Preparing the Garden of my Heart

6891I come to the garden alone.

While the snow is still draped over the swollen earth. Where drifts have settled over decaying plant life and where the ground is hard and frosty.

Surveying this ground now, I wonder how anything good can grow here? In its current state, I cannot fathom it green and new and bursting with life.  Like I have seen it do before.

I did not prepare for the Winter this year; I didn’t even raise much of a garden. A few herbs here and there– and I left it to the care of others who were busy enough with their own affairs.

So now I am worried… will it be fertile? Best case scenario, it will need a little extra work.

And I must have faith that, though the cold is so prevalent now, Spring will come. It always comes… and with it, a renewed hope.

I look at my heart in the Winter stillness of a new year.

And I see a garden, in need of faith and preparation.

Looking back over my Christian walk of many years, I see the statistics– if you will- of my relationship with Jesus rising and falling. Like a heart beat monitor. Up, up up… plunge. Up, again, down again. It seems that every time I reached a place where I was walking in Love with my Savior, and enjoying a true personal and close relationship with Him, I would let my guard down.

Reaching a place of peace, I mistook it for a time of peace in the Spiritual realm.

But those don’t exist.

I peeled off my armor, set down my weapons, and turned my back on the enemy. No sooner was I disarmed and inattentive, did he strike. Cunningly. Bombarded with distractions, lured into shadowy places, and all the while my enemy subtly concealing what what was truly happening, it would be a long way down the slope before I would look up and see how far I’d slid.

I just didn’t realize it was happening.

Like getting dehydrated, you don’t experience the tell-tale symptoms until you’ve already hit the point.

I’m looking at my heart as a Garden this new year, because I am so ready for change and growth. I want a heart open and willing. I want the seeds planted, I want to wait patiently for sprouts to show. I want to water and care for and nurture the soil they grow in.

Just as we cannot take off our armor when things look peaceful, we cannot stop weeding when the garden looks healthy. Weeds are always coming back up. Arrows are always being fired. Our hearts and our Spirits need to be cared for and protected. Just like our physical health. Just like our relationships.

Right now, I am toiling to prepare the soil of my heart, and am spending time in His word, allowing the Gardener to carefully plant each tiny, precious seed. I’ll wait in patient faith for Winter to melt away, and keep guard over the little plantings I cannot see. Believing the promise that they will come forth in due time.

And as Spring awakens… I will watch in wonder as new life emerges. I will come to the garden while the dew is still on the roses, and I will inspect it, removing each little weed before it can take a firm root. I will tend it and water it, under the careful guidance of my Master the Gardener. And in due season, I will rejoice as I watch Him harvest the fruit.

  • Prepare the Soil

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” –I Peter 5:6,7

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” –Colossians 3:13

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” –I Peter 1:13

Humble yourself, repent of any wrong paths you see you have strayed to, and take a deep breath as you refocus. Renew your mind. Forgive others, and yourself. Lay your burdens at His feet. Accept His amazing grace, and begin your new journey. The bottom line and first step in preparing your heart for change is simply being willing to change.

  • Plant the Seed

“I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” –Psalm 119:11

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –II Peter 1:5-8

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” –Colossians 3:12

Know His words, all He has called you to be. Embrace them! God does not call us to any place we are incapable of reaching– through His strength and grace. Have patience, don’t beat yourself up. One seed at a time, sow carefully. Keep adding until the garden is full. (This takes time, you know.) Ask Him what He would have you plant, (and He is all too willing to help).

  • Water the Sprouts

“Therefore, encourage one another, and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” –I Thessalonians 5:11

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,  but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” –II Timothy 1:7

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –I Thessalonians 5:16,17

“And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” –Ephesians 6:18

When your garden shows progress (or even looks perfect and bountiful), you don’t stop watering it. It will wither. It doesn’t just stay luscious and green without effort. It needs constant upkeep. Likewise, your heart and your mind slip into their old ways when you reach a comfortable place and stop seeking Jesus with your whole heart. Like being in a mild current, if you stop swimming against it, you’re going to be carried back down stream. So when you see your garden sprouting, pray. Pray even more than before– because now you have your enemy’s attention, and he’s going to send all sorts of bugs and blights your way. Stay in the precious Word, adding to your knowledge and faith. Build your Relationship with the Gardener. Grow.

  • Pull the Weeds

“Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” –I Thessalonians 5:21,22

“…and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” –Romans 14:23b

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” –Ephesians 4:31

“And do not give the devil a foothold.” –Ephesians 4:27

Always keep watch. Pull things out before they take root. Don’t give the enemy an inroad into your heart and life. By holding onto a known sin, you usher him through the door. Weeds aren’t an independent nuisance; they don’t keep to themselves– they choke what is good. You can’t afford them.

