My Garden

All through junior and senior high, one of my chores was to keep the two, long, dichondra parkways weed-free.

Dichondra is fragile. I had to be gentle, so I didn’t hurt the grass while still getting the root of each weed.  But no matter how carefully I worked to get out the root, I had to weed those parkways over and over again.

I hated those weeds. Image

And they kept coming back.

I finally got to stop worrying about the weeds when I started college. Goodbye dichondra; hello a parkway full of weeds, just like every other house on the block.

Now I have a different kind of weed problem. Weeds of pride, bitterness, and resentment that grow in the soil of my fragile heart.

Pride that my way is fantastic. My way in a long list of things I am proud I do well: in how I keep my house clean (even though I work), spend time in His Word, keep up with new research in my field of teaching, accomplish so many things each day, send encouragement cards to people, and on and on and on.

Bitterness and resentment that others aren’t nearly impressed with what I do as I am. They keep pointing out the flaws in all of the things in which I take such pride.

Just like the weeds in my parents’ lawn, no matter what I do, I can’t get rid of these weeds. I try, over and over, but they keep springing back up.

How do I get rid of them?

The only way to have a weed-free garden is to admit who the true gardener, the vine, and the branch are.

 John 15:1-4

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

God is my gardener. He doesn’t want me to plan my own garden. Or weed it. When I try to deal with the ugliness of my weeds on my own, I stop growing. The weeds take over. It’s ugly.

God’s garden will be more beautiful than anything I could dream of. His plan is always for my good. He takes into account my fragile heart, just like I tried to be gentle with the dichondra.

He will make sure what grows in my garden is the best and highest quality.

What is my job, then? Abide, remain, stay, cling to the Vine—Jesus.

John 15: 5-8 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

I am getting ready to start a new school year. I want it to be a fruitful one. A year where other teachers, students, and their parents do not see the weeds of pride, bitterness, resentment, or annoyance and impatience.

Instead, they will see the beautiful garden planted and maintained by God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22)

God’s fruit.

No weeds. Image

I pray the Gardener gets the glory. All of it. Because without Him, I’m just a patch of weeds.

Rest, Relax, Enjoy

Do you ever feel like God is trying to tell you something? I know I do!

God speaks to me in a variety of ways: through His Word (both when I read my Bible and when I’m thinking about something going on in my life and a verse of Scripture pops into my brain); through the words of other people like my pastor, my husband, friends, and coworkers; through reading Christian books and blogs by Christian writers.

Lately, God has been saturating my life with the same message over and over again. Be still and know that I am God Psalm 46:10.

What that means for me right now is do less.

Don’t worry so much about getting so much done. Don’t keep a to-do list that is so full I never stop going and am so exhausted by the end of the day, I can’t focus on anything except wanting to sleep.

Rest. Relax. Enjoy.

Sit on the patio with coffee and His Word in the morning. Linger there, even if the bed isn’t made yet and the laundry is overflowing in hamper. Watch the birds at the bird feeder and enjoy their symphony, their color, their play. Listen to the wind chime.

Be amazed at all the colors of summer flowers, the clouds and all their shapes and sizes, the lizard sun-bathing on the back fence.

Laugh with my husband.


Take a nap.

Ann Voskamp writes, “Life is not an emergency.”

The blogs I follow keep saying the same thing: I am free in Christ, and He is enough. Check out these links to be encouraged and rest in the arms of God.
thank our Heavenly Father for both the freedom from sin, and the freedom to serve.

Be glad it’s Friday today. It’s July and the days are long, the sky is blue, and there’s a lounge chair on the patio waiting for you.

Traveling Light

Whenever I go anywhere that requires I pack a suitcase, I take more than I need.

If you’ve read my earlier post, “Decisions, Decisions”, you know I hate to make decisions. Packing requires a lot of decisions, and I question myself for every single item I do or do not put into my suitcase.

What if I take the wrong things? What if I’m cold? (I’m almost always cold unless I’m outside and it’s 80 degrees or higher). But, even if it’s cold inside, what if it’s hot outside? What if someone wants to go somewhere, will I need casual or dressy attire? I need hair-care products. I need make-up. I need coordinated shoes and jewelry and sweaters. And probably a blanket.

It takes me a week to figure out what to take.Then I change my mind. I pack; I unpack; I repack. I mutter to myself. Until finally, ready or not, I zip the suitcase and go, telling myself if I need something I didn’t bring, I can always get it when I arrive at my destination.suitcase

In reality, I always have a lot more stuff than I’ll ever need. Most of the stuff I drag with me sits, unused, in my suitcase..

I have way too much baggage. Most of it is unnecessary and a waste of time. I spend more time worrying about it and rearranging it than I do using it.

It steals the fun of the journey.

It weighs me down.

It gets in the way of what’s important: enjoying the time I have with other people.

So, why do I insist on carrying all of this baggage? What am I so afraid of? What am I trying to prove?

More importantly, who am I trying to please? Someone I don’t know? A person I don’t think respects me enough? Someone who already loves me, warts and all? Myself?

Here’s a better question: who do I NEED to please?

Answer: only God.

To please Him, I don”t need baggage. I don’t even need luggage. Not. One. Thing.

