Muddy footprints saturated in love

Marginal plants are those which grow around the margins of a pond where the water is shallow. They usually have their roots and crown underwater, and sometimes their lower foliage as well.

This is especially true of the skunk cabbage ( Lysichiton americanus ) . You very quickly learn to see past it’s unpleasant smelly yellow flowers, and it’s unflattering name. It really is a magnificent wonder of a plant .

Many years ago I purchased two small skunk cabbage plants . Planted with love and care in the best environment I could create within my garden. They survived have produced some insignificant flowers and have no significant growth. I ignored my horticultural inner voice of reason. Followed my eyes to desire a plant that would never grow well in my garden.

The reflective pools and springs in the Bishops palace gardens, provide the perfect conditions to grow marginal plants. Architectural leaves of the Gunnera , bright yellow flowers of the Skunk Cabbage, Ferns, Hosta’s, Primula all carpeting the edges of the reflective pools / wells.
The still waters bouncing back the images cast by these beautiful plants perched on the waters edge devoured my thoughts and held my emotions.

The deafening silence that surrounded the waters edge was profoundly comforting. My heart was plunged deep into the soil inviting me listen and follow.
Freedom to travel within myself to the edges of the well, to those that lived on the margins.
Wondering with Jesus into a fresh beautiful individual way of learning. journeying with the one who knows and loves me, looking no further than my heart.
Listening to the familiar voice of the head Gardner. The voice of love calling and challenging me to go to the margins to those living on the edges of our society .

This unique environment is not self sustaining, it’s unpredictable fragile and vulnerable .
God already loves those on the edge, on the margins. When Jesus walks with us to the edge we reflect Gods love .
God’s love is sustaining and supporting everything that exists in the universe – every person, every plant or creature, every mountain or river or sea, every planet, star or sun, every moment of every day. All of it is held together, sustained and supported by God’s love.

Love

God’s love lifts the blinders from my eyes and shows me his presence and activity in the world. LOVE that holds everything together.
It’s slippery muddy and dangerous on the edge. I need to learn to tread carefully and thoughtfully as I walk with love. Balancing on the edge is dangerous and often ugly. This is never going to be an easy walk.
When I look beyond the danger I see the God’s LOVE who has brought all this into being and who is now holding it and caring for it. LOVE that never changes. LOVE that never fails us, forsake us, or forget us.
It’s Gods remarkable love that transforms and changes lives. It’s the voice of reason that outlines my shadow . Listening and walking in Gods love will sustain me as I tread gently in the boggy ground.
As I learn to plant seeds of full of endless possibilities . Leaving muddy footprints saturated in love.

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John 4-14
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

Apples.

The first seeds I remember planting were the pips from an apple.
They grew.

They reached maturity and produced their own harvest. I have to admit the apples produced by our trees had little resemblance to the parent plant.
They where sour tasting apples hardly fit for eating. I remember the screwed up face I made the first time we ate our harvest. Trying to convince myself they where good.
I grew up watching these trees change with the seasons. They out grew the pots on the kitchen window seal. Became rooted into the ecosystem of my Great Aunties garden . They saw me though school, marriage and the birth of our daughter . When auntie died the apple trees in her garden remained firmly planted in my memory.
When I opened my hand as small child I received two apple pips. My plan was to grow apple trees to produce apples we could eat. Apples that would taste as good if not better than the parent plant.
We could have never seen the world of wonder that these seeds would grow.
This blog is not about growing apple trees, it’s not even about bad tasting apples but about the plans God has for all of us.
I think about Gods plans for us and how they are often so very different to our plans.
I wish I could say that God’s plan will always makes sense, but it doesn’t. I wish I could say that God’s plan will always make us feel good, but it doesn’t do that either.
I wish I could say that God’s plan will always make our lives easier and more comfortable, but I am fairly certain that’s not the case.
God’s blessing doesn’t always come as Red sweet tasting apples.
It might even come in a harvest of Red bitter tasting apples. Grown with love and memories that will live on in my heart. Memories that have helped me to see who I am, and where God might be calling me.
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Psalm 104 The Message (MSG)

24-30
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.

I am….not a sunflower.

