Create in Me a Clean Heart

So how goes your January? Still working on your New Year’s resolutions? I am. One of the goals that I am hoping to accomplish this year is to: Live More Simply. To use the “stuff” that I already have, and clear out the clutter. To try and eliminate what we cannot use, and to share our wealth with others. To prepare more and be less “pre-packaged”. To be more real and whole. And from the amount of videos, posts, plugs and pod casts on the topic, I’m guessing it is a goal that many of us have. Especially after the abundance of Christmas and the indulgences of the season past, there’s just something about that clean slate that brings a sense of peace and tranquility back into our lives… at least for me it does.

As I said, there are lots of helpful hints out there on how to purge, clean and organize your life. I’ve been searching out many, and gathering helpful hints and tips as I go. Some work, and some don’t work for me. Have you seen the news about this new cult following of the “queen of clean”? After chatting about my goals for this year, someone mentioned to me that I should look up Marie Kondo and her so called konmari method of cleaning and organizing. For those of you who have not heard of this Japanese guru on zen methods for cleaning, her minimalist style encourages you to keep only the things that “spark joy” for you. Thank the rest of your stashes for their faithful years of service and say adios to the discard pile! Then learn to fold everything in some obscure space saving stand up rectangle thingie and be all neat and tidy going forward! Yeah! I’m in.

This past weekend, I enlisted the hubby to help clean up and purge the furnace room. We don’t have a proper garage at our house, so the furnace room is a big space that holds a lot of our storage-type stuff: decorations, tools, camping equipment, that kind of stuff. My workshop bins also get stored here. Now, I am pretty confident in my organization skills… it’s one of the things that gets my juices flowing, so I am all in for folding bits of tissue papers and saving tiny pieces of ribbons — just in case. But the goal is to live more simply not just more organized. So the entire contents of the left side of the room got emptied out into the hallway and family room. (The right side has tools and will take another whole day to move around). We pulled off the old shelving from the wall and considered our options. There are some exposed pipes and such, as well as the furnace and hot water heater in this room, so we wondered how best to conserve space. I wonder if the “konmari konverts” can fold Rubbermaid bins of Christmas lights to store vertically? I am pleased to say, that we decided not to spend more on new shelving, and use what we had and simply stack the bins. (Hurray for small accomplishments, right?)

The BEFORE

I sat with the youngest crew member and sorted through gift bags and spools of ribbon and tried to be purposeful in what bits I kept. We tossed the 3 air mattresses with holes in them, and I refused to keep storing the aquarium light fixtures that might work if we need them someday. We initiated a project that has been on my to-do list for 10 years. I struggled too. I have two bins left in my family room that I still “need to deal with”. One is the kids old soccer stuff. Cleats and shin pads that won’t fit anyone we know, but are too good to just toss. I need to post them up for sale. The other bin is…yes, I admit it… my craft supplies that have been in the bin forever… but I just might use some day! (I’m one of those girls who could pass on a new pair of shoes, but a brand new pack of colourful paper — oooh…yes please!) I could say that they bring me joy, but I’d be lying to myself. The joy comes when those items get used and turned into something beautiful.

The AFTER

As we dusted and mopped and started to put things back, I reflected a little on how our hearts are like our furnace room. We store so much in there! Useful things, things that truly bring us joy, things that we may only use for a season, but bring renewed happiness each time we bring them out. Then there are the other things. The things we hoard and hide and hope they work… eventually. Or the things we are not willing to give up. Like the box of baby clothes I simply closed the lid on and slid back into place. (Why am I keeping baby clothes?! My youngest is almost 11!) Perhaps you have some bits of ribbon and trinkets that you want to someday make into something beautiful… but haven’t made the time for just yet. So they get stored away in that little space left in the corner of your heart. I will be the first one to say: I hear ya, friend!!

