Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tending the garden of my heart...

I sit here in Caribou sipping on my peppermint tea. Berlyn is sleeping peacefully in her car seat next to me…I’m thankful for a few moments of peace, where I can sit and write, ponder my thoughts, my heart and everything in between. I’ve felt like a graffiti wall lately…with random thoughts and ideas bouncing off in all directions. All the while, wondering what is going on within me but not having the chance (or taking the opportunity) to look at it all. It’s hard to understand or change anything when you don’t take a chance to view what it is that needs to be understood or changed. So, I sit here and write…and it feels good already. Each word on the page is like an exhaled breath bringing me closer to the goal of clarity, peace and contentment.

We’ve been living with my in-laws since September 13th…a new baby as of August 25th. Two major life transitions going on at once. I have felt like I’ve needed to wrestle through feelings of melancholy and these feelings have only intensified as time has passed. Not that everyday is a struggle. I definitely have my good days and my pockets of joy where I am able to soak in the blessings of life...and these times are sweet. But it has seemed that those down days that come in between have been really d-o-w-n days. Days I feel like the enemy is just pouncing on me trying to keep me discouraged, frustrated, angry, depressed, and insecure. I hate those days. I feel like a different person and don’t like the person I see in the mirror…unattractiveness and dissatisfaction with my body and my heart bleeding through and screaming for change. Who is this new person?

So, for some time I’ve known something needs to give, something needs to change. I most certainly cannot go on nor accept living life this way. I know it is not the abundant life God wants for me. I am not using my life and all He has given me and blessed me with to its full potential. In fact, I feel like I am wasting it on the hustle and bustle of life. I do know He has me in this place for a reason. I can’t wait to be on the other side of it, but I know that He is working on me…testing me…growing me…developing that spiritual muscle of character and integrity so that I can be strong enough to accept and hold onto the blessings He has in store for me. And man, am I ever looking forward to that day.

I know that I am the type of person that needs to stay immersed in Jesus when I am going through life’s struggles…by listening to music, reading my Bible, doing studies, etc. …blocking out the outside world before it sucks me in and tells me lies that I may soon start believing. But there just hasn’t seemed like time for that lately. Or at least that is what I thought or tried to convince myself. I tried doing it my way, but just as the Israelites could not store up their manna, neither can I. It must be gathered daily…daily…daily. Bread that is life-giving and peace-producing must be sought after and collected daily. And while things are more hectic with a newborn, and there is less privacy living with my in-laws, I am learning that spiritual strength is directly related to how much time is spent in God’s Word. And I would much rather be sleep-deprived than spiritually empty. While sleep is a gift, it doesn’t come close to intimacy with my Father. I am realizing how very desperately dependent I am on Him...desperately.

Sunday in church I felt God speaking to me. An all too common phrase “The Lord is my strength” echoed in my mind. And I thought to myself, He is my strength. I certainly cannot do this without Him. He has to be my strength. And right there I decided to just flip to the Psalms. I took my Bible from my lap, opened it up and right there was Psalm 142, a prayer from David when he was in the cave.

1 I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.

2 I pour out my complaint before him;
before him I tell my trouble.

3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who know my way.
In the path where I walk
men have hidden a snare for me.

4 Look to my right and see;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.

5 I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."

6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.

7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.

Oh how this spoke to me. David cried out to the Lord and poured out all his complaints before Him…before Him he told his troubles. Always remembering that “when my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who know my way.” I know I certainly haven’t been pouring out my troubles and complaints to God…I’ve been bottling them up, letting them stew into depression, insecurity and discontentment, or I’ve managed to splurt out a few complaints here and there to loved ones…but I have not been taking them to the Lord consistently. (***Ding-Ding…I found my first area of needed change). So Monday morning, in the privacy of our little bathroom, I hit my knees and went to the Lord with some of the things on my heart. And at the gym, with each thought of discouragement, I drowned myself in a little Third Day and took it to Him once again. I felt better…but still rawly aware of the muscle I still need to develop.