A sunflower is not; an over grown marigold, or a mutated daffodil, It’s not a freaky big plant that’s grown out of control, It’s not a bi annual, it’s not a tree, it does not sting, it’s leaves are not black and it’s flower head comes in many colours but never blue. It grows regardless of wealth or what people say or think about it.
At this point you may have noticed that this is a list of what the sunflower is not.
Its easy to focus on what we are not. To look at what we don’t have, but when we strip away the not haves, in our naked nothingness we start to see who we really are and something of who God is.

Let’s go back to the sunflower, I can’t leave you with a list of what a sunflower is not without telling you something of what a sunflower is.
Latin name: Helianthus annuus.
Helianthus is derived from Greek helio- (sun) and antho- (flower).
annuus means ‘annual ( completes its growing cycle in one season ).

Did you know sunflowers follow the sun. Its not something you might notice when you have a lone flower in your garden. If you are lucky enough to see a field of sunflowers it’s obvious they know which way to look.

Something I found out recently, is that Sunflowers continue tracking the suns direction long after the sun has set. Through 360 degree’s they ensure that they are always oriented in the direction of the sun.
Their unity is totally dependant on one thing. Their relationship to the sun.
Facing the sun these flowers grow tall, towering above the other flowers. Theirs something truly wonderful, awesome, and beautiful about the sunflower. It seems so sure of who it is, confident in it’s just being.

Who am I?
For me this week the question has not been who am I but – who do others think I am ( waiting for the pioneer panels outcome ) .

In this time of waiting I need to be more like the sunflower, turning to God, almost pointing God out to myself, reminding myself that God knows who am.
That it’s in my very core of my being to turn to God, not just in these days of waiting but in all that I am.
It’s a being-ness in which Jesus walks with me into freshly ploughed fields and whispers sow.
It’s a being-ness that calls me to put on Wellington boots in readiness to walk in a direction that I have never walked before.
My being-ness needs to follow God as much as the sunflowers need to follow the sun. It’s a natural God created being that guides me to a place of doing. In my being and doing I to turn to God, to seek and find the core of my very self.
When I turn to God in this time of waiting, I feel the warmth of love that I follow, I see something of my I – am -ness in myself and others as I turn to face the warmth of one who loves us all.

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John 13:7 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

With love from love.

It was a day of certainties. The sat navy planned our route; we would arrive at 9.50, the gardens opened at 10.
The leaflet given to us on arrival told us the history of the gardens. It was described as “ a living work of art” views like scenes from a landscape painting. We were told this timeless masterpiece was a showcase of garden design; gothic buildings, trees all centred around a large lake.
We followed our guide and together a small group of us stepped into this unfamiliar landscape.
I stepped into another world, It was almost as if I took a step every so slightly sideways. The vast landscape wrapped its self around me delighting in my willingness to journey along its paths.
Hands reaching into the rich canopy of this accident woodland I longed to hear it’s story. To allow the whispers of this magical place to engulf my thoughts. To clear the fog that dulled my imagination. Allowing for possibilities outside of what I thought should be reality.
The further I explored this landscape the more it talked a language that I understood. It connected my mind to the journey / plans that God has for me.

I need to rewind at this point at take us back to the beginning.
As I said on arrival we choose wait to take the garden tour. To be shown around this magnificent garden rather than choose our own route. We followed our guide. We took the paths she choose stopping at places of interest not of our choosing.
We did not rush to the magnificent view for which this garden is so famous for. We stopped and waited for our guide to show us the way.
It was sometime during that waiting that I took my sideways step into a slightly different world. The excitement of the journey ahead, the unknown paths, the wait lifted my mind to another place.
I walked the paths set out by this gardeners creator ( Henry Hoare II ) allowing myself to see the garden from his view. I saw what he wanted me to see.
Amazing to think that 300 years ago this garden was new. Carefully planted and designed to delight its visitors. Today it’s still capturing the imagination and delighting the visitors that travel it’s paths.
As I walked I shared something Henry Hoare’s vision. It’s a vision that has reached maturity yet its still growing and changing, at the same time remains true to its original purpose.
This garden really did have a story to tell.
Thats why I was so excited about my visit to Stourhead ( National trust house and gardens ).

