Making the Desert Bloom

My physically far away but spiritually always close pastor has lent his voice today and what a blessing. I am beginning to see that while this concussion is a burden, is forcing me to stop posting for a time, it is allowing me to LISTEN deeply to the wisdom around me.  Wise words today from Pastor Pat Sleeth. I trust you are blooming! 

Guest Post by Pastor Pat Sleeth:

I don’t claim to be much of a gardener, but I like to garden.  Maybe that comes from my being raised on a farm in West Virginia back in the day.  Maybe it’s simply that I like to see things grow.  I don’t know for sure but I’d guess it’s likely a bit of both.

Back on the farm, the land was fairly rich but it was rocky and very little of it was flat so it was hard to plow and hard to keep free of weeds.  But, there was plenty of sunshine and rain.  My grandfather used to say that God provided the seeds and did all the hard work.  We just had to plant and nurture the plants.

Fast forward some half-century forward and you’ll find me living in the high plains desert of eastern Washington State.  Where West Virginia was hot, humid and had rich soil – eastern Washington is the extreme opposite.  The soil out here is rocky, sandy, not very nutritious and very fragile.  It IS hot, but there’s practically no humidity on this side of the state.  We’ve just “celebrated” a new weather record here; the temperatures have been 90-100 for 16 consecutive days and it hasn’t rained, well, for a LONG time.

And, guess whose house is surrounded with flowers and flowering bushes?

In West Virginia, and for the past 20+ years in Indiana, gardening was easy.  Plant, fertilize as instructed – and let God take care of the hard work.  All I had to do in West Virginia or Indiana was to get the seeds planted and keep the weeds in check and God did the rest.  God provides everything needed, here, but the expectation is for ME to figure out how to garden in the desert – when the lady who owned the house before me planted mostly eastern/southern plants that require lots of water.  I spend an enormous amount of time every day weeding dry beds to keep the weeds out (they steal water and nutrients from the flowers and strawberries) and WATERING.

It takes a LOT to make the flowers (and strawberries) bloom in the desert!

Our good friend and Chief Blogger, Lisa, bonked her noggin a few days ago and asked some of us to lend a hand.  Glad to help – but please realize I’m only “pitching an inning of relief” – don’t expect a starter’s performance! ☺

This morning, I spent nearly 3 hours tending my flower beds, weeding where needed (not much) and watering everything (a LOT).  As I said, it’s hot and dry and that’s normal here.  But, interestingly enough, as I watered, I was reminded of a favorite section of Isaiah 35 – where God says He will make the deserts bloom.

But, as I was puttering along, sweating (wishing I could water with sweat!), I was thinking about how much work it takes to make the desert bloom and was glad, and not for the first time, that it’s God’s job to do it and not mine.  And, somewhere along the morning, I stopped watering and thought how much easier it would be to just take all the flowers out and plant grass (sod)!  I looked at the dry beds ahead of me, and thought “What’s it worth to keep this growing?”

I almost instantly thought of my significant relationships.

Some of my closest relationships are pretty easy to take care of, at least from my side.  I just love them and they are pretty hardy and thrive pretty much without anything from me.  I just check in regularly and see that they are blooming right where they are planted and I rejoice in their beauty and fruit!  I’m probably talking about you. ☺

But, like you, all my relationships are not that easy.  Some are like the eastern plants placed here in the desert; they are planted in a place they aren’t thriving or they haven’t been given the right fertilizer and water to keep them healthy and they are NEEDY and take a lot of work!  A lot of work.  I’m probably talking about me now.

Frankly, sometimes I ask myself the same question I did this morning: “What’s it worth to keep this growing?”  Is it worth all the work it takes to help someone continue to bloom when conditions are not perfect?

Perhaps I’m the only person narrow or selfish enough to consider that – but I doubt it.  I’m human and so are you and some of our relationships don’t require much from us and we love those and treasure the blooms and the fruit they offer.  But some of our relationships require a LOT from us and the blooms and fruit are infrequent and we wonder is this single flower worth all the fuss to bring it about?

We are often weak and sometimes wounded and sometimes we’re in conditions that we’re not meant to be in and we just don’t thrive.  At least, not by ourselves.

It’s in these honest, but sometimes selfish moments when I realize how much I treasure these glimpses of the blooming desert God refers to in Isaiah.  It’s not easy to make the desert bloom.  He didn’t say it would be easy.  But, He said it WOULD bloom.  He provides all that is necessary to keep these fragile and sometimes infrequent blooms popping up.  All that is necessary is for someone like you and I to recognize that each of us is meant to bloom, God promised it.  Sometimes, it just takes a moment to remember that from our relationship labors, beauty often is the result.

Is it worth it to water and fertilize a plant we find in difficult conditions?  We each get to decide for ourselves.  Sometimes no matter what we do, they won’t thrive in spite of the assistance and gift of care we offer.  Sometimes, they just don’t.  But, sometimes, even after long seasons of our best efforts with nothing to show – a bloom appears – and often more follow. So, is it worth it?  Well, of course, you get to choose.

This morning, a bush that has never thrived in the two+ years we’ve been here has one gorgeous yellow flower on it!  Three weeks ago I tried a different fertilizer on it as a last effort.  If it didn’t green up and at least look healthy, I was going to chop it down.

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’ve got some few plants and bushes to finish watering and then I’m going to call an old friend that hasn’t been thriving in awhile and I’m a long way away from him.  It’s time to check in, maybe suggest a fertilizer change. ☺  Yeah, it’s worth the effort.

Isn’t it? ☺

Blessing upon you this day as you face what you need to face.  May you remember that God says that the desert WILL bloom AND that it’s the rarest of blooms or those not seen in awhile that are the most precious.

In Christ;


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