gardengardenA couple of times a year I must dedicate several days to my garden.  I have a small yard.  Therefore, most of my back and side yards are devoted to my garden.  I’m not consistent enough with my yard work to be considered a true gardener; but I enjoy the fruits of my sporadic labors all year round.

Often in my pruning and pulling, I find a wilted perennial.  Usually, there seems to be no reason for the decay of the dying plant.  In sunny Florida near the ocean, we need water almost everyday for our growing ornamentals; but I’m pretty diligent about providing that.  Yet, the mystery is that these wilted plants often grow along side the healthy ones.

wiltedIn some plants that seems to be a deficiency in their ability to grow.  They are receiving the same fertilizer and water.  The share equally with the soil and sunlight; but they remain stunted until they are gone.

I remember a young man who was raised in a large family.  He told of an abusive childhood.  Finally, he left home, rejecting the opportunity to go to college as his siblings had done because he didn’t want to be obligated to his unforgiving and vengeful parents.  Yet, when you realized that this young man had been raised by godly parents and his six other siblings told a completely different story about their childhood, you knew something had gone badly wrong with this young man; and his parents probably were not to blame. There were obvious distortions in his life.

distortionsAs the man has matured, his attitude has improved but not totally changed.  The distortions in his life remain.  Wherever he goes, people are making his life miserable.  Employers fire him for no reason.  Women break his heart without regrets or scruples.  Hospital mix up his test results and give him the wrong medications which make him sicker.  Even though, the man rejected church in his youth, he has returned to his faith; but there is no joy in his relationship with the Father.

Several weeks ago, I revisited the parable of the talents as told by Jesus in Matthew 25.  We all remember the three employees who were given various amounts of money from their employer, a business owner.  They were expected to invest the money.  The first two did exactly what was expected of them, doubling the amount they received.

moneyThe third, however, buried his money with this explanation to his employer, “I know that you were a hard man and that you expect growth from investments, even where you don’t invest any money.  You want more for your labors than you are willing to make an effort to produce.  Therefore, I was afraid.  I buried your money and here it is.  I’m returning the amount you gave to me.”

His employer was outraged with his employee.  “If you knew that I was that kind of employer, why didn’t you take my money and put it in the bank so it would at least draw interest.”  The employer took away the money and gave it to the employee who had earned the greatest money from his investment.

The employer explained through is torrent of anger, “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them”  (Matthew 25:29)  The employer fired the slothful employee and then had him arrested and sent to prison.

We know that the employer is God in this parable.  In reading the Biblical account, we find that the three men had the same employer but two expected goodness from him.  And that is precisely what they received.  The third employee, driven by indolence, sluggishness and laziness, expected exactly the opposite from the same man and that is what he received.

There are those who expect only the worst from God–and that is what they receive.  Like my wilted garden plant, they never learn to partake of the water, sunlight, warmth and food provided all around them.

Many of my friends within the mentally challenged community exhibit the exact opposite attitude.  Their IQ’s a deficient.  Their bodies may not function properly.  However, they grow and mature without distortions within their spirit.  The Lord in his mercy has graciously provided for all of us.  His blessings abound all during the day and night but often without reason we become overcome by doubts and fears.  Our spirits wilt in the presence of a gracious Lord.

My prayer is that I will command my doubting heart know the love of the Lord.  That I will demand for my whining spirit to look full into the sunlight of his love expecting and receiving the abundant blessings that surround me.

I’ve spent much of the last two afternoons and evening outside working on my garden.  This is my private sanctuary but I’ve spent precious little time out doors these past two years.  My husbands failing health and other concerns have made my time outdoors minimal.

I prefer the English, free-form style of garden. Yet, I’ve learned this design still takes as much work as the more formal, immaculately trimmed Japanese garden. 

It appears at times that everything, even God, fights against my maintaining the garden area.  Wind storms insure that the trees are trimmed.  However, the winds come, the trees are trimmed and the branches are dropped willi-nilli around the yard.  I overheard a Christian neighbor tell her husband.  “Dear, when you trim the trees, you remind me of God.”

“I do?” the husband asked with a grin, his chest rising about a foot.

