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Rest for Today: Soil & Root
by Jennifer Kelly on April 20th, 2017

​I'm still chipping away at odd jobs around this old 1960's brick house. The one my husband and I bought last November. My last note was all about God's providence and what lies in shadows, but it's still a work in progress.

Since then, I've decided to tackle the back yard and put in a vegetable garden. Never-mind that our hallway bathroom is half-way demolished and there is no trim throughout the whole of the house. The downstairs is in-between a full remodel and I have drawers and cabinets scattered on the floor that need painting; but His voice calls me to the back yard.

"Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" Hebrews 4:7b (NIV).

Every, single part of my life has begun but remains unfinished ... just like this house.
Inside and outside.

I go and grab my pink gardening gloves from Walmart. I find a shovel in the garage and head to the very back corner of the yard. I'm really not sure what I'm doing, but I start digging.

"Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today..." Hebrews 4:7a (NIV).

Jesus sure is interested in us hearing His voice Today. But I'm scrambling around the inside and outside of this house needing it to be fixed. To be finished. I’m pretty sure I’m plumb crazy to start another project outside, but I also know it’s exactly where He's calling me to be. Following Jesus entails going places you never expect to be.

Friends, I am no gardener. I know how to grow and keep plants alive like I know how to put this 1960's brick ranch house back together again. But I like to believe I'm amenable, so I plow my shovel into the hard dirt and lift a weed. I pick it up and toss it in the trash. Hours go by and I've somehow successfully shoveled crabgrass, dandelions and weeds into 6 large, black trash-bags from Walmart. After hours of back-breaking work, I now have remnants of a small patch of weed-free dirt. 

Funny, it looked better in my mind than it does in front of me in real time.
Doesn't is usually though?

Grabbing my weed-filled trash bags one at a time, I slowly move them to the side of the house. They are so much heavier than I thought they would be, but I've learned that all loads that need lifting usually are. I place them along the side of the house with all the other trash I seem to be collecting these days.

I know this 1960's brick house was a gift from God. It just doesn't seem to be on hard days. What if we end up like those other horrible renovation stories of houses beyond repair? What happens if the house never gets fixed up and put back together? Will our children end up despising the very place we bought to make this house our home? Will our marriage make it through all the demo, work, people, cost, time and effort that is required? What if we end up being upside down? What if, what if, what if ...

I track dirt from my shoes as I make my way inside through the back doors of our home. Instantly, I chastise myself for not taking them off at the backdoor before entering. Where is my brain sometimes? I wash my hands with the faucet that shakes if you don't turn it on just right — yet another item to fix. I grab some much needed cold water and sit down at our dining room table.

I grab my Bible and take a drink of water.
It dawns on me that both elements are needed to sustain daily life.
I'm just better about drinking the liquid kind He made, then the Word kind He spoke.

​Do you know what happens if you listen to Jesus' voice and believe?
You enter into His rest.

"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest ..." Hebrews 4:10-11a (NIV).

"Come to me, all you 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" Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

Days later, I go and plant my vegetables that I've grown from seeds. I bought special soil from the store and did a lot of watching on YouTube. I left the lights on in my house at certain times and watered my little seeds intently and carefully. I watched them sprout like I've watched my babies grow. All of a sudden I've got tomatoes, bell peppers and banana peppers. It's why I cleared out a small corner of my back yard (hence the 6 bags of weeds) and replaced it with organic gardening soil. Now that I've transplanted my veggie plants from seedlings to the outside, I plant some strawberry plants my daughter begged for from the store and throw some carrot seeds out there as well. What was once so covered with rocks and weeds, now (Lord willing) will produce some crops. 

I read Jesus' teaching about the farmer who planted seeds on his land. Some of the seeds got eaten by birds, other seeds sprouted, but quickly died off from the lack of soil. Some seeds barely grew before they were scorched by the sun and others were choked out by thorns and weeds.

The seeds that did grow and produce a crop were those with good soil and roots.
The crop comes after the work.

I've learned it takes time to produce good soil. A shovel (smart people use a tiller, but I'm slow and old-school), sweat, manure, time, patience and sweet-tea. I love that all good soil has crap in it, because we all have crap in our lives and Jesus uses it anyway. It's part of the story. 

Some of my vegetable plants have been scorched by the sun because I didn't provide proper timely exposure from moving them from the inside to the outside my house. Some seeds have been picked up by birds and squirrels, and some have been broken by the wind. But, I've still got some plants that are living because of good, prepared soil and roots that have grown down deep.

And then I get it.

Trusting Jesus is not only about hearing His voice (good soil), but believing in it too (our root system). 

"For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith" Hebrews 4:2 (NIV).

Today, Jesus was calling me to not only hear Him, but receive Him in faith ...
That’s how we enter into rest.

I dust my hands off and take a picture of my garden. It's a work in progress and unfinished, but so is everything else in my life. I go back inside, remembering to take off my shoes before entering this time and sit down at the table to give thanks. Thanks to a Father who's always so good to me and patient with me.

Friends, I’m really good at hearing and reading about God (from His Word, His people, and all sorts of different ways), but I find that most days, believing who He is and what He claims to be and do (in the crap) is the hard part.

His soil is always good, it’s my root system that lacks the depth it needs to live and produce good fruit.

Anne Voskamp wrote in The Broken Way, “Can I believe in God, in Jesus, in a way that I know Jesus believes in me? Maybe it isn’t enough to believe in Jesus – maybe I have to believe that Jesus believes enough in me to choose me. If Christ has chosen me, can He not believe in me? Can I believe Jesus believes in me? And what do I know about living as if He does believe in me?

Today, I’m choosing to listen and believe. Believe that God does make all things new even with the crap. That growth and maturity and change happen through the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit. That there is life after death; not only in this life but the one to come.

Most importantly, that God is good and faithful to finish all the unfinished parts in me and my home. Especially on the hard days.

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Nancy Marion - April 20th, 2017 at 9:57 PM
I love this article. We are so fortunate to have a beautiful community garden at House of Refuge. When I am troubled and need rest or guidance I often visit our garden because that is God's official Arizona address. As I pull a weed here and there He always meets me there. As if by guiding me through the weeding process He is helping me weed and organize my thoughts, my decisions. All I know is I never leave the garden with the same burdens I entered with. He never disappoints.
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