Seasons – Glory Through the Pain of Division

creator-master-artistMy hostas were just lovely this year! They grew profusely, and were wonderfully lush, with their beautiful lavender sprigs of bloom and waxy emerald leaves with streaks of cream and white fanning out in easy mounds. But it’s now Fall, and it’s time for me to set about dividing.

Apart from the task at hand, I don’t do much thinking when I divide plants. But consider what it involves: driving the razor-sharp blade of a spade around the luxurious emerald leaves to cut off the path from its outward stretching tender roots, ripping the plant from the rich soil it has so far flourished in, wiggingly and shaking and tapping that earth from its roots, slicing the plant into quarters with another keenly-honed knife to separate it, and then tearing and ripping tubers apart from their closely braided kinsmen.

As Jar-Jar Binks would say, “Ouch time!”

According to seasoned gardeners, dividing certain plants, like hostas, keeps them healthy. Its keeps them from overcrowding themselves and other plants, from otherwise producing smaller and smaller flowers and foliage as they grow in the shrinking space that affords them, crowding out and starving their centers from air and nourishment. Dividing can keep them from gobbling up and diminishing the space of other plants, and from growing completely out of control. The process of dividing though is just a bit brutal for the plant.

“In this world, you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have ovecome the world!”
(John 16:33)

We will have trouble. We will have shaking and wiggling and slicing and tapping. We will be driven from the quiet and perky beds of contented tranquility, sliced apart and thrown onto the hard pathway stones of not. Life will hum with peace, and then … !!! We will all struggle inwardly between what we believe and what is actually happening. We will all ache to find answers to the why? what? when? and search the depths and skies for saving relief as we sit in it. Oh, but friend! What immense potential lies here; lush fertile ground for the growth of my character. And more than that, I think it could very well be essential for me to grow, for without facing adversity, we would never develop, never learn, never stretch or spread out or mature to flourish further from where we are.

“Sensitivity and reactivity to noxious stimuli are essential to the well-being and survival of an organism.”

No one argues that physiologically, and spiritually, pain is a very unpleasant signal – a blaring call to attention, a yelp for treatment and help for the threshold that has been breached. But what if it’s the next chapter in our life-story, a twist in the plotline of our character that brings us to the crossroads where faith and distrust collide, or a cliffhanger that hints a celebration of glorious transformation? What if it is the stage and grounds of discovery of new buried-deep treasure, hidden as golden seeds far below in the garden beds of our spirits and souls? What if how we approach and move in the trouble, and through it, will cause a ripple effect that washes outward, far beyond ourselves and our imagination? What if our own little response could even begin the groundswell metamorphosis of phenomenal widespread change? That change we hope for in others, and in ourselves?

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
(1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message)

Who, or who, we consider to trust, to turn to as that trouble throbs determines how we approach it, what we do with it, how we recover and heal and where we go – if it is forward into a more textured landscape of wisdom and rounding-out faith, or spinning in place and languishing in our overcrowded mob of thoughts. And that mob of thoughts is such a heavy and burdensome place! I find that if I obstinately refuse and deny my mind and heart to acknowledge and answer the call to step into the mysterious freedom of patient, kind, believing and hopefilled Love; if I squeeze my eyes shut to the Presence of my dedicated Gardener, I always lumber and stagger under the weight of lingering hurt and unanswered questions.  Ah, but if I turn to the Gardener though! I begin to feel strangely much lighter, more at peace and oddly confident in His presence as the Overseer of every detail of my life. He knows. He. Knows. and I find assurance in His knowing.  I just might well be able to endure this separation or division! I can even snatch faith in the glimpse of hope in its outcome!

IMG_3328I wince and feel my hostas pain, but not so much that it stops me from proceeding, for splendor lies ahead! I know what I’m doing will make the principle plant healthier, and will spread the beauty of its waxy emerald leaves to other parts of the garden, serving to provide shade for Impatiens, and contrasting texture and pop among the Shasta daisies! I know the timing is right, for the conditions are cooler and the air moist to alleviate the stress and encourage quicker recovery!