So in this first month of this new year, I am praying the prayer of David in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your Presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” I want my outward de-cluttering to be a reflection of my heart. I want to live simply and use what has been given to me to benefit others and not let those things be quickly tossed away because I have chosen to be careless with it. I am discovering it is a very, very slow process. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes thinking ahead and making conscious choices. It may be simpler… but it is certainly not easier.

So, I am asking you to join me for the next few weeks as I blog about some changes that we are trying here at the Mitton house… to live simply. Hopefully, it will create in us some “cleaner hearts” as well.

New Beginnings


“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJ 2000 Version)

Happy New Year!! I love a new beginning! That moment when you crack the spine of a brand new book, the joy and sweet smell of a newborn baby still all tiny and wrinkly, a brand new box of crayons — still pristine, with sharpened points ready for creating! There is just something about a clean slate that gives us hope. It is exactly what this verse is telling us… our past person is no longer… God has made us new and improved! Full of potential and hope!

Many of you know that I like to dabble in crafting and have been a big scrapbooker for many years. My scrapping friends like to tease me, because after I finish a page (or layout, as the proper term is…) I tend to tidy up my space before I begin the next one… it’s kind of a funny quirk I have… perhaps it is because I am used to working in a small craft space and need to give myself some room. Maybe I just like to start fresh. To get the creative juices flowing again. To begin with a clean slate. The first day of school is like that for me too. New teachers, new grade, new school supplies. It’s a chance to start, again, with new possibilities for learning, new friendships to develop, new skills to learn and master. That new box of crayons!

And so, as we enter in to a new year, I am again reminded of all things “new”. I look back and reflect to a time when I was younger and tried to keep up with the newest trends and fashion. Truth be told, part of me still succumbs to that drive for perfection… but I have a new goal for 2019… to try and live simply. To let “stuff” go a little, to use less, to be less consumed by the pettiness of this world. Even that has become trendy though… and the new and improved lifestyles of the younger generation is one of minimalist living. We easily fall into the trap of judging others based on how they choose their lifestyles. It’s a complicated world, isn’t it?

When I was much younger, 2 Corinthians 5:17 was a verse that a very wise Sunday school teacher made us memorize. I was (and still am) terrible at memorizing, so I had to say it over and over again. The verse’s message is simple and yet so profound. We became completely new in Christ when we gave our lives to Him. That is the hope that we have for new beginnings. That is that fresh new baby in the manger smell (okay maybe not that smell…) It’s that blank slate that cleanses us of the past. It allows us the freedom to simply be a child again; to put away the old things that tend to crush our spirits, that make us heavy with the burdens of adulthood, that weigh us down.

Perhaps this last year has been a difficult one for you. Perhaps you have suffered loss and pain and heartache. Perhaps you simply want a clean slate with less “bad” and more “good”. That’s the thing about the new box of crayons… sometimes you gotta ruin that beautiful pristine point to get all the beautiful colours down on paper.

So… as we begin a new year of muses together, rejoice in the hope we have for that new beginning, the one that makes us new creations in Christ. The old has gone, the new has come… the clean slate is ready and you have a brand new box of crayons….happy colouring!!

Christmas Angels

   The days are getting colder here in Canada.  Soon the fluffy, white snowflakes will begin to swirl in the skies above and it’ll be time to cozy up indoors with a good book and my coveted cup of coffee. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season has come way too soon for me… we just pulled out all the Christmas decorations this past weekend!  I have a few favourite ones in my stash.  All of them are angels.  One is a teeny wooden one, given to me by a dear friend in memory of a special little baby. I safely tuck it away every year and cry a new batch of tears when I pull it out again as the memories flood over me.  Another is a primitive little crafted thing,with a toilet paper roll for a body and some lace tucked in for a skirt.  It was supposed to be “faceless” … but my kids secretly drew a magic-markered-happy-face smile on it because they didn’t think it looked right without features. The final favourite is a beautiful figurine, decked out in eyelet lace with feathery wings and a delicate, china face. I bought it when we were first married at a country fair.  There were rumours the vendor was a witch, and perhaps I shouldn’t buy from her, but I didn’t care… it was (and still is!) so pretty.  If I had an unlimited budget and didn’t have to dust, my house would be filled with Victorian angels decked out in fine royal purples and regal reds.  They are one of my favourite things at Christmas.

