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?

 

Grief

I just finished an 11 part blog series, sharing the music and cancer journey of my brother, Doug Friesen.  He died 20 years ago at age 34 from the affects of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma..

Doug&Monica 1998

Doug with his family, Spring of 1998

I have been listening to Doug’s music and reflecting on his life for a good portion of the last year, and I have been surprised that, even though it’s been 20 years, the grief that has welled up from time to time was quite strong.  Hearing Doug’s voice singing praises to God for the first time in years was powerful.  And then hearing the CD after the music had been re-recorded and remixed digitally – it was like Doug was in the room, singing. I couldn’t stop the tears.

Doug's cd

The original cassette tape Doug recorded and produced.

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The cd re-recorded and remixed in 2018.

All the memories that came back while listening to the songs were sweet to recount.  The loss stung once again, and at times, I wondered how we got through the past 20 years without him.

Doug & Monica Friesen, Jenny & Rob Wall going out to eat, June 1998.

Doug on the left, his wife Monica, sister Jenny, and brother-in-law Robert early July, 1998.

I’ve learned a lot about grief over the years as we suffered through the illness and loss of Doug, and several other family members.

  • there is no right or wrong way to grieve;
  • everyone grieves differently;
  • there are times you feel very alone in your grief;
  • there are stages of grief (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) but just because you go through one or two stages doesn’t mean you won’t go back through them again from time to time;
  • time does heal the pain but the loss leaves a scar;
  • no one can replace the person who is gone;
  • normal is not recovered, but a new normal can be found;
  • grief can come in waves you can’t stop, so don’t fight it – just go with the tears;
  • grief can come softly with a memory you can smile at;
  • it is important to give yourself time to grieve;
  • holidays and significant family celebrations often are times the loss is felt strongly once again;
  • it is healthy to talk about the person who is no longer there; to do things to remember that person by;
  • it is sometimes necessary and always good to seek out a counselor, pastor or caring trusted friend to talk to about your grief;
  • I’m sure you can add your own ideas here.

Today I ran across this quote by Elisabeth Elliott,

Grief never ends, but it changes.

It’s a passage, not a place to stay.

Grief is not a sign of weakness, not a lack of faith…

It is the price of LOVE.

We grieve much become we love much. During Doug’s illness and passing, and after his death, I experienced the comfort of God as I went to scriptures, particularly the Psalms, with my grief.

After Doug’s passing, and some time had gone by, I found myself drawn to reaching out to others when they experienced the death of a family member.  I learned what they needed by going through it myself.  My presence, a listening ear, a baked item offered; all expressing to them God’s love, as it had for me and my family while we were grieving.

After listening to Doug’s musc for some time this past year, I was able to sing along, kind of like how we used to sing together.  I was able to chuckle at memories and enjoy thinking about him.  Our family celebrated Doug’s life this summer by gathering to view a slide show of pictures from his life, share our memories of Doug, and plant a tree in his memory in a local park near where my parents live.

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June 2018 Our immediate family planted tree in Doug’s memory

It has not been easy to go on without Doug.  In fact, it has been very hard.  I cling to God’s promises and to His comfort…

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)