Ode to Asparagus: A Story of Legacy Part 1

Ode to Asparagus Gardening Image

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

My Word Of The Year is…. LAUGHTER!  I think it’s kind of weird and I’m not sure what it may have in store for me but God has been clear so I’ll declare it. 

In the spirit of laughter, let me tell you a little gardening story at my own expense:

The very first Spring we moved to the Ranchito I had big dreams for my little garden.  I had spotted it the very first time we walked the property.  It was already plotted out and fenced in.  Now, it was a total mess, full of tumbleweeds and debris, but it was there and it was going to be mine.  As the weather began to warm, I was itching to get to work.  I labored weekend after weekend clearing the garden, pulling weeds, and repairing the fence and watering system (ok, my husband did that part but I held stuff).  After the tumbleweeds were gone and I could actually see the ground I noticed a little sprout and thought, “Hmmmm… that weed looks like asparagus.”  I promptly pulled it up and moved on.  The next weekend I went back out and found the same funny looking weed in the same spot and thought again, “Hmmm… that weed looks like asparagus,” and once again pulled it up.  By the third week, when I finally went out to plant my inaugural garden and found it resiliently popping it’s head up once again, I thought, “Hmmm… You know what? That IS asparagus!”  And it was.

So, like all master gardeners, I’m sure, I went straight to Google to research “planting asparagus” Here is what I found: 

Planting asparagus seeds in an exercise in patience, but one of the most rewarding of all garden tasks.  Asparagus seeds germinate slowly, and the crowns take three seasons before they can handle being harvested.”  Under “difficulty” is said, “Moderately difficult, requires patience.”

Obviously what I finally caught on to was the fact that someone before me had planted asparagus seeds in what would eventually be my little garden, and now I was reaping the harvest.  I didn’t have to be patient.  I didn’t have to wait three years for the the harvest.  I just walked right into my new garden and had asparagus. And honestly, the fact that there even was a garden there in the first place, with a fence and a watering system… I was reaping the benefits of someone else’s hard work.

What would 2019 look like if we all tended to our Spiritual Family Farm?  Our legacy… the one we were left and the one we are leaving?  

Even if we have never grown anything in our life, we are all familiar with the idea of the Family Farm… the plot of land, the tools, equipment, storehouse or barn, maybe even family homestead passed down from generation to generation.  And even if we have no inheritance in sight and not two pennies to leave anyone, we ALL have spiritually inherited land, and a harvest to sow into the next generation.

And not tending to the Spiritual Family Farm will neither make it disappear or flourish. 

Our legacy deserves our attention.  

What did you learn about God from your parents or family of origin?  What did you believe about yourself and the plans God had for your life because of the words they spoke or did not speak into or about you?  What about the cultural air that you have unconsciously breathed in your whole life?  The spiritual atmosphere of your times, your city, your gender?  How about the institutions that you were a part of, or NOT a part of?  Can you name the people in your life that mattered in your spiritual journey?  

As you tenderly walk the boundaries of your inherited land, the Spiritual Family Farm that was left to you, take note of what you see.  Is the equipment broken down?  Are there weeds to pull up?  Or is the storehouse full of harvested seed, ready for the next generation’s planting?

There is so much grace here because we did not get to choose the Spiritual Family Farm that was given to us.  I pray that you find yourself on the receiving end of the covenant of love to a thousand generations because of the legacy that was left for you (Deut. 7:9).  But the very good news is that no matter what you inherited, God’s mercies are new every morning, and every generation (Lam. 3:22-24).

In the Old Testament, God powerfully rescued His people from 400 years of Egyptian slavery through terrifying plagues, and the miraculous splitting of the Red Sea.  He sustained them with manna from heaven and fresh water out of rocks.  He led them with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.  He was faithful and tangible and present in their lives like we can only imagine.  When they reached the Land He had promised them, Moses sent 12 spies to scout it out.  And although God had led them there and called the land theirs, 10 of the 12 spies came back with a “bad report” (Ex. 13-14).  They told the people that though the land was indeed very good, the inhabitants were too many and too powerful to overtake.  And the people believed them and rebelled, rather than believe their God who had rescued and sustained and led them to that very place.  So as punishment, God sent the Israelites away from their promise to wander in the desert for 40 years until the entire doubting, faithless generation had passed away. 

