Thursday, November 3, 2011

...but thanks be to God

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one, we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Such a short time since my last post, in my mind, but so much has happened. And the fragrance of Christ washes up around me, lapping into my face like waves on the ocean, soothing my heart whenever it would creep toward unbelief, and speaking with words I cannot understand, but whose tone and timbre make perfect sense to my soul.

On Monday morning, I miscarried the baby I was carrying, and I have total peace about it. I am sad, but let me explain....

I have been a fretful gardener for a long time-- if you've read anything on this blog and if you know me, you know that I feel endlessly unsure about my ability to keep a plant alive for any length of time.

But one of my best friends gave me a Christmas cactus the first winter we lived here in our dream home, and can I just brag for a second? When she gave it to me, she told me that she hadn't had a lot of luck getting the thing to bloom at the right time and for any length of time, but she had a good feeling about its ability to thrive in my care. Her reasoning probably went something like this: "I have over watered this dagum plant and have payed much too much attention to it. SAMANTHA will not have this problem. She'll probably forget to water it-- which is good because it's a succulent-- and she'll forget she even has it and it will thrive in its total invisibility." Her reasoning was probably spot on. That thing has bloomed with gigantic pink flowers both Christmases we've had it, and the blooms have stayed for weeks. WEEKS.

All because I know how to leave something the heck alone when I need to.

But when it came to the gardening outdoors.... Remember last spring when our friends blessed us with a porch full of the most beautiful flowers and shrubs? I was so blown away at the beauty of the abundance, but was so intimidated by my ability to care for it all. What if I forget? What if I over-water or underwater? What about plant food? What if there's a drought? What if someone's chicken wanders into the yard and eats it all up? What about the tilt of the earth and gravity? I can't even grow a tree frog. What about who's in the White House?

Panic. Sheer panic when it comes to gardening because I have failed in the past. Failed with houseplants. Failed with forgotten shrubs. But this time, the plants weren't from my hand-- they were gifts, so the added responsibility inspired both fear and action.

So after the most incredibly fun work day EVER (loads of people showed up to transform the yard and plant all the plants), it was up to Don and me to water it all and to Miracle Gro it, etc.

But you've heard all this before. Let me skip to two weeks ago.

Don and I have a neighborhood friend that we absolutely adore. Russ is a master gardener with one of the cutest dogs you've ever seen. Since we moved in, Russ has stopped by on a pretty regular basis on his afternoon walks with Baron, the dog.

Well, Russ moved a few streets away over the summer so we hadn't seen him for a while. I had planted three more rose bushes (the climbing kind) over the summer and they had EXPLODED with growth and flowers since planting them. No one was more surprised than I was about that. And here winter was coming, fast, and I had no idea what to do with my beautiful flowers. I sent Russ a note on Facebook and he was at the house the next afternoon.

Russ, Don, and I walked the perimeter of the house-- we were running all around, showing Russ all the stuff we've planted like he was our dad, competing for his attention-- "Look at the blueberries! Look at the orange tree!"-- and he was just shaking his head in wonder. He couldn't believe how gorgeous the roses looked. He exclaimed over the perfect spot for the blueberry bushes.

"It's this soil you guys have," he told us. He lived about one mile away and his soil was totally different, he said. This soil in our yard, he told us, was rich and black and perfect for growing things. It was like miracle soil.

Miracle soil.

So I have been thinking about this a lot.

It has been very difficult to understand the mind of the Lord when it comes to whether or not it's in His plan for us to have a baby. I don't understand so much of what happens in the world and in our lives, but that's mainly when I try to understand it in pieces. I find that when I look at the Big Picture, it makes more sense: we live. We are citizens together with so many others on the same planet, but we are simply sojourners in this place. Travelers. We don't settle here. Our home, our settlement, is so much farther beyond. Here, we learn the taste and fragrance of the God we serve-- there, we will see His face. Here, we learn to rely on something we do not see-- there, we will see the One upon whom we have relied, and I cannot begin to even think about what new things He will teach us there.

