Jesus with Skin On

Have you heard the expression, “Jesus with skin on?”  I once heard the analogy explained in this way and it made a lot of sense.

When Jesus, who was fully man and fully God was born, He literally had skin on – human flesh and blood. He intimately knew what it meant to be us. He understood and experienced hunger, pain, grief, sunshine on His face, exhaustion, fellowship with others, belly laughs, sadness, and joy. Since we are created in His image, we can learn to act like Him as we interact with our fellow sojourners on this journey of life.

So, what might that look like? We see Jesus spending time with people who did not have it all together; like each of us. They lied, cheated and were selfish; they were ill and in physical and emotional pain. He surrounded Himself with those who had mouths like sailors, were outcasts, drank too much and did things they regretted. These are the people with whom Jesus spent a lot of time. People just like us.

What did He do? He spoke to them and treated them as being made in His image. He healed them, fed them, and listened to them. Jesus spoke truth in love and was with them when society rejected and shunned them. He didn’t tolerate sin and pretend it didn’t exist. He called it out and forgave them. He saw them and their potential, and He LOVED THEM.

How might it look for us to be Jesus with skin on? Smile and acknowledge the existence of someone struggling, who might not be as clean as you prefer and might use words that offend you. Jesus loves them. Say hello to teens in the mall who act and dress in ways you don’t like. Bring meals to those who are dealing with a job loss, illness, or death in the family. Give someone your warm jacket or umbrella when they are stuck in the rain. Listen to the one who’s hurting. Seek them out. It is ok to be with people who do not believe the way you do or who do not believe in anything at all. You can introduce them to Jesus. He deeply loves them.

I have learned a lot about being Jesus with skin on from my two children, now almost 24 and 19. One afternoon they came from a shopping center near our home, with stories of the homeless woman they talked to, who poured out her sadness over the loss of her husband. They were young teens at the time and didn’t know exactly what to do, so they bought her lunch, listened to her, and told her they hoped she would be ok. The woman cried because no one else had cared or even seen her.

There is the time my daughter rushed home from 7/11, grabbed a backpack and filled it with non-perishables from the pantry, water bottles, a gift card, blankets, and other items she found in her room and gave it to a man she met who needed help. 

Or my son, who regularly gives money, help or food to those he crosses paths with that could use a hand. That is Jesus with skin on.

It isn’t hard, but it does require us to look beyond the outward appearance and find the one that Jesus loves so deeply, that He gave up His life for them, just like He did for you. My hope is that we all find someone in our spheres to love on – to be Jesus with skin on. May someone, someday, be that for us when we need it.

A shout out to…

A big shout out to the talented and amazing women that I am working with to get my book, Divine Encounters… published on Amazon KDP.

Pia Edberg, http://www.piaedberg.com, edited the manuscript. She did a fantastic job, very thorough, easy and fun to work with, gave great feedback and was always on schedule. She is full of tips and advice on publishing, social media, etc. Thank you, Pia!

Karolina Wudniack, http://www.karolinawudniak.com, designed the book cover and is currently working with me on the interior layout of the book, formatting, back cover, etc. Karolina is great at what she does! She took my ideas for the cover and created one that I absolutely love! The interior she is creating, is wonderful so far. Karolina is fun, easy to work with, funny and creative. She gives great feedback with all kinds of technical things that I don’t quite understand, haha, and is right on schedule. Thank you, Karolina!

Jessie Cunniffe, Book Blurb Magic, is helping with the book’s blurb. It isn’t so easy to write the blurb for your own work, I’m discovering. We just started working together, so I’m eager to see what we come up with as the final product. Thank you, Jessie!

So, if you decide you have a story to tell and want to take the plunge, please give a look to these talented women to give you a hand. You won’t regret it.

Cheers!

More news!

Hi friends,

I wanted to share the link to the new author page I set up on Facebook. You can find me at https://www.facebook.com/MelissaGiomiauthor. If you are on Facebook you can search @MelissaGiomiauthor.

My book, Divine Encounters… is in the interior design and layout phase right now. It is so exciting for me to see it all coming together. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Looking forward to where this will lead and the next steps God has planned out for me and for this book that He inspired me to write.

Have a fantastic day!

Taking up Space

When I hear the phrase “taking up space” it automatically sends out a negative vibe.  It speaks to being too much, useless, unnecessary and in the way. It calls up feelings of being unwanted and blocking or taking away from someone or something else of more value and importance; that what is being offered is of no consequence, and the need to be silent and unseen.