But then we come to Deuteronomy 6 where we finally see Moses preparing the next generation to enter Canaan. In verses 10-12 we read; “When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you  – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

Remember, this was the same generation who had originally reaped the curse of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years because of the unbelief of their parents.  Their Spiritual Family Farm was literally desert until that day.  But here we witness God flipping the script for them.  Now they would reap what someone else had planted and be blessed by it, rather than cursed for it.

He can do the same for your Spiritual Family Farm this very year, but you may have to get a couple of important tools out of the shed.  

I would suggest forgiveness and gratitude.

Instructions to forgive and give thanks fill the Word of God.

We are commanded to forgive just as God forgave us.  Forgiveness never says that the iniquity, the hurt, or the offense was okay.  After all, THAT  is not how God forgave us.  He takes sin VERY seriously.  In fact, it is what nailed His beloved Son to the cross.  But forgiveness always paves the way for fruitfulness in our lives and in our legacy.  It is making a way for the dry, cracked dirt of our hearts, hardened by years of bitterness and pain to bring forth life again.

So as you walk the boundaries of the Spiritual Family Farm you inherited, are there people or institutions that you need to forgive?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal them to you for the sake of your fruitfulness and legacy in 2019.  Make a list.  Pray through it.  Maybe write a letter or make a lunch date.  Maybe not.  But do the hard work of plowing through that barren soil and trust that fruit will sprout in its wake.  It will be worth it.

I pray there are other names that you remember in gratitude…the names of people who pointed you to Jesus, who sowed into your Family Farm, who built the cities, filled the houses, dug the wells and planted the vineyards (and asparagus) you are reaping the harvests of today.

Psalm 77:11-12 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”  I don’t know about you, but very often in my life, the “mighty deeds” and “miracles of the Lord” come in the form of people.  He loves us and draws us to Himself through the other flawed image-bearers we share this earth with.  

Are there people you need to thank as you think about the Family Farm you received?  Did you learn to love the Word of God from your Mother?  Learn to pray by watching a Sunday school teacher?  Hear for the first time that someone believed in you from a coach?  Read a book that changed your life?  I know this for sure, there is no one in this world that is over-encouraged.  The work of gratitude is holy.  I can’t imagine a legacy more pleasing to the Lord and more needed in our world than one of thankfulness and encouragement.

Plow the fields of your inherited land with forgiveness and gratitude.  And come back for Part 2 as we discuss the Spiritual Family Farm that we are leaving to future generations.

Blessings and prayers for a Fruitful 2019.

Accidental Pumpkins (A Story of Hope)

I have a confession to make.

I didn’t plant a garden this year.  I wanted to so badly but life has a way of forging it’s own will.  Spring was filled with so many activities, and the tiller was broken, and the chickens needed a new coop, and every weekend rushed past, leaving us breathlessly holding never finished to-do’s.

I had to let something go.

But the hard part of letting something dear go is that you have to do it over and over and over again.  I let the dream of a garden go during planting season, and I have let the reality of it go every summer day that I have walked by the overgrown, unplanted plot of earth.  No fresh okra to fry.  No oversized zucchini to surprise me.  No joy-filled gardening mornings.  No harvest.  No life.

I have another confession to make.

My hope has felt a little like that as well.  Not in everything, certainly.  The summer has been full and sweet.  But when I have gotten good and still, I have realized there is hopelessness in some areas of my life.  It’s a tricky thing to name because it doesn’t knock loudly on your heart making itself known easily.  It hides behind bigger, boisterous feelings.  Frustration.  Anger.  Jealously.  Fear.  But when I peer beyond, look closely within, I find the root of hopelessness.

