Growing in the Harshest Conditions

Cheyenne Zubler of Cheye Girl Photography

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a lover of God’s creation, especially plants that bloom! My family moved into our current home sixteen years ago. It sets on approximately ¼ of an acre. At the time we moved in, there were lilac bushes bordering two sides of the property, spirea bushes along the front and back of the house, a 16’ length of fence with blackberries, and six fifty year old trees (three pine, three maple). To most people that would be more than enough, but not for me! I have transformed our property to include fourteen flower beds, a 48’ x 24’ fruit and vegetable garden with an arbor wall, a pergola, and a 7’ x 20’ pond (4’ deep). My husband says that’s enough every time I add something new, but he is always amazed by the beauty and enjoyment it brings.

All of the beauty in our yard is always dependent on the weather. As I’m sure you know, the amount of precipitation, sunlight, and nutrients determine the growth of the plant. The environment that the plants are exposed to directly affects the end result. Each plant has its own needs in order to thrive. Some need dry soil, some need swampy, and yet some need a perfect blend. It can be a delicate balancing act that you ultimately have no control over. It is hard (sometimes impossible) to recover the growing season once the plant has been exposed to the harsh elements. A succulent that gets flooded and sits in soggy soil for extended time will just rot. A delicate impatient that is baked in the hot sun with no water for days on end will most likely shrivel and dry up to a crisp twig. Both will be lost forever.

If all the conditions are right in early spring, the Bearded Iris will begin to sprout from the rhizome sitting on top of the soil. The straight, blade-like leaves will grow up to 18″ tall. In a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see a stalk rise above the leaves, and buds will poke through and swell with glorious anticipation. Then one by one, as the air warms each bud’s petals, they will show their glory with a sweet scent. Weeks of growth comes to a beautiful climax that lasts just one day. That’s right, each iris bloom lasts just one day. Then, it begins to shrink and curl up. Thankfully, there are multiple blooms on each stalk giving you many days of beauty. But, sooner than later all of the blooms are gone and the greens wither away.

I watch my favorite flower go through this process year after year, and I am always amazed at God’s intricate attention to beauty. The hard, brown, ginger-like root produces one of the most delicate flowing petals bringing beauty to the garden. I would be remiss if I didn’t bring this back to the beginning when I spoke of the conditions needed for blooming and how this is so different from our ability to bloom in God’s glory.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall.”
∼1 Peter 1:23-24

In God’s garden, we are preserved for eternity. Adverse conditions won’t inhibit us from blooming, and we don’t shrivel up after one bloom. In fact, God often uses those adverse circumstances to bring the most beautiful blooms of His eternal glory. In order to bloom in God’s garden of glory, the first mandatory requirement is that we are born again believers. Once God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit, then he can bring beauty to any of our circumstances in His will. He gives us nourishment and everything we need to flourish.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
∼John 15:16

Second, we must listen and obey. The lasting and meaningful fruit in our lives are not of our own accord. Have you ever tried so hard to make a situation thrive or recover it from despair only to find yourself busted and frustrated? Or, when we start to see it work just the way we want it, we see it wither away to nothing. In order to grow in God’s grace, we actually have to take in His living word and live by it.

God is the only one that can work blessings from hardships—blessings that will grow for eternity. Let me share how God tilled his grace into the garden of my life during some of the harshest conditions. My husband and I have been married for more than twenty years, and it has been a journey of love, joy, and adventures. But, like most marriages, it has had its fair share of trials, sickness, death, and despair. I became a born again Christian five years into our marriage. My husband grew up in the church but chose not to have a relationship with Christ. Our marriage was not created on the foundation of God and, until I became a Christian, neither of us cared.

I must have believed on some level: how could God fix something that he’s not fully a part of? My belief was full of unbelief. My fears continually won over my faith. A couple of years ago, we almost ended our commitment to each other. We had worked so hard through the years to save it by attending seminars and counseling and participating in exercise after exercise. None of our efforts made any lasting changes, until God stepped in when I finally stepped aside.

In my unbelief, I used to secretly ask God to give me an out. “Please, Lord, just make this long suffering end!” I longed for it to be over. I was so weary of trying everything known to man to save a relationship that seemed doomed from the beginning. Then, in the beginning of 2017, I had a complete breakthrough with God. I finally believed without a doubt, leaving no room for fear, that God loved me. This broken, bruised, tarnished, and tattered soul was actually whole, beautiful, blessed, without blemish, and strong. The circumstances in my life could not change it. No matter the outcome of whatever it is I face, I know that God has my best interest at hand. My Heavenly Father would not leave me.

