Mint & Stongholds

Mint. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Spearmint – I love the smell, taste, texture, and hardiness; and, I hate its aggressive hardiness. Thus, my conundrum.

I enjoy doing some personal gardening as a part-time job. Arriving on the job one morning, I began in the front yard. After pulling weeds, digging up unwanted iris, pruning and fertilizing, I moved around to the shaded cutting garden around back. My friend had added some new plants to the area, so I walked about checking things out before getting started. Roudning the last corner of the raised bed, my eyes bugged out. Mint. Without thinking, and without regard for the planter, I reacted and yanked the entire thing out. “Nooooooooo!”

A split second of regret popped into my heart; I had clearly undone what someone else had planted with care. My regret didn’t last long. You see, mint has a way of completely taking over a garden space. We had diligently been working to create a space for a cutting and vegetable garden. Mint would have taken over and undone all of our hard work over the past couple of years. Had the mint stayed and taken root, the only thing stopping it would be concrete or multiple applications of herbicide.

As my mind had the opportunity to process my feelings about this plant, yes I have feelings about plants, I began to equate mint to strongholds. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of stronghold describes a stronghold as a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.[i] I tend to think of strongholds with a negative connotation, like an addiction or challenge in one’s life. A stronghold may be something I struggle with in life and find it hard to experience freedom from, such as unforgiveness, anger, insecurities, food, believing lies you tell yourself, a physical activity, etc.

Strongholds can be hard to root out. (Thus, our mint analogy.) Why don’t I react to personal strongholds the way I treated that mint, ripping it out without thought or question? Because it’s hard. It requires a deep, honest heart and mind work. It requires me to be really uncomfortable and intentionally practice self-control. Often, it’s hard to just acknowledge the stronghold, let alone root it out. Like the mint, we may have a love-hate relationship with it.

Personally, I feel that God has been revealing strongholds in my heart. They aren’t huge, obvious ones. But they are strongholds none-the-less. While taking complete responsibility, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians are a good reminder in the process of doing some hard work.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)

MintCan I encourage you to join me in asking the Lord to reveal the strongholds in our hearts? Our strongholds may not be “big,” but they can make deep roots – they are still strongholds. To me, this can be a scary prayer. But with a willing heart, we can do all things through Christ because He strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13) Let’s suite up with the armor of God – we’ve got this.

How can I pray for you?

 

[i] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stronghold

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Claiming a sidewalk

Earlier this week I went to school, the teacher was Brené Brown and the classroom was Courage Works.  The topic of study was The Anatomy of Trust.  Excellent, you should check it out.  One of the things I’ve been rumbling about in my head lately is boundaries and trust, so this was perfect.  I love how she spoke about and related it. 

After class, I went outside with the intent to work on something, anything.  Just get out in the sun, fresh air and work; it helps me think and feel better.  After bundling up I grabbed some tools and started towards the front of the house.  I haven’t worked in the landscape beds around my house for nearly a year, this would be a gift to me.  With shears and rake in hand I set about to prune bushes.  But I couldn’t get past the sidewalk. 

I look at this sidewalk every day.  Sometimes I don’t really see, but I look at it.  Every time someone comes over, I really see it.  Every time I open the front door, I see it.  Covered in grass and dirt, overgrown and hidden.  Honestly, we didn’t really have a sidewalk at all and had forgotten what was really there.  It had been lost in the muck and overgrowth.

Not being able to step across the sidewalk to prune the bushes, I started to pull a few weeds at the base of the steps at our front door.  Which led to a few more, and seconds latter it was clear to me the task at hand.  It was time to reclaim the sidewalk. 

Like the sidewalk unseen, sometimes do not see boundaries until we step on them or over them and usually squash something or someone.

I walked to the shed to get some new tools, because the ones previously picked would not work for the new found task.  This required a shovel and something sharp, not shears.  Sometimes as we are working through situations, we have to evaluate our tools and choose something different.  What I brought with me was not working. It’s not something to get upset about or quit over, but the opportunity to make a choice.  “This” is not working, I’m going to try something different.  For example, ‘This relationship is not working, I need to use a different “tool” in order to have what I want (relationship) my friend.’  Perhaps it’s space or needing to spend more time.  Perhaps it’s being more clear about boundaries, being honest or vulnerable.  As I discovered today, the new tool I’m going to be sharpening is speaking up.  Not necessarily voice level, but whats on my mind.

With this new understanding of trust percolating in my brain and how boundaries are related, I tore into this sidewalk.  I didn’t even know where the edges were! The boundary was so unclear.   

In the summer, this sidewalk gets mowed over.  How this mirrors relationship sometimes.  When we are unclear where boundaries are, we can get mowed over!  Emotions take us for ride and it does’t work, but how often do we say this isn’t working I need to do something different?  Instead, we just get angry.  Sometimes I just sit in hurt, and then it happens again.  Perhaps I set a boundary but I don’t enforce it.  (In full disclosure, I reclaimed our sidewalk 4-5 years ago, today I hauled 3 wheelbarrow loads off.)  Sometimes we don’t’ know a boundary exists until we cross it. 

I have the opportunity to reflect on a situation which recently took place in my life.  Boundaries were not respected.  There was a gaping hole in the fence (boundary) of trust.  I made my request known, to speak in person (not via text or email) and that I needed a little time, because this was something personal that needed to be taken care and I needed time to process.  As conditions changed, the boundary of time and in person were not respected.  Perhaps I should have gotten the pliers out a little sooner to fix the fence (boundary).  When pushed around on my sidewalk or in my pasture, it’s not good and usually I end up with skinned knees.  But I learned about a tool I want to sharpen, and something to do differently.  Speak up!  And not wait! This helps to make the boundary known and clear.  It will also help me to enforce it, building trust in myself and also reflecting that back to others.

After the shovel and sharp tools had accomplished their task, I got the hose out.  Spraying the dirt and muck away is SO rewarding.  We now have a clear sidewalk into the front of IMG_2436our home. My husband said, “Great, now people will come to the front door.”  And I thought wonderful! (We love our backdoor guests the best, but they wade through the piles of uglies on the way.)  I want to have clear boundaries, because it’s safe and inviting for others and myself.  A clear sidewalk is welcoming!

And, one of the best parts is when my kids got off the bus from school.  My daughter knelt down at the start of this “new” sidewalk, peering intently at the concrete.  I wondered what she was seeing for the first time as she looked up at me and said, “Look momma, 1968.” Go figure! I had no idea that was there before, we get to discover something new when we start to excavate.

I know where the boundaries are now.  The sidewalk is clear, and the rumbling in my head is starting to go in a direction of a different outcome next time.  The crab grass will begin to grow as weather warms, challenging the boundary lines.  But, I have a weed eater and the opportunity to practice using it in truth and love.