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Posts Tagged ‘nandina’

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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As I surveyed our garden this week, I was thankful for the season of winter. Many plants seem to have gone into hibernation—even some of the weeds. What a bonus! But the little, unpretentious nandina shrubs are looking delightful in this cooler weather, with their deepening red leaves. And our hardy, old camellias make a colourful display too.

I noticed a tiny chrysanthemum bush I had only recently popped into the garden near our front door. It was originally given to one of our daughters as a potted plant on Mothers’ Day. She had tried to care for it in her inner city apartment, but alas—its lovely red-gold blooms soon withered, along with the plant itself. A lack of direct sunlight did not help. Neither did the presence of two inquisitive cats who loved to nibble those green leaves! So she bequeathed it to me.

With no great hope this little plant would survive, I put it in the ground, alongside my own Mothers’ Day chrysanthemum I had replanted earlier, which seemed to be doing okay. In contrast, my daughter’s plant looked ready to cuP1040098rl up and die at a moment’s notice. But, to my surprise, within a few days, that poor little plant began to perk up. Its leaves became distinctly less yellow and wilted and soon began to approach something much nearer normality—give or take a few holes from those curious cats! Now, it is the same healthy, deep green colour as its neighbour. It might still look somewhat scruffy and nondescript—but it is obviously living and breathing again. And my hope is that, in the summer, we may even see some more flowers emerge on it.

In quite a confronting way at times, I have found myself identifying closely with the whole process of rescuing this little, ailing plant. Often as I approach our front door now, I glance to my left, notice its green leaves, and hear that gentle voice of God, whispering into my spirit:

Jo-Anne, remember how I have rescued you—yes, once way back, but many times over in different ways since. Keep looking to me, just as this little plant is responding to the warmth of the sun on its leaves. Then you will grow strong and flourish, blessing many. Then you will fully be the person I created you to be.

In a lovely, personal way, this plant has become like a little parable to me, bringing home all over again the kindness of God at work in my own journey.  Way back, God found me and brought me into the kingdom of light, breathing new life into me through the Spirit, giving me a second chance. Then, over the years, God has nurtured me with such love and understanding and persevered in giving me chance after chance to grow. In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul writes:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ … Eph 2:1-2, 4

I’m so glad God specialises in second chances—aren’t you?

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I must admit to feeling a little nervous these past few days. You see, our younger daughter is due to have her second child, a breech baby, by caesarean this week. The date is set, but because her first child was born very quickly—in fact, while she was trying to walk from the bathroom to her bed in the hospital birthing unit—she is a little on tenterhooks with this one. She is sure the baby will not wait for that due date. So we wait and wonder. Will she make it to that planned caesarean? Or will the baby make up its own mind and opt for an earlier entry into the world?

‘I can’t wait till the new baby to be born!’ our granddaughter and the baby’s cousin told her parents recently. But, like all of us, she has to curb her impatience, hold onto that excitement and just plain wait—never easy for a seven year old.

I was reminded of another kind of waiting this past weekend when, despite the rain and a painful back, I decided to plant two seedlings I obtained for free from our local council. You see, the ground was so soft, making it easier to clear enough weeds away to enable me to dig those small holes and plant my callistemon and nandina. And the moist ground and humid weather will help my new little shrubs to survive and hopefully flourish. But it will all take time—years, in fact, before those shrubs are the size I would like them to be.

So many things in our lives require waiting, don’t they? As an author, I am well acquainted with this whole process—waiting for manuscript readers to comment, waiting for months to hear back from publishers to whom you have submitted your precious first few chapters, waiting for the whole editing process to be completed, waiting for that release date, waiting until the those copies arrive on the bookshelves in stores, waiting for reviews, waiting for those promotional opportunities … on it goes. Along with developing a thick skin, I think any author needs to work at acquiring a hefty dose of patience if he or she is going to survive in the writing world.

And what of our journey with God? As a result of working on my next non-fiction book that reflects on my own life story, I have seen how much I grew during those times of waiting on God—when I stopped to listen and learn, to observe what was happening in the now and to look to God for wisdom and insight. This ‘active waiting’, as it is sometimes described, is a skill I am still learning even now—that precious, God-given art of being ‘present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are’, as Henri Nouwen puts it. God has things to teach me right now, even as I wait for the birth of this new grandchild.

So let’s welcome those waiting periods rather than rush on. God may well be preparing us for what lies ahead. And God may even have deep and wonderful things to reveal to us as we hold our hearts open before him.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

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