Pruning

I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  John 15:1-2

Recently I was given a copy of Andrew Murray’s devotional book entitled “Abiding in Christ”.  There are 31 brief chapters full of Murray’s rich reflections on the John 15:1-12 passage.  I’m not sure why I had never come across this book before since it was originally published in 1895!

In the past few weeks I have tried to read a chapter a day. Funny how sometimes real life provides reinforcement for the things God is emphasizing to me.

A few weeks earlier I had severely pruned a house plant that had become unusually tall. It started as a desk plant for my husband’s office probably 15 years ago.  This “Money Tree” was moved to our home nearly two years ago when my husband’s company relocated to a new building and there was no room in his office for this plant.

plant whole

The Money Tree occupied this corner in our home until we needed to move it to paint the room.  I researched on line how to prune this type of plant to make moving easier, and found that it was advised to prune only halfway down the plant, which is what I did, leaving the shortest stem whole.

For several weeks, the plant showed no new growth.  In fact, my daughter suggested I toss it out.  Then, last week we noticed little tiny green buds, and soon new growth popped out all over!   We were so excited!

plant growth 2

plant growth

plant growth whole

A gardener has two choices when fruit is not prolific, or not even evident in a plant; the plant can be pruned to see if more will come forth, or it can be pulled out.  I’m sure gardeners can explain scientifically why it is that a plant will do what ours did after it is pruned.  Pruning seems like the more desirable option.

In our lives, pruning feels like death at times.  It feels like loss.  It is painful.  Life as we know it has abruptly stopped.  This is where I was when I broke my leg almost exactly a year ago.  Life was reduced down to managing swelling and pain; then submitting to surgery in which  a plate and 8 screws were applied.  11 weeks of sitting on the couch or in a wheelchair followed after surgery.  Ambulation was difficult as I could put no weight on that leg.  I needed assistance to do the most basic things we all take for granted. All my plans were scrapped.

postsurgeryxray

So in my next blog post, I will be picking up my series, Scraps of Life, to continue that journey with you, focusing on the new growth that has come from this pruning.

Reflection

Perhaps you are in a season of pruning as well.  You are waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Are you experiencing pain, loss, frustration, anger, confusion, sorrow?  I invite you to view this season not as a waste, and not the end of the story.  Instead, see it as a time to go inward with God.  What does God want to reveal to you, and grow in you?

 

Arrest in the Garden

In the garden

in the middle of the night

Jesus rose from his wrestling prayer

with God,

these words on his lips,

 

“Not my will but yours be done.”

 

Moving through fear into love,

The battle was over.

 

Resolute, calm, facing towards his destiny,

he waited and watched

as tiny pinprick lights of torches grew larger,

a crescendo of swords clanking and hushed whispers,

footsteps approaching.

He stood to greet the unruly and armed crowd that had materialized

out of the darkness

in the garden.

 

Startled out of their deep slumber,

the disciples jumped up awkwardly,

rubbing sleep out of their fearful eyes,

blinded by the torchlight.

They watched in stunned silence.

A kiss.

A sword.

A rebuke.

Jesus, the only calm one in this scene,

is betrayed, arrested.

 

He did not resist.

He did not call out to His Heavenly Father to defend him.

Strengthened by love,

he gave himself up even more

than he already had.

 

He let the unfair actions against him play out

as the arrest took place

in the garden.

 

“Have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave….he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8 NLT

 

 

Grief in the Garden

It was a dark and stormy night.

Maybe not outwardly stormy,

but it was night and dark,

and there was something stirring in the garden air.

 

“Sit here while I go over there to pray,” Jesus instructed his disciples.

Peter, James and John,

the inner circle,

were invited to walk further with Jesus.

 

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 

Stunned by their beloved teacher’s seemingly sudden anguish,

Peter, James and John watched as Jesus,

silhouetted in the moonlight,

staggered a little ways away

and fell prostrate on the grassy earth.

 

A gripping sense of impending doom

struck the hearts of the three disciples.

Overwhelmed by the sight of the

agonized figure writhing on the ground before them,

the three quietly fell back on each other.

Confused, they had no words for what they were witnessing.

 

After furtively glancing about,

the three eventually fixed their silent gaze on the stars twinkling in the sky,

and took in the faint scent of olive trees mixed with earth.

Hearing snatches of tearful prayers from their distant teacher,

the fear rising up inside them was palpable.

They were unable to move,

though the cause for concern was not yet visible.

 

Slowly the night hours ticked by,

and one by one, the weary three leaned against a nearby tree

and gave in to sleep,

joining the other disciples in their slumber,

exhausted by grief

in the garden.

Matthew 26:36-40 (NLT)

 

Scraps of Life, Part 3

Surgery and After

Finally, after interruptions and another surgery, I am back to writing this series.

