We are currently in the season where our beautiful, big yard (read – hard to keep up with yard) has so much growth that I think our azaleas may topple our house. Of course, I jest, but last year they did rival the hight of our windows on the sloping side of our house…maybe 8-10 feet? That is a big bush! I’m so thankful to live in an older home with older landscaping that has something blooming year round. It can be incredibly beautiful, or incredibly wild if left on it’s own. Every year we have to cut our azaleas back at least a foot, if not more. It’s ugly and shows what was dead and imperfections. BUT it makes the next year’s blooms even more beautiful. The bush is healthier. It doesn’t go crazy and block all the light from our windows! Pruning is required to make the bush at it’s best and most stunning. It’s time for us to get trimming right now actually.
I feel as if I’m in a similar season to our azaleas. Lately it feels like God has stripped my heart back to it’s bare, deeper branches. He’s cut away all the extra, all the beautiful growth and what felt precious to me. A few months ago I felt like He was offering me “freedom” in His way – the unknown way, or the comfort of what had become familiar for me. I chose Him, but as we often do, I didn’t expect my “yes” to result in MORE painful pruning. So often we are told that if we follow Jesus our lives will be beautiful, whole and blessed. While following Jesus DOES in fact bring those things, He also said to come after Him means taking up a cross. It’s easy to succumb to the subtle lie that we can follow Jesus and live how we want. All the while He says, “I am the greatest reward and prize. I am the treasure.” We can miss Him in living out what we think it means to follow Him, instead of what He actually requires in His Word.
God has used my business, my art to prune and grow me in countless ways over the past 5 years. It was an unexpected path, but one I am so thankful He led me on all those years ago. It’s been such a hard, rewarding and incredibly sweet journey to follow Him and trust Him in this area. It has become part of me, something precious that I have used to express who God is to me and hopefully use it as a way to show His love to others. And then He asked for it back. I wrote a while back how graciously He prepared me to say yes and step out in faith. But I did not expect even more stripping back. Within the span of a week, two irreplaceable things were gone – along with a few other unexpected life things. They left me pruned, bare, feeling the lack of the branches that had surrounded me for so long. The blooms were beautiful. They were good Lord! Why strip away something so good and precious to my heart? Why take away my tools for showing you to the world?
Pruning. It always reveals what lies beneath, things that need to be cut away and the unhealthy things hidden by growth. I’m left with so many questions about the road ahead. Is it over forever? Is what He has pruned something that is cut away permanently or will He allow it to grow back? How do you cope when you feel so stripped and bare? The answer is to let my roots go deeper. Cling to Him. Trust that my God knows the fruit He has designed me to bear and is doing what is required to help me grow. He’s been doing this a long, long time. It was never “my” blooms or growth to begin with, but all due to Him. In comparison to other sacrifices, this is small I know – I have been cut back so much further than this before and He brought me back to life. And as precious as having this job and art has become to me, He is far more precious. Even in the pain of pruning, His ways are far better. He is my life-source. Without Him there is nothing. He is life itself .