Soil Toil

Image by mwahl from Pixabay

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. –Psalm 95:7–8 NIV

Every year when it’s time to plant our garden, my husband works hard to prepare the soil for the seeds.

First he plows, turning the hardened earth over and under. Then he tills it, breaking up tough clumps of sod and removing the rocks that rise to the surface with the churning—and there are buckets full still, after forty years. Then he works lime and fertilizer in the loose soil with the tiller—and, of course, removes more rocks.

Only when the soil is loose and porous, and boosted with nutrients necessary for plant growth does he drop in the seeds.

Even then his soil toil is far from over. Throughout the growing season, he must keep working it, tilling it to keep it loose and soft, plucking those endless rocks, pulling weeds, and periodically adding more lime and fertilizer.

After every hard rain, the soil hardens again, more rocks appear, and he must hoe around the growing plants so the nutrients they need to grow could filter through to the roots. And, of course, pick rocks.

Even after the harvest the work isn’t done. Plowing the whole thing under allows the decaying plants to add more nutrients to the soil over the winter.

Then, the following spring, he starts all over. The ground always needs work.

Just like our souls. We need a lot of work, too—over and over. The work is never done on this earth.

It all starts with a hardened heart that cannot accept the seed. To get our attention, God often turns our lives upside-down, breaking up tough clumps of stubbornness and rebellion. Then, to soften our hearts even more, He keeps things churned up until we are submissive and workable. Rocks of selfishness and willfulness, which crop up daily, must be removed. Storms of life also tend to bring them to the surface.

But the seed needs nutrition to grow, and too many idle years result in a depleted soul, fallow and barren. To remedy this, the lime of prayer and the fertilizer of fellowship with more mature Christians must be applied—by the bagful.

But we’re not ready to produce a harvest yet, are we? Those weeds of worldliness must be carefully twisted out of our hearts, where their roots reach deep, leeching the nutrients and choking the tendrils of spiritual life.

Only after all this toil—plowing, tilling, hoeing, rock plucking, fertilizing, watering, weeding—can our soil-soul support growth and eventually produce a harvest.

But there is never, really, any one type of soil, is there? Perhaps that’s why I’ve always had trouble answering the question, “What kind of soil are you?”

I am not one type of soil, you see. I am all of them.

Dear God, thank You that soil can be changed. Thank You for changing me—little by little, rock by rock, weed by weed. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 13:3–9, 18–23.

From God, Me, and a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Contact me @ michelethuey@gmail.com if you wish to use this.

My Black Thumb

 

Viola
Viola

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 (NKJV)

Every year I get flowers for Mother’s Day. And every year by July Fourth they’re pathetic looking. Or gone to that great garden in the sky. The healthiest looking ones—if you even want to use the word “healthy”—are all leaves and no blossoms.

Why don’t they bloom? I wondered. I water them when the soil is dry, pouring until the water exits from the hole in the bottom of the pot. (Okay, sometimes the plants are wilted before I remember.) I feed them plant food every other week, using a special kind called “Bloom Booster.” I follow the directions on the package and measure carefully to make sure I don’t use too much or too little. I remove the dead blossoms faithfully.

Vinnie (Vinca Minor)
Vinnie (Vinca Minor) 

Do I water them too much and the roots rot out? Or too little? Maybe my body emits too much static electricity (which is why I can’t wear watches) and that affects them.

Even my kids teased me when the church gave flower plants for Mother’s Day: “Pick your next victim, Mom.”

Every year the flower season begins with so much hope. And every year that hope wilts and dies with the blossoms. I concluded that I simply have a black thumb.

This year I decided no flowers. I wasn’t going to put myself (or them) through the angst.

But my husband surprised me on Mother’s Day with a hanging basket of petunias and a flat of marigolds and petunias.

My Pot of Gold
My Pot of Gold

Now, marigolds have always thrived in spite of me. But the petunias . . .

Sure enough, once the blossoms died, I had a green jungle.

“Where did all the flowers go?” my husband asked me one day.

“Oh, you know me and flowers,” I said. “They take one look at me and say, ‘Oh, it’s her’ and give up the ghost.”

“Are you . . .” He went through the now familiar checklist. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing . . . except . . .

“Wait!” I hurried to the kitchen and brought out the labels that came with the flowers, which gave detailed directions for the care of that particular plant.

The petunia’s label read “I love sun.” (And “I’m super easy to grow.” Right.)

“Maybe that’s why it isn’t blooming,” I said. “It’ supposed to get at least six hours of sun daily. It’s not getting enough sunlight.”

I’d hung the basket on the back deck, which gets plenty of light, but little to no direct sunlight. So I moved the plant to the sunny side of the deck. Sure enough, it began to perk up.

That was a couple of weeks ago. Today Viola (I named her, and, yes, I talk to her every day) is bursting with pink, purple, and white flowers.

One little detail—one important detail—made all the difference.

Just like the flowers, God created each person unique. Some thrive in the sun, others in the shade. It’s important to know the difference.

Petunia
Petunia

And it’s important not to compare.

The petunia, which loves the sun, doesn’t wish it were an impatiens, which thrives in the shade. Nor does the impatiens wish it were a petunia. They just bloom and give joy to all who gaze upon their beauty.

Shouldn’t we do the same?

 

Help me to be sensitive, Lord, to the way You made others. Give me the wisdom to perceive whether they thrive in the sun or in the shade, and to treat them accordingly. Amen.

Extra tea: Read and meditate on Genesis 1

Impatiens
Impatiens