Time Out.

 

 

 

This week for me so far has been about taking time out. Not because I want it, not because I asked for it- but because it was forced. Yes, I came to a complete and total stop and I couldn’t do anything about it. Time out to heal was necessary.

On Saturday, I was lifting a full basket of dirty clothes, when I twisted sideways to get through the door. My back cracked and I almost fell to the floor, as my legs gave away momentarily. I dropped the clothes and hung onto the wall as the world spun. After a few moments, I felt ok so re-lifted the basket and took it to the laundry room. Within 15 minutes I could not bend, sit, walk, stand or move without pain.

Saturdays are busy. I wash, clean, cook and run my children around as their social lives kick into full gear.  Not this day, by lunch time I was in so much pain that I kept needing to go and lay down. I tried painkillers, anti-inflammatories, heat packs, cold packs, stretching and finally bedrest.

I figured that if I pushed through I would be fine. To make a long story short, Monday morning I wanted to do one more thing before taking myself off to the doctors…. Yes… that is where I stayed until help came. I rang the health hotline and they called the ambulance. Monday night I spent in hospital… and I had to stop.

The feeling of vulnerability and helplessness was something that I neither like nor wanted. The mummy of the house could not do what she usually accomplishes. Instead of others relying on me, I was relying on others.

The lessons I learnt over a few days were memorable.

First lesson I learnt was that I have a wonderful group of friends.

What took my attention was that I have two friends a that are single mums. They were right there doing stuff for me and offering to do stuff for me constantly. They rang me, visited me, and were… well… very present.

To add to this further, I know I had people who would have been there at the drop of a hat if I had called – I know this from experiance. Then there was a wonderful lady who got my eldest to school. So many people that helped me out.

I found this very humbling. These women are not part of my church family, they are simply women (mostly Christian) who have become part of my life in this small town. To see their eagerness to help was very overwhelming.

My God is very present as well. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” I know my God is very present, this too is overwhelming.

The second thing I came to understand more was, that I have sons that are wonderful young men and I could rely on them when things were hard. I could spend a few pages bragging about their kindness, but I won’t. I need to tell you something I learnt.

I realised that there were things I needed to teach my children, that I had not taught them.

Why not? Because I had always done it for them.

Now, please understand me, my boys do a lot. They dust, clean, vacuum, sweep and do a great job. I have sons that have clean rooms… yep, you read correctly…. I have teenagers with clean rooms. I never need to mow the lawn anymore, because they do it. Their chore list is long enough, in their eyes, but that is not what I am talking about. There were things that I thought were just common sense, because I had been doing them for a long time.

For example, one night my eldest and I hung out the clothes. The next morning, I watched him walk out the door to the back yard, he muttered something as he walked out the door. Next minute he hauls in a basket of clothes and plonks them on the bed beside me. The conversation went like this –

Me:        What is that?

Him:      The clothes from last night.

Me:        Wow… Thank you… are they dry?

Him:       I don’t know. (and throws me a pair of shorts)

Me:        They aren’t dry.

Him:       Well, they will be fine, they will dry in a little while.

Me:        Um, no they won’t. Sorry, you need to go and hang these back up.

Him:      Oh my goodness me!! I have just taken them off!!!

My son had never seen me check to see if the clothes were dry. Because I have been doing the washing for 40 years, I suppose that I have bit of an understanding when things are dry. He didn’t know that. He had only seen me walk out and take clothes off the line.

It reminded me again that there is so much more I need to teach my boys, in so many ways. All day long I pondered this and the need to sometimes be willing to back away to allow them to be taught. More importantly for me, not to presume that they know.

I know that God often does this with me. He backs away so that I can be taught faith, compassion, patience and mercy…you know…that “stuff”. The “stuff” that we pray for and then don’t like when God answers.

Oh.. and then there is dealing with s..i..n… you know, the stuff we do that breaks our relationship with our God.

Have you ever thought of that?

We really would prefer if character building came in tablet form.  Sugar coated so we don’t get the horrible taste as we swallow life in its realist form. ‘Cause then this would happen…

(Drum roll) Ta da!!

A Super-Christian extraordinaire has arrived!! With bright leotards and a big red cross on our chest. Yeah… anyway… where was I?

We don’t change like that, and neither will my children. If I don’t back off, the boys will always think that they have nothing more to learn. They need to grow and change, so do I.

There is a scripture that everyone knows, but prefer if it doesn’t have to do with them..

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Rom 5:3-4

When we run into troubles and find ourselves in difficulties, then we are developing and growing. God would like us to grow, to become stronger in faith and character. It is really up to us.

I have been proud how my children have not once complained about the extra workload, and they have done it cheerfully and willingly. I wish that I could say the same when God gives me things to do.

Having time out is good, for everyone in my family. Tonight, I was able to cook tea and clean up afterwards with only a few little rest breaks. They were grateful for a cooked meal, and mum back at the table again. And me…I am glad that lessons have been learnt in our household.

Also, I am glad that God has used this time to remind me how much He loves me/us. If He didn’t love me/us, He would leave me and you to our own stubborn ways. My God parents well.

Be blessed.

It left a mark.

