Hope in the Heartache

Recently, I’ve been walking through some hard stuff with a dear friend. There have been so many tears, and just when I think they have ceased – it hits again. The other day, my friend quickly stopped by for an exchange of goods and we chatted in the driveway for a few, brief moments. As I divulged some hard, family things which I had held back for a few days, we looked at each other with a shared dis-belief and questioning. We hugged and I commented how it had been such a hard summer. Her response, “It’s been a hard three years.” I shook my head in agreement and drew a deep breath. Yes. Yes, it has.

Over the next few days, my thoughts visited that brief exchange and life over the past three to four years. But while planting some replacement blueberries in our u-pick field one morning shortly after, a sense of peace, hope and gratitude came over me. I was planting new blueberries in a variety that had really struggled, and experienced the greatest loss. Those first bushes were planted five years ago yesterday. They have a history. My husband and I have struggled with this group of plants, and their short, stunted growth reflects those challenges.  It seems like we haven’t seen any progress in them for five years. Instead of thriving and increasing, they just sit and sulk.

I was ready to tear the whole lot out, when something changed. The struggle and patience has started to bear fruit! Not physical fruit that we would eat today (that comes next year) – but growth. It’s been so exciting to see that amongst the weeds and bug riddled leaves, we have new and healthy canes coming along. And they are big! Out of the entire field, these runts have begun to take heart with new canes easily seen over their neighbors. It’s an answer to prayer.

My friend’s words rang in my ear, “It’s been a hard three years.” as I prayed. “It’s been a hard five years with these plants. So much life has taken place in this space of time. But God, you are faithful and good. There will be growth and new life that springs forth from these heartaches the past two months. God, you will bear good fruit from these scars and wounds. We may not see it, understand it, or feel it for a long time – but I trust in who you are. I trust that you will bring beauty from these ashes. These blueberries have struggled to thrive, but you will redeem the time which seems lost and make whole what seems broken. Do the same for my friend and her family.”

IMG_5885That new growth was encouraging. It is new and lush, healthy and whole. What a reward for patience and wrestling. It will bear new fruit next year. But for now, I am happy to bask in the thrill of HOPE for these plants and my friend.

“For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 (ESV)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 (ESV)

 

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Where are you rooted?

Over the past few weeks, our pastor has been preaching about freedom and bondage, and that true freedom comes in being chained to the cross of Christ. It’s been a lot to think about. In my Connection Class (Sunday School), we’ve been talking about boundaries. Heavy stuff that I believe has been challenging all of us, and touching on some pretty soft spots.

I’m also reading this book called Wild & Free, by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly. It challenges the thoughts about how in the fullness of God available to His daughters, we often feel limited by two defining insecurities: “I am too much,” and “I am not enough.”[1] Today I read a portion about the children of Israel, and how in the hard parts of their desert wandering they desired to go back to captivity. “Anything kept in captivity can only grow as much as its cage will allow. If we aren’t walking out of our bondage, we’re missing out on the fullness and on the abundant life of Christ.”

These sentences sparked a thought and principle I’ve known for years in regards to my training in horticulture. When plants are kept in pots, some are perfectly fine while others struggle. They all thrive at first, germinating in a safe space with plenty of water and nutrients available within reach. But trees quickly lack enough depth for a strong tap root, forced to turn circles in the bottom of its container. Plants can also become stunted and chlorotic. That chlorosis is typically caused when leaves do not have enough nutrients to synthesize all the chlorophyll they need.[2] They’ve used up all the initial nutrients within the confines and bondage of their container.

Boundaries are good. I know, trust and understand that. But I can’t help but think about the artificial and false boundaries we institute around ourselves. The boundaries that stunt our growth and keep us from ever growing to the fullest design of who we are. Fear, anxiety, wanting acceptance – the list could go on. I often live within my self-proclaimed boundary of fear and the desire to be accepted by others, if I’m honest with myself, every day. That’s tough to admit.

For the past year, I’ve been working through some of this; however, the challenge and truth has increased as I move forward to the ‘next thing’ in a long process of learning and growth. I don’t want to be a stunted little oak tree. I desire to disciple women in Christ, to make a difference, to bear fruit not for my glory but for God’s. That’s hard to do when I’m stuck in a flower pot of comfort, slowly turning chlorotic. It will require me to break through my self-made, false boundaries which are confining, and move into the truth-filled boundaries proclaimed over me before the foundations of the earth. (Ephesians 1:4)

At some point, my desire to thrive in the ‘fullness and abundant life of Christ’ must be greater than all the other things. I trust that the boundaries from God, for my life, are good. It’s not a mediocre ‘good’ that we use to describe our day, but the awesome ‘good’ He used in Genesis 1 to describe the sun, moon and stars which He breathed into orbit. The ‘good’ He had in mind when we created the depths of the sea and the majestic heights of this land. The boundaries on our life are ‘good’ and pleasant (Psalm 16:6), and ones that we will stand in awe of.

IMG_5864Are you living in a flower pot of your own making? Perhaps it’s still a safe place, you’ve just germinated and need the safety and comfort provided. But maybe you’ve been there a while, and you’re going in circles or chlorotic. There’s so much more we could extrapolate on, but for now I’m challenging myself to really evaluate, “Where am I rooted, and where does God desire me to be?.” Would you join me?

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6 (ESV)

 

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Free-Hope-Filled-Anthem-Enough-ebook/dp/B010R2U5ZU

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorosis