Lily 2020

As the remaining bed locations are finalized and the connecting paths take shape I can shift focus to the plant content at Paths of Hope. A new development has triggered the need for negotiations in choosing the jewels that will adorn our landscape, though. Shawn is becoming quite possessive of “her gardens.” She has opinions on what plants should go where, which colors work best, and what must be moved to improve the presentation. In short, Shawn is determined that the gardens, I mean…her gardens, will flourish.

And that’s a good thing.

No serious gardener sets out to raise a crop of droopy, yellowing, barely blooming specimens. We want the “Ka-pow!” that turns heads and stops feet as the neighbors pass by, right? We want strangers to lower the car window and ask, “What is that plant? Wow!” The goal is a flourishing garden.

That level of garden performance calls for drastic actions like weeding in the stifling humidity and deadheading the perennials even as the porch swing beckons. And we must make sacrifices. Our available garden space measures less than 1/8 of an acre, so we can’t keep every plant. Those that continue to languish after multiple moves and seasons are banished to the compost pile.

Flourish is a powerful word with a marvelously descriptive definition – to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment. Thank you, New Oxford American Dictionary, for a definition which does not use the term flourish. Healthy. Vigorous. Favorable environment. Building such a habitat is the secret to a beautiful garden.

Aunt Irene (2)

Aunt Irene (1)

Do I need acres of space? My dear Aunt Irene is growing a flourishing garden in containers on her balcony. I would say she has a green thumb, but I think both her thumbs and all eight of her fingers are green. How many gardeners in their 90’s can take and post a selfie?

The garden environment begins with the soil. Is it clay? Rocky? Sandy? Does it need amending with lime or other minerals? What about the humus content? Studying and working to improve our soil provides the solid foundation for a flourishing garden.

Spring 2020 (3)

Then there is the sun/shade/partial-sun/partial-shade question. Some of my hostas perform admirably in full sun while most need cooler afternoons. I have to learn the characteristics and needs of each plant and organize accordingly. What a change happened to our rhododendrons when we moved them into a nearly full shade spot here in zone 7—double the size, loaded with buds, and deep green leaves! July and August full sun temperatures are simply too hot for them.

What about water in the garden? How much does each plant need? Salvia likes dry feet while hydrangeas can’t sponge up enough water. Should I water in the morning or evening? Is the overhead sprinkler best or do I upgrade to drip irrigation? Should I include a liquid fertilizer once in a while?

Relocating Salvia Purple Majesty (1)

What about growth patterns? Some plants get along marvelously with their companions while others feud like there is no tomorrow. Our salvia “Purple Majesty” is in timeout again, moved to a location where it will hopefully play nicer. Last season its skyward reach topped seven feet as it overpowered neighboring plants including the milkweed we planted for the monarch butterflies.

As the gardeners at Paths of Hope Shawn and I have much to learn and understand as well as a plethora of responsibilities to uphold if our garden is to flourish. Planning and designing are the starting points, but then comes the arranging and tending and caring.

I see a parallel between the flourishing garden and my desire for my spiritual life. I am determined to flourish not fizzle when it comes to my walk with Christ.  Let’s return to the dictionary’s definition of flourish – to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment. How do I create a particularly favorable environment in the spiritual realm? What is necessary if I am to flourish?

I need premium resources.

Dr. David Jeremiah builds his new book, Everything You Need, around these monumental verses:

By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the One who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

God has already made available to me the resources I need to flourish as a believer. Like Joshua of old I must concern myself with the Word of God (Joshua 1:8). Like the psalmist who penned Psalm 1 I must be circumspect about those influences I permit into my life. And like the Apostle Paul I must learn to filter the inputs to my thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

I need proper resolve.

When my seed orders arrive and I open the envelopes I find hundreds of potential plants. Although they all have promise, not all seeds will become garden-ready performers. All the seeds are capable of photosynthesis and respiration, but for some reason some choose to languish. I can opt for that same outcome in the spiritual realm.

I must have the desire, the unrelenting urge to walk with God, to become more like His Son, and to rely on the resources He provides. I have to want to flourish spiritually.

Sadly, I can overpower the Spirit’s purposed work through hardness of heart or willful disobedience or a refusal to see things God’s way. This pair of verses ought to stop me in my tracks as I prayerfully consider my resolve. Poke around in the context surrounding the verses for more information.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 NASB

Do not quench the Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:19 NASB

I need perceptive recognition.

I am one of the gardeners at Paths of Hope, an accurate claim. If I state that I am the gardener of my life, though, my claim is false. God is the Gardener of life. Read the words of Christ in John 15:1-5. I am not the gardener, but I am dependent on the Gardener. My role, like that of the plants in the flower beds, is to remain and abide, to trust that the Gardener knows what He is about ,and to know that He will provide what is needed. Only when I trust God in the unfolding of my life can I flourish.

The ancient prophet Isaiah described a wilderness and desert that would flourish with growth. Note the One brought about this startling change.

Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the LORD will display His glory, the splendor of our God.
Isaiah 35:1-2 NLT

Resources, resolve, and recognition — got it.

Now, flourish or fizzle? Which will I choose?