Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Garden Of My Heart: Hardened Hearts

"Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in." Mark 6:52

Yesterday while in my garden, God really revealed some aspects of hidden sin to me. I decided to go out later and check on my squash plants. I had after all done some major surgery on them. Excising the borers when possible, covering the exposed part with new dirt (and a little prayer), and giving them much needed water love. Unfortunately, when I returned, one of my plants looked like this:

(Again, not my actual plant. I need to figure out how to put my pics in here!)

I sent the pic to my gardening mentor and asked her if there was any hope of it making it. Nope, probably not. But I could try. And the verse at the top of this post came to mind. And I was reminded: sometimes it's too late.

If you ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit or just the good sound advice from Godly friends, you are slowly but surely cementing the damage done in your heart. Even the disciples missed understanding important concepts because their hearts were hardened.

After doing some research (read: asking my friends who know the Bible and using YouVersion) I found that our hearts can be hardened on our own:
"But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go." Exodus 8:32

Or sometimes it's God:
"But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go." Exodus 10:20

I'm not sure why this happens. Why would God harden our hearts to the point where we can no longer turn to Him? Why do we do that to ourselves? But clearly, it happens. File this under "Trust not in your own understanding..."

I hope I never ignore the voice of God no matter how it shows up, but especially to the point where some part of my heart dies and can't be recovered.

I'm going to lose that plant. It even had some promising looking squash on it. =(

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Garden of My Heart: Hidden Sin

This morning I went out to water my garden and decided to get down to serious business eradicating the squash borer that I was certain had infected my plants. I had been able to ignore the damage at the base of the plants because the tops were lush and beautiful. A sight to behold for my gardener's heart. But when I pulled the leaves back, this is what I saw:

This is not my actual plant, but I can't get my personal image uploaded. This is pretty close. The plant was smelly at the base and just all mushy. Gross.

Big sigh. Then I got to work. Put on long sleeves and long pants with socks and tennis shoes so I could get in there without feeling all the creepy crawlies around me. My tools were straight pins, a bottle of insecticidal soap (home made) and a paring knife. I pulled off the nasty stuff, dug around with the knife and was successful three times getting the borer out. The other times I stabbed around a bunch with the pins and prayed it had helped some. Sometimes, I had to even cut off good stems to see where I was going. Frustrating to say the least.

And then my sweet morning conversations with God. He's so good to me. He gets my frustration. He hates sin as much as I hate those borers. More.

And here's the deal: hidden sin is the worst. Why? Because it's doing damage on the inside while everything looks great on the outside. Until it's too late. Your life and/or relationships are either beyond repair or you have to do some serious amputation for it to even have a chance.

The interesting thing for me is the borers were in my plants last year, but I didn't know to look for them, or rather what I was looking for. The signs were there, but I missed them. This year, I had help. Someone to talk to and tell me the truth. (Of course, even then I waited because it was hot and I was being lazy, or because I had other things to distract me and take up my time. Sound familiar?)

The same is true for us as Christ followers. If we aren't in God's word, we don't know what to look for. If we don't have accountability, some one to be honest with us and that we can be honest with, sin can very easily stay hidden and continue damaging. And even then, getting rid of it can be hard, takes time, and lots of digging. Don't give up.

"And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes and be thrown into hell." Mark 9:47

By the way, my plants look ugly now. I had to push them over and every which way so I could see and I can't get them to stand up straight again. But, I might get some veggies now! Because if there is no fruit, what good is a beautiful plant?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Garden of My Heart

Some days I walk away from the garden and feel such a sense of accomplishment. It's as if the battle was all mine. I was victorious! I walked in with produce in hand, my plants look amazing and I've won a round with tomato horn worms, squash borer moths and their eggs, and Japanese beetles.

And then there are the rest of the days. I come home to find the yard people have sprayed for weeds. (Hello, my tomato plants are a variety of weeds.) The squash borer moth has re-appeared and laid who knows how many eggs. A cicada killer has apparently alerted the cicada killer media that my garden is a great place to lay their eggs on paralyzed cicadas. And they guard those holes mercilessly keeping the gardener scared to death and at bay. Birds are pecking holes in the veggies. Suddenly, I'm fighting a new battle...and it's not looking good.

