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Posts Tagged ‘sanctification’

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The hillside garden

There’s just something about a garden path, isn’t there — inviting, drawing you in on a brief journey of discovery and delight. I know my littlest grand-girls love to skip off into the gardens, often pulling me along as they follow the adventure of a winding path, finding the brightest bloom, the biggest peas or the most perfect rose.

path 3I was out weeding in my gardens this morning, while the air was warming but before the sun got too hot, and I looked down along the little stone and brick walkway where I was sitting, overgrown with sedums and arched with daylilies about to burst open, and it struck me: All my little gardens have a path!

It certainly wasn’t intentional, like a grand master-plan, but perhaps more like instinct, responding to the landscape of the earth and the encounters of joy that a garden offers. Beloved JR enjoys the artistic challenge, too, and agreeably laid out for me the terraces, paths and little stone walls with old chimney brick and rocks from our brook. It is also a bit practical, I realize, as I step from the path amid the towering poppies and verbena bonariensis to nab a dandelion taking root in the mulch. Without a path, I couldn’t access the deeper parts of the perennial beds.

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among the veggies

And of course pathways make square foot veggie gardening even possible!

Gardens are such a source of enjoyment, satisfaction and worship to me; anyone who knows me knows this, the constant battle against bugs and weeds notwithstanding. In fact, I think being engaged with something that is quite a bit ‘out of control’ is part of the fascination! And just now, I think all the different paths are my favorite part!

So, plunked there in the middle of the stone path, kneeling on my well-worn little green cushion, I was surrounded by the magnificent mid-summer growth on either side and all the sensations of scent, color, texture, shape. I couldn’t see around the big wild geranium (which needs dead-heading!) at the bend of the path. I couldn’t see down the meandering steps that lead to the lower yard and the trellised berries beyond, or behind me, where the steps lead up to the other end of the little walkway, up into the grass of the upper yard, into the shade of the oak tree. This narrow way hemmed me in, but I found I felt safe, secure, cradled – surrounded by loveliness; and I trusted this friendly little path to guide me home. Naturally, this got me to thinking.

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pathway along the herb garden

“I am the door,” Jesus said. “I am the way….. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 10:9, 14:6) And again, “Enter through the narrow way; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Disciples Paul and Timothy both clarified, “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1Timothy 2:5) and “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we are saved.” (Acts 4:12)

I know I was specifically taught, from an early age, that different people use different language to describe the way to God, and its all good. Whether you identify with Tao, or Buddha, or Gaia, or Jesus, or the Spirit of Love, it’s all the same path to Enlightenment and Eternal Wisdom. But then I met Jesus. The Person. Literally. And anyone who has encountered the Power of the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of evil simply cannot deny the Truth. I know I don’t respond to whatever name someone happens to want to call me, I have a name that belongs to me. And so does our Lord. One Name, One person, and One path through the garden of life. I’m so grateful to be on that path!

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Japanese Beetle on my raspberries

Well, they’ve arrived.  The Japanese beetles, right on schedule.  Now, the trick with these guys is to go after them when they’re sluggish, before the sun gets hot or in the cool of the evening.  Warmed up by the heat of the sun they are very feisty and quick,  and able to out maneuver you.

Everybody has their favorite garden tool — the one you always take with you, and can’t really go about gardening your way without it.  Mine is my little weeding fork.  And my trusty ‘bug bucket’, which is actually a gallon milk jug cut down on one side, leaving the jug handle intact.  About the middle of July I begin taking this with me into the garden each morning, making my rounds.  I pick the few remaining lily beetles, and the one or two plump potato bugs and any of their larvae I see — IMG_0277plop! into the jug.  Here is my jug this morning, sitting on the potting bench behind the barn.

A little squeeze of dish soap and filled half full with sudsy water, the beetles can’t climb out of the soap film and are doomed. However slugs, I’ve found, manage to slink  out of the soapy water and make their way up and over the side when I’m not looking.  Yuck.  If I expect to be working in the flower beds where I’ll find nests of these guys hiding around the daylilies, for example, I toss a dash of vinegar or lemon juice into the soapy water, and this neutralizes the slugs and they drown.  OK, speaking of slugs – UGH! ICK! YUCK! – another handy tool for dealing with these slimy critters is an old teaspoon.  I keep this tucked into my pocket, and I much prefer scooping these little amorphous squishy things with the cold spoon and dropping them (they slide right off, with just a little help) into the bucket rather than touching them. (Did I say ICK!??)  It works like a charm.

