Gardening is not my forte. I wish it were but it’s just not. I can kill the heartiest tree in 6 months flat. I over fertilize. I under water. I'm amazed at some of the fruit and vegetable gardens my friends have grown, but that will never be me. Just not my gift.
Honestly, I don’t even know if I'm talking about gardening with the right terminology. I do however resonate with some of the gardening advice I have been given from my friends with green thumbs if I apply it to my faith life.
Seeds planted in rich soil produces a mighty harvest.
Planting seeds in unplowed soil does not produce fruit.
Seeds only bloom in fertile soil.
No matter how good the seed and the soil is, you have to water to nurture the plant.
(Perhaps you know where I'm going with this.)
To help our kids grow in a vibrant friendship with Jesus, we need to start with rich soil - soil that has been plowed with grace. (We've talked a lot about this in previous blogs.) But we also have to "water" that soil with fresh encounters of God's love.
This is not about more "doing," it's about "being."
Over this past weekend I was reminded how important it is to daily, sometimes hourly, water the soil of my soul by "being" with God. Mike and I spent 3 days filling up on God's love for us at an amazing Christian retreat in Florida. I didn't realize how thirsty I was until I arrived, took a deep breath, and allowed myself to soak in the worship, teaching, and kindness of my incredibly gifted brothers and sisters in Christ.
On the second day of the conference, I was honored to give the parenting talk, along with my dear and amazing friend Susan Allen, and I was again reminded how much parents need to be encouraged to just "be" - to "taste and see" that the Lord is good. We get so wrapped up in the daily obligations of parenthood that we forego our own intimate encounters with God and neglect our own parched souls in the process.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!
As I listened to other parents share their struggles throughout the talk, I became aware, anew, that God wants us to “taste” His goodness. He wants us to experience the fullness and the richness of His love for us because it is only when we actually “taste” it that we can let it flow through us a love offering for Jesus to our children and the world in which we encounter.
“Taste and See” begins with us. We can't give what we haven't received. If our own souls are thirsty, we will grow weary.
Matthew 11: 28-29
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Jesus invites us to come to Him with our weary, worn out, and burdened souls and just "BE." And it is here that we will find the rest that we so desperately need to be the parents we so desperately want to be.
Jesus, in John’s Gospel, teaches us that to "BE" is to remain, or to abide in Him. We must abide in Him to bear the fruit of His love. This is how we water the soil of our souls - by remaining in Him.
I love the picture Jesus paints of the vine and branches to illustrate this point.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Now, I’m afraid I know what you might be thinking right about now:
“You have got to be kidding. Abide? I don’t have time to abide! That will require hiring a babysitter more often, which means I’ll feel guilty about spending more time away from my kids who need me. I can’t abide- I have a family to raise! I will “abide” later but I don’t have that luxury now!”
I can assure you I had similar thoughts when I first began to learn about abiding. But here’s the truth I had to face. If I want to give my children the best parts of me, I must allow God to do His good work within me. I know Jesus longs to answer my prayer “Lord, less of me, more of You,” but if I do not abide, my words return void. This is not because Christ is unfaithful - He remains faithful even in our unfaithfulness- but because we have to lean into Him more and more to have a full tank from which to parent.
And what's so cool is that we all abide in our own unique way. There is no one right way to rest in His love for you. In the following blogs we will talk specifically about some of the familiar but still awesome ways we can abide, and teach our children to abide, in Christ (things like reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and prayer) but there are also other very unique and wonderful ways you might connect with God and fill up on His love for you.
A good starting place for identifying the ways in which you were uniquely created to abide is by asking yourself “When do I feel closest to God? When do I most feel His presence in my life? When do I feel the most alive?” This is very different than just identifying times when you feel happy (which is an emotion that's fleeting) and much more about the experiences that make you feel connected to God, the times when you can fill up on His love for you.
I learned that some of the ways I abide is by worshipping to Christian music, journaling Scripture, spending one on one time with friends or family who share my faith, and digging my toes into the sand while watching the waves crash along the shore.
My husband would tell you that one of the ways he abides is by running, whereas I only run when being chased. This is the beauty in abiding. Just as we are each uniquely created in the image of God, we each abide in our own unique way. And while abiding does sometimes require taking a “time out,” it can also be integrated into every day life by simply recognizing God’s presence in the details. It is a process by which we become more purposeful in connecting intimately with God as we go throughout our day. He is pursuing YOU and waiting with open arms for you!
Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.
Please don't hear this as something else you must "do" but as something He wants to do FOR YOU. Come to Him and HE will give you rest. He will fill you up. He will do the work. All you have to do is receive His love for you.
I truly believe that it’s in this process that we become more of who Jesus created us to be as individuals, and therefore more of who we were created to be as parents for our children.
Moms and Dads, rest in His grace. Really rest in it. This is how we water our own relationship with Christ, and are therefore equipped to reflect His heart and lead our kids in their own vibrant friendship with Jesus.