Paradise. Sweet paradise. What must the Garden of Eden have looked like? I often wonder and allow visions to take form in my mind of what Godís special garden of paradise must have looked like, especially when Iím on a tropical vacation. My guess is that we probably would all get just a little different picture in our minds about what the Garden looked like. The Bible tells us in the book of Genesis that there were trees and a river that flowed through the garden. Close your eyes and envision the garden. Ö.. If asked today about what that Garden may have looked like my mind would wind back to a special, lush garden that surrounded the Kameole Sands condominiums where we stayed on the beautiful island of Maui a couple of years ago. To this day, if I close my eyes, I can still see it without even looking at the dozens of pictures my daughter and I took of the unique flowers that took our breath away. The view has stayed engrained in my mind. This tropical garden was amazing with all its foliage and color and we had the perfect view of the cascading pond that ran through the center of the entire complex, with its own waterfall on the far left side. It was a vision you might see adorning the front cover of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Each morning my senses would awaken to the sounds of birds singing, and the smell of fragrant, sweet exotic island flowers. A morning stroll through the garden often provided me with a ripe mango to share for breakfast and a handful of plumeria flowers. No, I absolutely did not pick the flowers or the mangos. Plumeria flowers blanketed the grass of the gardens all the time. Hawaiian leis are made from these beautiful flowers that come in a variety of colors. I didnít know much about this plant other than the fact that I found it very beautiful and that I wanted to have one of these plants whose aroma filtered in our condominium deck each morning while we stood enjoying a cup of coffee and marveling at the beautiful gardens that surrounded us. My idea of a great souvenir is probably a little extreme. Those who know me well understand that I always seem to like the things that Iím not allowed to take home. I donít need the t-shirt, just give me a piece of the island! Palm trees for my yard, sea turtles from my snorkeling trips, and fresh starfish from the ocean have been the items Iíve so desired to return home with. (Yes, I know we donít always get the things that we want. Iíve learned along the way that usually we donít get what we want and Iím not just talking souvenirs. God is to be praised for that, and no, Iím not kidding! ) Perhaps that is why it was such a big deal for me to find a plumeria start sealed in a bag in one of the various souvenir shops I visited before we left the island of Maui. I was thrilled and wasted no time when I returned home to plant it. It didnít come with any real instructions and I didnít research the care on the plant at all. Water and sun! That was my theory. Imagine my excitement when after what seemed like an eternity, the brown, cigar looking start got its first leaf. It still didnít look like much, but I always envisioned the end product and applied much attention to this plant. I watered quite often. Other than a large artificial fichus tree, the plumeria was my only real house plant. It did seem to progress very slowly. When I left on vacation the next summer, I left my precious plant with a girlfriend of mine who graciously took care of it. She was glad when I returned and that the plant survived at her house. I know my husband joked with her on what to water the plant with. He doesnít really care for the plumeria fragrance and wasnít excited for it to produce any flowers. He doesnít like too many flowery fragrances and turns up his nose whenever I use my plumeria body lotion. The plumeria continued to grow slowly, but I couldnít complain because it now had more than just a few leaves. I knew it make take a long while before it produced any flowers. I left the plant again with the same girlfriend when I was leaving town on vacation again that winter. When I left the plant with her this time, I did explain that I had noticed that my plant had been getting some weird spots on the leaves. I didnít know I had been overwatering it, but discovered upon my return a week and a half later that overwatering had been the problem. My girlfriend felt bad because she knew the plant was special to me. My little piece of paradise. She had done some checking with a master gardener on what to do with the plant while I was away. She graciously repotted the plant into some fresh soil and placed it back in the sunlight. When I picked it up to bring it home, it only had one leaf left on it. All the others had fallen off. I teased my husband saying I might have an emergency reason to visit Hawaii again if the plant didnít make it as I placed the plant back in front of the sliding glass door in my dining room with its pathetic looking single leaf. Some might have just thrown the plant out, but I secretly hoped it would thrive again. I convinced myself it just needed some sun. Every time it looked like new sprouts were coming I would get excited and hope would build then turn to disappointment to find that the new sprouts would turn brown and die off before actually shooting out. One day our German shepherd excitedly burst through the door to greet us and knocked that only leaf left on the plant left off with his tail. I was so disappointed, but I could still see some more little green nodules on the top of the stem. A few days later I was looking again and still remained hopeful. Perhaps that one leaf was sucking all the life out of the plant and the new ones didnít have a chance to grow. I did prune my flowers, so I did understand that was possible. About a month later I spotted four green small growths. About three months later I had four new leafs. When I fertilized my plant, it really took off. I was thrilled. Dakota, our German shepherd actually helped this plant by knocking off the one last leaf. I didnít want to take off the last leaf and start again. I didnít want an ugly plant! This is when God spoke to me and gave me His eyes as I retraced the whole progress of my special plumeria plant. It was like watching a movie. You see Iíve read in my Bible in the book of John about the vine and the branches several times. I know what it says, but I love it when God gives me that special, personal lesson that allows me to see truth in action in my daily life. He takes something that is important to me and weaves His truth into it right before my eyes. How profound! To me, nothing else compares to that. What a blessing Godís truth is and how special we are to have the Holy Spirit to just gently remind us of and teach us truth. Iím so glad I was paying attention. Itís too easy to miss these special times. To be honest, I donít know if I would have personally cut that leaf off myself. Perhaps I would have tired of it looking awful and just thrown the plant out. I wanted it to be beautiful. Oh, dear friends, how God wants us to be beautiful as well, reflecting Him in all likeness. He may have to trim some things in our lives as well, so we can be more beautiful. Good things and bad. We donít always like His pruning do we? It can be so painful. The things that we deem so important and perhaps even beautiful arenít always and when God wants to take them away, He will bring so much more than what we can imagine.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, make us beautiful in your sight. Help us abide in You.
John 15: 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
Reflection: A Look Back
Can you think of a time that you remember God did some trimming in your life?
Can you see where now there is more fruit in your life because of it? Do you suppose others see it as well?
Do you think there are other areas in your life that need to be cut back?