It whispers subtle thoughts in my head:

“Don’t work so hard on this project.  It doesn’t matter.”

“Voicing that dream will make you look stupid eventually.  Forget it.”

“This situation is never going to improve.  Just make peace with defeat.”

“Connecting/reconciling with others is too much work, and too much risk.  It’s not worth it.”

Anyone?

So I unknowingly let go of hope in those dead, unfruitful places.  And I let it go again and again as I continued to make agreements with that sneaky hopelessness.

Now, back to the garden… only not the garden.  Back to the wild patch of ground right on the other side of the house.  This forgotten spot comes up with the best surprises in summer- wildflowers grow tall, reaping the benefits of the yard’s sprinklers while protected from the go-kart racing.  My husband’s tractor and I fight constantly- me standing guard for my daisy, sun-flower friends, him telling me there are sure to be snakes in the tall grass.  I know he is right but the momentary, wild beauty is worth the fear.

And this year, there is an accidental pumpkin.

I spotted the large leaves vining their way through the flowers in the earliest summer days.  I have watched the yellow blooms open and close with promise.  And now, there is a pumpkin there growing bigger by the day.  Not just your run of the mill, jack-o-lantern kind either….  one of those peachy, orange fancy Cinderella ones that cost $20 at the grocery store in October. An accidental pumpkin in the middle of the wildflower patch… 200 feet from the unplanted, desolate garden.

In the letting go, I had forgotten an afternoon in late November when the Fall decor was being replaced with Christmas lights, and nativities.  The children were tasked with gathering pumpkins from the porches and hearth but rather than trashing them, I let them smash them instead.  They had a grand time taking baseball bats, and golf clubs, big sticks and boots to every size, shape, and shade of pumpkin over in that forgotten spot.  I remember a fleeting prayer about all those seeds flying, finding their way into the cold ground.  But this is west Texas, after all, and tumbleweeds are the only things that grow without effort.

Tumbleweeds and hopelessness.

But sometimes God is just incredibly sweet, and surprises us with something we hadn’t even dared to hope for.  Sometimes, in the fog of discouragement and disappointment, he delivers a gift out of nowhere.  We may be focused on an area that is not producing the life and fruit we had imagined, when we see the supernatural fruit of the unexpected in a patch of wildflowers.

Maybe it’s not all on us.  Maybe it’s not all about our own agendas.  Maybe we don’t have to work so hard.  Maybe that’s what we need to let go of.

The garden may still be overgrown.  The dream still may lay dormant for a season.  But I bet if we all look closely enough, we may find an accidental pumpkin… the produce of a forgotten day, a forgotten conversation, a forgotten investment, a forgotten seed.

And so we put the focus there.  We hang our hope where there is growth.  We focus on the places sprouting life, instead of walking around the same ‘ole dusty, dried up space.  Let go of the particulars.  Let go of the results.  It will usually look different than we thought.  But hope is dredged up with gratefulness, with a focus shift, with eyes to see where life is happening, with a daily fight for joy.

So no, that prayer was not answered the way I had wanted it to be.  There still isn’t clear victory in this fight that has torn at my heart for years.  The changing of the season is coming at me with disappointments already.  And that project that I sowed deeply into may not ultimately matter.  But there is life and blessings somewhere else, I’m sure of it.  I may have to look to the forgotten spaces, beneath the tall grass of my expectations, and mow down hopelessness to get a better view.

