A few weeks ago, I began a writing course with Flourish Writers, called “The Power of Story.” Part of the exercises of looking for God in our own stories has been to write our Personal Timeline, marking both the negative and positive experiences. As my friend, Anna Smit, and I have been sharing our exercises together, she pointed out something so beautiful that she saw in her Timeline. At every place she had noted a negative experience she realized that the Lord had sent a special friend into her life at the very same time. As she looked up the meaning of that friend’s name, there seemed to be an almost spiritual covering from God provided in the gift of that friend.
I wondered if I would see something similar as I pondered the meaning of the name of one of my earliest friends. Penny was my next door neighbor, and our houses in 60’s suburbia were separated by only a 10 foot wide side yard. Both of our Moms had planted flowers along the edges, and Penny and I spent many hours playing with our dolls in that garden bower.
As Penny and I entered school together, I began to notice a difference between myself and most other girls. I wanted to be playing outside, in the fresh air, in the woods and the flowers. In my mind, the best kind of playing was to set up my dolls among the blooms, or to follow my brother and his friends into their wood forts. Somehow I had already latched onto those thoughts that I wasn’t quite enough for the “fancy” girls. But what was God gifting me at that very time? A friend who sang my own language:
God must have a special love for flowers and gardens. Scattered throughout the Scriptures are so many references to trees and plants that I could not begin to name them all here.
“Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:8-9 NIV
Life began in a garden, when Eden blossomed in pure delight.
Did the flowers weep when Adam laid down his rights to their care?
“When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.“ John 18:1 NIV
In Gethsemane Jesus offered His deepest surrender on our behalf to the Father.
Was the ancient olive grove nourished by His sweat drops of blood?
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:1-2 NIV
The living water will flow past the leaves of the tree, healing the nations when earth is restored.
Can my heart hear the groaning even now, as creation senses the time nearing?
While my own abilities as a gardener have changed, my love for God’s gifts of flowers and nature have not. I know that it wasn’t my sufficiency and strength that caused all of my gardens to flourish over the years. No, it was HIS own gift within me, flowing through my heart’s desire to touch the heart of God. He is, after all, our Master Gardener.
When I thought I didn’t fit in, when I felt that my gifts were not wanted by those around me, Jesus had already planned a garden for me to dwell in. When I thought I needed to just try harder, Jesus planted me in the place of His own choosing, with a portion of HIS own beauty to manifest. In these days of slow and pain, there is still a garden of beauty to be enjoyed with Him here, a new way to manifest His beauty.
This week we had to call a landscaper to come in to do a spring yard cleaning. As I looked out the window, I was surprised to see my landscaper’s wife down on her hands and knees lovingly cleaning areas that I had not asked them to clean. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I saw someone caring for the plants in the same way I would have done had I been able. It is that posture of loving service that touches the heart of our Lord.
It is the posture of the true gardener, reflecting the beauty of our Master Gardener, as He sent His own son to kneel and serve our hearts.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You that You planted us in the garden of Your own making, when first You brought forth life. Thank You that You have not abandoned the garden of delight, and You have not abandoned the garden of our heart. You brought the choicest harvest, Your only Son, to lay down His life for ours in that sweetest of Gardens. And thank You that You are preparing that final Heavenly Garden for us, to taste fully of all of Your delights. Will You help us to lay down our own will here too? We want to receive the blossoming life that You have planted within us. We want to allow those seeds of life to spring up from the deep buried soil of our hearts. Come be our dear Master Gardener today.
In the Name of Jesus we pray,
Oh, but what about that other meaning of Penny’s name–a bobbin? There was another hidden part of my heart that found expression many years later. I loved to sew. . . . but that’s a story for another day. . .
Have you asked God to show you where He was planting gifts along your own Personal Timeline? You might be surprised to find what is hidden, when you look back. Please leave me a comment below, because I would love to hear your stories!
I would also encourage you to visit the beautiful website of my friend, Melissa McLaughlin , who shared a beautiful post: “The Sacrificial Lamb, Why Did Jesus have to Die?” To read her Lenten post that inspired my words today, click here.
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