Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Different Kind of Garden

AHH, January in Kansas. There is nothing quite like extreme cold, bitter wind, ice under snow, snow melting into slush and then turning back to ice again.
It's times like this I envy people who live in milder climates. Don't get me wrong it's not the cold that bothers me, and I really do love the snow, but for the most part winter is just a downright ugly season!

Today the view out my kitchen window is last summer's planters filled with the dead remnants of what were once thriving flowers and plants. With the arrival of freezing temperatures the colorful view quickly became a distant memory and we were left with a brown and barren landscape.

On the other hand, I did bring some of the larger, more expensive plants indoors for the winter. The problem is, they must struggle to find the sun and I don't do a very good job remembering to water them so although they are alive, they are far from healthy.

I think its safe to say that Kansas winters are not very conducive to growth! In fact, January can be as dreary and depressing as the gray sky.

We may even discover that our hearts (blooming with love, joy and thanksgiving just a few weeks ago) have become hard, gloomy and discontented. Like the sickly plants I brought inside for the winter, our hearts are in desperate need of a good fertilizer that can sustain us until we are in a season when we can once again thrive.

But, like tropical plants in Kansas winters, how do we promote growth in difficult or uncomfortable conditions?

We start by tilling the soil of our hearts with gratitude.

We remember and remind ourselves of what God has:
blessed us with,
brought us to,
delivered us from,
promised us...
And then we cultivate that field of thankfulness by sharing His kindness and compassion with others.

When we spend time with our Creator regularly, thanking Him for all He has done, the hard soil of our heart begins to loosen. Seeds of thankfulness develop roots and begin to grow into what God created them to be. Eventually the ground softens enough that the tender shoots of new growth are able to break through the top layer and bask in the full glory of the Son!

Galatians 6:7 says "we reap what we sow" and it's only when we are sowing seeds of gratitude and praise that we can hope to reap a harvest of blessing. Eventually, if we are diligent in cultivating gratitude, we will find an abundant harvest of the "fruit of the Spirit":
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Long suffering, Meekness,
Gentleness, Kindness, Faith and Temperance.
So where do you find yourself today?
  • Have you been hit by a sudden "hard frost" or "long winter" that has left you weak and hopeless like the flowers left outside?
  • Or are you more like the plants that were moved inside? Hanging in there, surviving but just going through the motions; doing OK but far from healthy and thriving?

Well the good news is that, unlike gardening in Kansas, we don't have to wait for a change in the weather to plant a garden of gratitude. That can be easier said than done in a culture built on personal comfort, excess and entitlement so this year I have made it my goal to teach my children how to reap a harvest of blessing that comes from cultivating gratitude.


I purchased an inexpensive weekly calendar and keep it next to the computer where each day everyone is invited to write 1 to 5 things they are grateful for. When some of the family (mainly teenagers) balked at the idea I appealed to their sense of competition and offered a prize for whoever wrote on the most days of each month (ice cream or candy should work well). It may sound like a bribe but I like to think of it as a short term reward that will have long term effects. As they try to "win" the meager prize I offer they are receiving something much greater...a grateful heart!

Personally I hope they all "win". A family ice cream night is something to be grateful for indeed!!

So in closing, here are a few of the things our family is grateful for in January 2010....

  • Home
  • Jesus is the Gate!
  • Memories of good times
  • Siblings
  • No school on Monday!
  • The people trying to help with the Haiti earthquake
  • Education
  • Our dog Maggie
  • My sister making my bed for me.
  • All the people on earth

That is just a sample of our "garden of gratitude", what does yours look like??

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Bloggers Tale...

Once Upon a Time....there was a woman who wanted to start a blog.

Through the blog she could stay connected with family, make new friends, express her creativity and develop her writing skills.

Much to her delight Blogland turned out to be an encouraging place filled with lovely ladies and the woman made many new friends, both online and in person.

In the beginning, similar to a new relationship, there seemed to be no loss of ideas and topics to post on. God, family, activities, history, beliefs, travel, problem-solving.....there was so much to write about and the woman was inspired and energized by the writing!

Not only was she encouraged as a writer but by visiting the sites of other women she was able to give and receive encouragement from others.

On top of that the woman discovered how to create new designs for her blog. Playing with the look and layout became part of the fun and she even made a little profit by helping other ladies update the look of their blogs.

But then one day the woman realized blogging wasn't fun anymore. Life was busy & stressful and her blog was an added pressure and deadline in her life. Writing was no longer creative and energizing, it was forced and draining.

Besides not having time to write she also felt guilty for not visiting the blogs of her new "friends". As for creating blog designs, they became more of a business than a passion.

Finally the woman did what anyone would do when they are overwhelmed. She turned her back on her blog and went on vacation (a LONG vacation) away from Blogland. Thanks to Facebook she didn't have to completely sever her ties to the online community (and many of her friends in Blogland) but conversing on Facebook doesn't carry the same "commitment" as blogging.

Still though, when other people would talk about writing a post or someone would ask about her blog she would get that itch to write again. Every once in awhile something would happen to get her "creative juices" flowing and the woman would think about returning to Blogland.....

The question was: "did she remember how to get there? What if she couldn't think of anything to write about? And what if she got overwhelmed by the time commitment again and had to leave?"

Then she got a grip and remembered, "life is about living in the present".

The past is behind me,
tomorrow is not guaranteed,
today is what I have to work with.....
and today I am feeling the urge to connect with friends, express myself and work on my writing today I decided to blog!