I wonder how many people go about their day feeling like they take up space. I have and sometimes still do; like the air we breathe in was really meant for someone else and our presence is a nuisance. It is hurtful, dismissive, and lonely.

So, what if we turned the narrative around and thought of taking up space as a positive and important part of living, the very thing we were created to do?

I love how God weaves unconditional love, purpose, and immense value into His narrative about each of us. It isn’t selfish or arrogant to believe what our Creator says about us! It is hard to live in this world and He knows that. He knows what it’s like to be us because He became like us, lived among us in a physical body with all the good and bad that goes along with that.  Fully man and fully God. He knows how rejection, cruel words, dismissive attitudes and being unvalued and hated feels. He knew and knows the way it wounds and taints everything when you are told or made to feel that the physical space you occupy is wasted, unseen and not accepted – as if you have no voice and will never be heard.  

I came across these Bible verses and believe they are a beautiful example of how important we are and how much the world needs us to take up space.

Luke 12:7 NLT “And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Psalm 139:13-14 NLT “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Isaiah 40:31 NLT “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

2 Timothy 1:7 NLT “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

Joshua 1:9 NLT “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 10:28-29 NLT “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.”

Isaiah 46:4 NLT “I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.”

Do you see how treasured we are and how very valuable? We were created to fill a specific place in this world; to use our voices. God commands us to be strong and courageous! He promises to never leave us, to carry us and care for us. He assures us we will never be snatched away, shushed, pushed to the back, ignored, or minimized in His sight.  We are seen, known, and deeply loved.

So, let’s find courage to take up space in a bold, strong, and kind way; to no longer apologize for our voice, our breath, our strength, and our calling. What if we help others take up space? We can focus on loving ourselves in all our quirky, weird beauty, trust God with the details and hang onto Him when the road gets bumpy. Watch what happens when we sing the song He put in our spirits to bless and enhance our spaces and the space around us. It will be a thing of beauty.

Meadow

Standing at the edge of the alpine meadow my coffee mug is warm in my hands. A beautiful balance to the chill air. Ahhh…

Under the towering Sugar Pines, I take a few moments to soak in the first glimpse. My senses are awake and receptive drinking it in. There is a physical sensation of being pulled and beckoned, compelling me to go out in the meadow. This is my place. Belonging.

Leisurely walking the boardwalk, I notice the sights, sounds, and smells that make up this lovely place. Earthy, elemental, fresh yet ancient is what comes to mind. I pause to deeply breathe in the air, cleansed by so many Sugar Pines, Giant Sequoias and Cedars.

The meadow is already alive with creatures going about their business. The shiny black birds and bright, bold Tanagers call, dive, and swoop as they greet each other and share the meadow gossip. Flitting insects and seeds make up their breakfast. They light on the tip top of the purple-blue lupine, singing and swaying with the breeze that ruffles the meadow flowers and leafy plants. Joyful!

There is a greyed and hollowed out fallen tree with gnarled branches and bits of decayed roots lying across part of the meadow. A small tree is growing up from the edge of one of the dead branches. I wonder what creatures call the nooks and crannies home? Grass in varying shades of green, and bright yellow Sneezeweed, tiny white flowers and deep purple lupines have grown up around the old tree like an embrace. These colorful flowers create a gorgeous living carpet. Breathtaking.

Walking further in, I find the perfect spot to sit. Settling in, I am at peace. A feeling of being welcomed, rooted, and folded in, as if I belong here, in sync with the mystery and rhythm of the meadow. Connected.

I hear a rustling scurry in the clump of meadow flowers just below and to the left of my spot. A small grey-brown head peeks up and watches me, judging and spying. Deemed safe, the chipmunk darts across the boardwalk continuing his morning journey. I’m curious what the day holds for him/her. Purpose.

Trickling and whispering, the little meadow stream bubbles and flows out into the meadow. Tiny insects dip and float on the clear water. Other creatures scratch and rustle in the crowded marshy earth, searching for an appetizing addition to their breakfast.  I don’t know its source, but as the season pushes on the stream will slow and the water will pool, creating a new habitat that sustains those late summer and early fall plants, flowers, and creatures. Seasons.

The morning light filtered through the tree branches at the edge of the meadow casts a mysterious, divine glow, as the summer sun rises. The rays force their way between pinecone laden branches burnishing the meadow with a lemony, pure, white light. Each light ray is distinct and discernable, stretching out beyond the trees to touch a specific spot.  These bold rays are in sharp contrast to the meadow area still in shadows. The lighting produces an ethereal, other worldly feeling where one might fancy seeing a forest sprite or fairy, dancing and flitting through old growth and flowers. A supernatural spotlight.