So with this said, the night that my husband forced me to leave our home I had first thought, “Well, this is my out.” But was it? I was not even completely out of the driveway when I felt this sinking feeling in my gut that said this was wrong. I knew I was not to be leaving. I felt it at the core of my being. I knew that I could not just turn around and walk back in, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be forever. The very thing that I had been begging for to end my marriage was going to be the one thing that healed it.

Within the next few months, God brought women into my life who were going through similar struggles. We started meeting weekly as a group to encourage each other, pray for each other, and support each other. We cried a river of tears and laughed so hard we cried again. We began seeing blooms through the ice as pictured in Isaiah 35.

Photography by Trisha L. KnaulThe desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”
∼Isaiah 35:1-2a

Joy and gladness returned where there was only sorrow and strife. But what changed? Our circumstances were still the same. Our lives were full of the same struggles. Then what made the difference? It was our obedience to God. God used a group of five broken women to bring blossoms of beauty in the most arid of desserts.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
∼Galatians 6:2

I encourage you to join me in God’s garden. If you allow him to give you living water by his word and feed you with his Holy Spirit, I can promise you that you will be blessed. The blessings may not be exactly what we want, but if we look between the thorns, we’ll see the beautiful rose blooming for all to see.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
∼Psalm 31:24

 

 

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Dear Child

Dear Child

I love you!
Don’t ever forget:
I love you.

Nothing you do
(or don’t do)
Can change that.
I love you.

You will make poor choices.
You will mess up.
And, yes, you will sin.
Through it all,
I will love you.

You will (and have) hurt me,
By accident and on purpose.
Still, I love you.

Every decision you make will have consequences.
Good. Bad.
Relationships will be affected.
For good or bad.
I love you.

Sin. Shame. Denial.
Pride. Hardness.
Walls go up.
From the other side,
I will love you.

You may try to hide it,
But I know you.
The bad will boil inside
Until you either
Harden your heart
Or ask forgiveness.
Ask forgiveness.
Regardless of which you choose,
I love you.

I would give my life to save you.
My greatest wish is to see you walk with God.
Forever.
I love you that much.

But…

God loves you more!

I carried you for 9 months.
I love you.
But…
God created you.
God loves you more.

I raised you.
I love you.
But…
God made you who you are.
God loves you more.

You mess up.
Unintentionally.
Intentionally.
And, yes, you sin.
You hurt God.
You break His heart.
Still, God loves you.

You may try to hide your sin.
From me.
From others.
From God.
Even from yourself.
But He sees it.
In spite of what He sees,
God loves you.

Sin. Shame. Denial.
Pride. Hardness.
Walls go up.

From the other side,
God loves you.

I would give my life for you.
He would sacrifice
His only Son for you.
(I wouldn’t. But He did.)
God loves you.

He waits patiently
When you spit in His face,
And God loves you anyway.

I long for you to love God.
Open your eyes.
See God.
God loves you.

Do not harden your heart.
Confess.
Repent.
Accept.
Renew.
Live.

I love you,
But…

GOD LOVES YOU MORE.

Free to Love

When asked what love looks like, most of us would describe acts that portray kindness, gentleness, generosity, service, or sacrifice, and I doubt these answers would cause much debate.  We can easily agree that love spurs on life-giving actions, but it is oh so good to remember that the love we give is more of a reaction to the perfect love poured into us as we abide in God, as God is love. I have always been deeply encouraged by 1 John 4:7-21 and reflect on the truth of verse 19 regularly.  “We love because He first loved us.” This truth rings out loud and clear as I seek opportunities to love those around me. I receive from my Lord and, therefore, can share and spread His love.

As a mother, I long to reflect Christ as I love my children. This Christ-like love can be revealed in many ways as we mommas nurture our children. Maybe it is revealed when we experience personal heartache when our child has been teased or rejected. Maybe when we long to assure our child of our love and faithfulness when he or she feels alone and uncertain. Maybe when we simply hold our child. Maybe when we laugh and sing with our children or recount fun memories together. Maybe when we shed tears with them in hard times. Maybe when we enjoy the beauty of God’s creation as we are out exploring nature together. Maybe our love is Christ-like when we tend to them through those long nights when they are sick or even in the fact that we know our children so well that we are the first to recognize when they are getting sick. Maybe our love reveals Christ when we pray over them and with them, when we humble ourselves and confess our faults, when we stand beside them and help them fight battles of anxiety or pride or insecurity or anger, when we continue to model over and over our dependence on Jesus. Our love for our children displays Christ when we persevere in teaching them about the goodness of God, when we speak words of truth and comfort and grace into their lives, when we value them as gifts from God created with a purpose.