Life’s about the journey. A journey planned ahead of us, ready and waiting for us to walk on the paths that God has set out before us.
As I journey along these paths I do not travel alone. I journey with God even when I stray from the path. God waits patiently for me .
His plans for me are not my plans. The journey is mine to travel. I have the free will to take any path of my choosing, I have the free will to race though life going so fast I fail notice the beauty of journey.

God used this landscape to meet me, over flowing with emotions buzzing with excitement God talked to me though this landscape. Connecting me spiritually with my life journey.
The slippery paths, the difficult paths, paths shaded by woodland, paths across open countryside soaking up the summers sun.
All these paths told me stories of my own life; dark times, times when I have needed support, prayerful times, the good and not so good. All a part of the rich journey God has planned for me.
I felt a powerful reassurance that the path I am following is the right one. Even though I have no idea of its route or the difficulties ahead, it’s the path I need to stay on.

Journey to the final view ( the main reason for the visit )

The guided walk gave me glimpses of this view as I walked towards it. The view was often blocked broken up and fragmented by the mature tress that edged the lake.
As I walked closer to the view so my journey become more reflective. The follies that I visited at the start of the walk were now in the distance. The harshness of these stone buildings softened and changed by their watery reflections mirrored onto the lake.
The garden continued to gave glimpses of what’s to come. Amid the decay of the woodland floor new growth resilient and abundant pushed its way though the rich mulch.
The view that I longed to see lost its importance. The journey / story was far greater than any ending I could have imagined .
The garden told me a story of love that never ends. Written and told by a loving father to his child.
The father knowing exactly what his child needed to hear.
The story was told with love from love.
The story told me do not to worry! You need to follow these paths, trust them, learn from them. The delight is not where you will be, but where you are now.

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Isaiah 55:8-9
[8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
[9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Tree of Love.

My garden in no Eden, it’s certainly not paradise. It’s far from prefect. The makeshift bamboo trellis bows and bends under the weight of the overgrown kiwi plant. Wobbly uneven brick paths weave their way through the borders, rotten fences, cracked patio slabs all give my garden a natural unkept look.
These imperfections can only be found in the hard landscape of the garden. The landscape that is created and chosen by me. The soft landscape is living part of my garden; plants ,mulch, dirt, lawn, trees and shrubs all make up softscape.
The soft scape is that perfection that we often long to achieve. Perfection in such abundance cannot come from us. It can only come from our creator.
A magnificent Yew tree punctuates and dominates the soft landscape of my garden. Its hidden treasures are the Red berries ( Arils) each encasing the seed.
The yew tree has a strong christian heritage. It’s a tree that regenerates, it’s branches reach down into the ground to grow new stems, which then rise up around the old central growth as separate but linked trunks. After a time, they cannot be distinguished from the original tree. This self renewal is a symbol of death and rebirth, the new that grows out of the old.
It’s bark is distinctly Red, especially when wet from rain. The Red heartwood and White sapwood, symbolise the blood and body of Christ. It’s a tree that is full of stories mystery and folk tales.
The yew that grows in my garden has woven itself into my life story. It was under this tree that I was reborn, renewed found that love that comes from knowing Jesus.
I see this tree as my tree of life. I am not seeing it as the tree of life in Genesis and Revelation.  To me personally it’s a tree of new beginnings it’s a tree that loves.
Under its protective evergreen canopy my world changed. Its soft branches in the coolness of an April morning created a space filled with an abundance of love. A space that I received the love that come from Christ . It’s this love that changed me and changed my world forever.
There is nothing more powerful or joyous than the love that comes from Christ . To know this love is to live abundantly.
My yew tree lives abundantly in my garden and in my heart.
When we live abundantly our lives change, we see things that had until that time remained hidden. I see the perfectness in creation.
I see the Red Arils on my Yew tree and stop, pausing long enough to see God at work in my life and in my garden.

This weeks six on Saturday is a little homage to Taxus Baccata.

 

Genesis 2:8-9 The Message (MSG)

8-9 Then God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. He put the Man he had just made in it. God made all kinds of trees grow from the ground, trees beautiful to look at and good to eat. The Tree-of-Life was in the middle of the garden, also the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil.

laughter and legend.

