Y'all, I am not Ann Voskamp. Wait, did that surprise you? Hahaha. What I mean is that I am not an eloquent writer and when the LORD gives me a picture of something beautiful, sometimes it does not come out quite as beautiful through my typed words to you. But, my goodness, Ann has a gift doesn't she?? I digress...
The LORD gave me some beautiful pictures, and I want so badly to make them into beautiful words for you. I pray I can glorify Him well in this post.
Through His amazing ways, the LORD our God gifted us with a new home. Our apartment was perfectly fine, but around November of last year, both David and I felt the urge to pray about moving. I will write a separate blog post on ALL that He did during that time.
We have some dear friends in Norway and had the sweet joy of visiting them. When we returned home, we took one look at the back yard and wished we had asked someone to water it while we were away. When we moved in, it was a mess. Before we moved in, an elderly German lady told me that I "have MUCH work to do in the garten." Boy was she right! Blessed friends came the week we moved in and they worked the ground with their hands and their hearts. It began to come alive! The potential came bursting forth in bright oranges, pure whites, vivid pinks and yellows! We were finding out that many of the trees in our yard were not just there for shade and beauty, but that they were fruit bearing trees! What a gift!
But when we returned from Norway, after just seven days of neglect, the yard was sad and dying. The temps had reached 100*F while we were gone. It didn't rain much. Nurturing this new life had come to a halt for one week and it could surely be seen.
So, one hot morning, I grabbed some clippers and a rake and I went to the backyard. I prayed as I went out and I asked the LORD if we could spend some time together. He's such a good, good Father...He never says "no" to that request, or "not right now, I am busy."
I put my gloves on and got into that dirt. Into the thorns. Into the branches and the flowers and weeds and overgrown grass.
I know that pruning is necessary. I know that it is good. One of the truths that the LORD spoke to me is, "Pruning is for the living, not the dead." I was pruning the bushes, flowers, and trees because I know they are alive! I know their potential! I have seen but a glimpse of it and it is beautiful! If they were dead, I would just pull them completely up and discard them.
"Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit." John 15:2
Did you catch that in Jesus' words? That which bears fruit, is pruned so that it can bear more fruit. I love this truth!
Our backyard has a short wire fence around it. We have already met all of our surrounding neighbors and shared with them the reason we moved from Texas, seriously they can't understand WHY we would do such a thing, to Berlin. We are praying for BiG things for this neighborhood and the amazing people in it. They have all welcomed us with warm, open arms and have made this move even more evident that the LORD is up to something.
The neighbors directly behind us are especially inviting. We have grown to love them. As I was cutting back many of the bushes along the fence we share, it became a reality that we would not be "hidden" by the bushes anymore. Pruning exposes us in ways that can be seen by those around us. There are times when I don't want to be seen. I don't want others to see the faults I have or the places I fall short. But pulling out the shearers, cutting away the things that need to be cut away, exposes more of who I am. Who I really am. And, who I really am is chosen, redeemed, pure, loved, and so much more! That is who YOU are as well! Which is good news for my neighbors, because due to my excessive pruning....we will be seeing a LOT more of each other!
There are many kinds of berries in our yard. I have no idea what kind they are, but I know they must not be poisonous because our boys have eaten their weight in them! Working among them, I quickly learned how very painful the thorns of berry vines can be! Ouch. Pruning can be painful, but you must keep on working. My arms looked like I had been in a fight with a young kitten. Even though I had gloves on, the long, sharp thorns pierced through the gloves and into my fingertips. It hurt. BUT, I knew that I had to keep going, through the pain. I could not just give up, despite the slashing. This can go two ways in the spiritual world. Oftentimes, the LORD uses His people to prune those He loves. Often, we are the tools in His pruning hands. If we just stop when it hurts, the potential beauty that is literally dying to bust though, is yet again left to be smothered by the thorns and thistles of life. You must keep going, past the hurt. Past the disappointment. Freedom actually does come at some cost. I have tasted and seen that the LORD is good...and spiritual freedom is worth the pain it takes to obtain it!
When I was close to being finished with my work for the day, David came out to join me. I was a little anxious at what he might say. Friends, the pile that was growing from all that I had cut down was growing very, very high. My man grabbed a rake and joined in the work. Sometimes the ministry of presence is a sweet gift during the process of pruning the soul. I assumed David would ask me why on earth I was cutting so much away. He didn't. He just worked right alongside me. I was nervous to tell him that the Lord had been speaking to me during this time. But I had to. With each cut of those sharp blades, the Spirit was reaching to my soul with truths of His good and perfect ways. So, I opened my mouth and began to proclaim the lessons God was sharing with me in His grace. David is gentle and wise and loving. He listened and affirmed that these were from the LORD. He encouraged me to share them with you. You see, as I was pruning, I was being pruned. And it was good for me to have someone along with me.
As he raked the remnants of what I had cut, David exclaimed, "Wow, look at all the room back here! I had no clue we had this much room! There is enough room for you to plant something really beautiful." And immediately my heart took hold of those words. Pruning makes room for more beauty to grow. With all that was there, we really had no grasp of the space that it was taking up. Cutting it back showed us that there was MUCH room and good soil in which to plant whatever we wanted...and we want to plant more! Things beautiful and vivid and life-giving!
Then their was the pile. The large pile. Pruning leaves behind that which was pruned. What you do with it can make all the difference in the world. Just like the pruning of the soul, we could have been completely embarrassed by the enormous pile of branches and weeds and shrub that we had cut back. But, we were so free that embarrassment wasn't even in our minds! David agreed that we would deal with it, we would move forward, but that we wouldn't look at the mountain behind us and be overwhelmed. Nope. We also wouldn't let the large pile that was cause us to NOT prune in the future. See, when we cut back that which we know needs cutting, the work isn't over. We must do something with that which we have torn down. This is good to think about with our souls too. We must hand that which has been pruned back over to Jesus. Release it from our hands. He is able to take care of it and He has taken care of it with His sufficient work on the cross. Believe it and rejoice, friends!
I pray these lessons will reach into your hearts and souls. I am not sure they convey that which the King of Kings whispered to me on that day. I pray that in some way, He uses that which He taught me to remind you that you are dearly loved and treasured. You might be in a season of the pruning of your soul...and I pray you see that as life-giving and valuable! I pray that you would be encouraged and spurred on to finish the cutting back until the end. I pray that after the work is complete for this season, you will know the Lord your God more fully and praise Him for the love and grace He has lavishly poured out upon you!
Blessings from Berlin! You each have our hearts and we love you so much!