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

Advertisements

Belonging

Growing up is hard. Heck, being an adult is hard! My daughter has wrestled her way from Kindergarten to third grade, navigating the social bits of being a young lady. Girls can be so mean. As a mom, it’s hard to coach from the sidelines – especially when it’s similar to what you experienced. My heart breaks, knowing it’s likely she may wrestle with these same struggles for years to come, if not a lifetime. Recently we’ve talked about how God makes us all unique, and it’s hard to fit in when we’re all meant to stand out, being uniquely accepted in love together.

We want so desperately to fit in, to belong. Yet with the ‘fitting in’ to one group, we’re excluded from another. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was old enough to have an awareness about it. I’m guessing you have too. It’s not been until my mid-thirties that things started to fit within me. Oh, there have been inklings all along, but it felt a bit fuzzy and incomplete. Some days, it still does.

This week I began reading Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness. I love the work she’s doing. I’m not deep into the pages yet, but have already had so many ‘YES!’ moments. And one really big Ah-ha. One of those moments came when Brené brought attention to a quote from an interview with Maya Angelou done on public television with Bill Moyers, 1973.

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Maya Angelou

Yes. That quote may be hard to wrap your head around, but for me it spoke truth. Our daughter had been struggling with her enjoyment of space, friends thought she was weird for it and excluded her. But should she abandon that desire, based on reasons and opinions other than her own? That’s a high price. We are meant to hold tight to those dreams and desires placed within us upon our creation.

God has created each of us with a necessary and innate sense to belong to something more than ourselves, while being who He created us to be. It’s part of what causes us to seek Him. Yet, we sell out to the world around us in order to fit in and belong. We are each unique; therefore, we will never fit perfectly into anything other than the creation we are meant to be. We are meant to be unique and authentic, placed on the Creator’s timeline and fulfilling a unique purpose, designed specifically for each creation (you and me) – thus fitting perfectly. Denying who I am – who I BE – is denying the Creator of His creation. It’s living a life that’s not congruent or authentic to that which is within.

Being that which we are created for is imperative to ourselves, those around us, and to the Lord. He leads by example with His first direct revelation of himself in Exodus 3:14 as he appears to Moses in the burning bush, calling Moses forth to be his purpose. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.” That ‘I AM’ can be translated from the Hebrew, I BE who I BE.

I believe striving ceases when we rest in our real and authentic self, a true reflection of the Creator’s Creation. I’m not sure about you, but I want to be that – a true reflection. Striving tends to wear me out, gets me turned around, and unhappy. I’d rather be happy, and rest in my Creator. Exploring who I am as a reflection of the Creator will take a lifetime, and I’m okay with that process.

I am a complete and powerful woman, made of God’s love. How about you?

brina-blum-156978-unsplash
Photo by Brina Blum on Unsplash 

A Surrendered Sheep & Shepherd

For five years now, around the New Year upon request, the Lord has given me a word or phrase to focus on. I’m not legalistic about it, just attentive to the possibility of a word from Him. However, each year it becomes something that really guides and directs me, and usually it becomes pretty obvious why.

For example, one year it was the word ‘steward’ or ‘stewardship’. There were multiple possibilities and focuses as to what I was ‘stewarding’, such as family and relationships, work, our farm, etc. But in a major hardship that year, it became obvious as to why that word would be my guide. I was learning to steward something that wasn’t mine. I had to trust God, be obedient, and then let go.

Over the course of several challenging months, I chose to ask God, “Would you help me to steward this (situation) well, Lord? I need you to guide me.” No matter what the outcome, I desired to keep watch over what He had entrusted to me. I was a sheep asking her Shepherd, to help her be a shepherd.

It’s an interesting thought, to be both sheep and shepherd. We are all following someone else, as a sheep would. In the same respect, we all have someone following us, which puts us in the position of being a shepherd. Clear as mud?

Our Messiah, Jesus, is a perfect example for us. He is both the spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19) following the will of our Father, and our shepherd (John 10:1-18).

In order to be a sheep we put ourselves under the authority of another, for example – God. As a sheep, I listen for the voice of my shepherd and trust his leading. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) If I don’t listen, I’ll for sure get lost and start listening to something or someone else.

As a shepherd, I don’t wish to lead people astray. It’s being intentional and honoring with what God has entrusted to me. Therefore, I must be attuned and listening to God, aware and purposeful.

pawan-sharma-392079
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

This year, my word has an associated phrase – surrender (to God), and give Him glory. At first I didn’t think they were so closely tied together. They seemed like two separate, yet semi-related ideas. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been on a mental journey in respect to surrender. The glory bit came latter. I’m looking forward to more understanding as to how they fit together.

At first, I tried to shake-off this word ‘surrender’. Who wants that one?! How about joy, gratitude, or maybe even patience. Patience is at least a fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22) But I’m grateful for this challenge. After wrestling with ‘surrender’ for a few weeks (that’s a funny thought), I’m finding this act increases comfort and trust in God. I’m discovering that surrender requires a lot of letting go, and while uncomfortable, it feels good. There is also a beginning realization that by surrendering, it allows room to bring God glory.

How about you? Is God placing something on your heart right now? Something to focus on, guiding you through this season or this year?

With Gratitude, Amy