I have lots of discussions with God while I'm gardening. It's amazing the spiritual applications that come from planting, tending and harvesting. Today went something like this:

Me: I'm tired of bugs. And looking for their eggs. Didn't I JUST do this?
God: Yes, and those bugs never let up. It's who they are. Keep going.
Me: Can't you just make all the bad bugs go away.
God: I could.
Me: Would you?
God: No.
Me: *sigh*
God: What have you learned today?
Me: A) I cannot control everything that goes on out here. I have to trust that you have a plan that you share with me on an as needed basis. B) Satan, whom I consider the bad bugs to be from, is seeking to destroy all this hard work. So, I can't ever let my guard down. I have to spend time out here every day. Sometimes in the heat of the day, and work my rear off. And even then I might not see the fruit of my labor for a while. Maybe never. (recalling the bitter tomato disaster of last year)
God: See ya out here tomorrow. =)

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!" Psalm 34:8

Friday, June 08, 2012

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee

Ok, this lovely creature does none of those, but I like the title of the post anyway. =) This is a squash borer moth. We saw one in person for the first time the other day in the heat of the day. Reia thought it looked like a red bee. And it sounds like a bee and flys like a wasp, but is indeed a moth.

After sending a pic of this beauty (ewww) to my gardening mentor, she let me know what it was and I immediately went to google for follow up info. Turns out unlike other moths, this one actually carries on its business during the day. Thank goodness or I would have never know to spend the next two hours in the garden looking for the eggs it laid. Small reddish brown eggs, singly laid along the stems and base of the plants. They hatch in a week and become a big problem. Getting the larvae out of your plants is much more challenging than picking off eggs, so hop to it!

In all seriousness, if you see this bug, catch and kill if you can. And look for the eggs asap and for days after. They're there!

Happy Gardening!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Tomatoes: My Achilles Heel?

While this is my second official year of gardening, it's about the ninth summer I have tried to grow tomatoes. Every body grows tomatoes. How hard can it be? It's a nightshade WEED for heaven's sake. Ahem.

Apparently, there are a host of diseases and bugs out to get tomatoes and I'm pretty sure I've encountered most of them. The good news is every year I learn a little more, and clearly, I'm not willing to give up.

So a little of what I've learned regarding tomatoes:

Indeterminate vs. Determinate: The former keeps growing and growing. (esp. if you are growing them in the right soil). I had one that reached almost nine feet last year! The latter is great for growing in pots and containers, but only have one set of fruit. I didn't learn that little tidbit until about two weeks ago. If you have the space, go for the indeterminate.

Hornworms: Pixar made them look so cute. That little fat guy that ended up with wings in the end.

Caterpillar my rear. They are evil and will strip your tomato plant over night. The first year my mom helped me with a garden I had NO IDEA these bugs were even a "thing". Just walked out one day to fat worms and a naked plant. I was so mad. Once I cut them off the stems of my plant, I flushed them all down the toilet.  If you see one of these, (they emerge at dusk and have ginormous poop. Weird, I know.) get rid of it! And then look for more. **My gardening mentor uses a spray bottle with a little dawn mixed with water to kill hornworms. I also use a product called BT from the gardening center. When I see one and can't find anymore, I spray the plants with it.***

Weather: Turns out tomato plants are picky plants when it comes to weather. Too hot? Won't bloom. Too wet? Leaves curl. Too dry, too cold, too whatever. They like morning temps on the cooler side and a mist will help set blooms. I can't control the weather so I just have to do the best I can.

Nematodes: Just learning about these. There are good ones and bad ones. Sounds like cholesterol. And all I know is that hybrid tomatoes are less affected by the bad nematodes. However, you can't save seeds from hybrid tomatoes as they don't produce new plants. See? I'm a wealth of info!!

So, I know a lot of stuff now. And still I sit with plants that have curled leaves, blossom end rot (apparently Romas are more susceptible to this) and a few beautiful tomatoes that still haven't ripened. Meanwhile some of my closest friends are eating their first harvests.

But you know what? I'm not bitter and I'm no quitter. I'll keep it up. Gardening is so much more about the process for me than the end result I've realized. And maybe something here will help you. I'm okay with that result too.