Thursday, April 4, 2013

Soil Testing...of My Heart

In January of this year, I accomplished a PART of a goal - taking the Master Gardener class. Now I'm still in training, having to learn in the field by completing (and maintaining) my volunteer hours this year, as well as continuing education and volunteering each year after this... it's just the start of a lifelong process.

The one phrase I heard OVER AND OVER was "do a soil test". No matter what you wanted to plant, you needed to KNOW what the health was of your planting material. The soil testing, depending on where you live, will be free or really cheap, but the information invaluable. Then you can add nutrients or matter to make your soil perfect for planting what you want to grow!

So, having heard this, I've been working hard in the landscaping of our garden beds at the front of our home. I was going to do a soil test, REALLY I WAS, but my original plan was to pull the soil (and all the grass and weeds growing in it) out of the planter and put new, fresh, quality potting mix in. Fresh start. Good deal. No problems. Right??

Wrong. Between weather, a busy schedule, and an upcoming summer wedding (our son!) - we aren't going to put the money into doing it that way now. We're taking the more laborious task (but fiscally responsible task) of working with what we have. Making due. It's ok - but now we've got growing season upon us and no soil testing done...and I'm moving forward anyways. Breaking rules. That's not the way I roll...not the way I like to anyways.

Most of the soil was buried under landscaping barrier fabric, and a layer of red dyed wood chips. Unfortunately, they didn't put any landscaping barrier in the front part of the flower bed, so the creeping grass we have as a lawn (zoysia??) has been happily living there. THRIVING there in the flower bed. Thankfully, Mark didn't mind digging it out, and I expect it will still be a work in process.

The dirt is not the texture I want it to's dirt...and I wanted potting mix with vermiculite and organic materials...but it's still dark and rich and full of we've jumped on it to get things in the ground...UNDER the ground...bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes to fill the shady spots with ferns, caladiums, and hostas. We added a fountain feature. I envision maidenhair ferns swaying to a cool breeze in the heat of summer...the slightly sweet fragrance of a hosta bloom and the tickling sound of our fountain....

BUT - I've completely ignored the first rule of good gardening. I didn't soil test. There, I said it. If all this planting goes to waste, there's nothing to do but blame me, and soil test next winter before starting the whole process again. BECAUSE YOUR SOIL CHANGES ALL THE TIME. As plants live and grow there, the nutrients change. You have to test and prepare your soil every year. Over and over.

So, fast forward to the past few days. We've celebrated Easter - Jesus' Resurrection and living seated at the right hand of the Father. Such Good News that I live to tell others. 

But I'm sad. Depressed. Blue. Daylight is growing longer and longer, and I'm struggling to get out of bed, and if I'm out of bed I'm struggling to stay awake. I'm seriously tired. Sit still and fall asleep tired. Exhausted. I feel like the "Depression Hurts" commercial. Even laying in bed my calves hurt. I haven't done anything to hurt my calves. Haven't taken a walk. Haven't got the treadmill fired up. I did work in the garden, but don't think I hurt my calves. I don't get it. Well, I do get it partially, but don't like it (so I'll choose to ignore it). I'm suffering from "the day after Christmas (only it's Easter) Syndrome," and saying goodbye to all my grands as we leave Kentucky I realize, I'm homesick for where we used to live. Homesick for a church full of engaging people. Homesick for my handful of really good, genuine, real-life girlfriends.

We have lived here (Arkansas) for 7 months now and I've barely made a friend...I have acquaintances...recognize people, but have yet to find a kindred spirit (or 2), a prayer partner, someone to relate to my husbands crazy work schedule and traveling, and be an empty nester; someone in my age/stage of life. No one. Zip. Zero. Nada. I fear another "30 years in the wilderness" experience that I lived while in SW MO, and wonder if I'm forgetting something that I learned there...something I'm supposed to be living now that I can't remember. Sigh.

So, laying under a thick layer of blankets this morning, snuggled in deep in a bounty of warm cottons, I'm reading my daily Bible reading on my phone, and open to Luke 8, reading most of the chapter, but paying special attention to the parable of the seed. I've put the text here:

One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture.Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they look, they won’t really see.
    When they hear, they won’t understand.’[b]
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
I realize that these scriptures are referring to God's Word. To the areas of my heart that have been walking with Him for years now (and there have been seasons of life with Him that needed soil testing too, keeping it nutrient rich and producing harvests). I understand that. I also know that sometimes His words hit me to apply to other areas of my life. And this is one of them. 
I didn't test (or prepare) my soil. I'm sitting here, wondering where the other women are at to build friendships with, and my soil is nutrient empty. I've got nothing to give right now - just burdens. I've got heaping arms of plates of issues to give someone else - but my heart isn't in a place to receive other people's problems. I'm not capable of patiently producing a huge harvest of anything!
I'm going to be intentional and "soil test" my heart over the next few days. Sit back and soak Him in. Do joy-building things to fill my life to establish rest....and, oddly enough (haha) there is a women's retreat from church this weekend that I'll be going on, and the topic is "Rest," so I hope to be even more encouraged through that (and yesterday, I was DREADING I know why I'm supposed to be going!). 
I'm going back to my DAILY Joy Dare (Ann Voskamp's write 3 things that are gift from God) and stop playing catch up on it. Put it front and center. Force myself to see the GOOD THINGS that He is giving me daily, mixed up with the different, the unexpected, and the sadness. I've got to get myself out. OUT! Not just the meetings and workplace, but to the intentional take a walk around the block. I have to find a place of water to soothe myself, even if it's the bathtub. I have to take care of me. Add nutrients to my soulful soil. Make it a place to nurture a difficult season in life, nourish a marriage, continue to flourish in my walk with God - whether there are friends or not - and just cling to God. It might be hard, but if I keep my eyes focused on Him it will be so much more fruitful a season. That's what I want - that measured growth of the HUGE HARVEST - IN my life, and FROM my life. I want to grow. I'm reminded of a life verse from years ago...
I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
    and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
    for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come
    and shower righteousness upon you.’ ~ Hosea 10:12

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