That Shifty Shrub

Over the weekend, my mom tackled some serious weeding.

At my house.

I am very grateful and she was very happy to do it. Together, we went to a nearby plant nursery and chose some sun-loving perennials to make a new home in my freshly weeded triangle shaped bed. Right now, there is still a lot of dirt showing but eventually the flowers will spread and the bed will look great.

 

The bed looked so much better than before my mom fixed it that I got inspired to try and do some more landscaping on my own after she left for home. One of the first things I wanted to do was remove a bush. There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like it: not the prettiest thing, in my opinion. So, how hard can it be to dig up a shrub?

Well, I was in for a surprise. It was hard. Even with my two year old helping me out by pulling on the branches with the metal kitchen tong, we were having a tough time. I used a shovel to dig up under the bush and loosen most of the roots, but there were some central roots that just wouldn’t let go. I tried pulling the shrub out with no success.

Finally, I resorted to sitting on the ground in front of the stubborn bush. I peeled the bush back by pushing on it with my legs as if I was attempting to do a thigh press. While my legs were getting a work-out, I took a pruning clipper and cut away as much of the remaining roots as I could. After a few minutes enough had been cut away and I was able to lift the shrub out of the ground.

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Ugh. Look how nasty that thing is (it was green; I had cut away the branches to make it easier to dig around). Anyway, the shrub is history! I intend to plant some perennial flowers in its place.

I came away from the event looking like I had just spent the afternoon baling hay (scratches decorated my limbs). But, I kinda had fun. And I loved that my little guy was so willing to help me. The landscaping project will continue. As we just moved into a new home, most of the landscaping needs some serious attention. I know it will take me more than one summer to beautify everything. For now, I’ll enjoy the memory of straining over that silly bush and spending some quality time with my toddler.

 

Beer or Prayer

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 1 Samuel 1:15-16

Hannah wanted a baby; a precious child to care for and to raise up in the Lord. But year after year she could not conceive. She was depressed.

It’s not uncommon to suffer through a phase of depression at some point in life. What do we do or use to “get through it?” Beer or wine? That’s what Eli the prophet thought. Hannah looked so distraught that he assumed she was drunk. Hannah was doing something much better than blurring her pain with drink, though. Her way of “getting through it” was to cry out to her Lord in prayer, to manifest her complete raw and depressed nature.

Try prayer next time. Be real with God; he already knows your deepest woes and struggles. He hears you, every time. He loves you. He will answer.

A Good Life on Earth

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when life seems to be going really well I wonder if all the good things are distracting me from keeping life’s focus on Jesus and furthering his mission. You know, things like a birth in the family, a new house, better pay, nice car, succeeding at your job, and so on… can these blessings also be distractions?

I suppose they could be, at some point. When life’s “good things” start taking so much precedence in life that Jesus and church and thinking of others and prayer get pushed in the old dusty closet or even forgotten, it may be time to reflect on things.

But Ecclesiastes 5 reminded me today that it’s ok for life to be going well. This is a gift from God! Praise him and rejoice in the blessings. Thank him; he is caring and helpful. When life is going swell, just say “thank you” and enjoy it!

Salvation out of Sorrow

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Corinthians 7:10

We all feel bad at times. Guilt can envelop all other thoughts. “I shouldn’t have done that; I was supposed to do this.”

God has given each of us a conscience. It’s the reason we know when we’re doing something wrong and it reminds us that we are far from perfect. When we fall short, we feel bad. We are sorrowful.

But guilt isn’t the end. It drives a repentant heart to confess before God all wrongdoing, and to ask for forgiveness. God will forgive us; he always does. And he promises salvation to all his children. It’s kind of an interesting thought: sorrow leads to salvation! Praise God!

Like Arrows

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Psalm 127:3-4

For the parents who are struggling with some aspect of child raising, who are beyond exhausted, who are concerned about an upcoming birth, or who are just outright frustrated, Psalm 127 offers encouraging words.

Solomon, the author of this Psalm, knew the value of children. He had many kids. He also knew the value of a well-equipped, talented warrior. He was a great king and the leader of vast armies. He was wealthy. And when he wrote this Psalm, he compared children to arrows.

A warrior with a supply of arrows, whether handfuls or just one, feels safe. He can protect himself. He has, as long as he is supplied, a sense of thankfulness and peace. The arrows are a blessing for him. Each child is a blessing to each parent. Whether a couple’s quiver holds ten or just one arrow, each child is a gift from God and it is a blessing that their quiver is not empty.

So no matter if you’re battling the terrible twos, arguing with your teenager, or awaiting the birth of your first babe, remember that every child is a gift from our God.

Oatmeal Flour Pancakes

Pancakes don’t have to be that delightfully tasty breakfast meal that you want to eat all the time but think you really shouldn’t because they aren’t the healthiest morning meal option out there. I love pancakes, and if they were super healthy, I’d likely have them almost every morning.

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Here’s something I tried as a way to give them a bit more nutrition: I made them with oatmeal flour instead of white flour. All I did was pulverize some whole oats in my coffee grinder and follow the same pancake recipe I always use. I simply substituted the “oatmeal flour” for the regular flour. They cooked very well and were absolutely delicious! My son and I gobbled up two of them in no time flat.

 

This is what my second one looked like. If anything, they weren’t quite as fluffy as when using normal white flour. However, they were just as tasty and best of all, they were a little healthier. Oats provide more fiber than white flour, and in my book that’s always a plus. I’ll definitely be making these again!

You are Mine

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Aren’t these words beautiful? The Lord was labeling his precious child Israel loved and important. “Let all fear leave you, Jacob. I created you; I made you. I redeemed you. I called you by name. You are mine.”

These comforting promises remind me of my baptismal banner. I don’t remember the actual event of my baptism since I was only two weeks old. But as a child, I frequently read the words of Isaiah 43:1 that were lovingly crafted onto a felt banner that hung in my bedroom. “You are mine.”

We belong to someone. Isn’t that something we all crave so deeply? In a world where identity is often associated with our work group, our friends, and our social circles but where that longing is never completely satisfied, God promises us that we belong to him. “You are mine.” That is our true and ultimate identity: a child of God!