Yet, I wonder if my concept of angels is wrong.  Have I some how twisted my view of these very special messengers of God?  Created to serve Him faithfully forever?  Recent polls suggest that a large percentage of North Americans, no matter what their religious backgrounds, have a belief in angels or heavenly beings.  Are they truly the chubby, naked little cherubs we imagine all decked out with harps and bows and arrows?  Or the Christmas tree toppers adorned with gold ribbons and flowing gowns of crimson?  Perhaps we are too casual with our angelic references: “Thanks so much…you’re such an angel for bringing me that… Oh, what a darling, little angel she is…”  When the Bible refers to angels, humans tended to bow down in absolute fear (Gen.19:1, Luke 1).  Even the Christmas angels who brought the good news to the shepherds caused them to be “terrified”.  These heavenly hosts were definitely not the adorable 5-year-olds with make shift tinsel halos hailing “Fear not” in the Children’s Christmas pageant. 

That being said, I am thankful that these messengers of God are still so very present in our lives.  I have heard countless stories of missionaries narrowly escaping death because “strange groups of men” seemed to be protecting them.  I am confident that my children have been protected from harm on more than one occasion because of the prayers of believers around them.  Those prayers have sent angels to fight the spiritual battles we all face every day in this fallen world.  I am comforted that God still sends His heralds to remind me, like Mary and the shepherds, “not to be afraid”.  He has messengers of the good news all around us.  We just have to search them out.

I don’t think the true heavenly creatures are as cute and gentle as we imagine.

The angelic creatures described in the book of Revelation should be an indication to me that God Almighty is in control of all, and that one day the battle will be won.  The flaming, sword bearing protectors will vanquish evil on Christ’s behalf and we will enter His gates with thanksgiving and joy. 

Can you imagine what it will be like to join voices with the heavenly choir of seraphims and cherubims and cry “Holy, Holy, Holy to the Lord God Almighty”?!  Oh, my friend, it is no wonder we admire these creatures who were made for the infinite purpose of praising the One who saves us.

This season, as I pullout my tissue wrapped treasures, and top my tree with the guardians of Heaven, I will be encouraged that “… we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28,29 NIV)

And when the swirling flakes arrive, and the busyness of the season preoccupies my time, and I am flustered with all the preparations that need to be done, I pray that I will be able to look at that magic marker smile of the “toilet paper roll angel” sitting on the shelf, and be reminded to “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing, some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1,2 NIV)

Advent

I hate waiting.  I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school.  I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening.  I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).

So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen.  I don’t think many of us are good at waiting.  Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?!  The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween!  The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting!  They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting!  Order now!  Direct ship!  Buy online!  Available 24 hours, seven days a week!  

Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth.  Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, to think and ponder, and to hope for the future.  It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.  The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th.  Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats everyday!  Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of advent at our church.  It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice.   It is something I have come to cherish as an adult.  It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”.  It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait.  To anticipate.  To revel in the beauty of hope.

Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism:  it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity.  Our Christ is timeless.  He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger.  Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle.  Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent, and culminate with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve.  This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.  

The first candle is purple.  It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby.  The second purple candle represents love, and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle.  So much love happened in that lowly stable…. I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face.   Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby?  Yup, love for sure.  The next candle is pink… and represents joy.   It is the shepherd’s candle.  It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born!  The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful.   This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflection, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us.  The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.  

So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting.  Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming.  Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you.  May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together.   Take time to rejoice in waiting.  Oh… it shall be no easy task!  Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?

Want to learn more about Advent?  Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas on DIY calendars, symbols, studies and more!

Legacies

a guest post from Abbie B.

