FAITHFUL LIVING: Find time, find self

“My garden is alive and thriving!” I hollered to my husband this week as I investigated my raised-bed garden. Matt had spent the better part of the week conducting business on the East Coast, but could tell by all the dead grass carpeting our front yard that the temperatures had indeed, reached noteworthy numbers — just as I had reported. He had teased me before leaving that he half expected to see my garden die back just like he knew the lawn would, for he knows that I spend a great portion of my life in my minivan rather than outside. But this time would be different, I determined, for I have made a wonderful discovery: my garden is a great place to pull it all together.

Long ago I figured out that to be the best friend, wife, daughter, sister, writer and mom I can be, I need to find a place and make the time to renew. Regroup. Rethink. Realign. Recommit. There are a few places I go with that goal, and just as I had hoped, I have been soothed this summer by merely walking outside to my garden—nestled between our lawn and the edge of the forest. It’s just a few paces away from the house, yet far enough away from the phone, the laundry, noisy electronics and familial hubbub to do my soul a world of good.

It has become my place for a quick escape and I occasionally take a book or magazine to read. But mostly I graze off the berry vines, pick weeds and water. I listen to the birds, visit with my doggie pals who invariably follow me, and soak in the rays of the sun. I try to take it in so deeply that it will become a place I can return to in my mind when the wind and rain will force me indoors — requiring me to hunt for another spot to catch my breath, hope a little, pray a lot and plan.

I am learning that renewal is a multi-faceted process involving more than temporary escape from the people, noise and obligations in our lives. Renewal can also take place in our hearts and be reflected in our attitudes, not matter the people or situations surrounding us. This kind of renewal is deep and spiritual and has the potential to be life-changing.

It begins when we acknowledge that there is a rhyme and reason, a process and a timing in our lives that is much bigger than us. Such renewal on some level begins each time I dip into the Bible, It is here, for example, that I read in the Old Testament book of Isaiah that “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The older I get the more I depend on that kind of renewal, for I control less and less in my life. I may contribute to situations but control? Not on your life. Children hop into cars, plan for college and begin to assert their independence. Parents deal with greater health risks. Hip joints ache. Cholesterol levels soar. When I feel worried and tired and my natural enthusiasm wanes, God’s words renew me.

Life never lets up, does it? The struggle is ongoing for each one of us on many levels. So is God and His awareness of all that brings us to the breaking point and onto our knees. And while His promises can soothe our worries, God also marries each tender promise with a request that we step forward and trust— Oh, so hard to do at times — and incorporate Him into our daily thoughts and plans.

Renewal can be experienced in yet another form. God can give us new dreams and paths, hope and energy. Although such dreams may complicate our lives, new adventures can be renewing, for by working toward the goal of living by God’s commandments, trusting Him and seeking Him daily, we have greater potential to experience prosperity. New friends, personal fortitude. Deep, eternal growth.

If you have doubts, just walk down the aisle of any store carrying back-to-school supplies. You’ll find parents holding lists and see children searching for just the right supplies. There is energy. Big plans are in the making. Go ahead, for just a moment, and open a spiral notebook to smell the fresh, unused paper. Then consider the idea that new beginnings can be a part of your life, as well, long after those school days have passed.

Ask God to help you discover ways to find renewal in your own private places this week. You will find me watering my garden while the sun is out.

Freelance writer Joan Bay Klope’s e-mail address is jbklope@hotmailcom.

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