And no, there hasn’t been any okra to fry this summer.  There have been no zucchini dishes to thrill my children with (insert sarcasm).  The summer harvest has not been what I dreamed it would be.  But hope is growing peachy orange among the wildflowers.  And I’ll have an accidental pumpkin for the fall.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like.  A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed spouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain.”  Mark 4:26-28

The Daily Push Back

The Daily Push Back

I still marvel at it… the way that dreams can take twists and turns and dump you right out in a spot you never knew you wanted.  That is how I feel about my little Rancho among the tumbleweeds and sandstorms of west Texas.  Yesterday, as I pulled up to the gate, the old Dixie Chicks’ song “Wide Open Spaces” came on the radio and I began to cry.  I have loved that song since college (now I’m dating myself!!), but back then I didn’t even recognize the longing it was speaking to inside of me.  But yesterday I knew.  I saw it with my own teary eyes.  My very own wide open spaces, with my childhood cowboy, a herd of cow dogs, a flock of silly hens, and a bunch of free-ranging kids (and tumbleweeds and sandstorms).  The Ranchito really is my “unexpected promise land,” the one that little southern co-ed in the Dixie Chicks hat could have never imagined.

But do you want to know a secret?  My very favorite spot on these seven acres is not a wide open space at all.  It’s not the garden sprouting in the Spring, or the sunset porch showing off every evening.  It’s not the swimming pool filled to the brim with friends all summer, or the pasture where we pull the hayride every Fall Festival.  In fact, most visitors will never see this enchanting nook at all.  It’s a little patio enclosed by vine covered brick walls located between our bedroom and our daughters’.  We call it the “Bunny Courtyard” because in it our 3 pet rabbits run (hop?) free.  It also happens to be home to 2 turtles named “Cooper” and “David,” an accidental rooster named “Chickaletta” (long story for another day), quite a large family of not-so-shy mice, some free-loading dove, and unfortunately, the occasional slithering visitor.  (One day I am going to write a children’s book entitled “The Adventures of the Bunny Courtyard” because they are many- but for today, there are your introductions.) And in the warm Summer months, when the rush of school mornings are a memory, and postponed bed-times mean sleeping children, you can find me in the Bunny Courtyard as well… Bible, journal, countless books in hand… a mason jar of pretty pens, a cup of coffee, and. a sunrise.  Yes, and Amen!  So Jesus and I join the menagerie every morning, seated at the old garden table.  And sometimes He sends a hummingbird too, just to let me know He sees me… it’s kind of our thing.

bunny courtyard bible studySounds dreamy, right?

It is.  I feel like Cinderella many mornings out there holding a bunny in my lap while the turtles chomp a fresh leaf and the mice scurry behind the veil of vines, writing in my journal and reading my Bible.  The flowers bloom, the rooster crows, the bees buzz gently.  It is dreamy.

It is also a heck of a lot of work.

You see, those adorable little bunnies and I go round and round..  Literally.  They go around the edge to the dirt perimeter of the courtyard and they dig.  They dig and dig and dig.  And I go around behind them and I fill in the holes.  And I fill and fill and fill.  And that rooster, well, he poops.  He poops and poops and poops- usually on my pretty little table.  And I clean and clean and clean.  And the turtles are messy eaters leaving a trail behind of leftover tomatoes and old lettuce.  They munch and munch and munch.  And I sweep and sweep and sweep.

bunnies in the courtyard

Every day.  Every single morning.

Seriously.  And I have to do it all before I can sit and enjoy Jesus and the coffee and the dreamy and the hummingbirds.  Please get the very real picture in your mind of me at sunup, either in PJ’s, or sweaty workout clothes, slippered feet and a shovel, filling in holes, an old towel cleaning off poop, the push broom sweeping up the mess. Cinderella for sure.   The dreamy Bunny Courtyard mornings are very real.  The bunny petting and praying, the Bible studying and hummingbird watching – it is alive and well.  And so it the daily push back of dirt and poop and mess.

One could never be enjoyed without the the other being endured.  Every day.

I guess I don’t know any part of life that gets all cleaned up, all accomplished, all checked off and then it is finished.  I don’t know any aspect that stays beautiful and dreamy without the shoveling and sweeping.  Marriage?  Try shelving communication for a season – even a dreamy season- and see if you don’t have a mess to clean up.  Friendships?  Try just participating in the pretty and not the dirty and tell me how deep those relationships go.  Jesus?  Just show up in your Sunday best and ignore Him during the mid-week muck and mire and tell me if victory seems far off.   .

