Friday, August 24, 2012

My Tomato Plant Story, & Surviving the Traumas of Life

"All our difficulties are only platforms
for the manifestation of His grace, power, and love."
~ Hudson Taylor

At the beginning of the summer, a sweet friend offered our family a tomato plant. I was so thrilled, because for about three years, my son has been asking to plant a garden. In fact, for a few months before my health crisis kicked in, he and my husband were in planning mode – figuring out which vegetables would need what type of sunlight, observing the sun’s patterns around our yard, and so on.

But apparently the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, don’t they? My health crisis kicked in, our family landscape took on a life-altering shift, and it all came to a screeching halt. So when my friend extended the offer, it was such a personal blessing from the Lord. A moment of mercy in the form of a tomato plant.

When we picked up our new little tomato plant from our friend, it had recently been plummeted by a significant downpour of hail, and even uprooted by the storm. So when we got it, it was in a weak and fragile state, and kinda looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. But it was a treasure to us – because it was ours. Finally, our very own {one-plant} garden.

{I just love that watering can, don't you?}

My son and I potted it and put it on our deck, right outside our back door. Day and night, I look out the back window to see how it’s coming along. Constantly! {It’s been a powerful reminder that God clearly created me to nurture – because nurturing is one way that He orients my heart toward Him, and draws my soul into worship.} Well sure enough, between some regular rounds of water and doses of the morning summer sun, it didn’t take long before it came around.

When our family went away for two weeks, a kind neighbor gave our tomato plant its fill of water in the summer heat. When we returned, we were surprised to find that it had nearly doubled in size. AND, it had its first small green tomato on it!

It was evident that the 12” pot wasn’t going to cut it much longer, so we bought a bigger new pot. And sadly, the transfer from one pot to the other became a big mess – from our deck to our hearts. In the process, a ton of dirt ended up all over our back deck, feelings were hurt, and the prized tiny green tomato ended up breaking off. (Sigh.)

The following morning after my son watered it, he asked why there was only one cluster of blossoms, when the day before, there were five or six. So I introduced him to the word, trauma.

I explained that plants are fragile, and so the process of uprooting them and transferring them from one pot to another is very hard on them, and often takes a big toll on their well-being for a time, just like we were witnessing. Branches broke, clusters of life-expectant yellow blossoms weren’t sustained, and it lost the only new solitary “crop” it had yielded. All normal responses to the trauma it had endured. But I knew it would be okay. I knew it would, in fact, be healthier in the new pot.

~ ~ ~

My sweet sojourner, I know you’ve been there. One day, you’re all settled in the warm and rich soil of life just like every day prior. And then out of nowhere, the hardest of hail starts to pound the core of your being. It’s harsh, it’s heavy, and it’s no respecter of the things you cherish. Including your pride.

And it hurts. It hurts deeply. I know, precious one, because I’ve been there. We bruise. We break. And we feel as if the very roots of our soul are being cruelly yanked out of the ground, swept up by dark storms. And it doesn’t seem to let up, does it?

I know you’ve had days when you don’t think you can take any more. Days when you are too weak to even hold your head up, too despairing to even lift your eyes toward the sun to look for a glimmer of hope. Days when the crushing weight of life seems more than you can bear. Like our battered plant, your fragile frame slouches low, and all your weary eyes see is the dirt that once nurtured and sustained you – now a scattered mess on the ground around you.

Those storm clouds continue to loom & threaten no relief for the downpour. In fact, you don’t even recognize where you are, anymore.
Or who you are.

You’ve grown desperate and afraid, haven’t you? And your soul cries out in agony, wondering if you’re even heard. Sometimes you don’t even have it in you to scramble for hope. Sometimes you're not even feeling much of anything.

And so, weary traveler, what are we to do in those times?
How are we to manage the tremendous pain that life so faithfully doles out?

Well, I know it sounds simple. And I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before. But we are simply to trust.

Listen to this:
"If you are walking in darkness,
without a ray of light,
trust in the Lord
and rely on your God."

- Isaiah 50:10

Trust, friend.

If you feel like the very ground beneath you is swiftly being swept away, and you have nothing left, these are some truths to hang onto:

You are not alone.

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."

~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

God has not abandoned you or left you to fend for your own soul. He IS present with you in this circumstance. And He wants you to know that He sees your pain. With His tender hand, He has personally collected every tear you’ve cried along this journey.
And He understands.

You are not consumed.

“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord."

~ Lamentations 3:22-26

The Lord is your portion.
Wait for Him, dear one.

You are not without hope.

“God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”

~ Psalm 9:18

"Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him."

~ Psalm 62:5

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.”

~ Jeremiah 29:11

His plans are NOT to harm you.
Remember that!