Loving our children as our Heavenly Father has lavishly loved us may be somewhat more natural than loving our sisters in Christ, but our Lord has clearly commanded us, His children, to love one another. I know that throughout my lifetime, I have wasted way too much time and energy getting stuck in destructive thinking as I have related to other women. Whether holding a grudge or withholding forgiveness or letting jealousy rule in my heart or letting bitterness take root. Whether getting trapped in the comparison game or judging when I do not have the right to do so…too often I have taken my focus off of what really matters and just let my flesh rule which never has a happy ending. Even striving too hard to please others or enabling them in an unhealthy manner or putting others on pedestals distracts us from living how God intends us to and disables us from loving well.

God’s Word is overflowing with lasting treasure and counsel to store up in our hearts. Ephesians 4:20-32 proclaims such wisdom regarding how we are to treat one another. This passage tells us we are to put off our old self, which may want to boast in our accomplishments or find a little satisfaction in the failures of others or hang out in the pity party palace or…you fill in the blank. We are called instead to be renewed and to put on our new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. So loving what is holy, we are able to put away falsehood, and we speak truth to one another. We do not give Satan ammunition to use as he finds ways to cause division. Our speech is seasoned with grace and encouragement. We throw away anything contrary to what brings edification to the body and glory to our Lord. By default, we are kind and tenderhearted and quick to forgive because, thanks be to God, we have been forgiven.

Whether we are mothering our children or encouraging our sisters in Christ or building up our husbands or reaching out to our neighbors or serving our co-workers or interacting with complete strangers, let us remember that it is God who sustains us and let us fill ourselves with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). Let us rely on Him and live out His love as we relate to one another. How radical would it be if we all treated one another with such honor and uninhibited love that the perfect love of Christ Himself is proclaimed to the love-deprived world around us? Let us build one another up and strengthen each other and spur one another on with God’s truth. Let us weep with one another when the hurt is too much to bear alone and rejoice together over how grand God is. Let us cheer one another on as we walk or run or crawl on this journey of life for we have eternity before us. Let’s think, act, and live in a way that furthers Christ’s redemptive purposes in our lives…for unity and peace and for righteousness.  Let us love one another freely because He has freely loved us first.

How radical would it be if we all treated one another with such honor and uninhibited love that the perfect love of Christ Himself is proclaimed to the love-deprived world around us?

 

Laurel Faith Noble. Grateful Wife of my Favorite Person. Imperfect yet Devoted Mother to my 4 Little Loves. Lifelong Learner and Seeker of Wisdom Daily. Always in Need of My Savior. Finds Joy in the Small Things. Humbled and Happy Child of God.

Love in Adversity

Love. Not your typical romantic St. Valentine’s Day type of love but the love that should be shown to everyone. Proverbs 17:17 states “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Both terms of a friend and a brother are referring to a fellow Christian, someone who has already committed themselves to follow Christ’s example. Our command is to love. This verse tells us to love AT ALL TIMES, not just when it feels good. It’s telling us we are born for those tough times.

I was struck by the simplicity and complexity of this verse. Who would ever think that there is a time when a friend would not show love? Well, it’s in those times of adversity when people fall short. It’s very apparent that people all over the world struggle with this type of love. The news is drenched with anger, hatred, and evil. For the average person in every day relationships, I don’t think it’s generally done with an intent to harm. It’s more likely that the person doesn’t know how to show love in that moment. Uncomfortable situations are just that–uncomfortable. Unless you are a nurturing person by trait this does not come easy. You have to think about it. You have to make a conscious effort to show you care about the other person.

I am convicted to be more aware of when I am falling down in this area. I want to be looking for those times when someone is struggling. I want to be the person that steps in and fills the need that they may not even realize they have. Maybe it’s providing a meal for someone who’s been ill or recovering from surgery. Maybe it’s watching the children of a single parent so they can have a much needed break. Or maybe it’s a handwritten note of encouragement.

Will you join me? I pray; Lord, I praise you for giving us the Holy Spirit to show us where we need to be. I pray for each person reading this prayer, that our hearts are softened to hear your still small voice. Please bring people into our paths that you want us to lavish with your love. I pray this in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17

Let us hear from you: Share ideas on how to show love during difficult times.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™