Finding God in My Backyard

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It was two and a half years ago, that I decided to tackle our backyard.

It was a mess. We were lucky in that the one dog we had, only went to the bathroom on the sides of the house. It led to easy clean up and she left my focal point alone.

The grass.

However, since it was late spring, and I was planting seeds, instead of laying sod, and didn’t have a sprinkler system, everyone thought I was waisting my time.

After a few hot weeks of watering my dirt, I thought so too.

I gave up.

I’m thinking it was probably the end of September, or maybe the start of October when it started to happen. After a few sprinkles from scattered showers, my seeds started to grow! Like everywhere!

I was so excited. So encouraged. I started watering the dirt again, every morning.

I would turn the water on as soon as I got up. Then after I jumped out of the shower I would put on the rubber sandals I had stolen from my son, and move the sprinkler to the other half of the yard.

The tricky part was remembering to turn the water off, after I was ready for work.

Slowly, but surly I noticed more and more blades of grass starting to pop up.

IT WAS AWESOME!

I started to feel confident.

I was so excited the botanical gardens were having a sale. I bought two ice plants. They were beautiful.

I bought two grapevines, too. Knowing they would need to mature for a couple of years before they would produce any fruit, I took great care in deciding where exactly I should place them.

I started to make big plans for draping our cinder block wall so it wouldn’t radiate heat.

Someone donated a couple of railroad ties to mark out a small garden. I had planted a few vegetables from seeds, along with a few herbs.

And for a long time, I felt like my sixth grade science teacher was a scam. She insisted, if you just put a couple seeds in the ground, with water and sunlight then BAM! You would have a plant.

Well guess what?

It doesn’t work like that here in Arizona.

At the time, I had an intern with me from Indiana. Yeah, she would tell me if you accidentally over fill your bird feeder you would get all kinds of stuff growing.

She laughed at my frustration.

Our dirt is clay. There is absolutely no nutrients in it. And it is rock hard. You have to make or buy soil. It doesn’t come with your house. No. No it doesn’t.

Then there is the heat. It sucks everything dry, so not only do you have to worry about how much water you’re giving everything, you also need to worry about shade and keeping things cool.

And those pretty flowers that bloom everywhere all over the world? Yeah, not here. Nope. So you’re kind of limited on what you can grow.

Absolutely everything is against growing here in the desert. Everything.

Well, now I’m buying books, looking online, talking to my ARIZONA gardening friends, joining dessert gardening groups, all in the hopes of growing something, anything.

I have to tell you, no one was more excited to see something green sprout out of the ground THAT WASN’T A WEED!

I had lettuce and cucumbers and it was so super cool to watch those watermelons get bigger and bigger and bigger.

And then one day…we got another dog.

A big dog. A big friendly dog. A big friendly, lovable, goofy dog.

I first noticed the giant patch of grass that had a slight yellow tint to it. I asked my gardening friend to come over and take a look at it.

He said I was crazy. He didn’t see any yellow.

Oh, I could. I knew my grass. I was out there watering it every morning. I cut and edged it every weekend. There was a huge yellow spot appearing on my soft, luscious, deep green lawn.

Asking around about it, the popular explanation was THE DOG. Seriously, I knew the dog went to the bathroom on it, but he’s not a dinosaur.

Then one of my ice plants wasn’t doing so well. What the heck? I gave it more food. I gave it more water. I gave it less water. Nothing was helping my poor beautiful plant that was losing more and more of its blossoms.

And then, there it was.

The day I caught my dog, our big, friendly, lovable, goofy dog taking a nap on my ice plant!

TANK!!!

Within weeks of the kids going back to school, he had gotten into and destroyed EVERYTHING, both inside and outside of the house. I will not forget the morning my son walked into the living room, carrying a half eaten, green and yellow watermelon.

“Mom!!! Look what he has done!”

Unbeknownst to me, my son had been secretly plotting to devour this on his own. He checked on it every morning. He would trek out into the backyard every day he would come home from his dad’s. This was his.

We were all devastated.

Everything I had worked for, for a year and a half was gone.

I was disappointed. I was done.

I let it sit for a whole year. I didn’t go back there. I would close the windows so I wouldn’t have to see it.

Just thinking about it upset me.

So, here we are now. It’s September again. We still have the same big, friendly, lovable, goofy dog. It’s the same month, two years ago, that showed me promises of blades of grass.

It’s getting cooler again.

Yesterday, I opened my back sliding door and gazed out at the huge mess one would have after letting the dogs use it as their bathroom for the past year, and thought…maybe.

I put on my tennis shoes and grabbed my rake, and I’ll tell you why.

When I was taking care of it two years ago, I learned something. I learned about God. I learned about myself. And I learned about life.

God

I learned it takes a gardener to make something grow. If I leave something alone, it dies. It produces no fruit. And in my case, it can smell pretty bad.

I am grateful for my Gardener. Not only has God never given up on me, but he fights for me. He pulls the weeds that threaten me. He protects me from the heat. He provides every need, to not only grow, but to thrive.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? – Romans 8:31

I learned frustration when you expect great things to sprout and it doesn’t.

God has made great plans for me. He has equipped me. I am His seed. He knows I am capable of great things, and yet, I know, because of fear; I do not always live up to my potential. How completely frustrating I must make him. This hurts my heart.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippines 4:13

Myself

I learned it takes nurturing; food, water and sunshine for life to thrive.

If I want to see change, I have to make the change. If I want to see beautiful things grow around me, I need to invest in others. For my children, my husband, for my friends; I need to nurture them. I need to make sure I water relationships, feed into them. Love them with sunshine.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.- 1 Peter 4:8

I learned everything is a process.

My grass did not sprout up over night. It took time. It took a lot of time. There was stuff I had to do, to get anything to grow. Before there was any fruit of my labor, I had to work at it every day. And just like my garden, I am a work process. I have setbacks. I have growth spurts. I am a process. I am not a disappointment.

 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Life

I learned from dirt comes living things.
I have learned, beautiful things can rise from the dust. No matter how broken one may be. How filthy one is. How far into death one has traveled. There is hope. There is peace. There is beauty.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. – Isaiah 61:3

So, yes this morning I watered my grass. I know it won’t be easy. I still have forces that battle against me, like the heat and the dog. But I am better prepared.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

God started over once. The second time he sent His Son. A Son he sent for me to imitate, to emulate. So I’d like to learn more about him too.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

I’ve got more work to do. More to learn. And apparently some more grapevines to relocate!

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