David then cried out to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Listen to me, for I am in desperate need…rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.”

No, I am not in a cave being pursued by people who want my life, but I definitely feel pursued by the enemy and a world that tries to steal my joy and keep my eyes from gazing heavenward. This can feel like imprisonment… and often it is one that is self-inflicted too. One thing that has convicted me to change and to do something quickly is my three little ones. I know that being a godly parent is one of God’s highest callings upon my life. I don’t want to fail or disappoint, but rather raise them to love and serve Jesus. I want to be a better mama to them. They deserve a joyful mommy. Darcy deserves a joyful wife. I know he is wondering where the old Amanda went, feeling helpless and worried at times…wanting to help and fix my weary heart.

And that’s where this all starts…at the heart. At my heart. I am realizing the vital importance of tending the garden of my heart. It must be done daily, because if it is not, those weeds of insecurity, discouragement and discontentment begin to grow wildly. So much that they begin to smother and strangle the life that is within me. Those weeds, untended, are too strong for me. That’s precisely what has happened. But, I will not let them take root. I will tend to this garden daily, allowing God to pull the weeds and water my soul. I am finding time to do this. There really isn’t an excuse not to- -lack of time, children, housework, busy schedules…all excuses. The whirlwind of a brand new baby has passed. Berlyn is 8 weeks old and we are beginning to get a taste of consistency. She is sleeping through the night for the most part. Now that I have grown accustomed to a little sleep deprivation, it seems a small sacrifice to get up earlier than I’d normally like.

For the past few weeks I have been doing this, waking up at 4:40am on Tuesdays and Thursdays to go to the gym. It’s a time I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch the kids or feel that I am taking away from our family time. Everyone is already asleep and it seems to be working out well. This morning after I pulled into the gym parking lot, I opened up my Bible and spent 15 minutes reading before I went in to work out. I had a shorter workout, but felt just as refreshed, and a bit more light on my feet and light in spirit afterwards. You know you can read through the Bible in one year if you just spend 10-12 minutes a day reading it? In a book I am currently reading (“A Mom After God’s Own Heart” by Elizabeth George), she compares this time to the time we spend on a short internet session, one-half of a good conversation with your mom, sister or best friend, or watching one-third of a tv sitcom. Doesn’t seem like a huge sacrifice, huh? But the rewards are countless. Made me really analyze how I spend my time and convicted me not to eat from the bread of idleness. I’m finding that it’s actually quite easy to spend a few quiet moments with God. It’s a choice, and a matter of taking time to nurture one’s heart.

I feel re-centered, refocused, refreshed…like I’ve taken a step out of the shade and allowed His light to shine on me. Warmth to the soul. I want to do things God’s way…setting my heart on things above. And in time, God, the good Gardener, who promises to finish a good work in me, will allow this heart and this land to blossom and bloom in His beauty and fullness. While I wait for this to be fulfilled, I am purposefully and joyfully tending the garden of my heart….

Hoping you are taking the time to tend yours.

3 comments:

  1. The beauty and transparancy of your words are ... well ... beautiful.

    Just like you.

    I cannot tell you how much I love you!

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  2. Amanda...I cannot tell you how much I needed to hear your words. I have neglected quiet time (or at least a consistent one) for some time now...and I desperately need time with my Father, the Gardener of my Soul, as well. You are right that all the distractions that interfere with it are merely excuses, and a little less sleep is no sacrifice at all in comparison to a few precious moments at the foot of a great King. Thank you for such a beautiful post...merely a reflection of a glorious work Christ has already done in you. I am praying for you...I know the battle of not having a home...of feeling your sacred escape is no more..or at least not in the immediate future. But God is faithful as you said. He will see you through to the sweet end. I am so glad your heart is open to his shaping during this season...I know that fills His heart with joy over you. You are a very special woman, and I so enjoy our friendship.
    much love to you,
    ej

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  3. Thank you for sharing this! I, too, am looking to be more dedicated to tending the garden of my heart. Nothing has made me more aware of my need to do that as becoming a mother has.

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