  • Reaping the Harvest

“Remember this: whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” –II Corinthians 9:6

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9

“The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” –Proverbs 11:18

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers, and you are God’s field, His building.” –I Corinthians 3:6-9

All things have their season, and He makes all things beautiful in their time. While the first step is yours to let go and let God lead you, remember that He is the one who gives you strength. Without Him, all our attempted righteousness counts as nothing– but through Him, we can become and do great things. Don’t strive, thrive. Be held, and commit to doing good. Keep on choosing what is right. There is so much fullness in walking with Jesus, in having the Holy Spirit indwell you. I want to attain all that He has for me to learn, and complete all that He has prepared in advance for me to do. I want Him.

And this year, I place my heart at His feet.

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5 Responses to “Preparing the Garden of my Heart”

  • Rachel DiPasqua Reply

    This is beautiful. I love how you expanded on Jesus’ story of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13: 3-9, 18-23). Tying together other Bible verses and making sure that we don’t forget what we’ve already learned, I know the Holy Spirit is using this 🙂 Bless you Hannah!

  • Karissa Bannister Reply

    I thank you Hannah, because I needed to hear this. It is plain to see God’s hand in every word you publish. This encourages me by showing me that God does indeed use people. He does work in their lives. Sometimes I feel all alone and helpless, and I know I just need to reach for him and he will hold me. And it seems like such a simple thing, reaching. But somehow it always becomes the hardest thing I ever have to do. It doesn’t always seem like he is there for me to reach for, even if I know he is. It is like in the song by Casting Crowns, “From East to West”. “I can’t live by what I feel, but by the Truth YOUR Word reveals.” Feelings come from a broken, damaged heart that is tainted by sin. I need to live by what I know, and what I know is that God is real, he is here, and he is with me, even when I don’t feel like it. I know this, but again, my feelings get in the way. My broken heart tells me lies, and I listen. I let them throw me off and hold me back because I am weak. I lose all hope and then give up on trying, because my heart tells me I don’t know how to try. And all the while the Holy Spirit is there whispering that God is with me and that all I have to do to fix my depression, to grow my garden, to find joy, to obtain a peace, is to look to Him who died for my sins. He who died to save my dead and lifeless heart and shape it for His glory. And when I feel alone, and my heart tells me God isn’t here, it is lovely and oh so encouraging to see a living example that God is in fact here, and He does hold those who reach for him. He does make lives better, he slowly heals broken hearts, he catches all the tears, he hears every prayer, and sometimes the answer isn’t silence. (Or assumed silence.) He knows what is best, and that is evident in the lives of people like you and Rachel, who are always there to lift up others who are down by telling them from personal experience that God can give you joy. Not that joy is what is important. But it is a hope to those who are broken. It is a hope to me. So I thank God for people like you. Sorry, I feel like I am rambling, and I truly hope God has allowed me to effectively present what I am trying to say. Have Blessed New Year and keep on tending that Garden of your heart. 
    I will attempt to, with God’s help, do the same.
    ~ Karissa

    • You aren’t rambling!
      (Most of the time, I feel like I’m the one rambling with these lengthy posts, and hope that they aren’t intimidating and hard to read.) I am so glad that you took the time to read and respond, and thank you for opening up your heart here. It amazes me, how much we all have in common, when we start talking about how we’ve often felt and the struggles we go through. We really do fight the same battles; and the funny thing about that is a predominant emotion we each experience is the feeling of loneliness… when we can actually all relate! More and more, I realize the importance of reaching out to one another, of being open, and finding what we have to bring to the table of encouragement for others, all exchanging experiences and uplifting in turn. It’s so vital!
      Most of all, sharing the victories is important. Having friends to be able to turn to with “look what God just did in my life!” and being able to rejoice together in understanding and unity as believers– it’s absolutely awesome. The evidence of God’s goodness is all around, and we can’t keep it to ourselves, because it’s supposed to bring Him glory! I believe Joy IS important– because the joy of the Lord is our *strength*. There is a difference between happiness and joy: one is flighty, the other goes deep, because it is rooted to the ultimate Truth, and is a result of our Spirit joined with God.

    • Karissa,
      It was such a blessing to read you comment. I know you so well and know exactly where you’re coming from because I’ve seen your heart struggle. Wanting to be held but not knowing how to let go. Yes, having God use Hannah to type these encouraging posts helps. She’s able to put into perspective what God tells us. Your comment makes my heart rejoice in knowing that you are able to find hope in what Hannah’s posted and that you are seeking to know God more fully. Keep it up Sis, and let that garden bloom!

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