Super excited to be sharing from a friend today!  Abbie is much (much!) younger than I, and yet, I am slightly jealous of her adventures.  I asked her to share a bit of her story after seeing a photo from her Jamaican trip.  Ya’ll know I love a good photo — and this one struck something within me — there is compassion and hope embodied in it, and yet sorrow and despair.  So I knew there must be a story behind it.  I have asked Abbie to share the story.  Enjoy!

Growing up knowing that both my Nana and my Grandma were overseas missionary nurses had always been an inspiration, and created a question of whether or not that might be God’s calling on my own life. When I began my nursing journey, I had many people ask me if I was going to follow in my Grandma and Nana’s footsteps. I always replied:  “If that’s what God wants.” I never wanted to say “I don’t know”.

So, when the opportunity of doing an International placement in Jamaica came up, I jumped at the opportunity.  Being a hands on person, I knew that I needed to experience being an international nurse to know if that was where God was leading me.

I didn’t know what I was going to be walking into when I landed in Jamaica, I didn’t know how I would feel! There was a part of me that was scared to walk into a new culture that I’d never experienced, the other part of me was excited for the challenge that was waiting.  My time was split between an orphanage and a small primary school.  Both places were completely different.  Walking into the orphanage, my heart felt heavy,  it was so hard knowing that some of these children didn’t have a permanent place to call home and to feel safe. We spent a majority of our time with the babies. Some who were premature, some toddlers, some who were not able to walk because of varying mobility impairments.  It was so hard to see the needs of the children, whether it was just to hold premature babies or to take a toddler out of their crib and help them walk.  It was even harder when a new baby would come in and try to settle.  My heart broke at their cries for comfort and security.  Working at the orphanage really affirmed in me that my heart is for people who are displaced and broken. Really breaking my heart for what breaks God’s. Our days there were spent doing Head to Toe Assessments (checking all the major body’s systems to make sure that there isn’t anything abnormal), bathing, changing clothes and diapers, playing games, reading, feeding, giving medications when needed to the babies and toddlers, as well as teaching the care givers at the orphanage about the misconceptions of asthma or hygiene.  Which at times was difficult for me because I never wanted to feel like a “know it all”,  or that I was stepping on toes.  I really learned how to be collaborative with those around me.

Working at the primary school was a good break from the emotional roller coaster (not that I didn’t love the orphanage) because I got to use a different side of my brain and skills while at the school.  It was more of “health teaching” with the children there. We brought down nurse and doctor costumes and I got to explain what the different instruments were and played games with them.  It wasn’t a large school by any means, but it felt like a family there — which was such a different feel than the orphanage.  I took the teachers’ blood pressures daily,  to see patterns of increase and decrease, answered their questions about what diabetes, heart failure, asthma etc. all are, and how some can be avoided, and that some is just up to genetics. So many amazing conversations about what health is and what it means to people either physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  It amazes me how we can be from different parts of the world and find a common ground — and from there — relationships are built.

I loved my international placement,  and in a lot of ways I’m still decompressing and sorting through the lessons I learned.  The one thing that I will always hold with me is when I was leaving, the woman that we were staying with, said to me “You have a beautiful heart, don’t ever lose it.” God’s given me passions, He’s created a heart in me for people to feel safe and secure, to have a place where they feel like they belong.  By the end of my placement, I had a whole new appreciation for my grandma and Nana. Their faith, their consistency, and their commitment to serve God in the unknown. The whole time I was there I was asking God:  “Is this what you want me to do? Is this where you are leading me?” By the end I realized that being a long term missionary isn’t something that God is calling me to.   I think short term trips are still an open door that God isn’t going to be closing anytime soon.  I know that community is where God is calling me and I’ve really seen that in Toronto.  There are so many who are broken and displaced for varying reasons.  My heart breaks for them, and all I want to do is step beside them and walk with them through the hard times.  I’m excited to see where God leads me, as scary as that is,  I trust that He knows best and He will be faithful in giving me the strength to follow through.

Indeed He will, Abbie.  I wish you much joy in the adventure!  

