Nearer God's Heart In a Garden

There is something about being in a garden that nourishes my soul.

Perhaps it is that the beauty is so natural…so real.

Or maybe it is that gardens are one of those places I most feel the presence and peace of God, see the wonder of His creation, and I hear the lessons He has for me.
The Vegetable Garden

For some to think of a garden is to think of plants that produce food. Think of the hard work that it takes to plant, fertilize, water and weed, fighting against the onslaught of bugs chomping away at the fruit of your labor.  Experiencing the joy in the bounty of the harvest. Giving back life, from life.

I remember feasting on the fruit of my grandparents' labor almost every Sunday as I was growing up. My Mammaw always had fresh-cooked vegetables from the garden. Even in the winter, there were canned beans and jellies of every sort to be fetched from the shelves for a Sunday afternoon dinner.  I still have the picture in my head of my grandmother bending low in her garden, bonnet over her head, picking fresh peas. At times I was by her side, as she showed me what to do.

But I have to say…some of my most precious memories was of my grandmother allowing me to pick precious treasures from her other garden.

The Flower Garden…

Every week through springtime and summer...after the big family dinner at my grandparent's house and after a fair amount of time to play with my cousins, I would wander into the backyard and linger by the flower beds.  Oh, how I loved the flowers. In general, as children, we weren't allowed to pick the flowers. They were to be smelled, gazed upon and appreciated as they were left to grow out in the fresh air and sunshine.

As I got older, around my junior high years, I remember being allowed to pick a few of those precious flowers every Sunday. I would add them to the Queen Anne's Lace that grew wild at the edge of the woods…along with any other wildflower I could find on a treasure hunt through the woods behind Mammaw's house. I would take them home and put them in a vase to enjoy in my bedroom all that week. The following Sunday I would collect a fresh bouquet. This would continue all spring and summer until late fall when there were no flowers left to pick. Thankfully, growing up in Georgia afforded us a long growing season for flowers of all kinds through the spring and summer. How I loved my vase of flowers!

I still love flower gardens most…though I do realize the necessity of the other kind. God has shown me there are all kinds of lessons to be found for life, for love, and most importantly about Him, in the beauty, and in the care and tending of gardens. Too many to address in this short post.  I did write a post about the work that God needs to do in the garden of our hearts in a post I wrote back in 2011. You can read that post here:  Morning Musings From My Patio. 

The Heart's garden...

Instead of going into the lessons that God has built into His creation, I would like to honor my mother, who had much influence in the cultivating of the garden of my own heart, by leaving you with a short poem she wrote about me when I was just 12 years old.  She had written a poem for each one of her five children(at the time…three years later we added one more). In each short little poem, she captured a bit of the character of each one of her children. I find it sweetly ironic that my poem was a take-off of Mistress Mary and her garden.  (...and for those of you who do not know my roots well. My name, Gay, is short for Gayonne, a combination of Gayle and Evonne. Two family names)

Mistress Gayonne, quite a gay one,
How does your laughter grow?
With God's merry blessing,
We can all learn a lesson__
By watching your inner glow!
I love that my mother left me with that spoken blessing over my life.
I love that it was my mother's mother, Mammaw, who instilled in me a great love for God's beautiful creation.

My prayer is that my life and my words leave a legacy of God's great love and mercy and that the shining of the glory of His presence is indeed seen in my countenance.

What garden are you tending…what legacy will it produce?

  The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. ~Isaiah 58:11

Here's another garden story you don't want to miss!  

Lisa-Jo Baker launched an incredible project on Valentine's Day this year. She is raising money, $150,000 from Valentine's Day through Mother's Day to fund the building of a much needed Community Center in South Africa. As of Friday(Valentine's Day 2014), the first phase of the project has been funded(a community garden). As Lisa-Jo says,
 What if 1 blog community could build 1 South African community a safe place for sustainable food, child care, economic empowerment, job skills trainings, a gathering place for church, classrooms for HIV/Aids education, and a playground for their kids.
Here is one way that you can help with the Maubane Community Center project. When you purchase one of these three beautiful necklaces from Krafty Kash $12 from each purchase will be donated!! This offer is available until Mother's day!!

Love is more than a date on a calendar! Fall in love with the world next door….

   “Fall in Love with the World Next Door” Necklace

Five Minute Friday

I'm linking up with Lisa-Jo and 

the Five Minute Friday writers.

Join us…Hop over the Five Minute Friday 
and find out what it's all about.
Better yet…join the fun!


Sacrificial Faith - Abraham and Isaac

This post was originally written as a guest post for my friend, Beth Zimmerman's site, ButterflyMasterpiece. I and quite a few other bloggers were contributing the series on her site, Walk By Faith.  Beth is taking a break from blogging and her site is no longer available for viewing, so I have posted the article that I wrote in its entirety here.


When I saw that one of the topics for her series was to be Sacrificial Faith and revolve around the story of Abraham and Isaac, I knew that I needed to share what God has shown me through a very difficult time in the life of our family.  My hope and prayer is that this will encourage you in your faith journey.

