Hidden Beauty

It’s my day off today which means I have slept in, my husband has taken the kids to school and I have finally surfaced at 11am, and breakfasting with a cup of tea and some chocolate (because I can, ok?), I find myself looking out the window onto the garden we’ve spent many hours working on this weekend.

We love our Curacy house, it is an absolute blessing, and far beyond what we had hoped for. But when we moved in, it’s fair to say the garden was a tad neglected. A lovely neighbour from the church had been round and moved the lawn but aside from that it was a bit of a jungle. There was a rotting shed in the corner, a strange sort of fenced off inner sanctum, which we later discovered was the result of a previous tenant owning a lot of cats, (random, yes) and very overgrown. Thankfully we like a gardening challenge and over the last year (aided a lot by my parents) we’ve started to transform this mess into something more loved.

When you preach regularly you tend to view life through the lens of ‘well, that would make a good sermon illustration’ and there are so many in this garden but I think my favourite here was the gift of an apple tree.

This was one side of the garden when we moved in.

 

You can just about see that those grey posts are holding back a chicken wire fence and what looks like a large amount of ivy, in fact I’d call it an ivy tree it was that bad, as well as some other overgrown bushes. On closer inspection we found that behind this fence was another 4 foot of garden, with the fence going round 2 sides of the garden. It was impossible to work out what was behind it or to weed or plant anything as you just couldn’t access it. So one swift phone call to the diocesan housing department and they agreed we could take it out, but on the strict understanding that they weren’t paying for it!

So we all got to work. 

And work it was, the fence posts were about 4 foot into the ground in a large amount of concrete and it took an entire day to get the first post out. But when we did, we were amazed to find a tree behind it.Not only that, an apple tree, with apples growing on it. You can just about see them poking through the ivy here:

 

 

A lot of cutting back followed and the first of many many trips to the tip before the tree and some wonderful plants that had been hidden, emerged from the chaos, including well established rosemary and sage plants. Suddenly we found that the overgrown mess we thought we had, actually contained both the beautiful and the sustaining. 

The garden is still very definitely a work in progress and further cutting back halted whilst the birds nest, but here is the tree now, and the herb bed that we expanded in front of it.

 

I love the image this gives of the stuff that is hidden in the mess of our lives. Some of us are pretty messed up and then God, the ultimate gardener, starts to prune away and pull out our weeds. It’s tough going sometimes, hard work and painful.  Bits of roots get left behind and start to regrow and need to be pulled up again, but this time it’s less painful, until there is nothing left of that weed.

And underneath it all is something worthwhile, something beautiful, something that with a bit of nurturing can grow and flourish.

And into that we can plant new things, useful things, things that bring glory to God, things that can give life, and sustain us.

Just like me, our garden is still a work in progress, sometimes it’s raining and cold and I don’t want to go near it, other times it’s easy, the sun is thing and I can’t wait to get out there, and sometimes it’s just darn hard work.

I’ve recently found myself with my morning cuppa, staring out the window and looking at the fruits of our labour, the beauty in the garden and reflecting on it. I like to think that’s what God does as he looks at us – sees the beauty, recognises the hard work that has gone into us, and takes pleasure in just admiring us.

NOURISH // One Word for 2017

a nice healthy gluten, dairy and sugar free breakfast!

This time last year I began a journey seeking ‘joy’ as I chose that as my one word to focus on for the year ahead. It was a really helpful tool rather than choosing New Year’s Resolutions, to just let joy be a bigger part of my life, and not to let it be robbed away. I also have some wonderful guest bloggers to thank for helping me on my joy journey too, it was great to get different perspectives along the way, thank you all for sharing!

However as I reflected before Christmas on what my word for 2017 might be I realised that whilst I was thinking more about joy and trying to focus on it, the things that were robbing me of joy were still there: ongoing back pain, tiredness, not enough time to rest – they were still constants in my life. So, the challenge for 2017 is how to overcome those, or at least how to live with them in a more balanced way?

One thing I’ve started to do more of is really think about what I am eating and I’ll share more on that as the year goes on, but a word that has stuck with me out of that is ‘nourish’. How do I nourish myself? do I in fact? intentionally? Nourishment is all about sustenance, making sure we are fed with substances necessary for growth, health and good condition so the dictionary says. Feeding ourselves well – and not just with good food, but the dictionary definition also includes, holding a belief for a long time. We need to be nourished spiritually as well as physically.

It’s interesting that a passage I focussed on a lot last year was Jesus’ command to love your neighbour as yourself. But it really stuck me recently: AS YOURSELF. What does that even mean I began to wonder? I often rail against the cultural trend that seems to scream at us from every advert, window or poster that says we can all be perfect, we deserve it after all, focus on you, you, you; but here it is in holy print, love yourself. Not something I am all that good at as I am sure many of us aren’t, my recent post on feeling guilty at being a working mother was a testimony to that.

So I began to pray into that and explore it and I was struck by this passage from 2 Peter 1 –

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 

So, He has given us everything we need for a Godly life. How often do we whole heartedly accept that? or live that out? That line alone struck me like a shot of Tequila… And then. It goes on…

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Might have been written for me in this moment, it’s all about being intentional – make every effort to add to your faith…

 

But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

I have to say I regularly question my calling to ministry, I mean I know it in as much as I know I have red hair, but at the same time I question how I am supposed to do it, how can I balance life, motherhood, being a wife? – which are equally callings on my life. All of this felt like a challenge to me. If I am going to be able to continue with these callings, keeping them in rhythm with each other and not falling apart, then I have to focus on me a bit more, and more importantly on me and God. As I reflected I realised that my joy is robbed away when I am not looking after myself, when I am in pain, when I don’t spend enough time with God. And in fact that last one should go first, because when I am completely focussed on God, then the pain is not as significant, my time is more balanced, and I am less grumpy! I don’t mean focussed on me in a selfish way, I mean that as a wife, Mum and minister most of my time is given over to others, but that’s the point, that it’s ok to make some time for ourselves too.

So what will ‘nourish’ look like? Well I’m not sure yet but there are definitely three strands to it: to be nourished physically, mentally and spiritually. And not just for me, but for my family too. I’m not setting myself any real goals, as I think this is going to be a journey over the whole year, seeking to live in a more nourished way, but I’m sure there will be plenty for me to post on here!