The Garden

Did you realize there are many of life’s lessons to be learned by spending time in a garden?

I realize that not everyone is "into" having flowers or vegetable gardens. Working in the dirt is almost therapy for me. It gives me time to breathe in fresh air, hear the birds, and think . . .

While tending to God's creation, I'm reminded of how He wants me to live.

In the picture above, you can see part of our backyard. In the front of the house I hang baskets of geraniums, and plant window boxes with petunias. I love having my yard full of color. It does something for my soul.

During the summer, I either water the flowers almost every day, or risk losing the plants. The flowers add so much to my life, but having them doesn’t come without a cost. Keeping them happy and healthy takes a lot of work. But to see something so lovely wither away and die, can be heartbreaking.

It’s similar with relationships.

It doesn’t matter how wonderful and alive our relationship is with God, our spouse, our kids, or our friends; it can still wither and die if not tended to.

Let’s not forget weeding . . .

Weeds can steal the necessary water and nutrients from the soil that our flowers and vegetables need to grow. Weeds can overcome young plants and block out the sun’s ray, necessary for plants to remain healthy.

Likewise . . . sometimes we need to weed out what could potentially overtake, strangle, or suffocate us.

Those things may be . . .

busy, unnecessary activities we engage in . . .

bad habits, addictions, toxic relationships . . .

pride, ego, selfishness . . .

You know what your list includes.

Be aware. Even though we may think we’ve thoroughly cleaned out those bothersome weeds, it doesn’t take much for them to sprout again. When we try to dig deep to remove what hinders us from thriving – the work will be difficult. The roots may be embedded more than we think. We may feel some aches and pains. But, we don’t need to rely on our own strength. God is here to help us.

But, when we’re free of what threatens to take over the garden of our lives, we’re able to grow strong and beautiful. We might even grow tall enough to offer a bit shade to those who need shelter.

And then there's pruning.

A plant recently pruned can look like it’s never going to come back. But in the long run . . . pruning is good for it. Hacking the plant away pushes it to come back even stronger, healthier, and more gorgeous than before.

Such are life’s lessons. They can be painful. They can make us feel like we don’t want to get up in the morning. But if our roots are strong . . . if we continue to take in life-giving elements . . . we, too, will bear bigger and more fruit than we ever did before.

Have a great week . . . and smell the flowers.


Everything from the Heart

Once in awhile you meet someone who makes an impact on you. It doesn’t have to be through a big event. It may be through something he simply says or does. I recently met such a person.

Getting my nails “done” every two weeks is a luxury I allow myself. The nails have always been weak and a mess without professional care. Now that I’m working out of a home office, I decided to look for a place closer than the one I’d gone to for years, and found a lovely establishment five minutes from home.

It was during my second appointment with Jimmy, the owner, that I learned more about this kind and humble Vietnamese man. Jimmy came to the United States thirty years ago as a teenager. He married and raised his family here. For the past twenty years he’s owned businesses that focused on nails and other spa treatments.

Jimmy took his time, was gentle, and very particular about the end result. I commented that day on the good job he did on my nails.

He thanked me, smiled, and said, “I do everything from the heart. My life. My family. My work. How I treat people. We don’t know if we will be here tomorrow. I don’t want to die with anyone angry or hating me. But I can die happy if there are people around me who love me.”

He does everything from the heart.

While I waited for the nail polish to dry, a young woman about twenty years old came in. With how she and Jimmy greeted each other, I knew she was a regular. Sitting only a few feet away, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. The young woman and her boyfriend had just broken up and she was feeling down. Jimmy listened, gave gentle counsel, and they were soon laughing together.

He does everything from the heart.

I left that day, thinking about what Jimmy expressed. A week later, I’m still thinking about it. I want to have an attitude more like his. No matter what my task—whatever I’m up against—I want to do it from my heart. No matter who I spend time with, or what we’re doing . . .

I want to do my best.

Give my best.

And be known as a woman who does everything from the heart.


Seeds of Summer by Deborah Vogts

I occasionally share my thoughts here on books that I feel are particularly good. Today I want to talk about Deborah Vogt’s latest release, Seeds of Summer, book two in her Seasons of the Tallgrass Series.

