Friday, September 24, 2010

The Attack of the Pruning Shears

Well, I can say this:  God is persistent.  He does not like to be ignored.  He will hammer in His point until I get it.  Which is good because I can be a bit daft at times.

On Monday, I learn at Bible study that just because something is "good," it is not necessarily part of God's plan for my life.  Priscilla Shirer, in her Bible study, Can We Talk?, discussed how a farmer trying to grow the prize tomato will prune away perfectly good fruit in order to allow all the nutrients to flow to the ONE tomato that he desires to cultivate to the best it can possibly be.
Translation:  I do a lot of good things, but they are not necessarily good for my life.  What?!?

On Tuesday, I'm out in my garden where I attempted to actually grow tomatoes this spring.  I notice how the plants are so top-heavy that not even the wire stabilizers can fight against their weight.  I also notice there are lots of flowers but hardly any fruit.  They look like such full, healthy plants, and yet...they are not fulfilling their purpose.
Translation:  I look good on the outside, but my whole being is threatening to topple over with all the activities, stress, and commitments.  I simply cannot hold myself upright any longer.  What do you mean I can't hold it all together?!?

On Wednesday, I read Amy Sullivan's blog.  She asks this question:

What do people see when they look at you? How do you want to be perceived? Are you working to become something different?
I type my response in the comment section.  What I realize at this moment is that people see me as put-together, loyal, "she can do anything" type of girl. While this is nice and all, it means I get asked to do a lot and then feel so guilty if I say no. What I want to say is that I am broken -- that the reason I do all of these things, a lot of the time, is because for some reason, I still feel like I must prove myself. I must be the best. I must never give up.

What I want to be is discerning with my time. I want to give, just to give, with no other hidden agenda. I want to be immune to praise and criticism -- to not live or die by the words that come out of someone's mouth. I want to live as Jesus did and be satisfied with what God puts on my plate instead of heaping spoonfuls on there myself.

Monday and Tuesday must have gotten to me.

Right now, my life consists of running from one thing to the next.  My heart yearns for my Father, and yet, I do not make it into His arms often enough.  I begin my quiet time and the phone rings.  I start to sketch and my child needs something.  I think, After this project, things will be easier but the reality is that I am saying YES to something new before I literally have time to take a deep breath, much less a nap.  I desire to serve. I desire for others to be filled.  I don't want this to be  neglected.  I don't want to turn away that person.  I want to be all things to all people because...

There is a large part of me that takes on all of these things because I want to truly do God's work.  I want to enrich people's lives and help things run smoothly.  And yet, if I am truly honest with  myself, there is an element of pride at work here.

I am worthy if I am busy.
I am worthy if I am indispensible.
I am worthy if I am put together.
I am worthy if I know what is going on.
I am worthy if I can fix the problem.
I am worthy if I can plan ahead.
I am worthy if I can anticipate your need.
I am worthy if...
I am worthy if...
I am worthy if...

I am so in middle of this pruning, editing-my-life process that I have absolutely no tidy endings with which to leave you.  I am struggling to give up things that I have been involved in for years.  I am struggling to find my worth in my Savior and Him alone.  I am struggling to figure out which things He wants me to do and prune off the perfectly good fruit that just doesn't quite make it into His plan.  I am a vine-ridden mess, desperately needing pruning, desperately needing a Savior, desperately needing peace.

My art reflects this heart-wrenching process.  But even through the disorganization and all the roles that I take on right now, there are simple truths which God keeps pouring into my heart.  They are the thirst-quenching words that keep me in His presence, that drown me in grace, and produce blooms.

You make all things new.  (2 Corinthians 4: 16)
I am Yours, you are Mine. (Song of Solomon 2: 16)
You will be my strength. (Exodus 15:2)
I am precious in Your sight. (Isaiah 43: 4)

I am linking up with Michelle at Lost in the Prairies, Jennifer at Studio JRU, and Rachel Anne at Home Sanctuary.  Check out these fabulously wonderful ladies!


  1. The pruning process is never pleasant, but the blessings on the other side are more than worth it. It's hard to say no, especially if you fear you will never be asked again. (my own neediness trying to be in control). Popular culture tries to convince us to be everything to everyone, when all we need is to be who He created us to be, following His plan for our lives.

    I'm still practicing saying "no"

  2. Once again, you have touched my heart. Thank you for being so open with your struggle, which I suspect a lot of us need to enter for ourselves. Have patience with yourself. After all, God "knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14).

  3. I LOVE your art! It is amazing! I could have written this blog myself. I am not sure why we so often find our worth wrapped up in our accomplishments...except that that is the world's measure and as christians we get caught up in it! I have been trying to look at each thing we do lately and measure it by whether or not it is the best. Right now my sons are really upset with me because I told them no to basketball. They like basketball, they like hanging with their friends, etc. but it is not their passion. I just cannot justify 3-4 practices a week plus the cost plus the games for something that is just good. I have explained that that time and money could be given to helping the poor, witnessing, doing things for the kingdom...they are still upset. And so am I because I want them to be happy, I want to keep up with the world, I want to be able to do it all. But I can't. Good luck as you go through this struggle. I know you will come out stronger and wiser and closer to God in the end!

  4. Oh, Jen, what an awesome post. I'm thinking of actually copying it and giving it to my daughter and daughter in law to read. I use to tell my MOPS girls that there are so many good things to say "yes" to but we MUST save our yeses for the BEST things. That will often help us unload some of our responsibilities and get our lives back in alignment. I have no doubt that you will have it all figured out shortly and and I'm praying that the Lord will show you what is HIS best for you at this time in your life. You are so precious!

