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Tag: gardening

Grace Walk Farm: A Conversation with Amber Benge

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and come sit down for a conversation among friends. On today’s episode, my real-life friend, Amber Benge, joins me for a chat about life transitions, homesteading, and faith. You will come away from this conversation so encouraged.

Amber explains how the Lord, through health issues and an overload of stress, helped her pare down her life to the essentials. A couple of years ago, she and her husband bought some acreage and began a new family adventure called Grace Walk Farm. Amber has learned and grown so much through tending her garden, and in this episode she shares how much the Lord is teaching her in that sacred place.

To learn more about Amber, Grace Walk Farm, and her upcoming book, please visit her website. If something you heard on today’s podcast resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment under today’s show notes or join the conversation on Instagram or Facebook.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

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My Insidious Garden Foe

I have a general affinity for plant life.  However, there are two plants that I absolutely cannot stand. One is poison ivy, for obvious reasons, and the other is Bermuda grass.

In case you have never had to battle Bermuda grass, let me regale you with my struggles.  The grass is incredibly tenacious, grows anywhere the sun shines and at a rate that must rival bamboo.  Once Bermuda has taken root, it is nearly impossible to ever be rid of it.  Its growth is almost vine like, and it doesn’t just grow on the surface level of the earth.  For good measure, it grows under the surface too.  In fact, it can grow several feet below the surface.  Don’t try to smother it with mulch or pine straw: that will help it grow even faster.  It has crept into our sand box and has even slithered between boulders and into my flower beds.  Most obnoxiously, we have to battle it all summer long to grow our vegetable garden.

A beautiful garden under attack from all sides by Bermuda grass.

Don’t get me wrong.  My husband and I have put up a good fight. We’ve pulled, we’ve weeded, and we’ve even sprayed.  For the last two years, we have covered our garden with a tarp for throughout the winter to starve the remaining Bermuda grass from receiving any light. Still, when we uncover it in the spring, tiny yellow tendrils are already popping out of the dirt.   We’ve battled it throughout the summer – weeding, hoeing, and tilling to save our garden from its grasp.

A few years ago, I heard John Piper preach a sermon on sin.  He likened sin to Bermuda grass.  After the above description, I’m sure you can understand why this is a fitting analogy.  Like sin, plucking Bermuda grass at the surface level seems effective in the short term.  Over time, however, you find that the grass, like sin,  has grown deep shoots, much deeper and hardier than you ever realized.

The longer I walk with Jesus, the more aware I become of my deep need for Him.  There are layers to my sin.  Sure, there are the surface sins that everyone sees. Then, there are the ones that are a little further buried: not as obvious, but just as insidious.  In fact, some of the sins that grow the deepest roots may be ones that have been growing unseen for a very long time.

Paul writes:

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.   I Timothy 5:24

I think about this analogy in the summer when I’m indignantly pulling Bermuda grass out of my flower beds and garden.  While fighting to yank it out by the roots, I think,  “Take that sin!  Go back to where you came from!”   It’s really great for anger management!

As hard as I try to pull my sin out by the roots, it is nigh to impossible on my own.  No self-help strategy can get it done.  Only Jesus’ blood can overcome it. Only by God’s grace are we able to flee temptation and not give in again to yokes of slavery from which Jesus has set us free.  Sanctification is a long and painful journey, full of sinful weed pulling to make room for the good fruit that Jesus will grow in its place.

Pause:  Spend a few moments thanking Jesus for the sin that He has forgiven in your life and for the ways that He is making you a new creation.

Renew:  Take some time evaluating the sin in your life (the bad habits, faulty thinking, or ways that you hurt others).  What are those surface sins that seem most obvious?  Which sins are lurking further under the surface?  If you have not already done so, confess these sins to the Lord.

Next:  If there is a particular sin that the Lord has convicted you of, and that you are having a hard time mastering, consider finding accountability in that area – someone who has previously struggled with the same thing, a mentor, or a wise person in your life that will lovingly hold you accountable and pray with you as you do some uprooting.

May the Lord open your eyes to the depths of your own sin and the vastness of His righteousness and saving grace.

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Growing Gnarly Roots

The redbud tree in our front flower bed

 In our front yard, between the rosebush and the daylilies, grows a Redbud tree.  For one week in the spring, our Redbud tree flowers gloriously, bursting into beautiful purple blooms.  The rest of the year, however, it is a rather ho-hum kind of tree.  You wouldn’t know this though by the way it procreates.  It produces so many seed pods, they practically look like leaves falling off of the tree!  

Thus, we find baby Redbud trees growing everywhere: in the yard, in the flower beds, and even in our gravel driveway.   A couple of Saturdays ago, I decided it was time to do a little yard work and started cleaning up my front flower beds.  My battle with the baby Redbuds began.  Their roots reached not just down into the ground but also horizontally, making it almost impossible for them to be uprooted. To pull them out required a shovel and good old muscle power.  I worked out a system: pulling, digging, pulling, digging, and pulling some more!  It was a really great workout routine.  The back of my legs were sore for a few days afterwards!

These little Redbud saplings have an important concept all figured out: to grow and thrive, it is essential to establish a root system.  A secure root system defines the life of a tree.

We often hear people talk about being ready to “put down roots.”  Usually this means they’re tired of moving and are ready settle down, to plug into their new home and community.  There is a grounding quality to being “rooted.”  It makes us feel safe, stable, and established.

Perhaps this is why, throughout Scripture, there are many references to being rooted.  Let’s take a look at three of them together: 

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

It’s all about location, location, location!  Want to thrive?  Find a good location!   Want to grow strong, healthy, and yield fruit in season?  Plant yourself next to life-giving water.  Trees flourish when they have access to a constant water supply.  

