Monday, July 4, 2011

A Pot of Petunias

I planted a pot of petunias today. Just one. I’ve learned that that’s all I can handle.

Death and destruction have pretty much followed my gardening attempts in years past. One year I enthusiastically planted flowers along the fence of our Texas home, dreaming of bright blooms bobbing their heads at me whenever I looked out the window. When the weeds grew bigger than the desired plants I resolutely began the process of pulling them, only to be chased inside by the bite of the fire ants, the persistence of the bees and the suffocating summer heat. I decided the flowers would simply have to fend for themselves. When they did not, and what was supposed to be a fence line eye-catcher became a backyard eyesore, my husband mercifully employed the lawn mower to erase my mistake. Since then I’ve left any outdoor gardening to his more capable hands.

I likewise have a long history of killing houseplants. In my single days I was determined to have greenery of some sort in my apartment, yet soon noted that I was buying a plant a week to replace one that had died in the preceding seven days. My budget couldn’t stand the strain. More recently I’ve been banned from indoor watering chores because of a tendency to either water too heavily or withhold the same till the brown and brittle foliage indicated that a once-thirsty plant had gasped its last. I was beginning to believe that the “green thumb” I thought I was born with was instead as black as could be.

That all changed quite by accident some years ago. A son’s graduation party coincided with Memorial Day weekend that year, and my mother-in-law bought a pot of red, white and blue-ish petunias to help decorate our back deck. It looked fabulous…until that first round of blooms faded. There was no second round of flowers to follow. Our back deck was overshadowed by the trees on the property and the plants simply didn’t receive enough light to thrive in that location. On a whim I set the pot on the front step which was normally bathed in afternoon sunshine. The flowers returned in abundance.

And suddenly I remembered how I had always wanted flowers on the front step, that it was something I noticed about the town when we first visited it with the thought of moving here so many years ago now. While my husband had pondered the practical considerations of driving distances to work, locations of freeways, churches and restaurants, all I seemed to see were white plaster flowerpots on porches all over town. The place seemed to be thick with them. I vowed that if we moved here we’d have flowers on our front step, too.

That idea got lost in the busyness of moving and working and raising a family. My husband was content with flowers in the ground under the front window and in various places around the yard. He didn’t see a need for a pot on the porch, particularly. And I eventually forgot about it, as well. Yet amazingly, God didn’t forget! How incredible that our Father loves us so much that He doesn’t forget the unspoken desires of our hearts, even those that matter so little in the grand scheme of things. Yet because we matter to Him, He makes them a reality in our lives in a way that draws our hearts to His more closely than perhaps if the wish had been granted when first expressed.

I’ve had flowers on my front step in one form or another every year since then. Their bright beauty does more than merely welcome me home from wherever I’ve been each day. They’re a reminder of my search to find the spot in God’s Kingdom where I was meant to bloom. We each have one, you know - a place of service where the gifts and talents God’s placed within us function at their best to accomplish His purposes. Finding that perfect spot, however, is the challenge, and too many of us give up before we do. I remember how frustrating my own search was, the many ministry opportunities I experimented with, only to seemingly discover one position after another that was not where I was meant to be. Then one day a simple request by a program director opened a door to an option I had never before considered, and suddenly joy and peace bloomed in abundance. I quickly cleared my plate of other commitments so I could concentrate my efforts on that which I finally realized I’d been called to do. When I looked back I realized that I had carried the makings of my ministry from birth. I hadn’t considered before that I was created to enjoy certain things that God later intended to use in His employ!

Once we’re born again there’s a longing in each of our hearts to serve God in some capacity. Too often we listen to the whispers of the enemy who says we’re not qualified to do so because of what’s in our past, our seeming lack of ability or time in the present, and our doubts about our commitment in the future. What changed things for me spiritually was illustrated for me physically. I simply moved my potted plant from the shady backyard to the front step where the sun shines. We likewise need to find that spot in our lives on which the Son is shining, and center our efforts on what is blossoming there.

“The desert and the parched land will be glad, the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like he crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy...”

(Isaiah 35:1-2 NIV)

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