God the Gardener
Whoa! How is it mid August already. I hear the phrase “winding down” being applied to all things related to summer and I frantically want it to stop. Then again, summer is a season and there are three others that deserve some of my attention as well. There's one I really don’t like at all. Winter - yuck. I hate to be cold, hate it. I have hope this year that with my new friend, “Hot Flash,” cold might actually be a good thing. We shall see.
The second half of summer has flown, as I knew it would, once little Otto arrived. We didn't go to the cottage for a few weeks after he was born so we could be around to help out. When we did make it back to the lake it already felt different, like summer was about done. It’s just that time, I guess.
This past Sunday, I heard this verse in church and it got me thinking and frantically scribbling notes during the service as I thought of this verse in a whole new light:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit." - John 15: 1-2
Something new grows back! This verse is super familiar and sometimes that's where we get complacent with something. “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit.” I agree. He has removed many branches from me that were not bearing fruit. Too many to list! Then, there is the part I haven’t been paying much attention to, “so that it bears more fruit.”
What does that mean to me? God delivered me from drinking (the pruning process) but it doesn't end there. He took that away so that I could bear more fruit. Have I? I think so. I have been speaking and writing about my addiction. I want to help others find a new freedom in life from whatever they are struggling with. I am bearing fruit. I’m sure there’s more to come if I am open to it.
Sometimes I get an idea in my head and shoot it down quickly thinking, “I don’t have time for that!” Should I be dismissing that idea so quickly - whatever it may be? Probably not, because it could be God starting some new seeds. I shouldn't neglect to water them and see if it is where I need to grow.
The book I am studying right now is called Turning Your Heart to God, a 12-week Exploration of the Spiritual Disciplines. I picked it up last month at the Speak Up Conference I had attended. What grabbed me? The word discipline. It always does. It’s my weakness. It’s what I lack the most in my life and the title told me there were ten disciplines to explore.
I thought as I studied them, I would share my thoughts on each one and what it looks like in my current life. So I started with the first one: abstinence. Gulp.
Being that I have just started this book study, I am chicken to put out there what I am abstaining from - although if you follow my blog you might already have a good guess. When I first started reading about this discipline I was like cool, I got this...Hello! I quit drinking! I can check abstinence off the list! That is where that verse above comes in, He’s still pruning my tree so I can bear more fruit. Meaning I might have a few more things to abstain from.
When “He takes away every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit," (vodka and closet drinking does not bear fruit) it is so I can bear more fruit. So when I surrendered my drinking to him I thought that was it. Pruned = big hole in my life. I never expected to “bear more fruit.”
By God’s grace, I have though! He has given me more fruit than what I could've ever imagined. I thought life would be dull and very unrewarding without alcohol. Instead it is full. Full of restored relationships that bring me so much joy. Health and wellness to do the things I love. My spiritual life has grown and continues to. There are so many more fruits I could list because the list is endless. The empty spot I thought would never be filled has totally grown with new branches.
After thinking about abstinence for a few days, I was still in kind of a funk. I know how hard it is to quit something you’ve come to rely on and was dreading it. This verse God put right in front of me when I needed to hear it has given me a different perspective. In getting rid of another substance or habit there will be no pity party for the empty spot in the Sherry tree. There is something better waiting to fill that hole. That gives me hope and determination.
I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going. I’m still wrapping my head around it a bit.
God is so good. What is he asking you to abstain from? Hard question I know, and I bet you already know the answer. Pray about it and talk to God about where he could take you in this. I guarantee you will grow and flourish. He is, after all, the Almighty Gardener. I have learned that anything I rely on instead of God to get me through the hard stuff is exactly what he wants me to give up. Maybe you can use that as a guideline. My list is long, but I am going to focus on just one thing at a time.
I read a line recently that someone wrote on the top of her journal every night as a way of making a gratitude list each day.
Today, because I stayed sober I was able to:
I decided to do that too and my answer only required one word:
I wasn’t living when I was drinking. I see that so clearly now that I am sober. And now, I just want to live well.
Blessings on your Weekend,
*Thank you so much for your continued prayers for little Otto we appreciate them so much!