I have discovered that tending my house is much like tending my heart. It’s not a one-time deal where I can get everything in order, wash my hands, and say, “that’s done!” Both take a tremendous amount of hard work, determination, flexibility, and plain ol’ stick-to-itiveness. Even when the task is exciting and meaningful, it still requires ones full attention and care.
My Very First House – Ever
It was October, 2002. We’d been married 32 years and finally were purchasing our first home. It was a dream come true. Our zeal, excitement, anticipation or whatever else you may call it…well, we were both over the top. We had lived in church houses, trailers, rental houses, duplexes, and apartments – and now finally here we were – home-owners.
Making the “Cottage” Our Own
When we first found our little home it was a bit overgrown. The siding was white with everything else painted red – gutters, downspouts, window trim, well – everything. That was okay – we knew we’d paint it and make it into our own special “cottage.” We did. We spent months, dollars, and energies on the landscaping of the pool, the pool house, and the front yard. Friends and family came to paint, build, repair, and assist in decorating. Suddenly the garish red trim was a bright white accenting a pale creamy yellow. It was now “ours”.
And then circumstances changed and we moved away, leaving behind our wonderful dream home – our cottage. Thinking that we’d someday come back to retire, we decided to rent it out temporarily until a time in the future when we would return.
We Returned And Things Had Changed
The tree in the front yard now nearly double its original height, blocked the windows in the all-season room. The tree had to come down.
The turn-around required 10 tons of gravel to make it useable.The ruts in the yard left by parked cars and a dump truck (another story all together), must now be filled with a trailer load of dirt and grass seed to repair the scars on the lawn.
The weeds had obscured the lattice around the pavilion, and needed to be removed. Once that task was complete, the lattice and trim-work were exposed. Scraping, sanding, and painting was now added to my “to do” list.
The utility shed seemed to be in greatest need of attention….attention that would require weeks of work. First there would be the removal of poison ivy. Then there would be structural work on removing and replacing rotted wood. Finally there would be the new coat of paint and additional landscaping materials.
Preparing Our Home, Tending My Heart
I’ve thought deeply about the work-load of tending to my house. It’s been hard – and will continue to be so for many months yet to come. It’s been mostly physical. However, during the physical activity God has been doing some spiritual work in my heart. To properly tend to a house, a home, a job, a child or any other part of my life requires diligence, honesty, examination, and an action plan. It is much like tending a garden – and in this case the garden is not in what can be seen or touched – it is in the inner recesses of my very soul – it is the garden of my heart.
The Bible says out of the heart are the issues of life…and as a man thinks in his heart, so is he… and where your treasure is there will be your heart also. While physically tending to the issues of my house, that powerful but tender voice of God has whispered His words of truth and promise into four areas needing attention in my heart garden.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Change
Just like the tree that was growing in my front yard – it was beautiful, in its time. But sometimes things change. Change is not always bad. I didn’t want to take the tree down. “It’s a good tree,” I argued, but I knew it really was time to remove it. The tree was just right for a season….but change is okay too. With the tree gone, I love the openness I feel as I look toward the house, and can’t wait to landscape the area with new beauty.
Realize That Nothing Is Permanent
When we put tons of gravel on our yard 15 years ago, we didn’t think about it settling into the ground. But it did. With the settling of the gravel the turn-a-round quickly became a mud-bog, and therefore unusable. During my work at the house I used a product that basically said it was one and be done. Wouldn’t it be nice if the gravel was a one time and it was a done deal – but not so. Nor is it that way in our lives. We need to continually grow, learn, change, stretch, observe, and modify our behaviors as God teaches us a better way to do a thing, handle a circumstance, or trust His Word.
God Heals Wounds and Eases Pain
The ruts in my yard were up to 12 inches deep. I didn’t think I’d see the day when my lawn would be pretty again. It seemed impossible. But….now the grass is almost completely grown in. How like life when we become battle-scarred with grief, unforgiving attitudes, unrealized dreams, and accumulated hurts. With time and tender care, God will heal and ease the pain.
Major Work Is Sometimes Needed
The lattice on my pavilion was hidden by overgrown weeds, and when finally revealed it was in desperate need of major work. I yanked, scraped, and painted until the true beauty began to become visible. Oh my….how like my heart. There are often so many weeds of disbelief, unconfessed sin, pride, disobedience taking root in my heart that after removing them, there is still major work ahead to fill the empty places. Paul speaks of an awesome set of garden tools in his letter to the Philippians (Chapter 4, verse 8-10) when he instructs us to fill our hearts with things that are true, honest, fair, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, or worthy of praise – these tools can literally transform my garden.
Tending the garden of my heart is truly hard work, but the transformation from ugly to beautiful, despair to hope, anger to joy, exhaustion to energy, and despair to dreams is certainly worth the effort.
What are some of the tools you have used when tending the garden of your heart? I’d love to hear.