Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Growing beauty in the ugly...

 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 
The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
1 Corinthians 3:6-8

This year I planted some sunflower seeds I had gotten many years ago. They were the giant ones...the ones with the big beautiful faces. I can't pinpoint one reason for waiting so long. I just knew this year was the year I would take the seeds out of the packages & plant them, talk to them & watch them bloom. I wanted to grow something new & after reading about the wonderful extra large faced ones...I knew they were the ones I wanted to spend my time & effort on this year. 

I researched the best ways to start these beautiful, smiling lovelies. I learned that the seeds that grow in the center, creating that smile, would eventually feed the birds that visited my backyard & that was ALL I had to read. I was determined to love these seeds to their very best selves. I would plant seeds of love & harvest a crop of joy. But that doesn't always look like what I imagine, in my rose colored mind. Sometimes the reality of behind the perfect pictures of the beautiful things on the package, well it only tells a very small part of the whole story. Just like with life. It's what's in between that is why that picture is as beautiful as it is. 

I got them planted a little later than I had planned, but I got them in the soil. Then I added them into my normal morning routine. I would do all my feathered friends waters, birdbath & my doggies water bowl...then fill all my feeders...then I would water & sing or talk to the sweet seeds hiding in the soil. It didn't take long to see the first sprout...proudly springing up to brighten my day with a fresh breath of life in the air. I name him, Adam.

Fresh new life. I was so excited to share with everyone that the seeds I planted were sprouting. I get so excited to share joyous news with those I know, I forget that they may not be as excited as I am. For a long time I would be more selective about who I shared my excitement with. I worried about offending others, I worried about what others would think/say about me sharing a wonderful blessing. Sometimes my blessings don't seem to be the same for others, in their lives. It may be more burden & less joy for them. God has taken the last several years to teach me that I may not be a fit for everyone, but I am just what He created me to be. So through too many experiences to count, I have learned that it's ok. It's ok to be excited & to share my excitement with long as I remember that they may not react the way I am expect & that's ok, God has taught me that it's NOT me they are reacting to, but themselves. So I share.

Before I got up the next morning 2 more beautiful green sprouts were peeking out & a tiny little one was just reaching the surface...

For several mornings after that day, I was blessed with at least one new beauty breaking through the dirt that had covered it until it was ready to share it's beautiful face with the world. Each new green sprout, brought me such joy & pretty soon I felt like I had a new litter to take care of. 

As they started to seek the sun, they started to stand taller...trying not to be the one with the shadow, but the one that was always bathed in the warmth of the sun. So funny that in life it seems that when we think others have something, we need it too. That if God asks us to step back into the position with less, we tend to compare what we have, with what others have. If we come from a view of "we all deserve..." well we will live in a constant state of "the grass is greener..." I, myself, have found that when I start looking around at what others are doing, getting or being, well it makes my life look "less than." If I stay in that mindset, I will stop seeking what God has for me. I will miss out on what God has for me & what God has is always better. 

As the days, then weeks went by my litter of future seed bearers kept growing. They were growing so fast, then a late bloomer came up one day. I called him Paul.

Paul came along right before I was going to transplant them into a couple of storage tubs...I decided that if I plant them mobile, I can take them with me. I tend to get attached to living things. 

I used to consider this a curse. But God. He has shown me that loving living things is how He created me. When I try not to be who He made me to be & surround myself with stuff, I am not happy. I seem to just want more & more. Which is part of the reason I allowed food to be such a huge struggle in my life, for so long. I was created to love, just not to love things, but to love life. When I finally gave God this part of me, the struggle to fit in & have the same thing as everyone else, I found my sweet spot. The place where I have never failed to find God. Not in stuff, or places, or food...but in every breath I the peace that only He can give. 

I have to stop seeking others & their opinions about my journey. I have to stop getting attached to things & places...even to people. In this season of trimming, He has walked so many right out of my life at the end of their season. I think that I have fought Him more over this...but in Psalms 32:8-9 God says...

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

As I read & search His word for His point is for these verses...for me...I realize He is basically saying to me, "Don't be stubborn, stick with ME...not people."  He reminds me that He, is ALL I need. He will ALWAYS give me what I need. People may come & go, but God...He is faithful. So in this season of growing this litter, I may be doing it without other people to share the joy with. 