The Divine is palpable and alive in this place. The Creator is here in this beautiful meadow. It is ancient ways, knowledge and mystery, the connection between living things and continuous rebirth.

The cool morning air is becoming warmer as the sun continues its climb. I have been out here for a while, feeling as one with nature and this meadow. The early morning creature energy is slowing to a lazier, relaxed pace, slipping into the routine and warmth of late morning and early afternoon.

It is time to get on with the day. I feel melancholy and wistful as my time in the meadow comes to an end for this trip. Life will go on uninterrupted after I head down the mountain. It is as if I’m leaving part of myself here with the meadow to be picked up at my next visit; to recharge and restore what life has depleted. Is it strange to feel so connected to a place?  

Divine connections and encounters are a blessing. It feels like hope.  I will treasure these sights, scents, and sounds until next time, when I sense the meadow’s welcoming arms and soothing call to come and sit a spell.

Nostalgia

It’s going to be another hot day, so I’m up early.  I head to the patio and warm coffee comes with me. There is a slight chill, oh so slight, but I can feel it on my skin.

There is something vague and wistful in the way the air feels this morning. The hint of the warmth that’s to come, mixed in with that slight chill. It feels so familiar.

It’s the way the light is coming up over the apple tree, shadows from the branches falling just so on the green grass and touching the edges of the 3-tiered fountain. The yellowy-white light pulls at my memory; I’ve seen this light before. I know it.

I hear it in the way the finches, bold blue jays and grey titmouse call and chatter. Fuzzy squirrels scampering and digging in the grass and garden tug at something hovering in my mind.

The scent in the air has a subtle, comforting, reminiscent quality to it that dances on the fringe of memory. It’s happy and calming; stirring up a sentimental longing and wistful affection for something… Is it a specific memory or snippets of various memories stirred up by the sight, sound, scent of this peaceful morning? I wonder…

Sitting here at the pine table I allow my thoughts go where they will.

The scent in the air, the light and the creature sounds call up memories of my grandparents’ house in Lakehead, CA. I loved this place! It was nestled in and around pine trees with squirrels and birds galore! I recall the warm, safe scent of those pine trees, the dusty earth, and bubbling excitement of walking through the wooded area to the little market with my grandma. Exciting!

In the warm afternoons, the blue kiddie pool was set up in the backyard under some shady pine trees. Buckets, cups, Barbies, and various other toys made for a fun and easy afternoon. I think time stood still for a bit. My grandma sat in the shade on her 70’s era lawn chair with a sweating glass of sweet tea and chatted with me. Always the safe, old, lovely scent of warm pine and earth.

I remember the thrill and exhilaration of hurtling down a big hill near their house in my little red wagon with the pine-y wind in my face – what a memory of freedom and adventures. I looked forward to the summer-night strolls to visit neighbors and see a few deer as we walked along. Pleasant and friendly.

The sound of scampering squirrels on my fence reminds me of hearing pattering squirrel feet run over the roof of their house and my grandpa’s garage in the early mornings. The garage was a wonderful place. It was full of gadgets, boxes of nails and rakes, the fishing gear, and all sorts of fun things to play with and examine. It had the distinct smell of cars and a tangy scent of oil and gasoline. Order and routine, everything in its place.

I can smell the fishy, earthy, watery scent of Lake Shasta where my grandpa, my Dad and I spent many hours on his boat fishing and motoring around the lake, stopping in the small, quiet coves to cool off and swim. Even in the summer heat, there was the distinct lake chill that danced above the water. Dinner of fresh caught fish back at the house gave me such a warm, cozy, homey feeling. We sat and ate on the enclosed porch at the picnic table, talking and laughing about the highlights of the day. As the adults talked on into the summer night, I would drowse and day dream.

Yes, these are cherished memories. Interesting how a subtle scent on the air, a ray of sunlight and nature sounds have the power to trigger the mind and bring these memories flooding back.

I wish I could go back to relive those parts of life to recapture the feelings and sensations. Happy memories of pleasant times where life seemed simpler, sweeter, and not so complex. I often feel this way around the holidays as I look at old pictures of my family gathered around a festive table, carving a pumpkin, or sitting by the Christmas tree.  When I look at paintings of the holidays in times past, there is a wistful, yearning feeling of wanting to be there. Nostalgia.

