I could stop there. It would be easy to stop there, and leave it at that. I've struggled to write in the past 6 months (hence the empty blog). But I cant. I know there is a message here, one to be shared, and one that will be an encouragement to many.
If you are familiar with The Bible, you will know that gardening analogies are all over the place in that thing, and it’s AMAZINGLY HELPFUL IN PRUNING SEASONS (just saying).
About 8 months ago every time I opened my Bible, it seemed to mysteriously open to gardening stories. Passages about "being connected to the vine" or "watering" or "seasons".
I've walked with God for 9 years now, so I know a bit about how he tries to tell me things.... it started to grab my attention.
"Alright God, Gardening is a thing for me now..."
If you've ever met me, I'm an "all in" kind of person.. so this would explain my next course of action...
I went home and told my husband I would plant a garden.
He reminded me that I haven’t kept more than an aloe plant alive for a year.. But I pressed on.
So, I asked my neighbor who is legitimately the most amazing gardener (you should see our houses next to one another.. HA), if she would help me garden this year.
I also thought maybe it meant that we would have a community garden at The Nest (still do), and so I met in person with the local "master gardeners of the city in Akron" <-- yes that is a thing! They're incredible!
I read gardening books.
I started a gardening notebook and goal planning thing.
I had a gardening pinterest board.
I never actually ended up planting a garden.
Want to know why?
I learned about how much PREP work goes into having a garden.
How much you have to know.
How much you learn along the way.
How much you have to plan for.
And how much tending work needs to be done.
AND THEN, in the midst of my planning, I saw the connection.
God was speaking to me about gardening, because I had a garden I was tending at The Nest... one that he was showing me how to plan properly for what was ahead.
STEPS OF GARDENING:
PREP WORK: PLANNING
(side note: I literally just heard my dad’s voice say... "Miss (his pet name for me), 80% of the work is prep work... you gotta do it right, or else you won’t get the end goal you want)
1) Decide where Garden bed is going to be.
2) Decide what plants you want and what grows best next to one another.
3) Buy your plants and seeds, soil, fertilizer, and tools.
4) The soil get’s tilled, manure is added, other things are added to it (I told you I’m not a professional.. yet).
5) The seeds are planted
6) Water the seeds
(this is the part where I was at my friends when it came to The Nest.. the lovely waiting game)
6) The roots grow.
7) The shoots grow.
8) They sprout… YAY
9) They're pretty to look at, so you stare at them in pride.
10) You water them.
11) You fertilize them.
12) You tend to the whole garden by pulling the weeds that grew up like crazy when you fertilized.
13) You prune the large plants, pull off fruit and veggies here and there so that the nutrients can keep distributing properly throughout the plant
THE PRUNING::: (keep going)....
14) The pruned bed looks bare, weird, and kind of like you just did a step backwards when you just had a huge beautiful garden bed
15) You fertilize again
16) The garden is watered
And then.. (before the harvest)... Here's the big point:
YOU REALIZE YOU ARE A GARDENER.
You see, anyone can plant a garden and see the initial thing grow up the first time. It’s the ones who are willing to take the time to prune, to stick it out for the end goal, that are called gardeners.
Maybe it is weird that I am writing about this as we enter into fall, where everything beautiful dies slowly, we can all of our veggies and fruits, and get snuggly inside. Or maybe it’s not weird at all.
I think gardening is a skill, a talent, a patience analogy that is used over and over again biblically for a reason.
Maybe it’s exactly where you're supposed to be as you wonder what the HECK is happening in your life, as I just so happen to feel led to talk about pruning.
Because here's the thing.
BUT GOD LOVES EVERY PERSON THAT IS PRUNED. You know how I know?
“"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me."
"because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
SIX MONTHS AGO I was sitting on my kitchen floor, weeping, asking God if he wanted me to close The Nest.
The past 4 months have been the most excruciating seasons of my life in personal relationships.
The past 10 weeks have been series after series of hard conversations in multiple spheres of my life.
I have spent numerous hours working, planning, strategizing, and PRAYING on my face about what to do in various situations at, around, and in The Nest.
8 weeks ago my husband felt like in the midst of what felt like death all around me, that he was supposed to quit his job and work full time as business manager at The Nest. Convenient. So we currently are raising support in the ministry we do here in Akron and Ellet, all while everything seemed to be "failing" around us.
I almost freaked out. Because it was all too much. It was all so lonely and terrifying, with so much change on the horizon, and I saw nothing except death around me.
AND then. I remembered the seasons.
This garden thing that kept popping up.
I remembered what happens after the pruning.
I fell on my face in gratitude that God these entire past months, had been preparing me for what was ahead. He was speaking over and over hoping that I would trust in the harvest, trust in the promise of his faithfulness, That I'd be quick to obey, without delay.
Dear friends, if you are in a pruning season. I NEED TO TELL YOU.. its for purpose.
To many of us have sought out to make the God of the universe in OUR image, instead of submitting and allowing the GOD of the universe fashion us into HIS image.
Do not be afraid.
He does everything with purpose, and if it's something that wasn't in his design for you.. he will bring purpose OUT of it if you let him.
He’s more intricately involved in the details of your life than you could ever imagine.