The community that greeted me the other Sunday morning, gave me a real sense of belonging. It was exciting to be in such a warm and openly friendly place. It felt liberating to be part of a community that I could openly share with others the week’s failures and successes.
The best part is they wanted to listen, they were sympathetic to my problems. Knowledge was shared with simple storytelling involving laughter and legend.
After introductions were exchanged we shared simple food and ate together.
This community overflowed with one common love and one common passion that contagiously spread throughout. We all spoke the same language we all choose to belong to this like-minded group of people.
I will treasure my first Sunday morning on my allotment.
When I asked “ how do you see the future church? I will think of myself on the allotment muddy and happy sharing bitter tasting salad leaves.
I will hold onto that openness and excitement in my memory for a long time.
I know that the allotment community won’t always be like this. Problems will arise, someone will use someone else’s wheel-barrow, allotments will become overgrown and this will all cause fiction between allotment holders: It’s real life.
All communities have their ups and downs, our church communities are no different. It would be so wrong to think we are perfect because we are Christians. We are people, annoying, funny, angry, happy, sad, flirtatious, depressed people and despite our differences we place ourselves and each other before God.
That’s what excites me about the church community we place ourselves and each other before God just as we are. When we meet as Christians we need to be real with each other. We need to be able to live our faith in our community’s as we are. Loved on our good days and bad days.
The church I belong to is a kind loving welcoming community. I value the teachings and the wonderful congregation that has supported our family for over 4 generations.
The allotment community just took it all to another level. My Sunday on the allotment felt like church, My little patch of mud is a God filled space overflowing with love and potential.

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1 Corinthians 3:5-7 Good News Translation.
5 After all, who is Apollos? And who is Paul? We are simply God’s servants, by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do: 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. 7 The one who plants and the one who waters really do not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow.

The Jewel of the field.

I am very slowly planting a Bible garden ( featuring plants from the Bible). It’s a garden that has no plans other than to grow plants along side Scripture.
It’s bringing my world of Gardening into God’s word, inviting people to share something of me when they visit my garden.
Researching and discovering new plants excites me. I’ve purchased a Bible garden book to aid with planting and research. It’s a great book to inspire plan and think big.
One little gem of a plant featured in the book is Corn Cockle “ Agrostemma Githago “
The book explains it’s the weed in the parable of the weeds.

“ When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared “ Matthew 13:26.

I purchased some seed, sowed them, watered and loved them. They have in turn germinated, grown flowered and set seed. I’ve loved having this plant in my garden, It’s small purple flowers have delighted me, it’s seeds heads fascinated me.
I’ve learnt it’s genus name Agrostemma is derived from the Greek word argos ( field) Stemma ( crown) – the jewel of the field.
I’ve learnt how it’s roots, stems and seeds are poisonous. If harvested with the wheat any bread made that contains its seeds will be bitter and can even be fatal.
Its been a jewel in my garden this year a wild flower on the edge of extinction in abundance and thriving.
But it’s come in under total false pretences.
Doing a little more research the more probable weed in the parable of the weed is darnel “ Lolium temulentum” it’s also known as Cockle or false wheat.
It has many similarities to Corn Cockle both are poisonous and both spoil the wheat crop.
I’ve seen so much beauty in the Corn Cockle, I’m not going to pull it up just because it’s not what I thought it was, I cherish all my plants, they are all precious to me.
The Corn Cockle is not a weed it’s a loved plant that enhances my meadow and ensures the survival of a plant on the edge of extinction.
Its going to be another journey as I source and plant darnel. I’m excited to be sowing this monster sized grass, excited by the conversations it will cultivate. It will be a blessing to share the parable of the weeds when I open my garden next year.
This giant grass will totally over shadow my Corn Cockle with its small delicate flowers. But it’s story will also be told, It’s a story of double checking , cross referencing learning to evaluate the sources and information I use for reference.

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My Secret Garden .

I have a fully formed vision of my garden in its mature years. It’s my vision, it’s not committed to paper, It’s not something I share, it’s my secret garden fantasy. It’s a vision that includes my favourite trees all grown to maturity.
I imagine my Bramley apple tree, a mirror image of the one that once grew in my grandmothers garden. I picture my grandchildren climbing this tree ( grandchildren yet to be conceived !!! ). Taking the same joys and pleasures from this enormous tree as I did in my childhood.
I visualise myself padding in the steam that will flow through the garden. The stream blending into the landscape as if it had always been a there.
I see the wet footprints I leave behind as I exit the stream via a network of stepping stones. There are cold frames and glass houses full of pelargoniums, all beautifully displayed in clay pots on gravel benches.
My vision has no space for failure. In my mind the apple tree will reach maturity, The plants that I grow will not succumb to drought or disease.