Life can be chaotic and unpredictable. I wonder if our adult brains unconsciously seek out the sights, scents, and sounds of those times where things were ordered, reliable, safe, and predictable. I think God wired us to treasure and preserve those moments. We can pull them from our heart-memories as a comfort and break from the monotony and loneliness of life. Blessings.

I think I will pray that nostalgia visits me often, like an old, dear friend; full of comfort, comradery, and memories to make me smile. What a gift!

Sowing and Reaping

Galatians 6:7-10 (The Message) “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So, let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”

While sipping my coffee early this morning I came across the above verse in Galatians. “What a person plants, he will harvest.” Hmm. The words “will harvest” do not give any wiggle room, do they? The Apostle Paul is not mincing words when he penned this verse. We WILL harvest what we plant. If we choose to plant acid words, toxic behavior, and selfishness, we WILL harvest these very things in our lives. The very things we desperately want to avoid. What are we planting, and do we like what that harvest will produce and reproduce?

Imagine with me a typical day. In this day, each of us have myriad opportunities to plant good things, but will we?

We wake up tired and irritated due to a sleepless night. We throw ourselves out of bed, mentally ticking off all the things we must do. Our tread is heavy and annoyed as we head to the kitchen for our coffee. Waiting for it to brew, we decide it is unfair that everyone else sleeps soundly in our house and we become increasingly irritated noticing dirty dishes in the sink. The injustice of it all makes us choose to be noisier than necessary as we prepare coffee, feed the animals, and shove the offending dishes around in the sink. Making noise that might wake up the sound sleepers, which it does. This pervasive annoyance follows and taints the rest of the morning as we get ready for the day. We already decided it is going to stink and be full of further difficulties and irritations. The seeds are planted, and we unknowingly begin harvesting. Our encounters with others will have a ripple effect with lasting repercussions.

Sitting at a stop light, we refuse to let another driver merge in front of us who found herself in the wrong lane; too bad for them we think. Our rude stare and aggressive driving make us feel justified yet intensifies our frustration. Our actions plant seeds of fear, defensiveness, and worry in the woman to whom we refused to give a seed of grace. This hurtful and frightening exchange will travel with her as she goes about her day, infecting everyone in her sphere. The ripple effect. It is powerful.

At the grocery store, our demeanor is aloof and unreachable. The older man in the aisle with us attempts a friendly chat about the soup he is going to make for his lunch and how he enjoys good bread with that soup. We refuse to engage and throw an insincere half-smile his way, mumble and forcefully steer our cart further down the aisle, leaving him wounded, rejected and humiliated. Who has time for idle blabbing when we are tired and annoyed? Ripples.

In the checkout line, we queue up behind a mom with two young kids. They are noisy and difficult. Arrogant and nasty, we loudly sigh, passive – aggressively showing offense and annoyance, exasperating an already frazzled Mama. She wonders if she is failing at mothering…more ripples. Sowing and reaping, the day goes on with anger, hopelessness, pain, and grief as our harvest. It is a vicious cycle and one we could have redeemed.

What might have happened had we chosen to plant different seeds? We might wake up tired and moody. We might not want to dig deep and change our perspective to view ourselves as gardeners to another’s soul. That is tiring and hard and counter intuitive. But…we can vent all that frustration and exhaustion to our Father who gives us strength and energy to plant seeds of hope, happiness, peace, and compassion. 

The irritating driver in the wrong lane is on her way to a Dr appointment that has her terrified and unable to concentrate for fear of test results. Planting seeds of compassion and kindness, by letting her in front of us with a friendly wave and smile, will vastly change the trajectory of her day. Our compassion might infuse her with peace, safety, and warm feelings of human kindness. A harvest of peace and compassion with lasting ripples.

The older man in the grocery store is suffering from deep grief and loneliness after the loss of his cherished wife. This was his first outing since her passing, and he simply needed to be seen, heard, and shown genuine kindness. By stopping to chat about how tasty soup and good bread can be, his loneliness is held at bay for a few minutes. Planting seeds of time, attention, kindness, and companionship grant him the confidence that he can do this; that he will be ok. He will know that he is seen, worth noticing and not a forgotten, old face in a sea of humanity. A harvest of compassion, healing and comfort that cost us a few moments.

The mom in the checkout line feels like a failure; like she cannot do this right and is not fit to be a mother. Planting seeds of compassion, encouragement, humor, and camaraderie in parenting let her know she is seen and understood, infusing her with confidence and patience with her children. Realizing she is doing a good job and is not alone and forgotten in this, will completely rework the tone and outcome of the day for her and her children.