Wind Beneath My Wings

road trip musingOur wayward firstborn was recently home from University for reading week.  It was lovely to have her, even though we have already given away her room to her younger brother.  She had to put up with the basement.  Nonetheless, on my trip to pick her up, the GPS app on my phone took me through some winding country roads.   I’ve made this two hour trip hundreds of times before, but for some reason that day, I was relying on my phone to pull me out of the back roads and get me to somewhere more familiar.  I seemed to be wandering in farmland for way too long… I began to pray that the power wouldn’t totally seep out of the phone before I arrived.  I was lucky — all of a sudden I came upon civilization and breathed again.

It was a dull day when I made that drive all on my own.  The skies were overcast and the wind was whipping around as rain threatened the skies but didn’t appear.  At two different stretches of highway, we seemed to have a “leaf storm”.  The leaves blew around the vehicle in great swirls and gusts as if they were snowflakes driven by winter winds led by Jack Frost himself.  It was quite unusual, really.  Yellow leaves mostly, from the ash trees of the area.  Twice I seemed to be the only one on the back roads, engulfed in this inferno of flying leaves.  Like something out of the Wizard of Oz.  I was not in Kansas anymore.  Or anywhere I was familiar with either, for that matter.

When the leaf storms subsided, I took note of the fields surrounding me.  I was taking the opportunity to reflect a little as the two hours of peace and quiet was a welcomed rest for my busy soul.  (And truth be told,  I was trying to figure out where the heck I was with respect to my final destination!)  The farmers fields were a dull yellow… dry corn husks left to be plowed under soon.  Flat, drab, and lifeless,  surrounded by the autumn forests of reds, greens, and browns.  Houses dotted the perfectly paved roads.  Nothing of great note.  Except for two black silhouettes on the horizon.wind beneath my wings

At two different points on my drive, I witnessed two giant birds soaring in the wind.  They were probably hawks or falcons.  Maybe one was an osprey — we often see their giant nests atop telephone poles in the area.  The first one I noticed seemed to be gliding effortlessly through the field.  Guided along with the wind beneath its wings… seemingly without a care in the world.  The other was also majestically soaring — but swooped up and down almost as if it was having fun in the windstorm!  Have you ever stuck your arm out the window of a moving car?  Okay… not recommending it … not safe…. don’t do this at home… blah blah… But if you ever have… you will know the feeling of the wind beneath your “wings”.  That pressure that pushes you back but encourages you forward… and you dip and rise your hand like in the commercials of pretty girls in convertibles advertising some vacation spot in sunny Aruba.

It struck me, as I watched this big bird for the brief few seconds as I drove past, that this is what Isaiah was talking about when he says that those whose hope is in the Lord, will renew their strength and soar on wings like eagles!  (Isaiah 40).  This big bird was dipping and diving and seemed to actually be having fun in the wind!  So often we get caught up in our daily grinds of work, ministry, kids, etc., and life seems to be taking us on the winding back roads.  We get overwhelmed by the “leaf storms” that blow our way and get confused by our whereabouts in what should be the familiar.  We get tired.  Yet, God is so much bigger than we can even imagine.   He becomes the wind beneath our wings.  Then we are carried and soar.  Dipping and diving as our strength is renewed yet again.soar like eagles

Apparently there are 4 different species of eagles in Palestine.  It’s no wonder that the bible authors make reference to their power, might and majesty, and uses them as our example for the never tiring Lord who renews our strength.  I’m pretty sure my birds were not eagles, but big birds nonetheless.   Even the Bette Midler song from way back, makes the bible reference of soaring eagles.  Who is your hero today?  Who is the wind beneath your wings when your strength is failing?  Rest well in knowing that God is big enough to carry you through the storms and uncertainties.   Enjoy the dips and dives as you swoop through the dull fields of leftovers.  May He be the wind beneath your wings!

 

 

How to Re-pot a Cactus (Without Getting Poked!)

