open to receive

Saturday morning.  Time to tackle the weekly yard work.  Try as we might, it is still hard to engage our teenage kids in this endeavor.  Shocker, right?  But we know it builds character (and muscles and endurance and…), so we insist!  This past weekend was no exception.  Despite his lack of eager enthusiasm, our son joined us to trim bushes, pull weeds, and make sure the lawn was well manicured for another week.

Trimming the long, tedious hedge grew very old very fast.  But when he learned that we needed to do some more serious pruning on one of our growing trees, his eyes lit up!  He disappeared into the garage and emerged a few moments later with a glint in his eye and the biggest lopper tool he could find.

Ah ha!  So, this kid could relate to Tim, the tool man, Taylor!!?!  What we’ve needed all along was to find an outdoor task that tapped into his love of “bigger, stronger is better” mentality!  It was rather fun to watch him hack away at the stray branches of our sprawling tree, and then hack away at the branches on the ground, cutting them down to manageably sized pieces that fit in our bulging bag of clippings.  We might make a landscaper out of him yet!

When he finished his tree project, my son wandered over to the bed off our back patio where I was pulling weeds.  He let out a pleasantly surprised “hmmm!?”  “Mom!  Look at that!  The lower petals on those flowers open up to collect water!!!  How cool is that!!?!”

 

Although they have been favorite perennials in our yard for several years, this was the first time my son had taken notice of our beloved Siam tulips!  And he was absolutely right.  They are very cool!!!  And very pretty.  I also happen to like that they are hearty and need very little maintenance, yet they always provide a beautiful burst of color along with their wide green leaves.  They are strong but delicate and they faithfully come back each spring to bloom all summer.

South Florida weather can be rather unpredictable, especially in the summer.  It can be rainy with storms almost every day, but it can also be unusually dry – and always HOT!  The tulips’ tiny petal pockets do, in fact, collect and hold each flower’s own reservoir of water!  So, whatever the conditions, our tulips can remain strong and steady.

It warmed my heart to share in the joy of my son’s discovery – and his delight in appreciating one of our Creator’s divine designs.  I whispered a “thank you” prayer to the Lord for giving my son a willing heart to join us in the yard work – and the ability to notice and appreciate that small but truly awesome detail!

What a precious reminder to me, too!  The more layers of my heart I open to receive the Lord’s bountiful provisions, the more I can collect and hold in reserve.  No matter the circumstances that swirl around me, His words, His promises, His wisdom, and the confidence in His eternally unchanging purposes can help me remain strong and steady!

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May I be like our Siam tulips – strong but delicate, faithful, steady… and displaying a unique beauty that draws others to see and appreciate the divine designs of our Creator!

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“Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in Your Word.”  Psalm 119:18

 “I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”  Malachi 3:10

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keeping things tidy

With joy and a great sense of accomplishment, I am taking a deep breath of ease.  It’s that unencumbered feeling that follows weeks of deep cleaning and purging our home!  Closets, cabinets, drawers.  All sorted & cleaned.  Many items donated… or just thrown away because we have used them (well-loved them!?) until they are thread-bare!

When the heavy-duty part of the job was done, it was time to give our house a thorough basic cleaning before traveling for a few weeks.  That tedious task of dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing toilets – that task that I sometimes have to bribe myself with peanut M&Ms to get through but LOVE the result!!!

When the house is clean I feel a huge smile spread across my face.  I wander from room to room and just soak in the awesomeness of “home” in its best state.  I get all excited and wonder what guests we can invite for dinner or a game night or just coffee and dessert?  I fall in love with our home all over again and can’t wait to welcome others to enjoy it too!

Nearing the end of this particular cleaning job, I ran the duster along the elegant curves of beautiful maple wood on our piano.  For some reason, such a simple motion, done a hundred times over many years, made me pause.  And I smiled.  Even tired from a full day of cleaning, and still not a fan of the process, I was already beginning to experience the joy of the result!

I thought: “no one else knows this house as intimately as I do… no one else knows the joy that I feel when our home is at its best… this is the home the Lord has given to us and as we take care of it, there really is joy.  There is a deepening appreciation for the gift.  There is a growing desire to share what we’ve been given as our own love of the gift grows.”

It is not a clear-cut analogy (is there such a thing?), but a follow-up thought made me smile even more: “no one knows me more intimately than my Savior… no one else rejoices as He does when I am at my best… this is the life He has given me, the heart where He chooses to make His home and when I take care of it, it brings Him JOY!  When I sense His Spirit moving and working, drawing me toward growth and discipline, there is a deepening appreciation for His many gifts to me!  And I sense a growing desire to share what I’ve been given as my love for Him grows!”