Abraham was a man who knew the true meaning of the words sacrificial faith. In Genesis 22: 1-18 you can read the full account of Abraham and his son, Isaac. Isaac was the son Abraham and Sarah had connived in their old. In Hebrews 11:17-19, we read a recap of Abraham and Isaac's encounter with God.
By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. 
Can you imagine that kind of obedience?  God had asked Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on a mountain that God would show him.  So Abraham got up early the next morning and made the preparations necessary for the journey. Taking his son and two of his young servants he set out …not even knowing the final destination, yet knowing what was required of him when he arrived.  Scripture says, on the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. On the third day. I cannot imagine being in his place…knowing what was to come, what was required of me, and yet keep it together and keep going for three days.  Can you?  The whole scenario is just surreal.  
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together. Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”   “Yes, my son.” “We have flint and wood, but where’s the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering?”  And they kept on walking together. They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.(Genesis 22:6-10, MSG)
So, there he was, dagger in hand, about to do the unthinkable. Sacrifice his own son…the very avenue by which God had promised the blessing…through which all peoples on earth were to be blessed.  How could he even think of such a thing? I am so thankful for the explanation in Hebrews 11:19. He knew that God would still provide the blessing through Isaac’s offspring, yet to be born. How? Well, he believed God. Period. In his mind, the only explanation would be that God would raise his son from the dead…because he believed beyond the shadow of a doubt that God kept His promises. Wow!! You need to know that this is no small thing. As far as we know, this had never happened anywhere in the world up to this point in history. What faith! To be willing to commit such an act…the most horrific thing a parent could do to his own child, believing that God would make it right by raising that child from the dead. 
This was a test for Abraham and he passed with flying colors. Abraham acted on his belief.  He believed in God’s faithfulness so fully that he was willing to give up his son. Abraham could not fulfill God’s purpose for his own life without Isaac, yet he was willing to lay his Isaac down on the altar. He was completely willing to surrender his own preconceived notions of how God was going to accomplish His promises.  True belief puts action to the words we confess.  True faith requires a full surrender to God. Because Abraham believed God, He blessed him. He provided the ‘scapegoat’…literally and stopped Abraham from plunging that dagger into his son’s heart. 
Whew!  I remember breathing a sigh of relief the first time I ever read this account in God’s word. I was so focused on the fact that the angel of the LORD stopped him that I didn’t realize the full meaning of this event…or how it might one day resonate within my heart.
That day came when I found myself sitting beside my son’s bed in the ICU of St Vincent’s Hospital. He was only 13 years old…yet he was going through what we were to later discover was a stroke brought about by a very rare migraine disorder.  At this point, Brad’s brain had begun to swell from the relentless pain of the migraine and after seeing his CAT scan the doctor ordered Brad to be taken by ambulance to St. Vincent’s Hospital’s ICU…STAT. In the ICU both sides of the brain had begun to swell creating a life and death scenario for our son. 
I can only think of one other situation that I could imagine as terrifying as seeing your child laying in an ICU with his life hanging on by a thread…teetering on the edge of death; to lose a child who had reached the age of accountability and yet had not yet trusted in Christ as His Lord and Savior. I am so thankful that I did not have to face that scenario as Brad had accepted Christ and had faithfully followed Him several years earlier. 

Still, there I sat. In an ICU by my son's side as he lay there helplessly, wires connected to his head…the EEG monitoring his brain waves…and then it happened. He began to have a full-scale seizure as the swelling continued into both sides of his brain.  His arms flailed wildly and his eyes began to mimic the motion of the carriage return cylinder on an old fashion typewriter, jerking as they moved from side to side, over and over.  I instinctively reached out and took hold of his arms to hold them down and I knew that this was the moment that God was going to take my son home to heaven…but I wasn’t prepared for this. I had just spent the past two weeks managing every minute of my son’s life in the hospital, overseeing every aspect of his medical care…only leaving his side when my husband was able to be with him. I slept by his side every night…even in the ICU. I had been in control! 
In that moment I knew it was time to let go of my son and let God take over and do His good will…whatever that may be. I began to pray, but instead of begging God, “Please, don’t take my son,” I found myself praying, “Father, you know I don’t want to lose my son. I want to see him grow into a man. But he belongs to you…so…if you need to take him; I give him back to you.”  In saying those words, a tremendous peace settled into my heart and I began to sing songs of praise, Brad’s favorites. As I sang, the seizure began to slow down…his arms stopped flailing, his eyes closed, and he slept. 
That was a defining moment in my life as a mother and in my journey with God. In surrendering my will, and my heart…my son…to God, I had put my full trust in Him, knowing full well that He was under no obligation to give me the desire of my heart. I fully expected God was going to take Brad home to be in Heaven with Him. I wanted to have a heart fully surrendered to the will of my Father in Heaven, even as I wanted to have my son fully restored to me. The peace that passes understanding fell over me as I turned it all over to the one who holds eternity in His hands.
In a way, I felt somewhat like I would imagine Abraham must have felt standing over his child, dagger in hand. He was willing to do God’s will even when it didn’t make sense. Here he was about to sacrifice his son, his own heart when miraculously God provided the necessary sacrifice and spared his son’s life.  Abraham had shown through his willing heart and actions that he believed God. And likewise, because I was willing to surrender my son into God’s hands, I believe God gave my son back to me. Not so that I could take the reigns of control back over my son’s life (although I continued to struggle off and on with that desire through the following months of rehabilitation), but to continue raising him with the understanding that God was still in control. Even more than that, as hard as it was to accept, I knew the truth. God loves my son more than I do. He knows what is best for his life. I had laid my Isaac down and God had restored him to me.  
I have found that God requires us to sometimes lay down that which is most precious to us. He asks us to place our treasure before Him on the altar. We have to lessen the grip; open our arms… in order to surrender it back to God. It may not be as traumatic as laying down your son or daughter. It might be your career. It might be your life’s purpose. 
 Are you willing to lay your Isaac down?
Just maybe as you stand there fully surrendered, arms extended…God will restore that which you have given up. If that happens, hold it loosely, but run with it…for His glory!