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This time last year we had two massive hailstorms that went through our small country town. The last one was huge and left most of the trees in our town without leaves, and damaged many houses and cars. People in our town can tell tales of survival.. embellished by time, of course.

I have several plants that sit on the veranda of my house, shaded from the hot sun and strong winds, and a few that sit on the outer part of the veranda. They are the hardier of plants as they are just like the plants in our garden. Two of those plants, recently caught my attention. One is a miniature rose bush and the other a blueberry bush.

Last year my blueberry bush was about to produce another bumper crop of berries and was thick with foliage and fruit. (pictured above)My miniature rose bush was a gift from my wonderful and loving bible study ladies only a week before the storm. Its branches were covered with beautiful flowers in full bloom.

During the last storm, both received a lot of damage and I was concerned that they would survive. The rose bush was a forked stick poking sorrowfully out of the soil, with not a leaf or flower in sight. My blueberry bush was a mess of broken branches, or dangling by a thread. It’s smashed and damaged fruit littered the large pot it sat in.

I carefully pruned both bushes, removing the damaged branches, and cleared the pots of debris. I sighed as I picked up the unripened fruit and felt grief at the loss.

Everywhere around our big native garden was destruction. Every flowered bush was stripped of its leaves and flowers. Every tree had smaller branches broken, while their smashed leaves provided a earie green carpet on the ground. One tree had fallen across the pathway to our garage and was obviously never going to stand again. The birds that usually fill our garden with noise were strangely quiet. Hail lay in piles, freezing our toes while the air was filled with the humidity that comes after a spring storm.

A year later the garden is blooming again. Apart from the one tree that fell, all the others survived and no sign of the storm a year ago can be seen. Once again the sounds of busy and happy birds fill our ears with sound and everything is bursting with life and colour.

It is the blueberry bush and the rose bush that has been the focus of my heart and prayers over the past few week as God continues to speak to me about it.

I was pottering around my garden taking in the sounds and smells of spring, when I came to the two bushes growing on my veranda. Suddenly I realised that the blueberry bush should have buds ready for fruit…some flowers… something to show what type of bush it was. It didn’t. Every other plant in the garden was doing so. Why not my blueberry bush?

I sat on the wooden floor boards beside the bush and looked at it… this is what I saw –

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Leaves had returned and it had not died, but it’s branches showed the signs of were the hail had hit it. Marks covered the branches and holes were gouged into the main trunk. I had pruned it back to the basic branches, but they were badly damaged. Yet it had survived, and was growing healthy leaves. But there wasn’t a flower in sight and no buds of fruit.

The branches of the blueberry touched a spot in my heart and I sat mesmerised by the ugly marks. A question popped into my head and I stood up to see what the answer was to the question – What about the branches of the rose bush?

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The rose bush (picture above)did not have a single mark on its branches. Not one. The foliage, while still a little sparse, was healthy and the flower buds were plenty. The two flowers that were open, were beautiful and almost perfect. The smell –  divine.

My eyes flicked back to the blueberry bush and God placed a thought in my heart. “some people are like these bushes when storms come.” Then He was silent.

Over the last two weeks, the Lord has continued to speak to me about these bushes every time I see them both. God doesn’t always speak everything at once to me, sometimes it is in dribs and drabs. Little moments of clarity and simple thoughts, along with a gentle reminder that healing sometimes comes slowly.

Like my two bushes I have had some giant hailstorms that have hit my life. For those who want to look closely, you will find marks. You will also find foliage and flowers, and fruit. It depends on what you want to look at. Most people want to admire the flowers and the foliage and turn their eyes away from the marks left by the terrible times that would have nearly destroyed me.

God’s daughter come in all shapes and sizes. We are a varied as there are types of trees in this world. If you got us all in a room, you would go, “WOW!”. But look closely at our branches, especially for those of us that have just gone through a hailstorm, and you will find marks, some of them may even be a bit …ugly? Don’t look away, they are signs of storm damage, they are marks of bravery and strength, they are proof of survival.

Along with our shapes and sizes come the type of branches we have. The blueberry bush branches are bigger than the rose. So, when the hail fell, the blueberry bush stood up to the pounding better, but wore the consequences. Just because any of us bare the scares of the storms, doesn’t mean we were more beaten, just that we took more of a pounding.

Here is the final lesson that came from these little bushes. God is always a better gardener than me. Actually… I am not a gardener at all. I have plants. Some survive and some don’t. I am not sure what I do wrong, but some never survive my “tender loving care”. Since my poor little plants look a little lackluster, I presume I need to visit the local nursery and ask some questions.

My God knows me and know what needs to happen. While I don’t really know if I pruned it properly, God knows what need to be pruned from my life to bring about full and beautiful foliage and the best fruit and flowers. While I doubted whether my plants would survive after such a storm, God knew all along that I would survive. God is the perfect gardener and He is always looking for ways to help me grow and survive whatever I go through.

You know what? Don’t worry about the marks. We can’t be self-focused or all we will see is the marks and everything that we are not. A rose bush and a blueberry bush are not concerned about the marks, they are just doing what God made them to do. What about you?

*****

 

“Look at the birds of the air…Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34

 

Be blessed!

Ruth