Our pruning season at The Nest..
Was an entire summer dedicated to seemingly one million behind the scenes conversations, gigantic sticky notes up on the wall of all the issues, solutions, strategies and possibilities you could ever imagine.
We talked merger with other organizations.
We talked selling our building.
I cried, and shook. I was angry and sad. I lamented, and felt lost a lot of the time.
There are things I cannot even mention in a blog post, that I went through leading this organization this summer, that if someone told me 4.5 years ago I would have to do, I would have NEVER said yes.
BUT YOU GUYS. I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR THE PRUNING SEASONS.
ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE SUCKING THE GOOD NUTRIENTS THAT AREN’T NECESSARY, DIE IN YOU WHEN YOU TURN TO JESUS.
IT CAUSES YOU TO EXAMINE THE ROOT OF YOUR PLANT
IT CAUSES YOU TO QUESTION THROWING THE WHOLE GARDEN OUT AND STARTING AGAIN NEXT YEAR BECAUSE IT LOOKS SO UGLY.
It’s the best space to be.
In pruning, you are at the mercy, at the very hands of the true MASTER Gardener.
He is the BEST pruner.
He knows what needs to go, and he knows what needs to stay.
He cuts the withering leaves off with gentleness, and care.
And he waters at just the right times.
He fertilizes with the best nutrients,
and HE HAS THE VISION in his head of the END result.
The finished garden.
For those of you who have ears to hear this, the point of what I am saying.. HEAR IT, because in the midst of what felt like death all around me….
The big vision came.
In the pruning season, the shift is never the moment you "start to see the shoot come out of the ground".
Because "blessed are those who believe without seeing".
The shift.. is in your heart, friend.
When you realize you GET TO join in your master's work. That you also GET TO plant a garden. And you GET TO learn from the BEST master gardener in all of the land.
That even though when you see a bed full of dirt, worms, a few weeds, and... nothing else, you keep watering.
Because you remember that you planted seeds all over that thing.
That you tilled that soil faithfully.
That you put the good stuff in there to make it grow.
So now you water, and you wait.
The pruning season in life... feels a lot like that.
Going back to the bare ground with tiny little shoots in it.
Making sure that soil is nutrient rich.
That you've prepared yourself for the "vision" that this is going to take awhile for the seeds to sprout and come out of the ground... but sure enough your vision stands firm. You WILL have a garden.
This vision is what drives you to water everyday.
This is what drives you to weed.
This vision is what drives you.
That was my summer.
In my garden called The Nest.
Back at the bare ground/ soil with my faithful shoots.
Soil being tilled up, nutrients being poured back in.
Planting seeds like a mad woman.
Watering it day and night. Waiting for the shoots to come up like God promised they would.
The perspective shift. Is never the moment you see it all happening.
It’s before that.
It’s the moment where you believed that it would come to life like it always does.
This summer, as an organization, we cut some services, some classes, some programs at The Nest. We kept our CORE main groups, the exact same that they've always been, and spent time investing in our leaders.
This summer we also refocused our attention on an entire section of The Nest that was lacking. Our ability to train and pour into leaders who are Christians at The Nest was struggling. Giving good training to share the hope that they have in Jesus with those around them in non threatening but real ways, became a priority again.
This summer we changed our official documented filing to religious at The Nest allowing us to do both A & B effectively to serve all groups of people who are coming to The Nest where they are at.
This summer we cried and pounded our heads into walls a lot.
This summer I had a lot of tears I was fighting back as I watched things die that I had spent hours and years helping create.
BUT GUESS WHAT.
This summer I also saw a team of leaders who are SO grounded be SO excited about where The Nest is headed, and more all in than I've ever had with a team before.
This summer we saw people get healed from physical illnesses and mental illness through the name of Jesus.
This summer we led a few friends to relationship with Christ :)
This summer WE GOT TO dedicate our time to hear God's heart for The Nest, and what he was actually going to do, and where we were headed.
This summer we teamed up with YWAM akron as a couple (Brandon and I), in hopes to bring deeper further training in the future to our families ministering to the heart of Jesus every day at The Nest.
I've never felt so stripped down in my entire life of myself than this summer... in ALL of the ways that I needed.
I've also never felt SO sure that the season we are headed into is one of absolute favor, provision, freedom, the miraculous all around us, and that a movement is being birthed right here in the midst of the bare soil with tiny shoots.
Months ago, God gave me that vision of the garden. Before we ever started being pruned away.
Because he's a good Father, and he always wants to speak.
Are we listening?
So my friends, as we close out a season of pruning and we THANK GOD for his discipline, his pruning, and his heart to get us to rely on him... we encourage you.
In the midst of the bare ground.
Can you take a step back?
Can you see the big picture of what he’s doing in your life?
If it feels like he's "taking away" , he may be.
But rest assured in the "big picture" of the garden.
That the soil has been tilled.
The fertilizer is in.
The seeds will be planted if you "say yes" even in this dark season
and the refreshing water will cause them to sprout up and grow.
Fun fact? for those of you who have been around The Nest for the past 4.5 years, you know that we have been all about Isaiah 61.... have you ever caught what the ending statement of that chapter is?
" For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations."
Isaiah 61: 11