Challenge 80: Water Your Garden

Flowers make me happy. Seeing them, smelling them and touching them excite my insides and make me smile. This has been the case since I was a little girl. Most neighbors on my block didn’t have flowers in garden beds or pots, but more than a few had lilac bushes, and we had one in our own backyard. I would pick and sniff the bouquets throughout the day between bouts of picking the petals in the little girl quiz of “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” to determine if my crush indeed loved me too.

The lilac bush was the ONLY pretty thing in nature around our house because it was there when my parents bought the house. My mother was not domestic at all: Cleaning; cooking; nor crafting was her thing, and there was no reason for her to test external home skills by trying to plant some flowers. Though I cook and can clean well based on what she taught me, my interest in cultivating plants didn’t come from her. I learned from my grandmothers. My mom and dad’s mom both planted petunias and watered them daily, and the flowers grew large and pungent scents. After my husband, Flynn, and I bought our house, I wanted the beauty of flowers and feeling they bring, so Granny, Flynn’s grandmother, created flower beds complete with pavers, bought and planted flowers, and demonstrated and explained to me everything she did. I remember what she taught me, including the need to water plants daily in 80 plus degree weather. Though I learned well, I have not applied well these lessons this year.

This year I have two flower pots with mismatched flowers (I got one set from my neighbor) when I usually have five well-crafted flower pots and beds. And the flowers are only surviving from the rains we have every few days. The plants are yet holding on, but they could be thriving if I took a few minutes to water and fertilize them. A few minutes a day to water and another few minutes every few weeks to fertilize them would sustain their lives where their beauty and scents would always be prevalent. To get them to where they need to be doesn’t take much. But the question is, “Do I really like the look and smell of flowers as much as I say I do?” If I like the look and smell, why won’t I do what’s necessary to cultivate the look and smell for my benefit and the benefit of my neighbors?” Of course we can ask ourselves the same thing when we aren’t doing something to nourish what we claim to love.

Why won’t we make that green smoothie to develop the body we love? Why won’t we make that call to show that friend we care? Why won’t we study the Bible to grow in our knowledge of God? Why won’t we pray to grow in our intimacy with God? You know I could go on with all the questions to inquire about why we haven’t watered our various gardens, but I need you to ask yourself your own questions. You need to know what is keeping you from the few minutes daily and more intense times periodically to water your gardens. It is disingenuous to say we love something but don’t show that we love something. We know love when we see love, and we know that love is happening because some action is happening. We know when someone has taken the time to nurture something. Let’s strive to be that person who, when people see us, they know we have well-watered gardens. They know we have taken time to care for our bodies; they know we have taken time to invest in relationships; they know we have taken time to strengthen our spirits; they know that we often encounter God.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” (Ephesians 5:2 NLT).

Just as Jesus died because He loved us and His bodily sacrifice was “a pleasing aroma to God,” let us love ourselves and others so radically that we, like my well-cultivated flowers are to me, are a wonderful smell for God and the watching world.

Challenge 79: Free to Choose Freedom

“O LORD, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains”–Psalm 116:6

Broken chains

Freedom is beautiful. I was happy to be able to wake up today and decide what I wanted to do. I woke up about two hours after I normally do; rode my bike longer than I normally do; and came home when I decided I wanted to. Waking up and doing what we want doesn’t happen often for many of us. We have to go to work and report to a supervisor. We have to take children to school and various other appointments. We have meetings, weddings, reunions, and a host of other obligations where we simply aren’t free to do what we want. But today is your day of freedom. Maybe you are off work because of the 4th of July holiday, and the children are home from school, and they have no extracurricular activities that you have to drive them to. You may even be invited to a cookout so you don’t have to cook. Today is your day of freedom. Even if you have to work today, today is your day of freedom. You may not have had the choice to not work today, but you are free to choose so many other things. You are free to choose your attitude. You are free to choose your friends. You are free to choose to grow. You are free to choose freedom.

I want to focus on that last line: You are free to choose freedom. We need to know that. Too many of us have been comfortable with our bondages that they feel normal to us. They are a part of our life and we don’t know what we would do without them. We are used to being angry. We are used to unfaithful friends. We are used to bad lovers. We are used to the yelling, the screaming, the hitting, the threatening, the rage. We are used to abuse. Any time you are bound to something that is oppressing your body, soul or spirit, you are enslaved. You are enslaved when these forces are causing you to sin or when sin is perpetually acted upon you and you allow it. This is the yoke of slavery. Today, you are free to choose freedom. You do not have to remain in unloved and unwanted situations that bring harm to your body, soul and spirit. You do not have to remain connected to attitudes based on old memories and people who mean you no good. Today is your day of freedom.

For the believer in Jesus Christ, freedom is our new birth right. Jesus said of Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. . .” (Luke 4:18). Jesus came to die to take away our sins. He came so the poor wouldn’t be disconnected from the gospel; to heal the brokenhearted; to share deliverance to the captives; so the blind would see, and so those broken by calamity would be set free. He came so that all who believe in Him would be free and would remain free. “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 HCSB). We have this power by His Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; Philippians 2:13).

Therefore, choose your freedom. Connect with those who will help you out of your bondages. Talk to a real friend. Make an appointment with a counselor. Move. Choose joy! Just do it one act at a time. It’s likely you have been in the land of bondage for quite some time so it’s likely that it will take some time to be set free. The first step is for you to decide that you want to be free, to choose the freedom that Jesus Christ died for you to have. This is your choice. You may not celebrate the 4th of July as it was intended to be celebrated: to acknowledge those early British settlers who fought to be free of British rule on American soil. But let their fight spark a fight in you to be free. Today is your day of freedom. You are free to choose freedom. Make that choice today.