“Yep, you cut it down and throw it on the ground, waiting for me to pick it up.  That’s the same way God does it.”

This morning after hours of weeding, sweeping, raking and pruning, there are new leaves and fresh weeds waiting for my attention.  Last week, I remembered that during the years that my garden was well groomed, I seldom spent hours  working in my yard.  However, each day I was outside–15 to 30 minutes every morning or afternoon.  

 Like most achievements in our lives, it isn’t the bip! bang! wow-wee! method that reaps deep dividends but the slow, methodical, daily work which insures success.  Solomon in Proverbs speaks often regarding the wisdom of daily efforts.  God, through Isaiah, says that even spiritual and godly success is a result of “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” 

One of the most successful pastors and teachers in the world is Rick Warren.  I follow him on Twitter.  It is astonishing how much he advocates slow, meticulous progress, rather than hyped, whooped-up success.  In another area, financial guru, Dave Ramsey, preaches the same methods for financial well-being.

Within the mentally challenged community, these are men and women whose learning abilities are developmentally delayed.  They are able to learn.  However, their learning ability is slowed.  Yet, when they have a concept or idea, they embrace it with such a firm grasp that they seldom lose it.  Margaret wanted to read all her life.  Finally, she found a program that she could understand.  Margaret learned to read.  Each morning and afternoon as she rode the bus, she would take out her book and read.  No spare moment was missed that reading did not fill.  Holding her book to her breast, she would grin and remind me, “Do you remember that I can read?”

Gardening, finances and our spiritual lives have much in common.  God often desires slow, daily efforts.  This may not be easy but the rewards are magnificent flowers, embraced by colorful and fruit-filled lives.

On this Good Friday, it’s great to smell the roses.  Our Christian life is often like a large waiting game.  It’s hard sometimes to remember that Sunday will come.

About 10 years ago, after years of neglect, I began working on my garden.  I started by cleaning out one flower bed.  Then I planted some spring flowers.  It seemed that I would never be able to get the entire yard looking decent and I have a VERY small yard.  However, over the years, I kept at it.  Now it’s good to hear people talk about my garden.  “It’s like a Garden of Eden,” one visitor exaggerated, but I was thrilled.  All my hard work was finally paying off.  I could smell the roses.

Sometimes advocacy within the disability community seems equally futile.  You work for years.  You write and demonstrate and communicate with politicians and professionals and parents; and the glorious result?  Nothing.  Nothing seems to be accomplished.  Then WOW!  things begin to break. 

 This is an e-mail I received that originated from Jack Kosik of Noah’s Arc of Central Florida.  It appears that the 10 percent rule has been eliminated.  This rule enforced in Florida mandated that property could not be rented or sold to mentally challenged persons, if the population in a condo/apartment complex contained 10 per cent of people who are developmentally delayed.  We discussed this issue in the blog, “Providing a Safer Environment” on February 26. 

This is good news and reflects the good work done by advocates across the state of Florida.   Smell the roses as you read the e-mail from Kosik:

 

GREAT NEWS!

I talked with Pam Kyllonen earlier this morning and confirmed that the APD and AHCA have agreed to remove all of the density language from the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Services Manual.

Pam told me that the rule amendment was on their Director’s desk for signature and would be sent to the Florida Administrative Weekly for publication.

I asked Pam whether there was any “substitute language” (the APD previously indicated that they would be developing a “new rule” restricting development of “larger congregate living developments”), she said there was no new language, but suggested that we watch the Florida Administrative Weekly for any notices by the APD on new rule development.

Lila Klausman has been relentless in this cause and has devoted endless hours to gathering the right troops…THANK YOU LILA.

We must remember that this change only happened because we came together as a unified group and everybody pitched in their expertise and shared their influential contacts. TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN!This is great news, but we now need to refocus our efforts in getting an amendment to FS 419 (the 1000′ rule). Over the next few days, we will be developing a strategy and asking you to join in on a conference call next week so we can all get on the same page and be highly focused in our efforts.We have momentum and we need to keep our eyes on the bullseye, not just the target.CONGRATULATIONS…YOU ARE AWESOME!Jack Kosik
Noah’s Ark of Central Florida
(863) 687-0804 Office
(863) 698-1159 Cell