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Keeping my home tidy helps me enjoy it more.  I trust it helps my family enjoy it more too!  Making my home inviting for others inspires me to welcome them inside.

Keeping my heart tidy helps me enjoy what the Lord is doing to transform it to match His own.  I trust it brings more joy to His heart too!  Making my heart more inviting and open to the Lord inspires me to welcome Him to occupy more and more of it so it can overflow to everyone around me. 

Healthy habits and diligent effort may not be easy or fun, but the results are worth it.  Every time.

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our Shield and Defender

A commotion outside the window caught my attention.  Our mocking bird friends were in a frenzy, swooping and dive-bombing and squawking.

“What on earth?” I thought, pausing from our deep cleaning/purging project in the master bedroom.  From the upstairs window, overlooking the back patio, we spotted the culprit – the granddaddy iguana that usually keeps its distance and hangs out in the cypress preserve across the pond from our backyard!  Only this time, he wasn’t just on our side of the water, he was in the top of our bougainvillea bush – inches from the mocking birds’ nest where they had been tending to new eggs!

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During certain seasons, that iguana and his friends venture to our bank.  I am not a fan.  I try to tell them that if they stay on their own side, we might be able to stay friends.  But they don’t mind me – unless I chase them!  I scold them because they eat my flowers (my favorite Siam tulips are bursting with brilliant magenta color at the moment!) and make a mess of our bushes, sheering the leaves and branches down to nothing!  Just last week, we were forced to hard prune our beloved hibiscus plant back to stumps after that same granddaddy lizard destroyed too many branches to salvage.  My poor husband was so frustrated that he broke our broom trying to chase the critter away!

With fledgling bird eggs at stake, our battle reached a whole new level.  This time, they crossed the line!  It’s one thing to mess with my bushes and flowers, it’s quite another to threaten vulnerable baby birds!  Granted, our mocking bird friends may have chosen a safer place for their nest than our bougainvillea plant, so close to the water’s edge, but still!  Those pesky iguanas need to leave those eggs alone and let them grow and hatch!

Mama and Papa mocking bird keep a watchful eye.  They never seem to tire of their duty to protect and defend their little ones.  But the iguanas are relentless and more than once we have found them back in the top of the bougainvillea bush!  I couldn’t bear to see our feathered friends’ struggle and joined their protection squad!

Although we were finally hitting our stride in our deep cleaning of those closets, I paused to check the back windows incessantly every day.  I scanned the bank for creeping monsters.  I walked around the bush to check and recheck to make sure they were not sneaking past our surveillance.  The broken broom stood ready at the back door to fend them off (as many as 4 times in a given day!).  Those iguanas just didn’t give up!  I even called the biggest one a “beast” one day.

The whole scene reminded me of our own, very real and just as relentless enemy who can leave us feeling just as helpless and frustrated:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”  John 10:10

“Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  I Peter 5:8

What a thrilling thought to remember that we also have a Defender!  He is faithful.  He is victorious.  His care for us is far better than me checking the window 10 times a day or wielding my faulty broom as a weapon.  No matter how sneaky our enemy’s tactics may be, or how seemingly successful at times, Jesus, our Savior, will always protect and defend us:

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

 “The Lord is my strength and song.  He has become my salvation.”  Psalm 118:14

 “We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One.”  I John 2:1

 “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He ever lives to intercede with God on their behalf.”  Hebrews 7:25

Yesterday I commented to my husband that the backyard had become strangely peaceful and quiet.  The mocking birds seemed less edgy and the iguanas stayed away.  I began to fear that they had gotten all of the eggs, but Mama and Papa mocking bird had not abandoned the nest or each other and still seemed to be tending to it quite happily.

Today, with joy, I discovered a brand new baby bird peeking out of the nest!  I am excited to watch this little one grow and learn to fly across our back patio.  And I have to wonder if the iguanas retreated because they somehow knew the battle was over?  At least for that one new little life, they had lost.

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The thief may only come to steal and kill and destroy, BUT our Savior has come that we might have LIFE and that we might have it in abundance!  (John 10:10)

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We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;

We go not forth alone against the foe;

Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender,

We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

 We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,

And needing more each day Thy grace to know;

Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,

We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.

 We rest on Thee our Shield and our Defender;

Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise

When reigning in the Kingdom of Thy splendor,

Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days!

– Edith G. Cherry –