Healed or Walking Dead? Choose Now...

This week is the last in a series of link-ups with Jo Ann Fore's book study, When A Woman Finds Her Voice. It has been a privilege to walk in this community of voice bloggers. To join in with other women who are learning to walk, healed and whole, into the fullness of redemption and restoration that God has for each one of us.  It is the light that leads the way home to a lost and hurting world.

  It isn't a trivial journey, this healing. This restoration, this redemption, is a biblical mandate…a life principle to be worked out, and shared with others. We redeem the hurts of life when we allow them to come full circle, when we pour into the lives of others. ~Jo Ann Fore,When A Women Finds Her Voice.

With these words in mind, let me caution you. You cannot fast-forward past the process of healing into the sharing and comforting of others. When you do…you end up not sharing words of hope and comfort, but words of pain and bitterness. The cacophony of the pain and bitterness of your story all but drown out any of the words that are meant to point to the light of hope and healing. Too many come together to talk about their painful past only to find themselves commiserating in their stories of pain and misery. You cannot reach out to give hope and comfort when you, yourself, have not received that comfort.

The Walking Dead...

I believe there are too many women walking around with soul wounds…gaping, bleeding, ugly wounds.  I have this picture running through my head of the ghouls on the show, the Walking Dead. I know that sounds extreme but let me tell you what I mean.

Sometimes the wounds we carry are caused by others, sometimes by life's circumstances, or they may have been self-inflicted. In any case, they are an indication of this fallen world in which we live.

Having an open wound requires all of our focus and attention to remain on ourselves. We spend the majority of our time and efforts tending to the wound. If the right salve is not applied we begin to look like the 'Walking Dead'…stuffing our emotions down, becoming lifeless. There is no 'inner light' left for others to see. We begin to think that no one should be exposed to the ugliness of our wounds, and so we withdraw deeper into our own world. But we don't become hermits because, as they goes on.

But our voices become wilted…melting...silencing the emotional pain.

We go on about the tasks of our daily lives in a 'Stepford Wives' sort of existence, saying and doing all the right things. All the while, our true self longs to be heard, longs to call out to someone who will listen and apply the needed salve to our wounded spirit.

The enemy of your soul wants you to be a member of the walking wounded. He wants you to believe that there is no way out…no answer…that it is so much easier to remain in your present state than to move forward.

Scars...a sign of healing

It is difficult, if not impossible, to move forward in our God-given purpose, if we do not first address the wounds of our spirit. You see it is not the open wounds that propel us forward, but wounds that are healing and healed...leaving the scar.  Scars are an indication that healing has taken place.  We first need to address the open wound, the brokenness, if we are to be emotionally whole again.

As the healing begins to take place, it is the scars that we use to propel us forward. The scars that enable us to say, ''See,  I have been there, but now... I'm healed." The scars that allow us to point to the healer and redeemer, Jesus Christ. We can now say as Joseph did in Genesis 50:20...
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
If you are one of the walking wounded, I cannot 'fix' you. Only God, through His Son and the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, can do that.  But…I can come alongside you and encourage you. I can point to the hope that is within me…to the One who fixed me. I am not perfect. I still mess up, stumble, fall, sin…but I am redeemed! He is in the process of restoring me to the woman he created me to be…to walk out His purpose in my life. How very thankful I am for my Lord and Savior, who is my righteousness.  He is yours too!

The salve...God's Word                                                                                                       

Walk away from the lies of the enemy of your soul, the one who would have you remain in the pain of deep wounded-ness. Walk toward the truth of the Word of God, into the loving, faithful and healing arms of Jesus.  It's time to replace the lies of the enemy with the truth of God's Word (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Your story, wrapped in God, around His word, and what He has done in your life will safely lead women home. ~Jo Ann Fore
It's a process. A journey we must walk. Let the journey begin. Move into your calling as one healed to be a healer. We become over-comers when we use the words of our testimony.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.  ~Revelation 12:11                 ~   
  Find your voice!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 This is the last link-up for Find Your Voice, Make a Difference.