but also adding lots of extras. Now we have a mixture of hardier shrubs such as azaleas, gardenias and baby nandina, along with some of our neighbour’s special plants—alstroemeria, gerberas, primroses, cyclamen, some kangaroo paw and even a patch of thyme.

Now that was pretty much all we thought was left of our neighbour’s original plants—until I looked closer in one spot and saw some little green shoots almost covered over by the wood chip the gardeners had put everywhere on top to deter any weeds. As gently as I could, I flicked the pieces of wood off them and hoped those little fronds would survive.

IMG_20200727_140611536Lo and behold, when I walked past a few days ago, there they were, standing so much taller and stronger and looking as if they might burst into flower at any moment. I suspect they might be daffodils, but who knows? We will have to wait and see. As well, beside these shoots, there was a cluster of dainty snowdrops on one side and another cluster of little star-shaped daffodil-like flowers on the other. And behind them, some wider shoots had also popped through the ground, along with a beautiful, dainty blue flower—all seemingly out of nowhere.

Yes, many of the other special plants our neighbour had nurtured with such care are now gone, including her hollyhocks and irises and the precious peony she particularly loved, along with the parsley we all enjoyed picking and using! Yet now, what looked like bare patches covered in wood chip are suddenly yielding special, unexpected treasures that remind me each day of our lovely neighbour.

I suspect this little patch of garden could be a fitting image for the strange period we are all in, don’t you think? For many, this is a difficult time when jobs have gone, money is tight and the future looks bleak. For others of us, this isolation time feels more like a weird hiatus, as if the pause button has been hit on our lives and nothing is as we knew it or expected it to be.

Yet, beneath it all, there still is life—and hope. Out of this time that may seem fruitless and bare, good things will come. They may be hidden for now, but soon those fresh possibilities will burst forth, just like the green daffodil shoots did. Eventually, when this isolation time has passed, we will look back and see the new things that blossomed in these months that would never otherwise have seen the light of day.

And God is still there too, watching over us and walking with us each day, willing us to keep trusting, whatever is happening—or not happening—around us. So let’s encourage one another today as we join together in a prayer the Apostle Paul prayed long ago:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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I have done my share of gardening over the years. Wherever we lived, I usually tried to make some sort of garden or use what was already there as best I could. But then we moved to our retirement village, where we have gardeners to look after all the trees and shrubs and flowers everywhere. And, apart from asking if I could plant some roses near our balcony, I was happy to leave all that trimming and digging and weeding to them!

IMG_20171008_170427567But then I met our wonderful neighbour and soon realised she was responsible for the beautiful flowers growing outside our front door and along the nearby pathways. I would see her working there for hours, as she sat on her little stool and weeded or broke up old leaves, then scattered them back in the earth. She would often spend her own money too, buying little, half-dead plants on special, then bringing them back to life, as well as more expensive ones. But the day came when our friend could no longer care for it all and she and her husband moved into our nearby nursing home.

In the following weeks, I watched as her beautiful garden deteriorated. Occasionally, I pulled out weeds or cut off dead flowers, but we knew that the gardeners, who had been happy to let our friend care for it and indeed to learn from her, would deal with it all in good time.

Eventually that day came and soon, many of our friend’s beautiful plants were no more–although some were left in certain spots to continue flowering where they were. And then something else sprouted in those gardens as well—two little signs that read ‘GardenIMG_20200220_092912991 Renovation in Progress’.

What a lovely concept, I thought to myself. My friend’s garden hasn’t disappeared altogether—it’s just being renovated! No doubt it will all look lovely again soon, with the remaining spaces filled with hardier, easy-care plants such as azaleas and nandina.

But as I gazed at those signs, another thought came to me too. Sometimes, I think my life can be a little like that garden outside our front door. Yes, when I first believed in Jesus Christ, I was given a completely new start in life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Yet despite that wonderful ‘renovation’, I can still easily mess things up. I can forget to listen to God—or perhaps deliberately choose not to. At times, my own selfish desires might kick in or I take my eyes off God and let the worries of this world overwhelm me. Then those weeds can begin to grow in my heart—and soon that internal ‘garden’ of mine needs a good overhaul yet again.

I’m so glad God doesn’t give up on us, but instead, graciously sets about renewing us, picking us up and setting us on our feet again. Truly, we are each a ‘renovation in progress’. But we are in the hands of the greatest master gardener ever who will continue to transform us to become more like Jesus. And that has to be the best reno ever, don’t you think?

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

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Sometimes it seems to me God uses the most mundane experiences of life and the things right in front of our nose to speak to us. Our part is to have eyes to see and ears to hear—and a heart to follow and live in the light of what God shows us.

I noticed this on two recent occasions that seemed quite disconnected at first. One day while dusting our house, I noticed some large, plastic folders on a bookshelf and looked more closely to see what they were. I discovered some were training manuals from courses I had attended in the past, while others contained leadership material for courses I myself had helped run. They would all be outdated now for sure. Out they went—but not without some pangs of regret. It had all been so valuable at the time. And I know such input impacted people’s lives, including mine.

Then I moved on to examine some thicker plastic folders. Inside them, I found neatly packaged cassette tapes from various conferences I had attended in the early nineties. What wonderful conferences they were, where the Holy Spirit moved amongst us in an amazing way and where we learnt so much more about how to pray and listen to God’s voice! I found smaller packs of cassettes too from prayer courses I had attended and other recordings of well-known Christian leaders at the time. This material had been transformational for me and many others. Yet who would listen to cassettes now? I could have them made into a more modern format—but would it be worth it? I decided in the end it would not be. Apart from just a few I did not have the heart to throw out, into the bin they went.

At that point, I decided there was no point in sitting around thinking melancholy thoughts. There were more jobs to be done, including hanging out that washing! As I did, I noticed our old iris plants were in bloom, their white floppy heads bobbing in the breeze, and there were new white blossoms on the azaleas and may bush. A few jonquils and baby daffodils had appeared, while various ground cover plants were also flourishing. In the midst of it all, the grevillea stood proud, with its lovely apricot and orange blooms, while my Christmas bush seemed to have shot up a P1040104few more centimetres overnight. Spring had certainly arrived. A new season was upon us. I went on to the front garden—and there before me was a small shrub I was sure had died over winter, now covered in pretty pink, daisy-like flowers.

Then God seemed to say to me, ‘You know those dusty, old cassettes, Jo? Yes, they were wonderful in their time and rich in my truths. But this is a new season for you when I have equally rich things to show you and to do through you. Keep moving on with me. Keep growing. Keep giving out.’

May you too listen and hear and perceive the things God has for you in this season of your life.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:18-19

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