It has become harder, the farther away I am from this time of my life, to remember things accurately. I didn’t realize that until months after my initial surgery. One day, when I was recovered enough to get around, I found a bedpan in the laundry room and had no idea why it was there.  I had forgotten much of those first weeks between breaking my leg and following my surgery. My memory loss was more than likely due to the fact I was on pain medication and was sleeping a lot. My spot was flat on my back on the couch with my ankles iced and highly elevated. Yes, ankles.  My right ankle was sprained as well as my left broken, making it difficult to get to the bathroom, among other things!  Thus the need for a bedpan….

bothankles

My view from the couch.

When I came home from the emergency room late that night, we were sent home with the name of a surgeon they were passing me on to.  I was very concerned that I would not get in touch with the surgeon and get the surgery done quick enough.  So I called on Monday to get a hold of someone, and then found we were sent to a different surgeon.

The accident happened on Saturday; surgery was scheduled for Wednesday of the next week. I was eager to get on to the healing part, but it was a strange feeling to submit my leg to someone who I did not know anything about.  It never occurred to me at that time to Google and get that info! After my initial surgery to repair the broken bones, I learned that my surgeon had a reputation in Wichita of being a premier trauma ortho surgeon.  Thank you Lord!

My husband and I arrived at the hospital on surgery day by 5:30 am to check in. It was a bit of a shock to find out what we owed financially before surgery could happen (Gulp!  Thank goodness for HSA accounts.) I was wheeled away to get prepped for surgery and soon my family joined me in waiting.

When the surgeon arrived he informed us that in addition to the two broken bones at my left ankle (tibia and fibula) my ligaments were badly torn so he could not guarantee that they would fully recover.  He didn’t outright say it – I had to ask a few questions after he implied it (a man of few words) – and that gave me pause to realize that this may be a game changer for me.  How much would my ankle heal? And always the concern, how will I respond to anesthesia?  Yet as I lay there getting ready for surgery, something I have not experienced before, God gave me peace as I maintained my focus on Jesus by praying the Jesus Prayer,

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

A version of the well known quote by Julian of Norwich was also on my mind,

“With God all is well and all will be well.”

I gave myself into God’s care, safe no matter what the outcome. After a short ride to the OR, sliding onto the surgery table for the 1 1/2 hour surgery, I was out in a few minutes. Before I knew it, I was waking up in recovery.

Reflection:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We live in a broken world,  a world marred by sin.  Accidents, illness, harm happens to all of us sooner or later.  Suffering occurs.  I am one that has spent a great deal of time trying to avoid suffering in my life.  As a young adult, during a “wilderness” time spiritually, I ran across (was guided by the Holy Spirit) Jesus’ words to his disciples quoted above. When troubles come, Jesus says, we should not be surprised. Strengthen your heart!  Jesus has overcome.

What troubles have come your way?  Are you discouraged?  Weary?  Full of anxiety?

I invite you to turn to Jesus in the midst of whatever you are experiencing.  Sometimes, however, we simply can’t prayer.  “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” is a form of what is sometimes called the Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer, or Breath Prayer. It was first prayed by a man who was blind, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), as he called out to Jesus. Consider praying this prayer to center your thoughts on Jesus, particularly when you are feeling the weight of your troubles.  It can help to focus on your breathing. As you pray, “Lord Jesus Christ”, slowly breath in, “have mercy on me”,  slowly breath out.

The actual quote by Julian of Norwich is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well…you shall not be overcome.”

 

 

 

 

Awake O Sleeper!

What a few weeks it’s been!

Once again I have not been able to continue my blog series “Scraps of Life”.  Instead, I have been helping my parents in Canada, as my mom prepared and moved to a nursing home there last week.  It’s a lovely Christian facility and she needs their care.  We are also supporting my dad as this change is hard on him.

mom

Me with my mom on her first day in the nursing home.

me in ND

After a week in the winter north land, I found spring had sprung in my yard when I returned to Kansas.  I enjoyed working in the sunshine yesterday, fertilizing, cleaning up debree in the yard, and loving that the pansies wintered over in my greenhouse so well!

It turned out that on the first day of spring, as I went around to see what plants were beginning to recover from winter, and which ones weren’t, the words “Wake up oh sleeper” came to mind.

spirea bushes

Spirea bushes are pretty sleepy yet.

rose

Rose bush barely waking up.

IMG_4268

Daffodils ready to bloom.

hydrangia

Hydrangea is leafing out.

pansy

Glorious pansies!

“Awake, Oh sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!” Ephesians 5:14

Reflection:

Spend a little time thinking about ways in which God might be inviting you to “awake”.  Where do you need Christ to give you light? Talk with God about what you notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scraps of Life Part 2

What Happened after IT Happened

So there I was, down on the ground with an oddly swollen and painful ankle, and no one was responding to my calls. (FYI, if you ever find yourself in a similar position, don’t call for a person – yell HELP!  My neighbor later told me he heard me called ROB! and thought to himself, boy that Rob sure is in trouble!)