The one thing God asks for is faith.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

He freely gives me His love. I don’t need to bring Him anything in return. He loves me so much, He takes the burden of all that unneeded baggage and replaces it with the very best–His Son.

I don’t need to waver or worry or pack or unpack and repeat.

Then, with nothing weighing me down, I have more than I ever need. Again and again, Jesus told His followers and His critics faith allowed His power to work in their life. Faith as small as a mustard seed.

Luke 17:6
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

I need to release my grip on what I think is needed and give the baggage to Him.

Matthew 11:29-30
Come to me all, who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light

In return, I get gifts I could never pack on my own: love; peace; joy; eternal life; a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the God of the universe.


Freedom from my guilt and shame for not measuring up. Freedom from every sin. Freedom from what others expect or think. Freedom from what I think or expect of myself. Freedom from what I think and expect of others.

I only need one thing: the saving grace of Jesus, given to me by God. I don’t deserve it. I didn’t earn it.

I can travel without a suitcase.

I have what I need: redemption because of Jesus. God’s gift to me.

What more could I possibly ever need?

Decisions, Decisions

A teacher makes 4000 decisions a day. At least that’s what I read while doing some pre-requisite reading before going to AVID training next week. I have no idea whether that statistic is true, but I know that no matter how carefully I plan, no week, no day, no class period ever unfolds the way it looked on paper.


That means I have to make a lot of split-second-don’t-think-just-act-decisions 180 days a year.

I don’t even like to make decisions.

I would even call myself indecisive.

So when I have to actually THINK about a choice, I have a very hard time deciding. Sometimes—maybe even a lot of times—I avoid making a decision at all, if I can.


I’m worried I’ll be wrong. Or someone might disagree with me. Or think I’m stupid. Or selfish.

While I was at the store today to get the travel-sized stuff for my trip to Sacramento, you would have thought I was trying to decide foreign policy. I picked little containers up and put them down. I tried other ones. I spent 30 minutes juggling shampoo, mouth-wash, deodorant, lotion, and other sundries.

Then I tried to find a bag to put them in. That took another 15 minutes. Until I realized that the stuff wouldn’t all fit in a bag I was willing to pay for.

So I started over. Really.

I finally ended up with empty bottles I can fill myself. I hope it works.

This, I know, is ridiculous.

Why do I worry so much? Why am I so afraid of being wrong?

Why do I forget this truth:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. (Philippians 4: 4-8)

I know it doesn’t matter which shampoo I take on a trip, or if the restaurant I recommended is one is the one that is chosen. Those are things I shouldn’t dwell on.

It does matter if I am trusting God. When I worry over something silly, it points to a bigger issue—I am not thinking about the only One I need to please. Instead of thinking about God, I’m worried about what someone else will think or how I will appear to others. I’m taking my focus off of God and putting it on myself. That is pride.

When I put my focus where it belongs, on God, then my demeanor will be gentle: kind, compassionate, and caring to others. I’ll be confident in what God will do; I’ll be aware of His Presence and His care for me.

I’ll remember all God has already done for me—all the good—and I will bring glory to Him. Not because I bought the right shampoo or chose a restaurant someone else likes, but because I am letting God guard my heart and my mind.

Guard: protect.

Because even if my decision is foolish, or ridiculed, or even wrong,I can have peace. A peace so amazing, it defies description. Peace because I am loved by God and forgiven by Him.

Choosing to accept the gift of Jesus, the forgiveness of my sin, amazing grace was the best decision I ever made.

A decision that means I can rejoice always.

How about you?

Things I Learned in June

  1. Blogging is more fun and also more work than I thought it would be. I started a blog called Uncharted Water after my husband encouraged me I had things to say that others would be interested in hearing. After I attended the (in)RL conference, the co-hosts, Jacque Watkins and Denise Hughes, also said I had stories to tell about how God was working in my life. I am enjoying putting ideas together, but figuring out the mechanics of blogging is something I need to keep improving.
  2. Four questions to ask before making a decision. My husband and I attended a short small group based on Andy Stanley’s book, Your Move, and I was inspired by his ideas and ways of asking questions to help me think through things from God’s perspective.
  3. Using baking soda in the water when you hard boil eggs makes them easier to peel. I read this helpful hint on Pinterest and it really worked!
  4. I needed to write an introduction and explanation about my Joy Journals–I started my third one with gift #2864  on June 23. My husband watches me work on it frequently, but as I finished my second journal, he asked, “Are these something like an heirloom others will look at when you’re gone and find meaningful, or are they too personal and just for you?” I thought I’d explained it before, but I decided to write an introduction in my third journal. When I read it to Van, he seemed to understand better. Maybe someday, he’ll start counting God’s gifts to him!
  5. Always wear my swimming suit when I go to the beach. I guess I stopped a couple of years ago when I put on a lot of weight following the death of my daughter. Coupled with the fact I never go in the water, because I think it’s too cold, meant I stayed in my jean capris if it was warm or in my sweats if it was chilly (chilly for me is anything below 70). But last week I went to the beach with my daughter, Erin, and granddaughter, Katie, and I missed out on having fun swimming with Katie because I couldn’t go all the way in the water. At least I wasn’t a hopeless stick-in-the-mud; I rolled up the capris and got as wet as I could in my non-swimming friendly clothes would allow. Next week, I’m wearing my suit!