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.

Lessons from the Sea Turtle

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. –Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

When my husband and I visited the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island, I became fascinated with sea turtles.

I learned that Mama Sea Turtle lays her eggs—as many as 120 at a time—in a nest she digs on a sandy beach, far enough away from the shoreline that the tides won’t reach it, yet close enough for the baby turtles to make their way to their ocean home once they’ve hatched and climbed out of the nest.

Sixty days after they’re laid, the eggs hatch, and the hatchlings make their way to the shoreline. Thirty to 35 years later, females will return to the beaches where they hatched to lay their own eggs.

The baby turtles’ lives are fraught with danger—mostly from predators on land and in the sea—but the period they are most vulnerable is when they make their trek from the nest to the shoreline.

Once they’ve hatched, the little turtles head for the brightest horizon. Hence during hatching season the lights on beachfront buildings are turned off and residents close their window blinds at night so the hatchlings don’t head for the wrong light.

Not only are they exposed to predators on their dash to the sea, but also they’re in danger of dehydration from the sun. Many don’t make it.

Yet helping them get from nest to surf is not in the best interest of the turtles. Although it’s a time fraught with danger, it’s necessary for the young turtles to make the trek themselves.

The crawl to the ocean allows them to wake up—remember they are only hours old. Alertness, mobility, and strength increase as they move.

The trek is also an important part of a complicated process whereby their surroundings are imprinted on the brains of the baby turtles, so the females will return to the very beaches where they hatched to lay their own eggs.

I liken the hatchlings’ crawl to the ocean to the times in our lives when we, too, have to muddle through. Let’s take a lesson from the sea turtle.

First, head for the right light. Many false lights clamor for our attention, but only one Light is the right one that will lead us to our eternal home. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Second, know the trek is necessary. The trial will make you stronger. It will refine you: “For you, O God, have tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10). It will develop perseverance and maturity: “The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3–4).

Also, trials purify your faith: “These (trials) have come so that your faith—of even greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine” (1 Peter 1:7).

And finally, the trials impress upon us that our lives are not random wanderings. We were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27)—thus we bear His imprint. “He has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). After our sojourning, which will include many times of trial, we’ll find our way to home—and our Creator—again.

Thank you, Jesus, for being the Light that guides me through the muddling times and to home. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 42.

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