Have you ever stood as straight and tall as possible, back against the wall, while your height was recorded?
My childhood home had a wall where such measurements were displayed. A pencil was placed level with the top of my head and a mark made on the wall. If I’d grown, the date and my name would be printed beside this line. The same would happen for my siblings.
I had such a wall for my children and my daughter has maintained this tradition for her children. Down through the generations, we like to see a tangible sign of our growth.
Physical growth is important to record. My grandson, who recently surpassed me in height, can attest to that!
I haven’t gained in height for many years and lately seem to be getting shorter. These days it is other forms of personal growth I’m looking to achieve.
Marks on the wall would make it easier to measure if I’m growing or shrinking but that’s not how this growth works.
Instead I need to ask myself some tough questions. Have I challenged myself to learn something new? Do I explore creative possibilities? When was the last time I stepped out of my comfort zone? Am I reaching out to connect with new people? How am I doing with my commitment to make a difference?
It can be quite comfortable to stay in my safe, predictable routine but that is when my growth stops and my life becomes smaller.
My best intentions have to be put into action to ensure my personal growth. There is no better time than now to stretch myself in new ways. Who wants to join me? Accountability partners are welcomed!
Our neighbour called my husband and me over to look at something in his garden. He had planted some sunflower seeds and one had sprouted with the shell still on it.
It seemed to me that this plant was not ready to give up the protection the shell had given. Even though there was quite a bit of new growth, the plant was not ready to fully come out of its shell.
My way of looking at this was a reflection of past (and sometimes more recent) behaviours I have struggled with.
New experiences can be very scary. In an unknown environment, I long for safety and familiarity. My protective shell looks tempting and I seriously consider making a retreat back into it.
Before I do, I think of how dark and restrictive the shell had become. Outside I see light and potential. Am I willing to risk the unknown to reach toward my goals and dreams?
Sometimes I still look for a safe place to hide. Then I remember what lies outside of this comfort zone and know I will never grow into my full potential until I am willing to break out of my shell.
“Fear is only temporary. Regret lasts forever.” – Unknown
We have an area set aside in our backyard for a vegetable garden. Every year we look forward to the harvest of fresh produce to come.
Before seeds can be sown, the soil must be prepared. If the dirt is hard and compact, it needs to be broken up and turned over. The soil also needs to be fertile enough to sustain the growth we hope to achieve. The task of a gardener is ongoing throughout the season and I’m grateful my husband has taken this on.
He knows that hard, unyielding soil will not allow roots to push through and grow. Stones and undesirable roots left in the soil can hamper the growth of seeds planted.
If we are not careful weeds will quickly grow and choke the life from the seedlings. One of the roles of a gardener is to tend the plants, removing anything that will impede their growth. Without proper care, they will be unable to reach their full potential.
I think of myself as one of these seeds. Sometimes I put myself in situations that hamper my growth. God wants me to have deep roots so I can reach my full potential. When I am hard and unyielding He may need to do some digging into my life and break up the clumps of stubbornness and rebellion. The weeds of my wrong attitudes need to be removed.
This process can be quite uncomfortable but the results are worth it. The thought of being a seed, planted by the loving hands of my Heavenly Father is reassuring. There is no better gardener to nourish and care for me. His love and protection will help me reach my full potential.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. (John 15:1 ERV)
While in Arizona recently, I learned about a type of cactus called saguaro. While the name (pronounced Sah WAR oh) may not be familiar, its appearance certainly is.
Easily recognized for its height, which can be over twelve meters or forty feet tall, as well as the arms coming out of each side; this tree-like cactus is often depicted in artwork. Many years ago I purchased a wall hanging with a saguaro as part of the design.
I found it fascinating to learn it can take up to fifty years before the plant blossoms and approximately seventy-five years before appendages sprout. After the first one appears, there is no limit to the number it may produce. We counted twenty arms on one!
Looking at the plant, it appears to have accordion-type pleats. These expand as it stores water. This method of self-preservation is able to keep it alive for an incredible two years without moisture.
What have I learned from these facts to apply to my life?
I expect to achieve my goals in a minimal amount of time. In reality, it can take many years to blossom and grow into my full potential. Once I’m mature enough, there is no limit to how productive I can be.
If I store up things that nourish me, such as the beauty of nature, wisdom of those who have gone before me and encouragement from friends and family, I am able to draw on these to keep me going during the dry spells.
When I model my life after these truths I will be committed to do what is necessary to reach for my goals and dreams. Then I will be able to stand tall and proud with outstretched arms to welcome whatever comes my way.
Most of the carrots in our garden grew side by side. Not these two. They grew together, one wrapping itself around the other.
Two distinct tops were visible above the ground. The roots at the bottom were also separately defined.
At some point during their growth, the shapes were altered as they became entwined and no longer individual. The result is you can’t take them apart without breaking at least one.
There have been times I’ve aligned myself closely to another whom I admired. Subtly my individuality disappeared as I attempted to mold myself into the other person’s shape.
Other times I have been flattered by the attention of someone else and allowed them to grow into my space, altering both of us.
Neither case was healthy. It is not possible to carry on this way without feeling stifled. Unfortunately, the move to separate causes injury or brokenness for one if not both.
