This is a little story about two bushes. It’s not specifically about a dream or a vision, but it's something I think is pretty cool. It’s about what God can reveal in the natural, right before our eyes, that gives a picture of the supernatural. When we moved to Georgia five years ago, the landscaping was already set around our house, planted, growing and not anything we had picked out ourselves. We didn’t know what we were walking into to, but it’s landscaping, so how hard can that be? If you don't have a green thumb, it turns out it’s way harder than you’d think. And thus, we’ve become “those” neighbors. The ones with the bushes in the front that are wild, crazy and well above the garage windows. (In my defense, I tend to be a bit of a free spirit, so the perfectly cut, boxed out bushes kind of stress me out.) We are also the people, wait for it...who get turned into the “yard police”. Yep, I just said it - yard police. I’m still not so sure that’s even a thing, but nevertheless some guy showed up at my door with a sketchy looking badge and told me I had ten days to mow the strip of land along the front part of our property. At the risk of sounding like I still have issues I need to get over, let me just say, I actually liked it the way it was. Free, flowing grasses and wildflowers, "country living" at it's best. And we didn’t even realize that it was our land. Really. So, score, we now had more land, but we also had just become those people. In our best effort to follow the “law of the land”, we got out the mower and attacked the area that was the apparent eye sore. There’s a chance we mowed more than we needed to, as kind of a “we got this.” (reminder - still a work in progress over here). Then, to remedy any future mowing issues, we may have planted three trees. I really liked the free growing wild grass and flowers that were there before the attack of the mower, but I’ll be honest, I like my three trees better. And believe it or not, it’s a reminder of grace to me. I really want to be upset that instead of coming to talk to us, the choice was to call in an emergency yard squad. Sometimes I want to be petty about the whole thing, but instead I thank the Lord for people who care about things I don’t. And besides, now I know about yard police. That’s kind of fun. And I have three trees that produce beautiful blooms. Lesson learned, and grace wins, or in this case grace blooms. That’s not even what this is all about, I digressed. Can you tell I still have issues? But now you have the set up so you can get the fullest picture of how little we know about horteculture. Just to make sure you really, really understand - we have a section of our yard, that was grass when we moved in, that we now refer to as the beach front. The closest ocean is 3 hours away. We live in the woods. And that’s pretty much us in a nutshell. So there are these two bushes we have. Had. One on each side of our garage. I don’t even know what they are, but they haven’t died and they produce this amazing fragrance every year. When I walk out to my car each day I breathe in this smell that makes me super happy. I don’t know if smells do that to you, but just the right fragrance makes me think that’s what Heaven might just smell like. That’s these bushes. Tiny little Heaven smellers. They aren’t amazing really in any other way. Smallish, thinning in parts and oddly, not really the same size. The bush on the right didn’t seem to be thriving as much as the one on the left. I chalked it up to too much water, or lack of water, I'm not really sure which. I’m going to go with too much water because the bush on the right sits under what we refer to as the waterfall. The waterfall is what happens when you don’t have gutters and it rains. It makes for a lovely waterfall cascading off the garage roof. Or, it’s just a lot of water that you have to run through like a wild person in order to not get soaked. Depends on the day and the mood as to how it's perceived. Anyway, the poor little bush sits right under it. So I figured that was hampering the growth. Keep in mind, we’ve been reported to the yard police, so what do I know?
One day, in an attempt to stay in the neighbor's good graces and to keep up with our yard work, Garth and I went outside, armed with clippers and garden gloves. We started on the bushes in the front and worked our way around to the garage side where our two little bushes sat. And as we stepped back to assess what should be done, we were both pretty amazed by something we had been ignoring. The bush on the left was easily twice the height of the bush on the right. Hmmm. Wonder when that happened?
So now what? Cut half off to even them out? I really didn’t want to do that because it was nicely hiding the ugly dish bowl on a stand. But now that I clearly saw the difference, it bugged me. No uniform size stuff going on here. And then in all the wonderful genius that my husband possesses, he suggested we turn it into a tree. Seriously, genius. I loved the idea, never once considering that we were maybe about to care for the bush in the way it was actually designed to be...a tree.
When we were done, we again stepped back to look at our handiwork. And I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty silly. It was as obvious as it could be. Turns out it was a tree. And it had been a tree all along.
It wasn't until a month or so later that we were doing a morning devotion time (with my Time to Revive team), that God brought the picture full circle. We were talking about what pruning looks like in our life and the things we go through that God uses to make us who we are, and I immediately thought of my lovely little bush/tree. And suddenly God was giving me an illustration in the natural that I knew applied to the supernatural...
I think we go through life trying to be or look a certain way. I know I do. We put on all the outer appearances that everyone expects of us, or that we expect of ourselves, protecting what we see as healthy growth or blooms. And all along the way, God continues to say, I've got something different for you. You aren't who you think you are...you are who I think you are. Ask me what I expect you to look like.
And then comes the pruning. The definition of pruning is to "trim (a tree, shrub, or bush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth". Pruning is really an essential gardening skill. When pruned correctly, healthy growth and flowering, as well as good looks are encouraged. For most shrubs and trees, it helps to prune at the right time. Some are best pruned in winter; some right after flowering. It also often produces the cringe factor and likely doesn't appear to make sense. My mom used to tell me to remove the dying blooms of my plants so that they would have room to grow even more blooms, something that was always really hard for me to do. I couldn't stand removing something that I thought maybe had a chance to live. To cut away things that "appeared" healthy. So instead of promoting growth, I was hindering it. Or in the case of our bush, we were actually hindering it from being what it was designed to be. All because we weren't willing to go through the pruning process or couldn't see what needed to be pruned away. Until all at once, with a few swift cuts, the true identity of the bush was revealed.
Wild flowers mowed down to make room for even more blooms. Leaves and branches cut off to reveal the true identity of the tree. Removing the junk from our lives to become who God truly created us to be. Suddenly we go from being a small little bush, to a full, thriving, beautiful tree. So I'm up for pruning these days. I realize it's not always going to be easy. Sometimes painful, and in fact, it already has been painful. But I really want to be who God sees me to be and if it means trimming a few things off, then I say let's do this thing. I'm pretty much done with all the things that make up the "who you see Janaé" and ready to fully live out the "who God sees Janaé".
So I'm praying about what that looks like. Asking God what the things are that I'm holding onto that are hindering growth. Asking what "branches" need to go so that my true identity in Christ can be displayed. And I'm beginning to see the theme that God is weaving together for me. It's realizing there's a battle out there and we need to be armed, aware and not sitting in an acoustic shadow. It's realizing that the Lord sees us differently than we often see ourselves and may even have a different name for us like Sophia Grace. It's realizing that we just might have to prune away a few things to begin looking like the name we've been given and to be in top form for the battle.
It's like a vision the Lord gave me not too long ago of the back of a cross stitch piece. The threads were all over the place and it was a colorful mess. But when turned over it revealed a beautiful image. I never saw the completed image in my vision, but am suddenly wondering if I turned it over, that it just might reveal a beautifully pruned tree.
I'm not who you think I am. I'm who God thinks I am. And I'm pretty sure tucked away somewhere in my garage, I have a really cute pair of garden gloves to wear.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples. - John 15:1-8