As a believer, I am not exempt from the trials of this earth. A baby lost during labor and another lost to miscarriage is nothing compared to the agony that others have experienced. For others, it is a bottomless well of grief. But whatever our experience, we are not exempt.

And we know this, I think, but there's this little voice deeeeeeep down inside that says,

Yes, but I am Your beloved! How can you let anything bad happen to me? Can't You hear my prayers? Are you mad at me?

God has planted us here, on this planet, and He is the master gardener. He know the conditions. He knows if you are designed to thrive in the Coastal South while I am perfectly made for the Western Mountains and High Plains.

I remember seeing these stunning flowers that looked just like really tough red roses on huge bushes in Sweden. It was 35 degrees below zero and the leaves were perfectly lush and green and the flowers were as crisp and fresh as a spring day in Georgia. In the dead of winter, those camellias were thriving. I have them-- hundred year old camellias-- along the front of my home. They only bloom in cold weather and they blow my mind every year.

So when I think about gardening and about how overwhelmed I have always been about it, and I think about the things my heart cries out for and the powerlessness and helplessness I sometimes struggle with feeling, I begin to remember this about the Lord (totally taking this verse out of context, but there is another thing I am seeing here):

"I [Paul] 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." (1 Corinthians 3:6,7).

Paul goes on to say that each of the men have their purpose (the planter and the water-er) and each will be rewarded  according to what they did, but that we cannot forget that we are co-laborers with God, and HE is the one who does the Big Thing. Only He can say yes to the seed. Only He can approve its growth or not.

And there is so much mystery to just that, too.

Think of seeds planted in the worst of circumstances-- rape, prostitution, drug addiction, intense poverty, disease-- and those seeds embed, thrive, and come to fruition nine months later. We so often hear stories of great men and women being born in just such circumstances. These individuals grow to be amazing citizens of this earth. Seeds planted in soil that didn't appear to be "good"-- or at least not "ideal," whatever that means-- but God said yes. He said, YES, those seeds will live.

But what of us? What about the rest of us who wait, taking vitamins and shunning alcohol and diet coke, with lovely little future-nurseries in our houses? Russ was blown away at the roses in my yard. He just shook his head and laughed about the fact that these difficult roses were thriving even though I consistently forget to water them and hadn't given them rose food even one time since I planted them in the heat of the summer. It this magic soil, he said over and over.

It isn't in the will of  the gardener. It isn't in the will of the planter or the water-er. It is in the will of the One who orchestrates it all. So many times, my students question why we are doing this part of a project first or why they can't skip steps three through five, and I don't always tell them. I don't often tell them, in fact. I tell them to press on, to trust me, and that they'll see when we're finished why we needed to do it this way. Almost always, I hear, "Ohhh....that's why...."

I know that when I stand before my Father in heaven, I will say, "OH, that's why...." My Father, the maker of soil, the grower of roses under the hand of a forgetful, fretful earthly gardener, will make all things clear. But here are the lessons I can see now:

-- He is the maker of the soil. I am not making a judgment call on my "soil" (my womb)-- it is simply that HE can make roses grow when they shouldn't have. If He wants us to have a baby, I don't need to worry about the soil-- HE will do it.
-- He is the master gardener. He knows the climate. He knows what would thrive in this environment. Children are not all He has for us. We long for them. But He knows.
-- He is the teacher. He knows what steps we need to go through to get to the point of this lesson (LIFE). He knows that it will all make sense to us later, but for now, He asks us to trust Him with the process.
-- He loves me.

I am sad that this seed, this little baby, was planted and died before coming to fruition, but I am thankful that it happened early. I am thankful that it was at week eight and not week eighteen. I am thankful that the Lord heard my prayer-- when I started to suspect that it was happening, I prayed that it would be quick and clean, and it has been (so far). I don't understand the "why" of it, but who ever does? I cannot be controlled by the questions that threaten to plague. I am thankful that the Lord has been with me through every step and that He is not silent.

No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those
who love Him--
but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2: 9-10