Re-potting CactiGreetings!  It’s been a hectic week and I am just catching up on a few things (like laundry and housecleaning… what an exciting life I lead, eh?).  We are almost into our third week of our 30 Days of Blessings challenge and I am being so encouraged by how people are being blessed!  One of the challenges we recently enjoyed was to discover all about plants!  Now, I am no green thumb, but I do like plants.  It’s just crazy how diverse they are.  So many colours, shades and textures.  I garden a bit… but I’m really too lazy to tend the land a whole lot.  Houseplants are my jive.  I don’t have the space for a jungle, but we do have a few potted beauties hanging around.  The recent prompt encouraged me to buy two more little succulents… they are all the rage right now!  Seriously… How many Instagram pics have you seen with that tiny green thing on the perfectly clean office desk?  It’s so unreal, people.  Do computer desks look like that?  Not mine.   Although I must say, one of my new little guys looks like he needs some googly eyes and a sombrero… it’s so funny!

succulents are fun!

I have a few other succulents, too, which I love to share as they are so easy to propagate.  If you need some help with that, you can read about my simple teacher’s gifts here.  I once “adopted” an Aloe Vera plant that was huge when I got it.  I have shared that one so many times that I only have a few sprigs (apparently the correct term is “pups”) left.  I will have to leave it alone for awhile to grow back.  But, I digress, we are here to talk about my cacti!  I received two little cacti as a souvenir from Arizona.  The hubby brought them back from a trip he took several years ago.  Recently, they were beginning to look a little sad.  One was definitely leaning over (yes, I stuck an old knitting needle in the soil to prop it up!) The other was starting to spot a tad in the middle where it had touched the other one.  They had grown too big for the shallow dish they were in and needed to be re-potted for more space… only issue… they are very prickly!!

I had tried once before to re-pot my cactus using tongs to prop it up and some gloves… but the spines went through the gloves!  Someone told me a towel would work… but the spines stuck in the towel.  And so… YouTube became my friend once again.  A lovely expert from California (all things cacti there!) re-potted a huge, tall, spiky beast using bunched up newspaper… and voila!  It worked!   I carefully dug around the bottom with a fork and used my oven mitts and some crunched up newspapers to lift the cactus out.  It’s pot partner immediately flopped over in shear depression at the thought of being left alone forever — but was soon rescued as well, and placed back with it’s beloved in a new home.  Unfortunately, because I had procrastinated moving them so long, the roots had grown slightly sideways, so the plants are still slightly leaning and currently propped up again.  I am hoping with more room to grow, they will grow fat and healthy!  Newspaper hugs did the trick!newspaperhugs

What about you, my friend?  Ever get stuck in a pot too small for your liking, but too afraid of getting poked to move on?  Ever feel like you are being prompted for something bigger, somewhere you can bloom and flourish,  but doubts and fears keep you leaning over because you’ve procrastinated too long?  Or are you afraid to get poked by people who want to see you fail?  The Bible tells us to “Be Strong!  Be fearless!  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you.  He won’t let you down and He won’t abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 (CEBA))  How encouraging!  I know, I know, you are right — easier said than done.  So how do we turn the hard parts to our advantage?  Take the example of our plants.  Even though the spines are added protection for the plant, cacti use their spikes to retain water as well — a necessary resource in the desert (because they lack leaves).  Our struggles often produce defensive spikes that keep our predators at bay.  We must learn that even though times are tough, our defenses can become our greatest assets.  They help us survive in the desert of life.

Sometimes, we forget.  We get stabbed with the consequences when we are not protected.  I got a jab by one tiny spine through my oven mitt as I propped up my leaning cactus without the added protection of the newspapers.  I tried to do it on my own.  When our Godly defenses are down, we sometimes react without being properly guarded.  And it hurts… let me tell ya!  So use your newspaper to wrap one another in love.  Hug a cactus with all the encouragement and grace you can find!  Cushion them with space and then gently lift them forward.  Only then can you begin to see them flourish and bloom in their new space!  bloom & flourish