Welcome to Tending through the Seasons series, where writers from various seasons of life share how they are tending their soul by the Word of God through their current season.
Meet Sue Fulmore. She is a freelance writer and speaker, seeking to use words to awaken mind and soul to the realities of the present. Like a prospector panning for gold, she uses her pen to uncover beauty and truth hidden just below the surface of our lives. She is the mother of two adult daughters and lives in sunny Alberta, Canada with her retired husband, plant babies, and robust shoe collection. You can find her at: https://www.instagram.com/suefulmore/ and http://www.suefulmore.com. Some of her work has been published at Ekstasis Magazine, Red Letter Christians, Christian Courier, The Perennial Gen, Convivium Magazine, Joyful Life Blog, and Asbury Seminary Soul Care Community.
Any gardener knows tending a garden is a continual process, a labour of love, requiring diligent attention. And like a mother’s work, it is never done. Every year without fail the garden requires some reordering or replacing. The delphiniums start taking over, smaller plants get smothered under their sprawl. The mock orange bush was killed by winter’s cold and its lifeless form needs to be dug up. The lilac and ligularia seeds which have blown to random places and sprouted, must be uprooted and discarded or moved.
When I think of our inner lives with God, I see the resemblance to our gardens. God’s life growing in us depends on our tending. While ultimately God is the one who produces the growth and fruit, we are responsible to prepare the ground for the seeds He is planting, creating fertile ground for them to root and grow.
Midlife has felt like the rototiller has come through. So much has been disturbed and unearthed. My role as mom has changed dramatically and my friendly relationship with my body has drifted into frenemy territory.
This time has revealed how my relationship with God had become stale, predictable and lifeless. I heard about people enjoying a close companionship with God and an intimacy I did not know.
When they mentioned they hear from God regularly I was aware that something was missing. Jesus has said, “I came that they may have an enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”
I wasn’t feeling it.
I found my usual ways of meeting with God were not cutting it anymore. It felt as hopeful as tending a dead plant in the garden. I began to research and try different spiritual practices that have been around for centuries, of which I had not been schooled in.
The tradition I grew up with was often suspicious of ancient and unfamiliar practices. However, I felt that if something has been helpful for my brothers and sisters in the faith for hundreds of years that there must be some value worth exploring.
I imagine the faithful through time – that great cloud of witnesses – finding a way to come near to God and leading us in the way. The process toward growth required that I give up my idea of what time with God should look like.
“The process toward growth required that I give up my idea of what time with God should look like.”Tweet
It does not have to be an hour sitting with my Bible open, reading and praying.
There are a wide variety of ways we can connect with God. It also required that I give up my false measuring system.
More is not necessarily better.
Instead of reading what I thought was a required number of verses I could pick one or two and allow them to penetrate my head and heart in deeper ways. Surface watering of the garden encourages shallow roots and plants become susceptible to drought and wind while slow, sustained watering builds deeply rooted plants, able to withstand the storms.
My old way of reading a chapter or two was often like surface watering, it satisfied for awhile but did not bring the transformation I desired and needed.
Another change I needed to make was to trust that God would do the work in me if I got the ground ready. I had to shift from doing things for God to being with God. I could develop habits, and place myself under the tending of God rather than striving to work things out on my own.
To promote growth, I had to be willing to try new things. In the garden, plants which have grown in a certain spot may not thrive anymore because the light conditions have changed with the maturing trees. Likewise, we cannot expect the practices we used previously to continue to work in later stages of life.
Here’s what is working for me right now: I start the day with 10 minutes of silence and stillness. It’s hard and goes against my desire to produce, but it is good. This practice forces me to just be with God.
As I dwell in His presence, He reaffirms my identity as beloved and treasured just as I am. It is a mini-sabbath reminding me that my work flows from the identity I find in His presence. It helps me to stop trying to “save the day” and instead rest in the assurance that He will do it.
This practice confirms my dependence on God and dismantles my self-sufficiency. This season figuring out what to do with the second half of life can be confusing. I am finding this practice of sitting with Jesus, confirms that I am already good, I have nothing to prove, and I can enjoy God like never before. No matter the time of life we find ourselves in, we would do well to consider if the efforts we are making toward tending our soul have become old and outgrown.
Are we seeing the kind of growth and fruit we desire in our life? If not, then perhaps it is time to let go of the old and allow God to lead us into new rhythms which will bring us greater life and freedom.
No matter your stage in life or how parched and lifeless your garden, these words offer hope,
“Yahweh will always guide you where to go and what to do. He will fill you with refreshment even when you are in a dry, difficult place. He will continually restore strength to you, so you will flourish like a well-watered garden and like an ever-flowing, trustworthy spring of blessing.” (Isaiah 58:11)
May you experience joy in the tending.
Connect with Sue:
**Don’t miss her Monthly Newsletter: A Capacity for Wings – Notes on Hope and Flourishing**
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