beetle collageAnyway, the beetles.  I know I’ll find them on my roses and in the raspberry patch.  So, as I stroll through the gardens in the morning, I keep my eyes out for them, usually in orgies of two or more, reveling in the rosebuds and newly ripening berries.  Like most insects, they are going after the sweet, juicy reproductive parts, though they do plenty of damage to the leaves as well.   Some go gently – I position the jug underneath and merely touch the leaf – they fall into oblivion.  Some go with a valiant struggle — they flail about and cling harder, to the leaf, or to each other, whatever is at hand.  Here, I usually win.  Some try to escape, but the thing about Jap beetles is, they tend to drop down before they take wing and fly off.  Some insects, like cucumber beetles, fly straight up and are nearly impossible to trick into the bucket.  But Japanese beetles drop down, and if you have your bucket just right, they’ll drop, try to take off, but bump into the tall side of the jug and plop instead into their soapy grave.

So, why do I do this?  Since I choose not to spray generic bug-killer on my plants, hand-picking is part of my routine. Day after day,  about one hour out of each glorious day,  I go about the irises, roses, lilies, raspberries, asparagus, dropping bugs into my jug of soapy water.  I’ve seen what one bug can do in short order – stripping a leaf bare overnight.  So, I take notice of all the dead bugs I dispense everyday, and add up all the leaves I saved!  I feel pretty saucy, ridding my precious raspberries of these pernicious ravagers, and I saunter away, swinging my jug, and fling the murky contents out among the pine needles behind the garden shed; and then I look up, into the birch tree, and there, on every curling leaf, clusters of mating bugs, up, up as far as I can see.  There’s no end to it.  So, why do I do this?  Well, the birch tree looks impossible, and I can’t rid the universe of bugs, but maybe I will have enough berries for savoring in the sunshine as my bare feet burrow into the cool grass between the rows and the sweet warm flavor of a ripe berry bursts on my tongue; for every breakfast;  for jam in December, when the hours spent tending my little garden have been long forgotten.  I trust that God, too, knowing all of me, is patiently tending the garden of my soul, one small bug at a time.  And that the endless chore that is my heart doesn’t diminish His eternal delight.  In that I keep my hope.

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There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that God, who started this great work in you, will keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.  (Phil 1:6, from The Message)

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French lavender and thyme. My small old-fashioned metal-tined rake releases the rich scent into the garden. Sage, tarragon, lemon balm. Peppermint and chocolate mint mingle in the air. I am almost giddy. I’m sure this is by far my most favorite garden chore: cleaning up the herb garden. Sometimes I just sit on the stone path in the middle of the garden where I am working, close my eyes and breathe for awhile. It is delirious.

Today is the last 60-degree day of the season, and I am taking advantage of this nice weather to FINALLY rake out the tangle of dead leaves and weeds and cut back the mints and tansy and oregano and chives. The rose hedge was lopped back a few weeks ago (thanks, JR!) and this is the last thing on my list. Well, at least the last thing that wasn’t scratched off for this year and added to start next year’s list instead, like “clean out the garden shed”. That will survive for another winter in its current messiness. I think I can still find everything.

Dusk is settling in as I haul the last load of debris to the compost pile. There is absolute satisfaction in a neat and tidy garden, sweet and pungent aromas still wafting in the early sunset, and the final “THUNK” of the shed door closed and latched for the winter. I stand for a moment to absorb the last of it, head tilted far back to see the pinks spread across the sky, breathing deeply.  All my senses are tingling.  Thank you, Jesus. This is peacefulness.

lavender and roses in July

It’s after I’ve scrubbed my hands in the laundry sink, changed out of my dirt-caked jeans and into cozy sweats and am heating milk in the micro-wave to make a cup of hot cocoa before I start supper, that it occurs to me.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians that we, God’s saints, are a pleasing aroma of Christ.  I imagine our fragrances are each unique, and mingle in a pleasant way.  Maybe God breathes deeply and rejoices.  I have a harder time imagining that mine is a pleasing aroma, but I take that bit on faith.  And even though sometimes I think I’ve known the ‘THUNK’ when that last bit of soul clean-up that God is working on in my heart finally settles into place, there is always more, isn’t there…
It simply begins the next list…
In the meantime, I will tilt my head far back and breathe deeply. This, too, is peacefulness.

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