Friday, May 5, 2017

Lessons From a Sweet Pea

There is something to be said for volunteers; people and otherwise. Volunteers just don’t get enough appreciation. I know I haven’t been very appreciative of some of the volunteers I have encountered, particularly the ones in our backyard. Since we compost, we have different plants voluntarily grow in our yard every spring. My husband is thrilled when a volunteer shows up and I am skeptical. I want to know what it is and how does it fit in with the everything else. I love to plan flowerbeds and my husband likes to put plants in random spots. Our yard is a blend of planned and random but the hardiest plants seem to be the volunteers – the ones for which neither of us can take credit.

A few years ago we had to cut down our huge, old pine tree; the California Five Spined Ips beetle killed it. Just a little over a year ago a bush, a type we had seen on our hikes, started growing in the ground next to the stump. Jim looked it up. It is a Laurel Sumac. I thought he said it would grow to about six feet, but it keeps growing. It took our yard two years to recover from the loss of shade when we took down the pine tree, and since then I have planted succulents requiring sunshine. The Sumac continues to grow and has gotten quite large. I looked it up and it can grow up to fifteen feet.

Have you had unwanted volunteers pop up in your life? Sometimes it is the small, unexpected disruptions that throw me off. But it usually takes a biggie to usher in skepticism toward God, planting doubts as to whether or not He cares about me at all. Things like cancer, the loss of a loved one, an old car in constant need of repair draining every spare dime from the bank account, not being able to get pregnant, a fractured relationship – not all of these things are equal but none of them are the seeds of hope I planted for my future.

I find something of myself and how I view life when I am outdoors interacting with the natural world. The garden is wonderful place to allow the Creator of the universe to dig around in my soul and transform me. My grandma once told me she used weeding as a time of confession and prayer; yanking weeds mirrored the removal of wrong thinking. The best way to fight against persistent, wrong thinking is weed it out and plant right thinking by meditating on the truths of God.

It goes without saying that weeds are persistent volunteers, as you pull a handful, ten times as many sprout behind your back. After a truly rainy winter the weeds had a party and invited all the relatives to our yard. It has been a struggle to rescue our yard from their takeover. In an attempt to attack one large patch of weeds, Jim decided to lay a tarp down. There must be certain types of plastic for killing weeds because I looked out our window one day and the weeds had lifted the tarp off the ground; underneath it the weeds had grown stronger. Jim had created a green house in which the weeds thrived.

It reminds me about a question I was asked recently concerning an unresolved hurt – a hurt undermining trust in a relationship. The question was: Should I just put it in the past like others have told me or work through it to a resolution and healing? Sometimes we cover up deep hurt and we truly believe we won’t ever face these ugly things again. Hidden hurts store energy and volunteer to come up at the most inappropriate times, like at a family dinner when your brother says something that triggers a mess of ugliness. Consider whether or not you can just let it go without creating a green house for strengthening hurt feelings and making an emotional hot house.

Jim saves seeds from our Sweet Peas. Early this spring he planted dozens of the seeds. They grew, but he didn’t thin them out right away, so no matter how much care he gave them they seemed to have stopped growing. But in the succulent bed... that’s another story. Sweet Peas volunteered and are snuggled up with the prickly plants, and it certainly looks as if the Sweet Peas rule. Two years in a row a Sweet Pea plant has controlled the succulent bed with its beautiful blooms and leggy, messy vine sprawled out over the succulents like a giant net holding everything in place. In spite of its lovely, fragrant blossoms I find myself frustrated by its audacity to show up where it wasn’t planted/planned.

Sometimes our lives get choked by excess and captured by the unplanned. How do you deal with an overloaded schedule? What resources do you have for coping with an unplanned event spreading out over all your days making it difficult to remember this is only one chapter, not the whole of your life?
Nature is designed for recovery and so are we. Scientists have discovered our brains are capable of developing new neural pathways. We were designed for recovery, for healing. When a fire destroys a forest, over time new plants grow up out of the ashes. Some plants only grow after a fire and not before; it is the great heat of the fire that brings life from these seeds lying dormant and waiting. We don’t like admitting it, but beauty often bursts forth from our lives when we invite increased intimacy with the Father on a painful journey. As we come out of a dark place, one in which we have held tight to His hand, we are transformed. Beauty truly can come out of the ashes of our lives when He holds the ashes in His hands.
In Romans 1:20 we are told, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” God has many ways of revealing himself to us and speaking to our hearts, but in this verse, it is made clear that we should not be able to miss Him when we are spending time in the created world. During these beautiful spring days make time to go outside and meet your Father there. You will not be disappointed, as a matter of fact you may be enlightened. You may even discover a volunteer that brings new beauty, fragrance, healing and grace to your heart.


  1. I love the way you think, Julie! Beautiful and applicable! I especially love the story of your grandmother pulling weeds and confession. God is so good....that He talks/prompts/communicates with us in the everyday things. :-)

    1. So true; we serve a personal God! Thanks.