Here’s the thing: Rabbits were created with digging in their hearts.  If I am shocked every morning when I join them on their courtyard, that they have once again dug a makeshift den, then shame on me.  Chickens poop.  It’s what they do.  I know this and am prepared- why waste the energy on getting exasperated?  And the enemy of your soul, then enemy of all that is good and peaceful and dreamy in your life?  Well, he steals, kills, and destroys.  It’s what he does, it’s what he has always done.  It says so right there in John 10:10 so please don’t be surprised when he attempts to do just that- steal your joy, kill your relationships, destroy your dreams and peace and testimony.   The question is not if he will try to make a mess of things, the question is if you will push back.  Every day.

The truth is, we can get comfortable with the dirt and poop.  We can get so used to it, we forget there is something better, something beautiful underneath.  If I take a few days off from the Bunny Courtyard push back, do you know what happens?  The area shrinks.  That dirt takes over more and more space and I forget where the pretty patio is supposed to start.  I can’t find the boundaries, the part that belongs to me, belongs to beauty.  A part of my promise land is lost.  The work increases when it’s not done daily.  It’s harder that way.

We can get hopeless with the prospect that we will have to fill the same holes tomorrow… fight the same fights, take back the same territory, invest in the same broken people.   Romans 5:3-5 speaks to this very thing. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.(NLT)”

You see, we are not hopeful that the dirt and poop will not be there tomorrow.  We do not put our hope in a task finished, a situation conquered, a burden released. a win.  We put or hope in the one who gives us the strength daily for the push back.  And this hope “will not disappoint.”  This life takes endurance, the kind of endurance that builds strength of character.  The kind of endurance that picks the shovel up again tomorrow and takes back truth, hope, and the beauty underneath the mess.  Every time I pick that shovel up, PJ’s and all, I get stronger.  Every time you push back the darkness from your promise land, you get stronger too.

Galatians 6:9 encourages, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  We will reap a harvest.  That harvest just may be some spiritual muscle and strength of character rather than a tidy bow on the situation.  The Bunny Courtyard can be beautiful but it will never be tidy.  James 1:12 tells us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  He will reward our perseverance in this life or the next… that’s the win.

I wish we could see what God sees.  I wish, instead of seeing the young mom hanging on by a thread, we saw the spiritual strength it takes to do it all again tomorrow.  I wish instead of seeing the unhappy wife, we saw the mighty prayer warrior she is, fighting in the heavenliness for her marriage.  I wish, instead of seeing a burnt out man, we saw the solider he is as he stands guard for his home and his family, daily taking back any territory lost. I  wish instead of seeing an aging generation weakened by time, we saw the ferocious band of grandparents handing over the legacy of strength of character and perseverance.  That is real.  And that is only attained in the daily push back.

I don’t know where you have been called to daily push back… fighting for hope as you believe the best for your marriage, pushing back the lies that you are less than in your singleness, filling in the holes the enemy is trying to dig into your identity and security in Christ, cleaning up the mess of other’s expectations as you parent that special needs child, taking back the territory of a dream, that promise you know was from God, finding your purpose under all that dirt.  But I do know the hard work, the daily work, is worth it.  When God looks at you He sees the muscle you are building by doing the work today, and tomorrow, and the next day.  There is no short cut to perseverance, to endurance, to strength of character, to the crown of life.  It takes the daily push back.  It takes getting your hands dirty.  It takes hope placed in the things that will not disappoint.

So, do it again.  Love him again.  Forgive her again.  Get in the Word again.  Pray again.  Speak truth again.  Get up again.  Be vulnerable again.  Believe again.  Wade though the poop again.  Shovel the dirt again.  Take back your territory again.  The daily push back matters.  He sees you too.  He may even send a hummingbird to tell you so.

Now I have a few rabbit holes to fill in…