Likewise the Gardener must know, must see, must want for me, for us. How much more must He feel my own troubles, and yours my friend – for He has felt and lived the same! How much more must He hover and surround, must design even a peep of His Presence for us at the darkening sunset, in the discovery of His treasure planted deep within under the cover His star-light twinkle of the overnight hours, and in our stretching out transformed by growing warmth of the coming sunrise!

And friends the sunrise always comes – and with it, the hope of the breathtaking view that awaits to be shared in the fullness of the sunshine!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that!” (Jeremiah 29:11, The Voice)

Soil and Seed


The Character of the Gardener

th-4I don’t know about you, but it brings me great peace and pleasure to see a garden beautifully landscaped. I enjoy strolling through the cheerful exuberance of an English cottage garden as much as I do the quiet and disciplined formal grounds. I marvel at the astonishing variety of unique shapes, sizes, colors and textures woven together in a tapestry of breath-taking beauty. There is a feeling of wholeness, of roundedness, of fullness that sinks deep into my bones and innermost, washing away all trace of anxiousness and disquiet.

I marvel too at the skill and dedication of the gardener. How is it that he or she knows what goes where to get the most of the sun or shade, what is planted when, what seedling is weed or flower? From where does the knowledge and experience come to know how to protect from pests, to allow something to remain undisturbed as it goes to seed, or to exercise the extraordinary patience to nurture each plant to its fullest and most beautiful bloom? Which fertilizer nourishes which plant the best? Why do tulips bloom best when they are planted this far down in the soil? How do they know how and where to cut lettuce so that it continues to yield a crop? What is the best technique for pruning a dogwood? They seem to connect with every detail in the complexity of gardening. They are horticultural maestros. Seed whisperers, I call them.

I’m no such maestro, largely because I get anxious and impatient. I anticipate and relish the lush, and my keen undertakings to encourage its realization tend to snuff any future th-12prospect. At best, I tend to oscillate between calm diligence, and eager hurried haste, whether in the garden, or in life. Sometimes I overwater, then underwater in anticipation of what I think the plant must need. Sometimes I fertilize when it’s been weeks since the shoot sprouted with no sign of visible growth, often over-fertilizing and burning its tender leaves and roots. Sometimes I yank it out altogether before it’s even had a chance. Sometimes I honestly forget, preoccupied with what’s happening in my life at that moment, even ignoring its withering to favor procrastination and the consequence of neglect appears. Perhaps a mental picture of my garden is coming into focus! Many a seedling has quivered in fear at the prospect of receiving such distracted, scattered and unreliable attention!  If potted perennials could sprout legs and run, there’d be a stampede to freedom beyond my garden’s gate! It’s in all too often times like these that I gather all the strength within me, take a deep breath, deny the cacophony of contradicting advice, and allow myself to relax and take pleasure. Curiously, when I do, there is newfound joy and discovery. You’d think I’d do it more often!

My immature gardener’s character is mellowing. Hopefully.

The character of the Master Gardener, though, is fully mature. Like any superb gardener, He is fully experienced, consistent and persistent. He knows what he is doing. He has a plan. A very good plan. He is The Expert Landscaper and Soil Specialist. He is always filled with eager and ingenuous creativity and lavish joy, focused on His clear and strong vision of coming splendour in His sights as He prunes or uproots, th-14clears for a new plot, transplants or fertilizes, or whispers life into the seed that He tenderly plants and affectionately waters. He is never frustrated, never complains. He is forgiving, looking upon missteps as possibility for fresh starts and new growth. He is reliable and thoroughly relishes what He is doing. He has a sharp eye, a kind heart, and a strong determination to see His project through to its end, persistently training climbers to climb, creepers to creep, and tare roots to relinquish their hold on the lush soil. There is nothing that escapes His notice, and He has a clear view, grasp and control of every detail in the interconnecting vista before him. He is The Horticultural Maestro.  Oh the relief!

It has been said that the activity of gardening has a positive effect on us, and can help transform us into better people. I like that, don’t you? I believe the Master Gardener knows it, likes it, and wills it for us too.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29: 11 (NIV)


Soil and Seed