We get to choose how we interact with those God places in our path. We choose what seeds we plant. It is a choice, and it is not an easy one. It takes asking the One who is perfectly unselfish, perfectly compassionate, full of mercy, loving and all wise, to give us His strength, discernment, and love.

I am grateful for the days that my family, friends and total strangers make the choice to plant good things into my soul. The smile from a stranger, the friendly exchange over berries in the produce aisle, the text “Hey, thinking of you today,” or an unexpected compliment on a day that is tough, carry so much weight. Bad days are transformed in minutes by someone with a heart full of good seeds, who takes a moment to plant a few in mine. These seed planters will reap a harvest of goodness, generosity, compassion and hope with the potential to reproduce one hundred-fold. This is the garden I want to be known for; one that produces good and makes a positive dent in my little sphere.

My Garden

My garden is a quiet place; a tranquil oasis that beckons when my mind and body are overwhelmed, parched and in need of peace.  The haphazard, random way I choose the spot for each plant may feel a bit chaotic to the more organized and regimented soul, but for me, I find immense peace and joy in the random and untamed order of it all. There is peace and rest in the chaos. 

The purple Catmint and Lantana along with the bright yellow Yarrow are a riot of tumbling blooms that spread as they wish; seeming to luxuriate in their boldness to overtake what they will. The white Guara, reaching high, looks like little butterflies dancing about on the wavy stems. The gentle Lavender is unassuming and lovely yet dominates its corner of the garden. The Sage, Fuchsia, Freesia, Primrose, and Geranium show off gorgeous splashes of purples, reds, pinks, and yellows, while the stately ferns are calming with their greenery.  A favorite scent of Jasmine wafts on the air as it climbs the fence and trellis.

There are fairies, angels, memorials to beloved pets and random garden décor that also grace my garden. Seeing them peeking out from around a mass of flowers makes me smile. The unexpected amid chaos and beauty…

Chattering and bubbly, the 3-tier fountain splashes and soothes; water cascading down the pineapple top tier, beckoning birds to take a sip and a bath. It’s calming to watch and listen as they bathe, call, and survey the garden, hunting for choice grubs and seeds. Two more birdbaths are placed throughout the yard to host birds, as well as squirrels, opossums, bees, and the occasional neighborhood cat.

The tall, purple-bloomed Butterfly Bush and the Fuji apple tree provide shade for the stone bench underneath their branches. It’s in another part of the garden which provides a different perspective; one can feel hidden, and a bit removed while resting there.

When it’s time to do some pruning, the honeybees and large black and yellow bumblebees allow me access to their plants while keeping a sharp eye on my activity.  Some fly up near my head and hover there, inspecting me and gauging my intentions. Respect and harmony in the garden.

Sitting at the wood picnic table I watch all the garden life and activity. Nourishment, community, rest, and safety happen here, as God’s creatures bathe, pollinate, eat, and gossip, doing what they were made to do. I love being part of it all, in my little slice of nature.

Perhaps if you close your eyes, you will hear the chatter of the birds as they gossip, sip and search for breakfast along the fence and under the flowers. Maybe you will discover a hidden fairy or turtle and see the busy bees flitting with purpose from bloom to bloom. The perky splash of the 3-tiered fountain might soothe and restore peace to your soul. Some of the heaviness you carry might lift, as you listen to the bold, russet squirrels scolding the big, black crows over peanuts; the scent of Jasmine swirling around you on the puffy breeze.

The tinkling wind chimes add their flavor of peace, as all the elements of the garden blend beautifully, order yet chaos, to bring serenity and restoration to a tired soul. The Creator uses this small oasis, in the middle of a neighborhood, to blend the right mix of joy, rest, peace and chuckles at creature antics to refresh and restore the spirit. Now it’s time to begin the day and hide in my heart the peace and refreshment I found in my garden.

Exciting News!

Hi friends! I have some exciting news to share with you – I have written a book called Divine Encounters!

It’s been edited by Pia Edberg at http://www.piaedberg.com and is now in the beginning stages of cover and layout design with Karolina Wudniak at http://www.karolinawudniak.com. This has been a long time coming!

Divine Encounters is Christian/spiritual devotion and prose book. I am a firm believer that people seek and find the Divine in everything from ordinary life to spending time in nature. In times of chaos and confusion there is always hope, redemption and healing waiting to be found. I love how ordinary life, a walk in the park, and every day circumstances become Divine encounters, when we allow our hearts, ears, and eyes to be open to it. The Divine is all around us.