Jesus says that through Him, we have access to living water and will never thirst.  The water He gives will become in us like a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.  (John 4:14-15)  If we are rooted in Christ, and His Spirit lives within us, then we are already overflowing with the very water we need to grow!

Ephesians 3: 17 b – 18  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together, with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  

Paul’s prayer is that God’s people would be rooted and established in love.  It’s possible to be rooted in anger, grief, envy, or self-righteousness.  Or maybe like bitterness, they become rooted in us if we allow them to take up residence.  But Paul prays that God’s people would be rooted in love.  Just imagine how well-nourished and established we could become, if we were growing roots in soil of love.  It makes me think of a far-reaching forest.  Silently, underneath the forest floor, a vast root system is growing together, a web of roots establishing the forest.  That is what the church is like, when in love, we have the power to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7 ESV

In Colossians,  Paul again writes of being rooted.  This time, he says that we should be rooted and built up in Jesus himself.    In this way, our faith is established.

Establish: set up on a firm or permanent basis

My own tiny greenhouse

One of my favorite spring and summer activities is gardening.  Last winter, I received an heirloom seed company magazine in the mail and ordered seeds in the middle of winter.   I started growing my seeds inside, long before the first frost. I watered them,  placed them in the sun, and watched them grow.  They grew slowly at first and then picked up speed.  By April, they were outgrowing their tiny containers.

What if I had not transplanted them into the garden when it was time?  They would have been unable to grow further, because they could not have established a robust and healthy root system in the place they were designed to flourish.  According to Colossians 2, we are to be rooted in Christ, allowing us to be built up and our faith to be established.  Then we too will flourish!

Pause:  Spend a few minutes outside or near a window.  Allow your body and mind to calm as you enjoy nature.  Take a few deep breaths.

Renew:  Take time to think about seasons in your life and in your faith where you have felt deeply rooted.  What was it like to feel established and plugged-in?  If you have not experienced that, what do you think has kept you from being able to put down roots?

Next: Pray or journal this week about ways that you can be rooted in love in your family, community, or church body.

Let’s grow some gnarly roots that will not be easily uprooted – with streams of living water, in love, and established in Christ.

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Apples, Field Trips, and Pruning Tips

This week three of my children and I ushered in the fall season by taking a field trip with our homeschool co-op to an apple orchard. All of the kids and adults had great fun, particularly during the apple and cider tasting!  The last part of our tour included a tractor-pulled wagon ride: all the fun of a hay ride without the scratchy hay! (Added bonus: My three year old was in a particularly cuddly mood and wanted me to hold him in my lap for the whole ride!)

We were pulled through rows and rows of apple trees, up to the top of the orchard.  When he had reached a good vantage point, the farmer stopped the tractor and taught us pertinent facts about growing and maintaining apple trees.  When he began to teach about pruning, my ears perked up, because we own a plum tree.  I was interested to gain any tips.  I made a mental note to come home and teach my husband what I had learned.
The farmer informed us that there are two main objectives to pruning apple trees:

  1. Take all underlying branches which are growing downward, and turn them upward
  2. Prune all vertical growth

As I listened to his advice, I realized that these pruning tips mirror spiritual principles that Jesus taught his disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15: 1-2  NIV

If the heavenly Father is the gardener, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, then the pruning Jesus is describing is about us!  Ouch!  How then can these pruning tips be translated into spiritual truths that apply to our lives?

Take all underlying branches hanging downward and face them upward.  

What is the purpose in changing the direction of these downward facing branches?  The branches will grow stronger this way as they mature and will be able to withstand more pressure without breaking.  Low lying branches will bend to the ground as they grow heavy with fruit, and this can cause the fruit to rot.   Also, what branches wouldn’t want more sunlight?  Up is always best!

How does this apply to our lives?  As the Gardener realigns our branches in the Vine, He is strengthening us, making us better able to withstand greater loads.  He is maturing us to hold more fruit without breaking.  He is keeping us from dragging to the ground and constantly realigning us towards His light.

 Prune all vertical growth.

Why would a gardener cut off the vertical growth?  These are the new shoots that the tree has produced this year.  The new growth shoots upward, reaching for the sky.  Apple trees put a lot of effort and energy into this new growth.  Farmers purposely prune that growth, because the tree’s energy is going towards the new vertical growth, which takes away from its fruit-producing energy.

How does this principle apply in a believer’s life?  The Gardener knows just what He is trying to achieve in our lives when He is pruning, even when it appears He is pruning the new, healthy growth on our vine.  He is trying to achieve the ultimate harvest of fruit for His kingdom.

Ironically, an apple tree’s whole objective in life is to achieve its purpose: producing apples.  However, on its own, an apple tree can’t figure out where it should expend its energy to best achieve its objective.  While it’s busy growing random branches as fast as it can, it’s losing energy towards its very purpose – growing apples!  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  I’ll be honest, this is one area of my life with which I struggle – discerning where to place my energy, time, and resources.  How thankful I am for a Gardener who can see past the present circumstances, to the harvest He wants to produce in our lives!

Pause:  When you have a few quiet minutes, read John 15:1-11.  What verses stand out to you?

Renew:  Ponder/Journal/Pray: When are the times in your life that you’ve felt the Lord pruning you?  Was it a painful process?  Have you been able to see the fruit in your life, or are you still waiting to see the results?  Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet seen the fruit – it might still be growing.

Next:  Make a list this week of your priorities and responsibilities.  Where are you spending your time and energy?  Pray about which of these the Lord would have you spend less time and energy (vertical shoots) and which areas He would rather you prioritize.

May we grow some beautiful fruit for the harvest!

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