Supporting one another does not mean losing the traits that make me who I am. Growing alongside and learning from another while still maintaining independence is what makes me stronger and healthier.
I read a quote that said, “Be yourself before you forget who you really are.” That is advice I plan on taking!
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Steve Jobs
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” Judy Garland
There is nothing like the taste of fresh from the garden produce. I am a carrot lover, so that is one crop I look forward to with great anticipation.
A few days ago we harvested the remaining carrots. It was interesting to see the variety of sizes. The seeds were all sown on the same day, into the same mix of garden soil. They were cared for in exactly the same way. So why were some large and others small?
At first, I wondered if the ones gathered closely together didn’t have enough space to grow as large as the ones with more room. That may be part of it, but then how do I explain a large carrot growing beside a small one? What makes one thrive while another grows slowly?
I wondered if this is true for seeds, is it also true for people? Deep within each of us lies many seeds. We have seeds of potential, of love and kindness; seeds of confidence and self-worth. We also have seeds of disappointment, of anger, of discouragement and low self-esteem.
Some of these seeds grow larger and stronger than others, depending which ones we focus on. Every seed needs proper nourishment to grow and flourish. I can feed the negative ones by focusing on them, or I can make the choice to nourish the positive ones to encourage their growth.
I look at the carrots just in from the garden and wonder, which of the seeds in my life I’m putting my focus on.
It had been many years since we’d planted tulip bulbs and I was watching the progress with great anticipation. Several were almost ready to bloom. I took a picture of one of the buds and planned to take another when the flower was in full bloom.
Well, I did get another picture of this stalk, but it was not what I had hoped for. The nice, plump bud had been eaten by the wild rabbit that lives in our neighbourhood. Several more of these promising flowers had suffered the same fate.
There are still a few buds remaining so either our furry friend had his fill or moved on to sample the fare in another garden. Either way, I can’t count on this not being repeated with the other flowers.
Yes, I am disappointed. Being upset won’t do me any good, though, so I started looking for the life lesson that must be there for me. It didn’t take long to find!
There are times in life I have had great plans that haven’t quite made it to fruition. Like the blooms, they were so close I could almost smell their fragrance. At the last minute, something came along and nipped them in the bud.
Maybe the opportunity wasn’t the right one for me. Perhaps I had more to learn. No matter the reason, I need to keep planting my dreams and goals. It can be scary to risk again knowing things may not turn out the way I hope. The chance is worth it though because that’s what helps me learn and grow.
“If you are never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take chances.” Julia Soul
My sixteen year old granddaughter jumped up on a large rock in our front yard. “I haven’t been on this for years,” she said. “It seemed a lot bigger when I used to climb up on it.”
The rock has not changed. She however, has grown considerably in the ensuing years.
Her comments caused me to think of how my perspective has changed over the years. Obstacles that once seemed insurmountable can now be conquered.
The reason for this is my reliance on Jesus. He is the rock on which I stand.
As I grow in my relationship with him, the problems of life become easier to deal with. They have not necessarily changed, but I have. When my faith in him grows, difficulties seem to shrink.
I know Jesus will lift me from the slimy pit and set my feet on a rock, the firm foundation he provides.
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:4 NIV)
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:2 NIV)
The cheerful image of sunflowers adorns many items. I’ve always admired them from a distance but this year, for the first time, I had some growing in my yard.
While watching their progress I realized they had a few important lessons to teach me.
Lesson one was to keep on growing. Although fall was closing in and the nighttime temperatures were dipping to the freezing mark, these flowers kept on growing. They taught me that I don’t have to have ideal conditions to grow. Personal growth is achievable in all seasons of my life.
The second lesson was to keep my head high. No matter what happens, it’s important to keep looking up. Even though I make mistakes, God can redeem them. I can’t be used by him if I’m standing in despair with my head hung in shame. It’s God’s plan and not my own that I need to trust in.
The next lesson was to spread seeds of happiness. I’ve learned that one sunflower can have up to 2,000 seeds. The black seeds make oil and the striped ones are for snacking. This taught me that I don’t have to be the same as everyone else in order to spread seeds of happiness. I can do this through words of support and encouragement, through acts of service, a smile or a hug. The positive effects get passed on and the results can be far reaching.
Lesson four was to focus on the sunny side. Sunflowers turn their heads to face the sun. Helen Keller said “Keep your face to the sun and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” I like that thought. For me it means to keep my eyes on the Lord and let his light shine on me. When I find myself temporarily in the shadows, I have faith that he will lead me through them and into the sun once again.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 NIV)
A friend and I were enjoying a walk through a wooded area. We came upon a huge rock that that formed part of the hill side. It had some dry moss on the side and more vegetation on the top. I climbed up to get a better look.
Some soil must have been deposited in a small area because there was grass as well as moss growing there! This was amazing to me as there would have been no space for roots to take hold. I also wondered how the grass seed got there to start with.
All of this also got me to thinking about the rock in my life. Jesus is the rock that sustains me. He supplies what I need to not only survive but to flourish. When my roots are in him, I know I have the ability to grow strong no matter what my circumstance may be.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:6 NLT