The Lone Tulip

 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9 NIV 

I noticed it one spring day coming up the driveway after work: a lone, bright red tulip swaying in the breeze in front of the stone foundation.

“Where did that come from?” I wondered. I’d given up planting flowers—or anything, for that matter—because either the country critters consume them or our stubborn soil defeats their efforts to grow and blossom.

Then, slowly, a memory surfaced: About twenty-some years earlier, I’d ordered a hundred spring bulbs from a seed catalog and planted them in a stone-bordered circular flower garden in the front yard. My dream was to have some kind of flower in bloom all through the growing season. 

With the exception of the marigolds, though, few seeds I planted even sprouted, and what did struggled to survive. Those bulbs I planted with so much hope ended up in some deer’s stomach. 

But where did this lone tulip come from? In my sketchy memory, I thought I’d planted them all in the circular flower garden. 

“I must have planted a few along the foundation,” I reasoned.

I’m not an expert, so I have no idea how or why, after more than two decades, that lone tulip pushed up out of nowhere through the spring soil and now stood tall and proud in the soft spring sun. 

But I thought about that lone tulip and what it could mean. I thought of the seeds I’d planted in service to Him, hoping they would someday come to fruition. How many had sprouted? How many were growing in their faith? Thriving? How many were serving God? Of the ones I knew, very few. How disheartening! To think you pour your heart and soul into something or someone, and, like my failed flower garden, nothing grows. Were all my efforts in vain?

Sometimes we get too caught up in results, in numbers, in feedback. The business world tells us to put our efforts where we know we get results. But God’s service is not the business world. I thought of the greatest seed-planter in the Bible—Paul. He wasn’t caught up in the numbers game. He knew what his job was and kept his focus on that.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow,” he wrote (1 Corinthians 3:6).

It’s hard being on the front lines of service. In this results-and-rewards-minded world, it’s difficult not to evaluate our efforts by the outcome. But God tells us not to look at results but to keep our eyes fixed on Him (Hebrews 12:1–4). 

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm,” Paul wrote. “Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

 When I’m feeling like I’m a failure in Your service, Lord, remind me that You are the One who makes my life’s garden grow. Give me the strength and fortitude to keep on planting, even if I don’t see the blossoms until eternity. Amen.

MORE TEA: Read and reflect on Psalm 126:5–6.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

TLC and the Impossible

Is anything too hard for the LORD? —Genesis 18:14 NIV

That horse manure sure did the job.

I canned fifteen quarts of fresh tomatoes. And there was still more on the porch and plants.

We hadn’t planned on having so many tomatoes—and I sure hadn’t planned on canning ever again. At this stage of the game, I wasn’t looking for more work. All we wanted was a small garden so we could enjoy a few fresh fruits and vegetables. 

So, in the spring we bought a half dozen tomato plants and a couple of pepper plants, put in a row of green beans, and scattered a few cucumber seeds. And, since our soil is absolutely horrible when it comes to supporting anything we sow, my DH (dear husband) dumped on a healthy heaping of horse manure.

Then our son gave us a dozen tomato plants and a half  dozen pepper plants—leftovers which had languished for at least a week, unwanted and uncared for, after he’d planted his garden. 

DH is not a man to waste anything. He plowed and harrowed another section in the yard, planted the donations, and fenced it in. He had such fun. I didn’t mind because never in my wildest dreams did I imagine those drooping, half-dead, pathetic plants would produce so much. It must have been the manure. Or the weather. Or luck. Or maybe it was the tender loving care DH lavished on them.

People can be like those dying, castoff tomato plants—without a hope until someone says, “I’m going to try to save you,” and then prepares a place where they can grow undisturbed, nourishes them, plucks the weeds, and lovingly cares for them. Sometimes our efforts make a difference. Sometimes they don’t. But I believe we are better for trying. And you never know when the turnaround will come.

I tend to cast people off as hopeless cases at times, too. Their needs are just too great, their problems too overwhelming. The answer is, in my eyes, impossible. 

But I forget. Our God is the God of the impossible. Is anything too hard for Him? He who spoke creation into being, whose mighty power calmed the winds and stilled the storm—and transformed life after life after life? He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He who cares for the insignificant sparrow can take droopy, half-dead, castoff human beings, transplant them, and nurture them until they, too, produce a harvest. Look at Sarah and Abraham. Mary Magdalene. Zacchaeus. Matthew. Paul. 

My own eyes have seen the transformation of a man whom I thought was an impossible case. A castoff with more problems than I thought even prayer could handle. But God showed me different. Impossible? For God—nothing is impossible. 

It just goes to show—never count anyone (or anything) down and out—no matter what it appears like. You never know what a little TLC will do.

 Dear God, help me never to give up on anyone—ever. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Isaiah 55:8–13.

 From God, Me, and a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional reading to savor during your time with God, © 2017, Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.