Seeds of Summer is a story about having a dream. A path you want to take, a goal you hope to reach, or a desire you need to satisfy. But this story is even more. It’s about family, sacrifice, second chances, forgiveness, and a God, who in His own timing, will surprise us.

The author brings us interesting characters we want to cheer for, hug, and a few times . . . even strangle! They’re lovable, real, and sometimes humorous. Natalie, the heroine, is strong, but still has her weaknesses. Her little brother is sweet and protective, while still being all-boy. Her sister, as most teenagers do, pushes the boundaries and Natalie’s buttons. The stepmother who left years ago and returns is a quirky character who visually leaps off the page. You might wish the elderly neighbor would move next door to you. And Pastor Jared Logan? He’s more than what he first appears to be.

If you want a great summer read – I recommend you read, Seeds of Summer.

Back cover copy

Former rodeo queen Natalie Adams has big troubles. When her father dies unexpectedly, she’s saddled with the family ranch and two half-siblings whose mother abandoned them years ago and is long-believed dead. A handsome young pastor, Jared Logan, repeatedly comes to the rescue. But Natalie’s strong, independent nature wants nothing to do with his help.

Jared, a city boy do-gooder, has dreams of his own. He’s ready to solve Natalie’s problems, as well as any problems in his church. But his congregation resists change, and the more deeply involved he becomes with Natalie’s family, the more he questions his life as a clergyman. Jared’s enthusiasm turns to fear as he contemplates failure.

When Natalie’s stepmother unexpectedly shows up with plans of her own, Natalie must choose between the responsibilities of caring for a family or following her own desires. Love, forgiveness, and faith mingle together in the breathtaking world of the Kansas Flint Hills prairie.

Deborah Vogts and her husband have three daughters and make their home in southeast Kansas where they raise and train American Quarter Horses. As a student at Emporia State University studying English and journalism, Deborah developed a love for the Flint Hills that has never faded. In writing this series, she hopes to share her passion for one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world, showing that God’s great beauty rest on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

A World of Protection

Do you lock your doors during daylight hours? Pull the blinds at dusk?

I grew up in a small Wisconsin town. No one locked their doors. The church was always open. Times have changed. Even in my hometown, my parents are now accustomed to turning a key in the lock when leaving the house. And churches everywhere must be protected from thieves and vandals.

My own home is very secure. Not because we live in a bad neighborhood. It’s actually a nice and quiet place to live. But no matter where you reside, there is a need to protect your family and home from those who might inflict harm. We have a lock on our screen door, and both a lock and deadbolt on the regular door. A monitored security system and outside motion detector lights complete the set-up. We’re not paranoid. We’re just careful.

When you think about it, people are pretty obsessed with being protected.

We use:

1. Sunblock to protect us from sunburn

2. Umbrellas to protect us from getting wet in the rain

3. Security systems to protect us from intruders

4. Virus protection on our computers

5. A variety of methods to protect us from identity theft

6. Disinfectant to protect us from infection

7. Seat belts to protect us from serious harm in accidents

8. Sports attire that helps protect the mouth, head, knees, etc.

9. Vaccines to protect us from illness

10. Plant coverings to protect them from frost

11. Sunglasses to shield our eyes from bright light

12. Clothes to protect us from the environment

13. The military to protect us from other countries invading

14. Law enforcement to protect us from “bad” people

15. Ear protection to inhibit loud noises from damaging our hearing

16. Investments and diverse portfolios to protect our financial future

Okay – that’s a rather long list. But, hopefully you get my point.

Despite all the methods we use to protect our physical well-being, we sometimes forget about the One who not only protects our bodies, but our hearts and souls.

God is always there, watching over us. Wanting the best for us. Protecting us from forces we can’t see, or may never realize.

Sometimes we could even use protection from temptation, discouragement, despair, bad judgment, unwise decisions, unjustified anger, an attitude filled with bitterness, a prideful spirit, an unforgiving heart . . . and maybe even a broken heart.

"Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name." (Psalm 91:14 NIV)

"But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." (2 Thess. 3:3 NIV)

God will protect you . . .
What do you need from Him today?


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