Today’s post, on this second Sunday of Lent, is written by a guest contributor Melanie Boutiette. Melanie is my sister, mother figure, and friend. I am pleased to introduce you to her and an article from her blog Just Beloved, Words of Encouragement for you!
I love to garden. I love digging my hands in the rich soil, planting beautiful flowers, and transforming a once barren area into a beautiful bed or landscape. The whole yard is filled with a variety of flowers and plants. I especially love the front of the house. I have an English garden there that once was just an ugly plot of ground after disease destroyed all the bushes and plants. To look at my yard right now in the dead of winter, you cannot tell that I love to garden.
More than ten years ago, a friend of mine who is a true master gardener, surprised me for my birthday that year and had my circle of friends gift me with a rose bush. Then she helped me transform that ugly plot of land with beautiful flowering roses. There is a profusion of color in bold reds, soft pinks, pale lavender, white, and yellow roses when in bloom.
Over the years, many, many more plants have been added to this English garden. Yellow lilies, purple, white, and lavender irises from my mother’s garden. Pink, fuchsia, and white peonies from my grandmother’s garden…just to name some of the plants. I am not a master gardener, so I do not know the specific names of all the variety of flowers but they are all precious to me.
My husband has joined in by planting zinnias, phlox, geraniums, petunias, and more. My husband, children, and grandchildren have given me a new rose bush or hydrangea bush to plant for Mother’s Day or my birthday annually. My garden is not limited to just flowers, but has many herbs for cooking like mint, thyme, parsley, and rosemary.
I love when the garden is in full bloom, fragrant with life, drawing the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. I love making beautiful bouquets of flowers to enjoy and share with others in neatly arranged vases. I relish cooking with fresh herbs. I simply love gardening.
And so, does God. He is a Master Gardener. He loves transforming barren hearts and lives into places of beauty. How precious is His Love?
Gardening is not easy. In fact, it very hard work. It is a constant struggle to tend the plants: to water, nurture, fertilize, and feed them. It is laborious to keep the weeds at bay and any pests or invaders out. It is hard work to keep plants trimmed and maintained. It is worth it though to realize the fruit of my labor.
A garden can often reflect the nature of the heart too.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that I may bear more fruit.”Focus on His truth, John 15:2
God looks at our hearts as a garden. Daily we must spend time with Him. Time in His Word. We must water and feed our soul on that which is good. We must constantly weed out bad attitudes, anger, unforgiveness, resentment or anything that does not reflect the beauty of God. We must confess sin and pluck it out quickly before it has time to take root and spread. We must be careful to tend our garden well, and not allow foreign invaders in or pests and disease to ruin its beauty. For how quickly the world and sin can influence the garden of our heart with the lures of temptations so that we no longer look, talk, walk, or act like Christ!
And the garden does not just need tending in the spring, summer, and fall, but in the winter too. Winter seems brutal to look at the garden. The rose bushes have been pruned back as has the verbena bushes. The peonies, and much more have seemed to die and have been cut back. It is ugly right now. And everything seems dead. But winter is also a time of rest. And though it looks barren and hopeless, much is happening behind the scenes, and underground if you will.
God will often prune our lives and it can be severe. It can even be painful. He will cut off things that do not serve His purposes, or that are causing disease. He will pluck up, pull down, and root out anything in our lives that do not reflect His beauty, because He is after the better! Sometimes those old plants He is rooting out can be people, activities, friendships, jobs, and more because we have allowed those to replace God or they have become idols in our hearts.
Sometimes God knows the things in our heart’s garden are hurting us or holding us back from His vision and purpose. And like a diseased plant, He is pruning us because He is the Master Gardener. He sees the bigger picture. He sees the beauty and fruit that will bloom in due season through that painful process called pruning.
It is winter now: but wait for spring and summer and trust the Master Gardener! Let Him prune you; beauty will burst forth! It is a promise.
Do you know that My love for you began in a garden? I delight in all things beautiful. All My creation testifies to that. The delicate smell of a rose or flower is the fragrant perfume of Me drawing you and wooing you with beauty and love. The delightful dance of the bumblebee and butterfly reflects My beauty as well; it is a dance of love. And when I planned your life, like a Master Gardener, I had specific intent and design to transform the barren landscape of your life and heart into a beautiful garden to reflect Me. But you have an enemy of your soul who seeks to creep in like unwanted weeds and pests and bring lies and destruction. And since the Fall, there is now toil involved in tilling the soil of your heart and in your literal garden. When I come alongside you to trim and prune and cut away anything that robs you of true life and beauty, sometimes you’ve seen Me as cruel or harsh. You have not understood My ways. And when it seems as though you’re in a winter season where nothing is happening, can you rest in Me and trust? Do you not know that I am good and that everything I do has good plans in store for you? As I prune you, it is so you can produce an even more abundant garden or fruits for others to see My beauty and goodness. And it is ultimately for your joy and benefit as well. Though you may not understand My ways, can you trust My heart? Yield to My pruning and in time you will celebrate and see the abundance explode forth: just like a spring and summer garden. I love you My beloved daughter, let Me prune your heart.
Melanie Boutiette is a passionate lover of Jesus, of coffee, and chocolate, she loves just about all things creative. Her creativity finds its expression in writing, painting, crafting homemade cards, gardening, throwing a party, reading, exercising or hiking, traveling, cooking, and playing with her grandchildren. She especially loves to encourage others through a timely note of encouragement or through the inspiring words in a story, poetry, prose or humor. A former magazine and freelance writer and retired teacher, she now blogs regularly at Just Be-Loved.