I am passionate about this book and getting it into the hands of those who need the words God’s given me. Everything I have written has personally touched a place in my heart that God knew needed encouragement and joy, as well as hope and healing.  

I will be self-publishing Divine Encounters as an eBook and paperback via KDP and will keep this blog updated as the release date gets closer. An author Facebook page and Instagram account are in the works! I appreciate every one of you who have read my blog, subscribed to it, and encouraged me to keep on writing! Blessings on you!

Cheers!

Melissa

Soul Garden

In the early light of this Spring morning, I survey my garden. Hot coffee warms my chilled hands. Birds line up along the edge of the fence and sit in the leafy, budding plum tree. The squirrels peer and chatter from the branches of the fig and apple trees, letting me know I’m late. They wait for the thistle, peanuts and cracked corn they expect me to toss out for them.

From my seat at the patio table, I see that the new plants I have carefully placed in the earth, along with the returning perennials, are thriving and sending up their tender shoots.  The time, energy, sweat and joy that fertilized them is paying off. It is exciting to see new life and growth return after a season of quiet resting.

Mother Nature begins her whispering and coaxing, and the tender new growth responds. So much happens below the surface, before these tender stems and leaves are ready to push upward and outward. Root systems are established and require a certain amount of strength and depth before sending up the shoots. It’s all carefully orchestrated and set in motion when the Creator determines the timing is just right.

As I admire my garden, a thought begins to take shape in my mind, and I wonder where Jesus is going with it. What if the fellow humans I encounter in life, are like a garden of the soul? I start with a plot of earth and carefully turn, work, and fertilize the dirt with time, tears, laughter, and love. As I bump up against these people, I smile in delight as I find just the ones to add to my soul garden. They fit perfectly! I scoop them up, carefully and gently planting them; nurturing, and tending, removing weeds and obstacles, giving time and attention. I watch as tendrils of common interest, branches of stability and longevity, flowers of laughter, buds of adventure, and the fragrance of kindness and vulnerability perfume my garden. Everything blends well and the beauty is nourishing to my soul. Peaceful. Safe. I belong.

However, not all the flowers and bushes are thriving and healthy in my soul garden. Some are old, spent and have lived out their flowering season, taking up the space where another might thrive. The annuals were there for a season and won’t return but leave behind nice memories. Some have become hardened, woody, and impenetrable, no longer blooming, or showing any growth.  Others stubbornly resist any sort of pruning, fertilizing or change and stay stumped and thwarted, no longer lovely.  The Master Gardener says it is time to begin weeding.

Weeding the soul garden can be sad, hard, and frightening, but necessary. I get to choose, and so do you, who and what is allowed to take up space there. These choices can mean life, joy and flourishing for our souls or stunted growth, disappointment and hurt.  There is a lot that is bound up in the roots of who I allow in that sacred place. Layer upon layer of energy, laughter, tears, shared history, and effort are mixed and blended to keep it all alive. The dying back, pruning and even the uprooting of those that were carefully planted, can be brutal and harsh, leaving a hole and a void for loneliness to sprout up.

I believe that Jesus views that hole and the loneliness as a prime plot of land in which to plant Himself. It is impossible to have a need that He cannot meet. In the loneliness of the weeding season, He will pour into us all of Himself.  He is enough.  We are seen, we are safe, and we are known. Our needs will be met, and our roots will be strengthened and built up for the growing season that is to come. The dirt in our soul garden will be nurtured and watered with His wisdom, healing, and joy, but He will sift, filter, and discard all that is not in sync with His master plan. That is painful, yet we know there is beauty in this pain. He knows why a once vibrant and healthy-looking part of our soul garden now needs to be pruned or uprooted and completely removed. He sees all that is going on underneath the surface, where growth takes place and roots either thrive or rot.  He knows when our souls need a respite from nurturing others, so we can be nurtured, replenished, and tended to with love, attention, and mercy by the Master Gardener. The world and all that is in it, is still at His beck and call. He is fully aware of those others who are coming along in the next seasons; those who will once again cause us to gasp, smile and make room in our garden for a bloom with the exact fragrance needed, in just the right season, for our souls to thrive. There is peace in knowing that after an anonymous winter of quiet cultivation by our Father, a lovely, bursting spring is waiting to captivate us with the joy of new growth and unexpected blooms. Psalm 126:5-6 (New Living Translation) says, “those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”