The reality is gardening does not happen like this. Our lives are the same, we think we are going one way but God has different plans for us.
Meeting Jesus four years ago was the start of the most beautiful journey. My life plan changed overnight. My heart was suddenly aware of not being alone. The dark lonely path ahead was lit with love. My faith allows me to fall and stumble over and over again. I continue to stumble, each and every time I am picked up by God.
I have been changed from the inside, my world has been turned totally upside down. New words and a language unique to the church have wiggled their way into my world.
Discernment, vocation, are just some of the words that are shaping my journey today. My world is changing it’s getting bigger and every so slightly bolder. I am starting to see myself as the unique individual that God created and loves.
The word discernment has encouraged me to I reach into myself, to discover what lies in the deaths of my heart. This journey of exploring my vocation is emotionally draining but at the same time transforming and exciting. It’s ( This journey is on God’s time scale, not my timescale ) giving me a new direction to slowly grow into the person God created me to be.
It’s a journey with the vision that comes from God.

My six this Saturday shows my gardens journey over the last 4 four years.

Picture one is approx 4 years ago – Picture two is the present day.

Jeremiah 29:11
11 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.

The Borrowed landscape – Shakkei

The Mendip hills has some stunning views across the Somerset Countryside. Last weekend’s walk was no exception. After a long climb, we were rewarded with the most breathtaking view.
The view made me smile. I saw the perfectness of nature, I felt the power and space of God .The view was limitless- God is everywhere. There are no edges or limits to God’s presence, nor are there places where God is absent. God is all-knowing. God is infinite.

The view inspired and excited me. I wanted to walk more, explore this landscape, wonder, climb higher and look harder into the landscape that surrounded me.
Obviously, this view was not available to all. Even good health would not guarantee the same view. The view changes throughout the seasons and alters by the weather and the time of day.
But what if we could expand that view so others might see it? See the landscape that inspired and surrounded me.
That’s exactly what the gardener does. This inspiration is nothing new and using it has been practised for centuries. This Asian concept of Shakkei is very simple. The gardener uses their surroundings to expand the view.

How exciting is that!- Using what surrounds us; what’s already in place and what God has already given us. To pull the eye outwards, to look beyond what we normally see.

The challenge is to make full use of what we have, looking at ways to incorporate the landscape that surrounds us. When we look further, we find space. We see views we have never seen and mountains we have yet to climb.

When we keep looking beyond our horizons, we find God at work in the community that surrounds us. Instantaneously, everything just gets bigger.
When we expand our landscape, we look beyond our boarders and create an infinite space where God makes the impossible possible.
It’s taking the awesome view that made me smile, taking that view to those that can’t climb the hill. When you take the view and share it with God’s love, we strengthen the relationships between ourselves and the landscape in which we live. Looking outwardly into the landscape, we expand not only our horizons but the horizons of those that share and live in our community.
As a gardener, when I look from my garden to the distant and adjacent landscape features, my garden expands exponentially.

We are called to live outside of ourselves. Called to by Jesus
into the landscape that surrounds us. We are called to love and serve one another, to be authentic, exciting and embracing.

My six this Saturday are 6 borrowed landscapes viewed from my own garden.
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Upward borrowing – The evening Sky.

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Adjacent borrowing – Mature trees in the nearby cemetery.

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Adjacent borrowing –  Tress in the neighbour’s garden expands our garden view.

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Adjacent borrowing – Corylus avellana Contorta(  Twisted hazel)  is high on my wish list for my own garden. I love its twisted branches and enjoy looking at this plant from over the fence.

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Adjacent borrowing – Tress in the neighbour’s garden expands our garden view.

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Adjacent borrowing – Betula pendula, ( silver birch)  This tree is a few gardens away but its stunning and makes my Ginko tree in the foreground  look rather small.

Mark 6-15
And he said to them, ” Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”.