  5. Hopped over from Sandy's blog. I have to tell you in person (I already left a message at Sandy's place) I love you. Seriously. Thanks for sharing your heart; it's beautiful =)

  6. Hi Jen,
    Came over from Studio JRU...Thank you for sharing what is in your heart. Remember, Jesus loves you just as you are, you do not have to prove yourself worthy. I too am struggling with my path and where He wants to take me. The pruning has been very interesting and now I'm being told to rest, which is very hard for me to do. He wants me to rest in Him.

    May He bring many Blessings upon you and answer all your prayers.

  7. I needed to read/hear this Jen.

    You have no idea how what you said hit home with me. It met what I needed to hear right so many ways.

    Thank You. <3

    And as always...I find your drawings beautiful.

  8. I love this line... "I am struggling to figure out which things He wants me to do and prune off the perfectly good fruit that just doesn't quite make it into His plan." What a wonderful way for us to 'see' sometimes even the good fruit needs to be pruned. I love the art piece you made that reflects this powerful image. Thank you so much for sharing it with us this week! :)

  9. I totally agree with everyone. I know exactly what you feel. And love your art once again. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I love this post. It is so true. I found you over at Sandy's and loved that post too. Thanks for listening to God and being willing to put it out there.

    Oh, and as someone who is not at all talented, except in rambling, I love your artwork!

  11. Thanks for the post Jen.....we are all looking for that acceptance aren't we...we want to 'look good'.....have a good week and thanks for stopping by.

  12. Great post! You're "pruned tree" picture captures a heart-felt prayer of 1000 words with just one image! Thanks for your vulnerability and authentic writing...

  13. Goodness Gracious Alive..Jen..this post was the icing on the cake for me today. I didn't participate in Sweet Jennifer's Sneak Peek Friday but have been visiting everyone who did. I started from back to front on the listings for some reason. Now it's perfectly clear why God had me do it that way.

    I've been so overwhelmed this week. Doing..doing..doing..for everyone who asked anything of me. Your post today smacked me right over the spirit. I need to do some pruning..and stop feeling so bad when I can't be there for all those who say they need me. Thank you so much for sharing these words with us today..It touches me so deeply that God actually reached down and spoke to me through you. He never ceases to take my breath. I love Him with everything in me.

  14. Yes, yes, yes, Jen. This is so rich in wisdom and truth. I relate completely. Everytime I read your blog, I think. . . this is my sister. I never had a sister, but this is one of mine. Thank you for writing is a message for me too. I love that you write what He speaks to your heart. Let's do some pruning!

  15. Hey Jen, you are so awesome, I love your writing and your beautiful works of art. I to struggle with the things you write about, and have been reading Lysa Teurkurst's book where she says this "Maybe this is the true secret to being fulfilled and content. Living in the moment with God, defined by His truth and with no unrealistic expectations for others or things to fill me up. Not reaching back for what was lost in my yesterday, and not reaching for wha tI hope will be in my tomorrow. But living fully with what is right in front of me and truly seeing the gift of the moment......I still have hopes for my future, but they no longer send me into a striving frenzy...then my desperate hollowness is replaced by a desire for holiness".

    Aren't we all just "vine-ridden messes" in one way or another :), drowned in His grace, and you are producing some beautiful blooms my dear sister.

  16. Oh, good 'ole John 15:1-2...I know that verse so very well, dear one.

    First of all, beautifully written. Just gorgeous, gal!

    Secondly, HOORAY!!!!!!!! Saying "no" is a sign on maturity - at least that is what I was told a year ago when I realized this same thing. :)

    I *heart* Priscilla Shirer - I did a study with her this past spring and so love her style.

    Blessings to you as you continue to be pruned into a lovely new version of the beautiful self you already are!

    Natalie at Mommy on Fire

  17. Jen,

    I have had to go through a radical pruning more than once in my life. You'd think I would learn, but no. I find myself over-committed more than I'd like to admit.

    For me, I sometimes have to literally back out of every single extra thing that is not 100% essential to marriage, family or spiritual growth. And then ask God to put back on my plate ONLY what He wants for me in this season.

    It's hard, but it is so worth it.

    We live in a hectic society. It is so counter-cultural to find your worth in God. You are fighting against so much more than your own pride.

    I know, only because I've been there.
    Love you, Girl!!!

  18. Hello Jen,

    I am glad that I stumbled across your blog today...your post really spoke to me.

    There was so much here to chew on, but this truth especially stuck out for me:

    // if I am truly honest with myself, there is an element of pride at work here.//

    Pride is surely an evil rot creeping into even the best of fruit threatening to spoil it.

    As long as we continually refocus on Jesus, (like an ADD child being redirected by a caring and expert teacher), and cultivate humility, there is hope for good...for fruit that is ripe with love and purpose.

  19. Ouch, I can relate to this so well, and so often.

    I appreciate your posts; the openness and beauty with which you share your heart are refreshing.

  20. Here is the caramel apple recipe that we got from the MOPS meeting...Hubby was the only one brave enough to try teeth are really weak so I don't do caramel so well.

  21. Wow, what a powerful word! (I found you thru inCourage!) I've been doing some pruning too. For me, more than activities though it's things like turning off the tv more (distraction!), both going to bed & getting up earlier, cutting out the general distractions so I can 1) get quiet before Him and listen and worship more, 2) hone my sense of gratitude, and 3)be about HIS business as a mother, wife and Christian in general and stop worrying about what other people think!
    And such great words on your 'worthiness' list. Ain't it the truth! Here's praying we can find our worthiness in HIM and learn especially as Christians to slow down, be examples, and find "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Phil 4:8, TNIV)


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