Yes, we are pounded hard by the consequences of a fallen world like ice-cold hail on a delicate leaf. But God is greater than the world, and nothing can stop the hope-filled plans that He has for your life. (Job 42:2).

God is sustaining you.

"You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love.
My life was preserved by your care."

~ Job 10:12

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

~ Psalm 94:18-19

God is renewing you.

“I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

~ Isaiah 57:15

“So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away,
our spirits are being renewed every day.”

~ 2 Corinthians 4:16

“For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

~ Isaiah 43:19

“The believer who is going through struggle and failure is the Christian who is being carefully and lovingly handled by his Lord in a very personal way . . . God works by paradox. Success comes via failure; life springs out of death. The only element in the believer’s life that crumbles is that which has to go anyway – the new life can never be harmed or affected.”

~ Miles J. Stanford (The Complete Green Letters)

God’s grace is enough.

“He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient."

~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

I want you to think about the most difficult trial you are facing today. Something immediately came to mind when I said that, didn’t it? So take that circumstance, that relationship, that crisis – whatever it is, I want you to insert into this sentence:

His grace is enough for ________ .

Was that a hard one to swallow? It is for me oftentimes, because my finite, rational being struggles to trust that God is truly as big as He really is. So tell it to yourself a couple more times:

His grace is enough for ________ .

His grace IS enough for ________ !

In your weakness, you’ll find your Strength.

“for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

“All through life God has to show us our utter sinfulness and need, before He is able to lead us on into realms of grace, in which we shall glimpse His glory.”~ Miles J. Stanford (The Complete Green Letters)

Your weakness, dear soul, is far more valuable to God than your strength, for it causes you to be dependent on His great power. And that dependence is precisely where your Strength is found. Because that’s where HE is found – at the end of you. Not your perceived self-sufficiency. Not the areas of life that feel under control. Your weak spots, your struggles, yes, even your suffering.
Your helplessness is the very vehicle for the perfect power of God Almighty.

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

~ Psalm 73:26

And maybe, just maybe, there’s something you can’t see.
Maybe what feels like an uprooting is actually the mighty Hand of God tenderly carrying you to a new pot, leading you to a new place that will offer your soul more room – more room for growth, more room for Him. Remember what happens to a plant’s roots when they have more room to grow? They grow deeper, and stronger.

And maybe He’s positioning you for greatness.
My pastor recently pointed out that Paul’s chains were actually used as a means for his survival. His chains! And they were used as a platform for him to preach the Gospel to an even larger audience. Acts 28:30 says that Paul preached “without hindrance.” Luke described Paul, who was incarcerated and in CHAINS, as preaching “without hindrance!” I love it!
Without hindrance – because God is omnipotent.

I want to share with you something I read just the other night in Sarah Young’s devotional, Jesus Calling, because it encouraged me so much, and I think it will encourage you, too:

“Wait with Me for a while. I have much to tell you.”

That line alone struck deep within me. And then it goes on to say this:

“You are walking along the path I have chosen for you. It is both a privileged and a perilous way: experiencing My glorious Presence and heralding that reality to others . . .
The work I am doing in you is hidden at first.
But eventually blossoms will burst forth, and abundant fruit will be borne.
Stay on the path of Life with Me.
Trust Me wholeheartedly, letting My Spirit fill you with Joy and Peace.”

And so, sweet soul, when branches of your body break, when clusters of life’s beautiful yellow blossoms are not sustained, when you lose the treasured green tomato that your soul has nurtured, trust Him.
Trust Him fully.

Be still.
And know that He is God.
And because He is God, you’re going to be okay.
And with this trauma, can also come deep healing, and surprising wholeness.

And now, the opportunity is yours.
I’ve been the one doing all the talking here, so now our Truth in Weakness readers and I would like to hear from you. All of you fall into one of two categories. You are either somebody who is in the middle of a painful time, and trying to survive. Or you are somebody who God has sustained through a painful journey. Or maybe you’re both.

For those of you who are in a painful circumstance
right now, this is your safe place where you can be vulnerable and real. That's the whole purpose of this community. And in doing so, you not only gift others with the permission to do the same, but you open the door of your soul to your Healer. So, precious friend, how is your heart after reading this post? What part of the struggle can you most relate to? And which truth did you need to hear most today?

For those of you who can look back and attest to God’s goodness and faithfulness in the midst of pain and struggle, take a moment to share a comment of encouragement to your siblings in the faith. Behold the opportunity to gift another with the same comfort God has given you. You know how desperately they need those reminders that God is near, and that He is still on His throne. This is your opportunity to be the one who comes.

And finally, would you help me spread this message of hope and healing to a hurting world? Share this post on Facebook, Tweet it, Pin it -- whatever will help others know that they are not alone, and that they are deeply loved! (Click here to share it on FB, & at the bottom of this post, right below the "you might also like" section, there are more tiny share buttons if that's helpful.)

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