The ruler of this world knows that God created us to crave connection, to struggle with chasing happiness. So he will send people into my life to distract me, to deter me from God's path, to drag up the desire to find the joy in things...instead of God. God can use though people to remind me that He's ALL I need. God will remind me, that though those people may not know it, He is using them to mold & shape me. I do know that with or without those people, God is creating & building a He will be known. A testimony that will bring Him glory, show His power & also how much He loves me.

As I started to realize that the sweet sprouts were getting too big to share the tiny containers they were in, I knew it was time to give them more room to grow. I was going to put them into a single 32 gallon tub, but after getting prepared with soil & then carefully separating each plant, I realized that a single tub wouldn't be enough. So out came tub #2. Some of the plants were attached by the root, they couldn't be separated without killing one of them. 

The instructions on the package suggested that I "thin out the plants." I knew that I couldn't make that I decided to plant the ones that were attached in a single spot. I told my guys, "survival of the fittest I guess." When God thins my circle I know I stand around looking dumbfounded & wondering where people are going? But God sees the whole picture & I only see surface level. So I figured if God wanted to thin these flowers out, He would do it.

I did however talk to, sing to & care for ALL of them...they ALL survived. The grew taller & more leaves. They tried to outgrow their neighbors, they tried to steal their sunshine. It's funny so many times that's how the enemy distracts us. He tries to up his offer, he tries to use others against us to make us rise up in pride, or envy.

Soon the signs of the smiling faced beauties started to show up. The buds were quickly starting to top each of the stalks. Some had more than one bud. 

The anticipation of when I would finally see the beauty bloom was almost too much. I knew how much love I had put into bringing them above the soil, then to keep them living & growing. I was so excited. I know that in my life I have poured myself into so many relationships, only to have them fail. I wasn't ready for these to decide not to bloom. I really wanted to see the efforts I had made in the beautiful face of these flowers. 

I wouldn't have to wait long, the next morning the first one opened it's beautiful self up & I was NOT disappointed. He was beautiful, amazing. Then I noticed another ready & before the end of the day I had 2 beauties chasing the sun with their faces lifted high.

I have continued to watch each of these beautiful babies open up their faces to the amazing sun. I have fed them, trimmed them & kept them in spots with all the sunshine they wanted. They did not disappoint me. They brought me lots of joy. Not only because of their beauty, but because of the life.

Even Paul brought his joyful face to follow the sun...

I am new to this growing sunflowers role. The days got hotter here in the desert, so the morning I went out & my beautiful litter had fallen over...I started to cry. I truly cried sitting on the patio looking at my poor babies. I thought if I got them water they would be ok. So I watered them, but they wouldn't lift their faces that day, actually I had no idea they wouldn't lift their faces to the sun again.

I couldn't figure out what I had done? How did I kill them? I searched them on "the Google" & learned that after blooming they go into a "ripening" season. Their faces fall & they lose all their petals. Those smiling faces just disappear that fast. Kind of like some of the people God's taken from my life. One day they are there with me, professing a forever friendship & the next day they are gone. But thankfully I have God. He helps me realize the road He is walking me is narrow & others will fall away as my road narrows.
 In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says...

 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it."

I read on & learned they are ripening the seeds they are growing. So though the beauty they once had was bright & cheerful, their new beauty would come from deep down inside. They were almost disguised as "ugly" by this world's standards, during the time they are busy working hard on the inside. The deepest parts of themselves. Like when God is working on the deeper parts of me. This world may tell me that parts of me are "ugly" but God's doing a work in the deepest parts of me. This process isn't pretty, but it's necessary for God to grow this story of His.

One morning I was heading out the door to enjoy my usual routine & startled a sweet red headed bird that was standing on the back of Adam, bent over the side eating the seeds...a new joy raised up in my heart. I could barely contain my excitement as I headed over to talk to & water my beautiful litter. I whispered this is why I planted the seeds Lord!!! I wonder if that's how God feels each time we actually receive the wisdom He has for us & we do what He's created us too?

I know this, God has asked me to trust Him & His plan. This is a struggle for me sometimes. It used to be a lot more often, so He's changing something in me. I know that before today if I would've known that the beautiful time with this litter was so short, I may have just left the pack of seeds in my gardening tub. It helps me realize that just because it's not my perfect, that God's perfect will always be better. That though all the hard work & time I put into something may not create what I imagined, it will still serve it's purpose. That all the relationships that have come & gone, served their purpose for God.

 I pray that I can live in the purpose He created me for. I know that sometimes the beauty of growth comes during the "ugly" times. May I remember that even in my longest, hardest, deepest struggles, God is growing something me.