I called again, and one of the neighbors finally looked over.  When he did he started running towards me, as did the others.  Bless their hearts!  They came with eyes wide and asked “what should we do?”

It’s funny now to think back to that moment.  There I was laying on the ground obviously hurt in some way, and they were asking me what to do!  I have Red Cross First Aid training and if I was the one coming to aid I would have done things differently.  But that never crossed my mind in the moment.  My only thought was to get in the car and get to the emergency room that was a little more than a mile away.

“What should we do?”  “Get my husband,” I replied. “He’s in the house.”  They did and together they half carried, half walked me to the car.  I think someone pushed a little too hard on a rib and I felt it give way, but that was the least of my worries.

The ride to the emergency room seemed SO SLOW!  So much TRAFFIC!  I was breathing in and out slow measured breaths to keep the pain at bay, protecting my swollen ankle from touching any part of the car.

FINALLY – the emergency room!  Someone saw us coming and came out to greet us, bringing a wheelchair.  But NO PAIN MEDS until the x-rays were done.  And they had to MOVE MY ANKLE for some of the x-rays. They also confirmed my right ankle was sprained, and my back was fine. But then – morphine!  And as I felt the morphine move into my body – RELIEF!  I was more myself again – I could joke – and express my gratitude for the help I was receiving!

first ER

My ankle was carefully placed in a splint and I was sent by ambulance to the hospital emergency room where ortho people could set the ankle and place it in another splint.  My first ambulance ride! (wow those gurnys are narrow!)

ambulance

And then two ortho interns – a first year and a fifth year – forced my foot back into place using their bodies to do so.  I was expecting a great deal of pain (think Gray’s Anatomy ortho adjustments) yet it wasn’t terrible.  With the x-ray confirming my bones were where they needed to be, I then waited, and waited to be released to go home, which finally happened by 10:00 pm.  I was to be scheduled for surgery that next week as hardware was needed to put my bones back where they belonged.

Below are the xrays taken before they set the bones.

Xrays of broken bone

xray 2

On all these trips my husband and daughter followed me and sat with me, keeping me company during the waiting, and showing their care and love.  I am so grateful to them, to the ER staff in both places, the ambulance folks, and to my neighbors who gave me their aid that got me going in the right direction!

2nd ER

waiting to be released

Reflect:

The worst has happened.  An accident, a misstep of some kind.  A diagnosis. A shocking revelation. The unexpected.  Maybe it happened a while ago. Who helped you during that time in your life? Who can you thank God for?

Maybe it is happening now.  Who has God placed around you who could help?  Are you willing to ask for it?  There are times when we simply aren’t able to help ourselves.

66 times in the book of the Psalm the word “help” is spoken of.  God is also your help.  Take a little time to reflect on Psalm 22:24 below.  Talk with God about what you notice.

 Psalm 22:24 (NIV)

For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

 

 

 

 

 

Scraps of Life, Part 1

What Happened

I was ready to turn a new corner at the beginning of my 60th year.

I had re-arranged my life; organized the house making space to create, minister, and time to help my aging parents.

I had just come off of a very busy June of birthdays, our anniversary, Father’s Day, a family reunion in Canada.

Now I was home to begin this new phase of my life.

And then it all came to a crashing halt on a Saturday afternoon, July 7, 2018.

I was doing what I’ve done many times before; stepping onto a stepping stone in my yard near the water faucet on the house I use to water my flowers, but this time I was careless.

I stepped only partway with my right foot onto the stone which was raised above the ground some.  I immediately twisted my ankle and fell back hard on my other leg. I don’t know exactly how I landed but I remember feeling my rear hit the ground. My leg must have been under it. Here is a photo reinacting my mis-step.

footstone

It all happened so fast I had no time to catch myself.

As I write this now in February 2019, my heart is beating a little faster just thinking about that moment.  It felt like I was being pushed down.  The ground was packed hard underneath me and as I peeked through my bent legs I could see that the ankle on my left leg was unnaturally swollen.  I knew immediately that I could not step on that leg – something was seriously wrong.

My husband and daughter were in the house so I began to call for my husband.  Rob!  Rob!  I called and called but no one came.  I saw two of my neighbors across the street but no one was even looking my way.  I stopped calling and began to worry that I was going to have to move – could I crawl to the house?  And the words formed in my head…Really God? Now this? Really?

Reflect:

It is very natural to question God when the unexpected happens.  Whether you are in a season of unexpected happenings or not, I invite you to take a few moments and read slowly through the scripture below, talking with God about what you notice.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord

who created you.

O Israel, the one who formed you says,

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.

When you go through the rivers of difficulty,

you will not drown.

When you walk through the fire of oppression,

you will not be burned up;

the flames will not consume you.

For I am the Lord, your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’

 Isaiah 43:1-3a (NLT)